Stand-Up Sundays #7

God, I’m tired. I keep vacillating between actively wanting to kill myself and being terrified that I have like two weeks left to live because I have a tumor or an aneurysm that’s about to explode or something. There are so many things I should be doing, and I’m not doing any of them, because why should I?

Alright, this is Stand-Up Sundays, so enough whining. Let’s talk about comedy. First, why do people INSIST on messaging me on Facebook about work stuff? I mean I get why, it just drives me insane.

Next, I missed all of the shows this past weekend and I’m still bummed about that. I went home early on Friday because I wasn’t feeling well, and I missed this show that I had been looking forward to for WEEKS. And then I was trying to catch up on Saturday so I stayed in the office for the most part and there’s something wrong with the EMS, so it literally took me a full minute to add a single person to a show, but I’m so behind on booking that I couldn’t just come back to it later and working on something else.

Fortunately, I have some people who are going to be helping me run shows, so that means I won’t be covering showrunning instead of booking — hopefully. Although, I’ve lost two interns because they were hired, so that is great and terrible at the same time.

Did anything good happen in comedy this week? Yeah, Kuddelmuddel was super fun. That’s my monthly variety show. I have a dude named Goat vs. Fish hosting it and the show had like 35 audience in it (capacity is 50) on a Thursday at 9:30 and it was a fun show. I need to book comedians who don’t take it personally that the host is so weird, but other than that (and it running 15 minutes over despite it starting on time and even with a 10-minute no-show), it was a great show.

I got annoyed with someone last night for trying to get a drop-in spot, and it hurt his feelings, so now I get to feel like a monster until — who am I kidding? I’ll never forgive myself. I did apologize, but he didn’t really accept it, and I can never tell with comedians if they’re playing mad or actually mad. He’s been doing stand-up for 20 years, so I don’t know if he just brushed it off or if he thinks that he’s above just fucking emailing and asking for spots instead of just showing up and is still annoyed that I got annoyed.

Anyway, good things, good things. At the auditions, this chick named Kelsey Munger did her chinchilla story, which she did at her first audition, and it was the first time that I remembered her — I mean, not when I saw her, at first, but when I heard that joke. I love that joke. I think she said she’s very new to stand-up but I might remember wrong because I have a surprising number of Kelseys and because she’s SO funny!

What else was good? I got to talk to Wayne on Saturday during my lunch break, which is always great, although not exactly comedy related. Josh wrote another book, so that’s great but also not directly related to comedy.

Oh, here’s something fun. We have a policy of not booking comedians within 14 days of each other. It’s to help with audience fatigue and to give comedians a chance to regenerate an audience and to give everyone a chance to perform instead of having the same twelve people around every week (nevermind that there are people I genuinely like and haven’t gotten around to booking for like 6 months, but that’s another story), but an independent producer sent in his lineup and two of his people were already booked within the 14 days. Even though he already knew about this policy, he complained about it on Facebook and said that he is looking for another venue to produce his show at.

Don’t do this. Honestly. I get it, social media is so easily accessible and it’s so easy to vent your frustrations online but it’s also SUPER easy for the people you’re shitting on to see it! What are you thinking?! I refrained from commenting on his post (we’re friends on Facebook) and I refrained from private messaging him and when I got into work, I refrained from emailing him and canceling his show, but goddamn, that sucked. This guy has put on two shows and this is his third, and his best audience count was 21. I was doing him a favor allowing him to continue with the show, giving it a chance to build into something. With his attitude and the negative attention he has already drawn to this show, I’m thinking it’s probably not going to go well, so I’m still trying to figure out if I should let it happen or not.

This is not what I want to be thinking about when I look back on my week. I wish that I hadn’t friended so many comedians on FB before I started working at the club because it’s impossible to separate my social life from work, now. And any time someone shits on the club, I see it, and half of the time, it’s someone that I like. It sucks.

Stand-Up Sundays #6

When I first got to work yesterday, thankfully no one was there, except for Ryan, who was manning the phones. So I went in to the classroom that I use as an office and closed the door. I sat down at my desk and opened a browser and as I went to open up my email, I started crying.

It was a panic attack. I cry when I’m panicking. So I Googled, “im having a panic attack right now” (no time for punctuation) and clicked on the first article I saw. The first thing the article suggested was to breathe deeply, and that was when I realized that I wasn’t breathing normally, so I slowed down my breathing. I was still crying, though. I’ll spare you the details, but it took me probably about 20 minutes to calm myself down and be able to start working.

I have a new facial tick every week — I really have to quit this job — and my upper lip started trembling. That was new. Fortunately, by the time, Josh got back from his lunch break (Saturday is his day off, but he never actually takes it), I had calmed down a bit. I was clearly not okay, though, so he talked to me about work stuff long enough for me to seem calm enough for him to go back to work. I had a good talk with Wayne during my lunch break, too, and was starting to feel a little stronger. Honestly, I would have just called in sick again, but I’m so behind on booking and Saturday, if I’m not covering showrunning, is the best day to catch up because the office is empty and there aren’t as many distractions and interruptions.

Anyway, I was feeling better because the people around me are little miracles but I wasn’t quite up to being around masses of humans, so I hid in my office during the shows and caught up on some parts of my job.  I noticed that someone had bought tickets to the late night open mic. Sometimes, people buy tickets to the 11:30 show thinking it’s the 9:30 show, so I called, just to make sure.

It was a kid who had gotten the tickets on purpose because he was going to try stand-up for the first time at the open mic and he’d gotten tickets for himself and his friends. Adorable. He asked me some questions about how to sign up and what time to be there. I don’t know why, but I ended up giving him advice. I probably shouldn’t have, honestly. People on their first time should just go up with their own excitement and expectations and not with some weird comedy troll in their head, telling them not to talk about their dick. But I did talk to him and he was really sweet and I wished him luck.

I’ve only been around stand-up for 4 years, and to have come as far as I have in that amount of time boggles my mind. That anyone even takes me seriously as a person in comedy blows me away, as well. However, if you take 4 years at 40 hours a week, that’s 8,320 hours, and you need 10,000 hours to be an expert at something, and I just watched a Ted Talk last night that said if you study anything for even 20 hours, you can be passably okay at it. So, whatever, here’s what I’ve learned that you need to be good at stand-up.

First, there is a difference between wanting to speak and having something to say. I’ve seen comedians start with just wanting to talk. They have the stage presence and the joy of being on stage, but no substance.  A lot of times, watching these comedians can leave me feeling empty.

However, sometimes the point is just the joy of connecting to other people through sheer silliness and there are a LOT of performers that I really love who entertain without being super personal. So, I can’t say that you have to talk about your family or be super dark or political in order to have an impact on the audience. However, the comedians who are more performance artists than stand-ups have still tapped into the uniqueness of who they are, the way that they walk around the world.

One of my favorite people to watch is Michael Rayner. He markets himself as a “post-modern vaudevillian” and a lot of his act is juggling and silly tricks. Sometimes, performers use tricks as a distraction, a deflection, a distancing mechanism, so that you never really see who they are, but as Dave once pointed out, Rayner uses these tricks to disarm the audience with the end result being a real connection with everyone in the audience. I’ve watched Rayner perform for kids and adults, I’ve seen him do straight stand-up (brilliant political riffs) and I’ve seen him do silly tricks, and he is always amazing because he is always a 100% in the moment.

As Bill Hicks once said, “The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say“. A good performer knows that the most powerful thing you’re bringing to the stage is YOU. Your however-many-years of being alive, experiences, thoughts, emotions, ways of processing the world, etc. Some of my favorite performance artist-type comedians to watch are Rayner, of course, but also Claire Titleman, Marty Wurst, Keith Kelly, Natisha Anderson, Jackie Loeb, Ryan Harvey Pearcy, Jim Tavare, The Martin Duprass, Rick Garrison, The Jasons, and there are a lot more, but those are some that spring to mind.

So, all of that said, sometimes when comedians are newer, they start with nothing to say and also, they don’t know who they are on stage, so they really have nothing offer other than an eagerness to be in front an audience. Those tend to be the roughest people to watch, but I do have to say that I’ve seen some of them develop into interesting performers. And the point is not that you HAVE to have something to say, but to know the difference between having something to say and knowing that you want to talk. You don’t want to force yourself into being a one-liner comic or an avant-garde performer, but you do need to be aware of your natural instinct so that you can rely on your strengths but also so that you can work on your weaknesses.

Second, there is a difference between getting a reaction, and getting a laugh. God, I wish that I could infuse this difference into every shock-y open mic’r who uses abortion, rape, masturbation, etc. as a punchline instead of writing an actual joke. And really, there’s nothing wrong with getting a reaction for parts of your act. That’s audience manipulation, and it’s important to know how other humans react to more controversial issues.

Sarah Silverman opened her latest special with a rape/poop joke. It’s a silly joke, it’s a gross joke, and it’s a dark joke. But as she’s telling the joke, she’s fully aware not only of the response of the audience in front of her, but she knows what their response will be before she tells it because she understands the human condition. The last part of her joke is her responding to the audience’s reaction to the joke. I don’t necessarily love it when comedians get super meta, but I think in this case, the joke is stronger for her acknowledging the effect that it has because she gets to turn a gross-shock joke into social commentary that is funny instead of preachy.

That said, you have to know the difference between getting a reaction and getting a laugh. A reaction is visceral, gutteral. A laugh is more spiritual, it comes from recognizing a piece of yourself in the performer; an experience, a thought, a feeling, shared humanity. A reaction may sound like laughter, but is often discomfort, and you as a manipulator of your audience, need to not mistake that discomfort for enjoyment. You need to be aware of the difference for two reasons: one, so that you can use the power of reaction effectively, and two so that you don’t end up relying on shock-punchlines for your entire act.

An act made up entirely of gross/shock punchlines is unimaginative, boring, and exhausting. It also loses effectiveness the longer you go along because the audience can start predicting where you’re going, and they start to tune you out. Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t ever use shock or grossness, but if you’re going to, why don’t you switch the shock and gross to the set-up and let the punchline be a little more creative? Some of the best audience manipulators out there are Anthony Jeselnek, Laurie Kilmartin, and Ryan Stout. But none of them relies entirely on shock — they can’t because it gets old.

Third, nobody wants to hear about your dick’s porn preferences and/or masturbation techniques except for other open mic’rs who feel validated to keep talking about theirs. It’s not shocking or offensive, it’s worse — it’s boring. Fifty percent of the world has the same type of genitals you do — I do know ONE comedian who was born without testicles, and he’s basically the only one that I ever want to hear talk about his dick (that was a weird statement to write) because it separates him from the rest of humanity. Not only does he feel different, but he is seen and treated differently because of this. His dick jokes are also social commentary. Your dick probably isn’t that special. Talk about what IS unique about you.

Fourth, the ONLY thing you need in order to be someone a booker wants to work with, is a decent person. Everyone starts out shitty at comedy and 90% of the time, they get better. My job is technically to “develop talent”, but talent develops with practice, I really have nothing to do with it. People who are excited to be around comedy, always do their best, and are keen to learn and do even better next time, are people that I want to work with. People who are too cool for the room, who aren’t supportive of the people around them, who are only out for themselves with no regard to the venue, the staff, the audience, or their peers, can go fuck themselves.

Fifth is the most important one, and it’s one that I was shamed into remembering by Peter Berman. One weekend, about a year-and-a-half ago (August 2016), he was headlining the Yoo Hoo Room (yeah, I don’t know how we got him to do it, either). Anyway, the mood was a bit muted, I was tired, and fucking around with the bulletin board outside the Yoo Hoo while the emcee went over the pre-show meeting with the newer comics.

The meeting was basically a bunch of don’ts “don’t stand in the doorways, don’t be loud, don’t be mean to the audience” — you know, addressing all of the petty bullshit that gets annoying after working at a comedy club for a couple of years. Anyway, the meeting broke up, and the emcee went in to start the show, and the kids kind of scattered.

Peter stepped forward to all the kids who were sitting there, lost in their own heads, and said something like, “Don’t forget to have fun, right? Did anyone mention that? That’s kind of the most important part, otherwise, why are we doing this?” And I was instantly ashamed, because the pre-show meeting talking points came from me, and I had focused on all of the bad things and forgotten that the point of the pre-show meeting is to answer questions and to get people pumped up to perform.

So now, if I ever give the pre-show meeting spiel or am witnessing it, I always add that having fun is the most important part. Really, as much as structure and audience manipulation are a part of the art of comedy, the main, intangible force of comedy, the reason everyone from the staff to the audience to the performer is there, is because it’s supposed to be fun. If we lose that, we have nothing.

Stand-Up Sundays #5

I had someone message me on Facebook and tell me he wasn’t on the lineup for the Yoo Hoo room tonight. I told him he was in the Main Room. Either, way, judging by the timestamp on his messages, he was 15 minutes late for either show. Amazing. Because that’s what I want to be thinking about on my day off.

It was a rough week. I’m so behind on booking, it’s not even funny. It stresses me out and then I can’t be charming or whatever it is Barb and Dave think it is that I offer to the comedians.

Half of my job is sitting at my desk, second, third, fourth, and fifth-guessing my choices. I haven’t booked this person who has been on my booking list, but if I book him, is the show going to be cancelled? Are there too many white guys on the lineup already? How funny is he in comparison to all of the other white guys who keep asking me to book them?

I’m deeply aware that I’m holding hope and dreams in my sweaty, clumsy hands. People are so quick to thank me or defend me because I seem to be on their side, not realizing that it doesn’t matter if I’m on their side or not (I am, usually.) But I am booking one room in one club in one city in one state in one country. I am such a small part of their comedy journey, and there is so little that I can actually do for them. But they act like it’s everything.

I want to quit every day. Every day, I get to work and I think, “I can do this, at least for one more day. I just have to do this today. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe I’ll get hit by a bus and someone else can decide who gets five minutes and who gets seven.”

The auditions were particularly bleak this week. I lost count of how many comedians did “jokes” in which fatness was the “punchline”. I weigh 300+ pounds. I’m very visible. I’m the person who checked you in, introduced myself as a booker, and am currently sitting in the back of the room, trying to figure out how to book you. Know your audience.

They don’t even realize to adjust, though. It’s not a thought. The attitude about fatness being synonymous laziness, grossness, worthlessness is so ingrained in our society. Nobody thinking about what jokes to do and what not to do, see me in a position of power, and rethink anything that they’re going to say about being fat or fat people in general. And they’re super lazy jokes, too.

Then again, last week, I had two comedians get on stage and say that dinner with them is basically a sex contract. Like, super 90s, hackety-hack-hack jokes. Dave’s note for one of them was “real comic”. Dave wasn’t wrong, the guy was really good, aside from his closer. The other guy actually mentioned Aziz Ansari, and was clearly working on a brand-new bit. (Which is such a GREAT idea at auditions, by the way. We don’t mention to not do that at EVERY SINGLE AUDITION or anything…)

But it’s amazing that with all of the Me Too and Times Up and women’s marches going on, that these jokes are still a viable part of a male comedian’s repertoire. I can’t wait for next week in which six or seven female comedians lament that they’ve never been sexually harassed or raped. Aren’t they pretty enough?

Okay, that got a little salty. I should end this on an upbeat note. But I’m not going to. Have a nice day.

 

 

Stand-Up Sundays #4

I want to take a moment to talk about how to be at a comedy show. If you’re at a show, whether it’s a mic or a bar show or an audition or a club show, get there 30 minutes early, and plan to be there for 30 minutes after. Stay the whole time. Whenever possible, be in the room, supporting the other comics. Stay off of your phone. Laugh when you think something is funny. I could probably write for 10k words on WHY to do this, but I’m going to try to keep it brief.

First, your physical presence indicates your emotional one, as well. So if you’re late, it tells me that you’re already disconnected from the show. If you’re hanging out in the hallway or the green room, it tells me that you are not 100% invested in what is happening in that room. A show is more than you. A show is a collaboration between the booker, the venue, the promoters, the staff, the audience, and the other comedians on the show. We all affect each other. Comedians who are excited about the show create an amazing energy before the show has even started. This is one of the reasons I like to work with new comedians. That excitement is spontaneous, genuine and infectious.

Second, the longer it takes for you to check in, the less sure the staff is that you’re going to show up. Yes, we know that some people just show up, expecting to do a set and then leave, but that behavior is self-indulgent. Imagine if the entire lineup does that? I have been to shows in which that is the case, and they are chaotic. I have had to look around and see an emcee and two comedians and be like, “We have 30 minutes of show right now. Let’s get started and if we need to vamp, we can.” I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve needed to add a comedian to a lineup in order to hold for someone we’re waiting for. That said, if the booker/producer can’t find you before the show, low-key alarm bells start going off in our heads,  and we’re trying to figure out if we need to replace you. Is that the impression you want to be making before you’re even on stage?

Third, our friends are producing their own shows and mics, even getting their own sitcoms. They are looking to get us into their shows and shit. I have had people offer to try to figure out how to get me into shit, and I have no interest in being on TV and I don’t really do stand-up anymore, but it’s nice to be thought of. The point is, nobody wants to work with a flake, and with there being SO MANY funny and talented comedians, sometimes the thing that gives you that edge is being reliable. Personally, I would rather work with reliable and consistently funny over brilliant and flaky any time. There are headliners that I’ve stopped booking because they’ve flaked out on me so many times, and I’d rather give those opportunities to people who will appreciate them and take them seriously.

Do I blame these people for flaking on headlining a free show, over and over and over? Yes, to be honest. Do I see their point? Oh, absolutely. They are being completely undervalued and should never have agreed to do it in the first place. That said, they did say they’d do it, even often expressed some sort of excitement about it. And then I have to replace them last minute. If you’re ever too good for a gig, turn it town. Let yourself and the booker off of the hook. Let the booker find someone who is appropriate for an unpaid 20-minute set on a Thursday night in front of 20 people. The booker is not hurt, and in fact is surprised by the number of quality, experienced comedians who will say yes to that gig and who even seem grateful for it.

Fourth, In terms of being in the room during the show, there are several reasons for that, too. First, sometimes comedians have very similar jokes. But if you weren’t watching, you don’t know if your joke has already been told and then you wonder why you didn’t get the usual response to yours. Second, sometimes something weird happens, and you get to comment on it if you witness it. Also if something weird happens and you didn’t see it, you may have a joke that touches on the weird thing that happened, and again, don’t understand why you get an off response from the audience.

Finally, rushing off after your set doesn’t do you any good. You don’t get to thank the audience or the staff, two groups of people without whom you get no stage time. I often have people do their set at auditions or shows and then come and shake my hand, directly ensuring that I know that they’re leaving early. This always irritates me, but I am only the person who booked them.

I don’t pay for the electricity to their mics, I don’t pay for the food, I don’t hire the cooks or bartenders to prepare the food and drink, or the servers who deliver that food and drink. I don’t check in the audience or seat them (okay, sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t), I don’t make sure that the carpets are cleaned, replace broken or damaged equipment, buy the cameras, chairs or tables, and I catch as many shows as I can, but even with I do watch a show, I am not 10-200 people watching you.

Thank the audience as they leave. Let them know where to find you on social media. Exchange social media information with the other comedians so that if you want to hire them for a future project, or vice versa, you can find each other quickly and easily. It’s amazing to me the number of comedians who complain about not having a fan base, who also leave directly after their set.

The most important reason to be emotionally present for every show is that doing stand-up is all about being in the moment. If you’re checked out at any point during the show, it affects your performance. I know, why should you care if it’s just a mic or just a bar show or just 7 minutes or that you’re not getting paid or that you’re not getting paid enough? Here’s why: there is not a good enough gig to drag you out of that mentality. There is always a better show in your mind, the one that you’ll really give your all at.

Michael Rayner is Dave Reinitz’s favorite comedian, partly because Michael Rayner is BRILLIANT but also because he is a headliner who puts as much of himself into performing for an audience of one as he does for an audience of a thousand — and he has performed for both of those extremes. Why should it matter who Dave Reinitz’s favorite comedian is? Because when he opened up his own comedy club, he built the stage specifically so that Michael Rayner could perform on it. Be the comedian that people build comedy stages around.

On a personal note, I know that sometimes there is a small audience. We’re all figuring out how to market and promote shows in LA, and a small audience can feel like a betrayal of your expectations. Maybe it doesn’t feel worth it to stick around on shows like that. What’s in it for you? I get it. But, as someone who has sat through an entire show, and at the end of it the only people in the room were me, one other person in the audience, the emcee and the showrunner with the headliner on stage — please stay anyway.  Comedians left with the one or two people who came to see them. Other comedians who had no one to see them left before that. There could have been sixteen people in the room, supporting each comedian so that everyone had their best possible set for that situation. I’ve seen that happen, too.  But I still remember that show, like at least once a week. I remember that headliner too, who got up on stage for two people and rocked it out like a pro. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever open my own comedy club, but if I can EVER help that guy out in any way, I will.

Stand-Up Sundays #3

I’m going to keep this short because the impetus that drove me to start this blog has waned, and I’m waiting for it to come back. Doing anything whilst dealing with depression is like dancing in the ocean. When the current is with you, it sweeps you along, adding grace to your movements. When the current is against you, the waves wrap around you, dragging you down into a death-defying kiss. Nevertheless, we persist, don’t we?

I watched Sarah Silverman’s new special on Netflix last week. I was blessed to get to see her live at the Super Secret show, maybe a year ago? Probably more. Anyway, she was amazing and I figured the special would be great, so I watched it even though I try not to do anything stand-up related when I’m not at work.

The special opens with a joke in which Sarah’s sister, drunk and puking in the toilet, thinks she’s being raped, only to find out that she pooped herself. Spoiler alert. (That’s how those work, right?) Sarah then goes on to analyze not only the audience’s reaction to the punchline — that their laughter is based on relief, rather than mirth, and then she ends the bit by observing that the only time a person would be happy to find out they’re shitting themselves is when they at the same time realize that they’re not being raped.

The bit is classic Sara Silverman; dirty, shocking, and surprisingly thoughtful and thought-provoking. The entire special lives up to that, and I like the transition that she has made since her last special. She has dropped the character of Sarah Silverman, the unreliable narrator, the racist, sexist airheaded girl, and has, without any warning, emerged as a smart, funny, empathetic, intelligent woman.

The special is for sure more personal, more dimensional, and therefore more deeply funny than anything else I’ve seen from her, aside from her book, “The Bedwetter”. I read it several years ago, and I think she opens with a silly foreword written by her stage persona, and I remember thinking that that voice was going to get really old, really fast. Then the actual book was written out of character, and I loved it.

When I saw her live, her mother had just died two months previously. She had some jokes she wanted to do about her mom, so to get into the material as quickly as possible, she dropped the dead mom bomb on us, and then paused, and then ever so gently said, “It’s your fault”, immediately breaking the tension. Masterful crowd manipulation.

I half watched her special to see if that stuff was in there, but it wasn’t. I don’t blame her. I couldn’t even talk about my mom for a full two years (at least) after she died without crying. But in the special, she does talk about her family and talks about the humiliation of attending camp as a bedwetter and then makes fun of her dad for thinking that that would be a good idea. She immediately follows that up with exquisite insight into why her dad did send her to camp, even though she was a bedwetter.

I think the most overwhelming and humbling thing about her special is just the core of sweetness that she has been hiding behind that dirty, bigoted character for so long. I’ve always found her likable, even when I couldn’t  necessarily get behind her character, but I loved her after I read her book, and I loved her even more after seeing her live, and I love her even more after watching her latest special.

Maybe that’s the wrong takeaway after watching a comedy special, but there was something so endearingly vulnerable about watching her tell jokes without hiding behind the protection of irony. It made the jokes more immediate, they hit harder, and — I don’t know. It’s the same reason I love watching Jackie Kashian. Everything she says is ferociously and unapologetically real.

Even though a situation is presented in a funny way, the core of pain or humiliation or confusion is right there, intensifying the contrast between the discomfort and the whimsy. I have a lot of favorite comedians and a lot of favorite jokes and I have an appreciation for pretty much every style of comedy. But there’s just something about fearlessly attacking unfettered pain with humor that doesn’t just make me laugh, but reminds me of what it means to be human.

So, I liked it.

Stand-Up Sunday #2

I had a lot of good moments to choose from this week, and I think I’m hyper-aware of them because of how hard the depression hit this week. Kyra Soltanovich called me a problem solver. I had to pull Cheri off the floor as she seduced me because a server was behind her with a tray of drinks. Dave had an amazing set on the Friday 7:30 show. I hope I never forget that set. Josh was hilarious, I loved my weekend headliner, I got to know my intern and some of my coworkers better.

But here’s what stands out from this week: Scott Myer is a very new comedian but he’s older — even older than Dave. He’s been divorced twice and he moved to California to take care of his mom who had cancer, and he started doing stand-up. He’s been coming around to auditions for the past few months, as regularly as he can manage.

He’s VERY new. So, he doesn’t have a ton of structure. Okay, he has no structure. He mostly rambles and stumbles upon punchlines completely by accident, most of the time. He’s charming as fuck, is what I’m saying.

At the auditions on Wednesday, he mentioned that he was just offered a job that would make him $100,000 a year and he turned it down because it would mean he’d have to be at work instead of coming to auditions on those days.  Dave and I immediately both started shouting at him to take the job, we’re open other days, for a 100k, we’ll move the auditions to Friday, etc.

It resulted in a very funny moment, for a couple of reasons. 1) Dave and I were responding entirely to the money, not to a dislike of Scott. We both like him a lot. 2) Dave and my reactions were spontaneous, in the moment, and genuine, so it ended up being funny rather than mean. 3) Scott had a point that he was trying to get to, but no rhythm or structure, so we didn’t disrupt a moment he was trying to build. 4) Scott, unlike most comics, innately understands that stand-up is a conversation. He wasn’t offended. He wanted to make his point, but he wasn’t butthurt at being interrupted. He responded to us but didn’t let us derail him.

He came back for the Thursday auditions, but by then, I’d realized that he might be hurt that Dave and I so vehemently insisted that he take the job. So I talked to him for a moment in the bar before the show started. I don’t know if he really was okay or if he was hurt by our reaction and kind of relaxed as soon as I apologized, but he basically said that he has been questioning everything in his life for a while and that performing at Flappers is his only source of true joy and he isn’t ready to give it up. He’d rather be poor and happy.

And him saying that took me back to four years ago, when I wandered into Flappers, looking for a glimpse into another world — a world in which people actively pursue their dreams and express themselves freely. I was there for one night and I was addicted and I had to go back again and again to get my fix. I had saved up money and was taking a year off to write. When that year was up and I ran out of money, I started using my credit card because I could not go back to the shitty world of “should” that I had just come from. I knew that I should have gone out and got a job and stayed out of debt, but I didn’t. It was more important to me to be at the only place that had given me a moment’s rest from my grief since my mom died.

I thought, we all came for the same reason, not just to Flappers, but to comedy. Comedy, aside from all of the terrible aspects of it as a business, at its core, is a place that people mentally and physically go to, knowing that they’re going to be able to speak and be told the truth.

It’s been four years for me, and about a hundred for Dave (He’s old. You get it.), and at a certain point, we forget that we came to comedy in pursuit of truth because there is so much bullshit surrounding the business. It’s very sweet to think you’d rather be poor and happy but years of being overworked and undervalued kills that initial impulse. Because the thing that attracted you to comedy in the first place is such a small part of it. It’s like the light on the anglerfish. Truth draws you in and corruption and exploitation eat you alive.

That sounds negative, and it can, honestly, weigh on me to the point where I lose sight of why I wanted to be in this environment in the first place. Still, I often say that I’m glad that I found Flappers instead of any other comedy club, and I find it difficult to articulate, even to myself, why. I think that we do make a distinct effort to treat people as well and as fairly as we can, although I am also always pointing out that we need to do more.  But I think the thing that really saves us is that we are built on trying to create an environment in which newcomers feel safe and welcome to perform.

Although there are people who would point out that us doing so is not entirely altruistic, and I certainly agree with that, new talent is the lifeblood of any artistic community. New comedians remind me that comedy is exciting and fun. I forget that, I really do. I think that any time you take an artform and turn it into a business, you run the risk of removing its soul, and for me at least, watching new people figure it out, watching people who have been doing it for a while get better, watching people who know what they’re doing and should never be doing anything else — all of that is what reminds me of how much I love comedy and how much it has done for me.

Stand-up Sunday #1

Alright, look at me being all consistent for a day-and-a-half. Stand-up Sundays! I just got home from work, I’m tired, cranky, and not entirely sober. Let’s talk about comedy!

Yeah, I’m going to let my first comedy post be a bitchy one. Deal with it.

If you’re booked on a show and you’re NOT Jerry Seinfeld, you: 

  • Show up on time, and by “on time”, I mean 30 minutes prior to show start. If you’re hosting, it’s 45 minutes.
  • If you’re running late — and don’t be running late — call the club so that we know what the hell happened to you.
  • Stay for the whole show.
  • If you DO decide to bust out early, DON’T call the booker’s attention to the fact by finding and shaking her hand in the middle of someone else’s set.
  • Be nice to the staff. I got a complaint about a comedian from a staff member yesterday and I won’t be booking him for a while, if ever again.
  • Do your BEST material or a reasonable facsimile.
  • If you ARE doing brand-new material, don’t announce it to the booker or the audience or both.
  • No notes on stage.
  • Don’t run the light.
  • Don’t run the light.
  • Don’t run the light.

There’s also something else I should mention before I forget: DON’T RUN THE LIGHT! Ugh, I was trying so hard to not write that list in all caps, I just couldn’t hold back anymore! So many people violated multiples of these rules this weekend. Most of the time, I’ll overlook it, but bad manners just ran rampant this weekend and I wanted to scream.

Okay, that was me being negative. Here are some DOs that people did this weekend that pleasantly surprised me: 

  • Comedians supported other comedians and came to watch the shows. (By the way, I do not count the DBs who come in only to watch his/her friend’s set and immediately leave. I’m not going to get into why here, but I might in a future Stand-Up Sundays post.)
  • Grow As a Comedian: This weekend and last weekend, there were comedians that I hadn’t seen perform in a while, and they blew me away! This makes me SO happy, more than you can understand.
  • Be a Better Comedian Than I Thought You Were: This sounds like the same as the last thing, but the truth is that you might be a great comedian and have had a terrible audition or a just-okay tape and those were what you were booked from. A few people pleasantly surprised me this weekend and I will be doing more with them in the future.

Honestly, I wasn’t my best this weekend either, and that has an effect on the other comedians, the staff, and the audience. And I know that I’m not the end-all, be-all of whether a show goes well or not, but I’m a component. That’s why I get so mad when a comedian comes in and is too cool for the room — because one jerk with an attitude can take all of the air out of a room. We all affect each other whether we like it or not.