Third Time’s the Charm

I’ve had some great times doing comedy at Burning Man – late nights at stage that happened to be next door to where I was camping, a show where the performers and audience were both naked, being the ‘headliner’ at the self-proclaimed ‘Worst Show on the Playa’ – but this year wasn’t one of them. My only ‘scheduled’ show was 3 PM at the Center Camp Cafe’s Spoken Word stage. Doing standup outdoors midday is usually a little tough anyway because people generally are less inclined to laugh when other people can see them doing it. That’s one reason why comedy clubs are generally dark.  Add to that the fact that the Spoken Word stage is mostly populated by people with a serious cause to promote, and I had an uphill battle to extract laughter from the crowd. Seeing that I was not quite up to the challenge, I shortened my set.

There’s a group of musical theater enthusiasts we’re a part of that meet monthly to discuss local theater. There is always entertainment at these meetings, and the leader of the group, upon hearing that I do comedy, asked me to do a set this month. While I thought I was prepared, I realized partway through the set that certain jokes I had planned wouldn’t in the venue (an Italian restaurant, with people still eating). Sometimes I can adjust my planned set on the fly. This wasn’t one of those times.

Last night, I was invited to perform at a monthly show at the Faultline in Silver Lake. And 10 minutes at that! It was a pretty stellar lineup, with some comedians who work in various roles on big TV shows, etc. I held my own pretty well, getting a great reception.

So two sort of misses and hit. That’s just enough success to keep me going and just enough failure to make me work harder.

Rewind 2018

In my earlier post today, I said I would do a ‘catch up’, so here’s what I’ve been doing in comedy this year:

I was in the Burbank Comedy Festival this week. I love doing this festival because I meet some great people. I had weekdays free, so I went to some seminars/classes to expand my comedic horizons a bit. MC’ing, podcasting, movie scripts, late night jokes – great classes; not sure which if any are directions I want to go, but it’s good to explore.

On the performance front in Burbank this week, I had two and quarter really good shows. I make a point of doing mostly different material at each of the three shows the festival puts me on. The main show last night went great. Tuesday’s YooHoo room show went very well, although I messed up some lyrics I was trying for the first time. (I am not a singer, but one bit just cried out for a song parody, so I prefaced it with “for the next 45 seconds, you’re in the worst karaoke bar in the world”). So I give that show a “3/4 good”. The show at the LA Connection was, well, only fair. I revised a bit I haven’t done in a few years and forgot most of it on stage. The rest of the set was fine, so, “half good” for that show.

Last month I did the Comedy Heights Pride show in San Diego. This is always a fun show, and several friends where there to see it. Comedy Heights also had a truck in the parade; I deferred to Chet for jokes along the parade route as his stuff works better than mine in that venue. There was a well timed siren outside the show during my set.

In June, I had two short sets at the Pride Comedy Festival. In Venice, I was part of the ‘roast’ of Roosterfish for their re-opening. I skipped the low-hanging fruit of jokes about their name. A few nights later in Silverlake, I did a tight three minutes, but didn’t advance to the finals.

There’s a rule in comedy that you’re not supposed to wear shorts on stage, but it was still about 100 degrees F when the show started at the Big Fire Comedy Festival, so I broke that rule. I also had a really good, well received 10 minute set. And drinks, lots of refreshing adult beverages after the show.

Flappers asked me to do the ‘Swinging Sunday” show in February. I love playing this venue. I just wish it were closer to home so I could do it more often.

So, I’m beginning and ending this post at Flappers. Now back to current events for the next post.

Hello website, I don’t know if you remember me, but….

Scenario:
Someone gives you their phone number at a party on Saturday and says “call me”. You don’t call on Sunday, because, well it’s Sunday.
You say to yourself “I’ll call during the week”, but the week gets away from you.
The next weekend you say you’ll call, but you forget.
On Monday you say you’ll call “when X happens, so I have something interesting to say”, but X falls through, so you don’t call.
The next week you say “I need to call”, but now it’s been long enough that the conversation will be a bit awkward, so you put it off again.
This happens a few more times and suddenly it’s months after the party and you finally call and start the conversation with “I don’t know if you remember me, but…..”

So, yeah, that’s what’s happened with my web site.

Early in the year I was attached to a show that was headed for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; I didn’t post here because I wanted to make an ‘announcement’ post. Then it looked like a friend of mine in Long Beach was also going to be involved, so again I delayed posting about it. When we decided to leave the show, I didn’t post – what would I say – “I’m not doing such-and-such”?

I didn’t post about taking voiceover classes because, again I was waiting to have something interesting to say. I have done several standup shows, but nothing that broke new ground for me, so nothing special to post. My ‘real job’ (i.e. the one that pays the bills) contract ended, but that’s not something to post about on this site.

So, we’re here we are: Hello website, I don’t know if you remember me, but…. I’ll post a quick ‘catch up’ and can we start over?

Flexibility and Naked Truths

Last weekend I did the “Barebods” show in Hollywood. This show’s gimmick is that everyone is, well, “bare” – performers and audience. I did a “stripped” show at Burning Man several years ago, so I wasn’t unduly uncomfortable with that aspect of the show. But, the “naked truth” is – it went only fair.

The show was both improv and standup. A few performers dropped out at the last minute. I was originally scheduled to do one 7 minute set, but because of these changes I was suddenly doing a 7 minute set and a 5 minute set each before a similar set by the headliner. You have to be flexible in this business. Fortunately I have plenty more than 12 minutes of material.

Then we found out our standup headliner (and one of the stronger improv performers) had a minor accident on the freeway. He wasn’t injured, but would be late. So the show schedule was being revised as we ran it – can’t do that piece, have to substitute someone for his role in this piece etc. You have to be flexible.

I did my 7 minute set early on. Lukewarm reception. The naked truth is that if I can’t get the audience on board with the first two or three jokes, I never recover. It’s something I need to work on. With the schedule in flux, it looked like I wasn’t going to do a second set – after all the headliner was going to do both his sets in the second act, so we didn’t need me to fill that time slot. I was a bit surprised when I was announced -after the headliner- to do my 5 minute set, and it wasn’t a great set.

The naked truth is not every show is fantastic. I had some friends (on full price tickets) in the audience, so I wish this particular show had been better.

I need to work on being good with less preparation. I need to work on getting the audience back no matter when or how I lose them. I plan on doing more shows with improv next year. I think it will help me with both of those.

Between the improv and acting in a drama in a few Fringe festivals, the naked truth is I may be doing less actual stand up in 2018. My hope is that I can become a better performer generally though the other work (i.e. improv and Fringe), and that will make me a better standup.

Naked or not.

Script or no script

The open secret of standup comedy is that we act like we’re making up all our jokes and observations right there on stage, for the most part it’s all scripted. And I’m comfortable with that. Even though I try to do a different show every time, it is composed of pre-written sections. Sometimes it has taken dozens of re-writes to get each of those sections to a point that I like.

When you’re doing standup, you live or die by yourself on stage. While a really great performer (think Robin Williams) can read the phone book and make the audience laugh, for me a good script is the only protection I have against totally bombing. But you knew that, right?

So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to do an improv show last weekend. Oh, and it’s a competition between teams of improv-ers. No script – say what’s on the top of your mind. No taking it back once it’s out there. Be ready for a total change of direction. Yeah, it’s completely different set of skills. At least you’re not out there by yourself. I managed a few fresh-from-the-cerebrum lines and actions that elicited some serious audience laughs. Although my team did not win, it was a valuable and fun experience. I will do it again. And I’ll have some trepidation again, but that’s how you grow.

One of the organizers of the improv show wrote a play that he’s going to take to several Fringe festivals. I was asked to do a video audition and we had a table read of the script last week. So despite the detour into improv-land, I may be back into script mode.

Sunday afternoon

October was another “how did it go by so fast” month – a weekend in San Diego, Gay Days at Disneyland, a ‘just a few chores around the house’ weekend, a regional Burning Man campout, and suddenly I’m putting together a Halloween costume.

But in the middle of all that, I was invited to another show at Flappers. This one was a Sunday afternoon. With a mostly gay lineup. I mean, it was barely after brunch time.

That was OK for me since I got up early that Sunday. You see, I was at a Burning Man event in the mountains. I woke up with the sun, broke camp, and went home to get a shower before the show in Burbank. I’m sure the other comedians were glad I did that shower stop.

Being Sunday afternoon, the crowd did not fill the main room. Not by a long stretch. Still it was a good crowd, we had fun, and I had a pretty good set. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Florida Fundraiser

Last week I got an e-mail from Flappers asking for Floridian comics to do a fundraiser for those affected by hurricane Irma. Being a native Floridian, I replied that I would be available if they needed me.

On Friday, I got the e-mail saying they did want me. 6 minutes. Sunday early evening. I put up a few posts about it. The time of the show was smack during two football games and the Emmy awards. So I was pretty pleased that we got as many people; it was about 20 people. Still, it was a fun show – all the comedians were great and great to work with.

I did a few Florida specific bits. I had planned to do a longer Disneyland set and the Mim S&M piece, but since everyone else on the show had TV & movie credits, I decided at the last minute to do my IMDB bit. I guess it’s a good sign that I’ve got enough material that I can swap some in/out at the last minute.

It’s probably going to be a little quiet on the comedy front for a while. I am going to Sacramento this week for business (my software job), and next weekend we have a friend visiting from San Diego, so those will occupy my time. But I’ll make time if you want to book me.

 

The Best of the Worst

This summer I was back at Burning Man for the first time since 2013, and it was a busy week.

Monday I made my Center Camp Cafe debut. Ok it was on the spoken word stage, and I was between a guy talking about the “message” science fiction film he just finished and a woman talking about her transition from IBM executive to ‘clairvoyant business consultant’. So, maybe it wasn’t the best lineup for a comedy set. Still, I got to try a few new bits and found out that several others don’t work in the context of Burning Man. If you’re not learning you’re not growing, right?

I had a small (but spread out over a large area) art installation in Black Rock City. I haven’t received any e-mails about it, so I don’t know if anyone actually saw it.  Sometimes you do art because you need to get it out there and it doesn’t matter what the reaction (or lack of reaction) is.  Besides, it was at least as good as the disco goat someone else did.

Some of our San Diego friends put up a major art project – ‘The Journey’. It was spectacular. We helped with the breakdown & load into the truck for home part.

Our camp was mostly fire dancers. We were in the circle for the actual Burn. That was pretty amazing, especially during the explosions. Someday I may try to add fire dancing to my skills, but I -am- a klutz so it may be a while.

Then there was the self-proclaimed “Worst Comedy Show on the Playa”. Should I be happy or sad that I was the ‘headliner’ for this?  Because it was billed as the “worst comedy show”, I had to start with a light bulb joke; it was a Burning Man light bulb joke, but still…. Very little of my set overlapped my non-playa material; it was actually kind of cool to be able to do some Burning Man specific bits for an “in the know” crowd.It was a great set even though I was doing some of the material for the first time. Headliner at the “worst” show – I guess that makes me the ‘Best of the Worst’.  Until the next burn.

Beautiful Downtown Burbank

This week was the Burbank Comedy Festival, so I was up there three times this week – once to pick up my badge and twice for shows. I would have loved to have spent some afternoons going to the panel discussions and classes, but I was working. This is a good thing.

I was on two shows on Thursday night – “Senior Sillies” and “Unrepped” – and one on Friday – “LGBTQ and beyond”; all sets are five minutes at the festival. I made a point of doing three different sets. I used a variation on my standard closer on all three and duplicated a few lines, but basically I was able to do this.

So I have spent enough time in beautiful downtown Burbank for a while. My next set is in Center Camp at Burning Man. Oh, did I mention I leave in 7 days and I haven’t started to pack yet? So that’s enough for this post.

A not so long, strange trip

A utopian community where bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation, arts and intellectual conversation flourish in every corner, and Average Joes mingle with big name celebrities. Not Burning Man, but rather Chautauqua, NY. Strange.

The theme of the week at Chautauqua was “Comedy and the Human Condition”. Originally it was timed to coordinate with the opening of the National Comedy Center, but the latter is way behind schedule. Still, I got to hear Lewis Black, the Capitol Steps, and few others. I can’t say I have any new material, but I have some things to think about.  Strange.

I went with my friend Jim Peck, a UCC minister from Chico, CA, and a Chautauqua veteran. We each flew to Buffalo, rented a car, and spent the week in the UCC house next to the historic amphitheater. On one hand, I felt young because most of the people in the house were older than me; on the other hand, I felt outclassed because most of them had multiple college degrees. Strange.

I also took a day to go to the Jell-O museum; Jim & I took a day to go to the Lucy museum. Yeah, I’m strange.

We stopped at a Frank Lloyd Wright house on our way back to Buffalo, where we met a friend who I hadn’t seen in several years. He took us on a tour of Buffalo. It’s a much more interesting place than I thought. Strange.

Jim & I took the train together to Chicago, then he boarded the California Zephyr bound for his northern CA home and I boarded the Southwest Chief bound for LA. “Wait – you took the train across the country? That’s strange”.

The train was a lot of fun. Met some very interesting people, Who rides the train? Retirees, Hikers, Teachers on summer break, South Asian immigrants, people who live off grid, and adventurous couples from Flagstaff.  Sleeping was tough (I was in coach), but the scenery was great.

10 days, not long. Very strange. I love it. That’s me.