Just slightly overbooked?

I’m writing this from a hotel in Buffalo, on my way to Chautauqua tomorrow for the “Comedy and the Human Condition” week. No, it’s not a ‘how to do comedy’ thing, but more of a ‘why do we laugh’ thing. Then again,  Lewis Black is one of the speakers, so you never know.

On the two flights to get across the continent, I found myself making notes for stories I want to write, one of which might be suitable to turn into a Fringe show. Nothing solid – I’m purposely not committing to anything yet. It felt good to just sit and write for a few hours.

Between my last post and tonight, I did get on stage twice – once for the Comedy Heights Pride show in San Diego and once for a show on Melrose in Los Angeles. Great audience at Comedy Heights (I could say “as usual”) and I tried a few new bits that seemed to work pretty well. The LA show audience was mostly other comedians (it was a Monday, after all) and I struggled a bit in comparison, especially on the new stuff. Still, it is important to introduce new material regularly, so I’m glad I did it.

We got confirmation that we will be going to Burning Man this year, so after I get back from Chautauqua, preparations for that trip will pretty much mean that I won’t be on stage the rest of August. Oh, and I’m doing an art project for Burning Man. 

As usually, I’m just slightly overbooked. But as Leonard Bernstein said “To achieve great things, two things are needed – a plan and not quite enough time”. Maybe something great will come out of all this.

Crunch Time

Despite some (very) minor glitches, things worked out fairly well for our move. I’m sitting in the “new” place, albeit without much furniture (it’s still being used to stage the place we’re selling). I had a tech rehearsal for my show tonight (It’s really easy – one music and light cue to bring me on stage, one music and light cue to take me offstage)

But now is where it starts to get interesting – next weekend is the first show and I’m starting to panic. And I still need to write some material for the July 4 weekend events. Just determining which nights over the next two weeks I will be in San Diego, Long Beach and Palm Springs has been a challenge.

I’ll come up to breathe July 4. Have a great two weeks…. and come see a show.

Summer Un-vacation

The summer ramped up fast –

We’ll be down in San Diego a few weekends this month to move to a new weekend place and help a new roommate get settled, then suddenly it’s time for my show at the San Diego Fringe Festival, and (overlapping one weekend) the LGBT square dance convention, and before you know it, it’s San Diego Pride (complete with a comedy show and a powerlifting meet for me). Later in July, I’m going to spend a week at the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York for their “Comedy and the Human Condition” series.  Then it’s time to get ready for Burning Man (we don’t have tickets yet, but we’re still looking – if you know of any leads…..). Somewhere in the middle of all that, I go back to work and I expect at least one trip to Sacramento to meet with my co-workers there.

I think I’ll need a summer vacation after all that.

The reality is they’re all things I love (well maybe not the moving thing), so it will be fine. If you want to try to catch up with me, check the Upcoming Events page. And forgive me if I don’t post much between now and Labor Day.


Feeling Lucky

Driving home this evening, I realized that this week I get to do three things I love – Tonight was the last meeting of the playwriting class I’ve been taking. Tomorrow night is the next of the voice acting class. Wednesday is a comedy show.

I had a reading of part of my play for Fringe in the playwriting class. While the overall response was positive, most of my final sequence jokes didn’t get the response I was expecting, so I will have to revisit those. There was also some feedback around the character’s backstory that I need to clarify. I’m both excited and scared. It’s reading better each time, but I also realize that I will be doing it, live, onstage, in a month. Still, you never grow unless you challenge yourself.

I started the voice acting class late because of previous Tuesday night commitments, including the Las Vegas trip and the class didn’t meet last week, so tomorrow will only be class #2 for me while my classmates are on #4. I don’t need to worry about it now, but I will be going into the last class, a meeting with a casting director, less prepared than my classmates. Still, I’m enjoying doing it.

For the comedy show on Wednesday, I only get three minutes, and for some reason I’m having difficulty deciding which three minutes to do. I hate to be the guy that always does the same material, but with only three minutes, I want to stick with pieces that I know will hit. Still, it’s good to have a plethora of choices.

So it’s a busy week. I feel lucky to have it.

Vegging in Vegas (not)

I’m writing this post from a timeshare in Las Vegas. This time I’m here mostly to be entertained – we have tickets to shows on both Friday and Saturday nights, so I won’t be doing the Saturday Sapphire show like the last time I was here. I will be doing an open mic on Thursday, so if you’re in town, drop me a line – steve@steveheyl.com.

Since I’m on this “unpaid sabbatical”, I came up to Vegas a few days before John. This will give me some time to work on my show (well the promotion materials for my show) at the San Diego Fringe. I’ve had some of the script read in my playwriting class and I’m getting positive feedback, but of course I’m still tweaking it.

I’m also in the Pride Comedy Festival later this month. This is a short set, but it should be fun. Buy tickets here. for a 10% discount.

So I’m not quite vegging after all.

Time to Work?

Three months off work, I’ll have time to catch up on everything on my list. At least that’s what I said. In the just-over-three-weeks into this ‘unpaid sabbatical’, I finished the first voice-over class (and actually did a passable Cockney accent for a few lines), started taking a playwriting class (and had a reading of the opening pages of my show), drove to San Diego to perform some comedy, saw a few plays, went to the science museum (“Science of Pixar” show), spent a weekend in Death Valley and a day the Renaissance Faire, worked on continuing education for my project management certification, and wrote a bit on my show.


Every time I’m off work, I wonder how I found time for work. (Yes, that’s sort of a joke).

Next week, I’m spending a few days in Las Vegas (John is joining me for the weekend); I tell myself it’s a writing retreat. I’m leaving my “list” behind, so I will find time to work.

Re-[insert word here]

Re-Unemployed. As of today, I’m not working again. I’ve been talking for the better part of a month to the manager where I’ve been working. They don’t have any more work for me until a new project spins up later in the year. Since there’s a chance that they’ll want me back, initially I’m calling this ‘time off’ and “unpaid sabbatical”. I’m actually looking forward to it because I definitely need to –

Re-Work my solo dramatic play and I have a deadline (i.e. the San Diego Fringe Festival, as noted last time). I decided to take a playwriting class while I’m doing this work, figuring the ongoing feedback will be invaluable. It will also help to keep me on track. Yes it means for a few weeks I have both this and another class – the one for –

Re-cording. – I assumed I would like it (or else I wouldn’t have taken it), but the voiceover class is more fun than I expected. I’m certainly not the “best” person in the class, but I think I hold my own. Last week showed I have some issues with timing, but my characterizations seem to be a hit. And it is so nice to have a script in front of me, especially since I need to –

Re-trench on the comedy stage front. I was very comfortable and felt good about both the 30 minute show last week and the 10 minute show last night, but when I listened to the recordings, I’m not getting the laughs I expect. That goes for both new material my recent class and the tried-and-true. What caused guffaws in class or smatterings of applause in other shows have just registered moderate reaction in both of these shows. I’m finding it frustrating that even though I think I’m getting better, the –

Re-sponse doesn’t seem to match. I think part of this “unpaid sabbatical” will be spent reviewing material and seeing what I can do to pump it up. Looking at the bright side, I only repeated 2 minutes of material in the 40 minutes of show time I did in the last two weeks. And I still have 3 or 4 additional bits in –

Re-serve. That’s not a bad place to start from.

Juggling Off Stage

Juggling is the art of keeping three or more objects in the air at the same time, right?

So I’m sort of juggling starting next week. I have another week left in my comedy class and two shows scheduled where I’m going to be doing some of the new material from it. I start the voice acting class next week. Today I found out that I will be doing my dramatic show at the San Diego Fringe Festival in the summer, so I’ll be starting on some rewrites soon. And, I sent a proposal to Burning Man Arts for a conceptual/visual piece for this year’s event.

Breaking that down a bit…

The comedy class on Wednesdays is going well. I’m working on four new bits, each about a minute and a half long, so potentially I’ll come out of this with six to eight minutes of pretty solid material, just in time for the 30 minute show I am doing in La Mesa and the 10 minute show in Burbank later this month.

Taking a voice acting class is my way of expanding my range of accents and characters to use in my standup. This is an intro class, and I expect I’ll take a few “specialties” (e.g. voiceover for commercials, audio books) as my interests in these areas emerge.

After the Tucson Fringe premier of my one man show “The Big Break” I realized that there is a lot of room to tighten the script as well as smoothing out the flow. Of course, with other things going on, those rewrites moved to the “someday” pile. Now that San Diego Fringe has accepted it (and I’ll soon have money on the line), I have a deadline. Writers need deadlines. So it will definitely be a better show in San Diego.

How did a Burning Man project fit into this mess? Most of the years I’ve been to Burning Man or Burning Man-like events, I’ve created some sort of art. Twice I did a little performance art – walking around in a labeled “Drama Free Zone” (complete with music). Twice I did stand up comedy (once naked). I’ve done conceptual art costumes (e.g. “The Snuggie of Turin”). A few years ago I had the idea of doing a “pilgrimage” piece, with markers along a path through the city. This year’s theme “Radical Ritual” seemed like the perfect opportunity to implement it. Because I’m planning to put these markers on existing infrastructure, I’m not sure the art placement group will allow it, put I proposed it. As one of our Up With People students used to say “You already have ‘no’; you have to ask for ‘yes'”.

Put all that together, and there’s probably not going to be a lot of actual on-stage-in-front-of-an-audience time in April. So I’ll be juggling, but not always on stage.

A little class

A lot has been happening since the show in January, unfortunately most of it has not been related to doing comedy. But I’m fixing that in the way I know how – education.

I’m taking a 5 week comedy class. Yes I missed a class this week because of a business trip but 1) I sent the teacher a video of my assignment and 2) I tried some of last week’s material in an open mic. A good comedy class (and this is shaping up to be one) is a collaborative art project – each person brings a partially formed piece and the others help them refine it. I am expecting to have several new bits when I finish this one.

About the time that class ends, I’ve signed up for a voice acting class. Sometimes I have an idea for one or more jokes that really require a vocal act-out and/or accent, so it would help to have some voice acting experience.

Besides, a classroom is sort of a stage, right?

A Dramatic Departure

Sometimes an idea strikes you and you have to see where it takes you. So it was with the show I wrote and performed at the Tucson Fringe Festival last weekend. I can’t say it was a great performance – I got a few scenes out of order – but I did it in front of a paying audience, which was exciting. I can’t say it was a great piece of theater, but after the show people were discussing it, so it did what I intended. All in all, it was a good experience. This was a departure for me in that it was a drama. I don’t think I’m done with it, but for now I can move on to other projects, possibly including some new stand up material. It was a stretch for me, but if you don’t stretch, you never grow.