October 15, 2013

Back in Sac: Night 2

Tonight I said “I’m going to go to the Comedy Spot Scramble, sign up, eat at Azul, do a set, run around the perimeter of the downtown grid, get cleaned up, go to the Boxing Donkey, and then go back home.”

What I ended up doing was signing up at the Scramble, eating at Azul, and then going to the Boxing Donkey. Sometimes things don’t work out like you planned. But I did a set at the Donkey at least.

First they said they wanted to party, so I wore them out with a continuous shopping list, and numerous requests for someone to volunteer to get what we needed, and then finally they said they wanted to hear jokes.


On the way home my friend told me some ramblings about how they view the comedy world. Kind of got me rehashing thoughts.

Most comedians want to become successful somehow. I do. And I’ve been doing it for a long time, and while I’ve clearly increased in ability, I’m no more successful now than I was 8 years ago. I do open mics, I get to do a few showcases every year, and sometimes I get paid a little something. Year in and year out, I don’t think I’ve ever made more than $200 in a year from doing comedy. That’s all in 9 years of doing comedy, and I while I’m more experienced and I think it really shows that I’ve developed in that time, I don’t really feel like I’m that much funnier than I was when I started. Which is not to say that I don’t think I’m funny. I do. I really think I’m funny. But I’m just me. I can’t be funnier than me. All I can do is get better at expressing my sense of humor.

So there’s that. And I appreciate all of it, I really do. It’s usually a lot of fun performing, no matter where it is or how long I get to do it. But there’s other thing I want to do. I want to be able to work at comedy clubs. I want to be able to tour around the country doing comedy at clubs. And colleges. I want to be able to get into prestigious showcases and TV things on Comedy Central etc. But, in these 9 years I haven’t been able to achieve any of it.

Why is that? Well, okay, so in the first four years, I did my act by pretending that I was reading everything I said off of a piece of paper. It usually got a great response, although there were certainly some times that didn’t go so well and I had to sneak out the back way and run to my car. But mostly people said it was one of the funniest things they’d seen. The problem was, nobody believed I could do it for more than 5 minutes at a time without losing the crowd. So, I couldn’t go anywhere with that. Even though I loved doing it, even though most of my friends and other comics I knew seemed to like it a lot, I just couldn’t take it any further than open mic nights and a few showcases. It was a real bummer.

Okay, well, I got sick of doing it eventually anyway because it was kind of restrictive in a performance sense too, so it got boring to me. I wanted to be able to do other things. I’d seen people do other things like it for five minutes and then switch to something else, and I didn’t like that. I wanted to do something that I could do the whole time.

Then what night the idea of asking the crowd what they want to do popped into my head as I was going to sleep. So I started doing that. I liked it because I would get heckled a lot, and I wanted a more interactive type of experience that I could just throw myself into immediately when I got on stage. That way I would be ready to battle the hecklers from the start. Anyway, so I do that now. There are a few problems with it. One is that people (mostly bookers) think that it takes too long to get funny since everyone has to wait until someone says they want to laugh before I start trying to be funny. Another problem is that they think it invites people to actually heckle more.

For me, the first problem is really a non-issue. I’ve become so comfortable using this as my opener now, that even though I’m not telling jokes yet, I’m still funny because I’m me. So lets forget about that one.

On to the second issue, the hecklers. Well, earlier this year I played around with dropping the WDYGWD opener, and just telling jokes. Guess what? Bookers still thought people would heckle me more based on my timing and lack of structure. And when I got that criticism from several people, I thought it over and realized that I really like those things the way they are. So why not just keep asking WDYGWD then if it doesn’t make any difference? It’s fun! There are certainly things I want to get better at and improve upon in my act, but for the most part I want to improve them in a different direction than critics suggest I should.

So I’ve been stuck here like this for the past five years. I want to do comedy this way, and everyone I know who has achieved any kind of success, whether they like what I do or not, thinks that I have to create my own path instead of bothering with trying to work the club and college scenes. A few of them suggest that if I changed this or that then I could do it, but I don’t see the point. It makes it less fun for me to perform, and there’s hundreds of other comedians out there not doing the unusual things that I do. People can just see them if thats what they want. I want to offer something else.

But despite all that, I have a number of comedy friends that think I’m good enough that I should be able to work in clubs. I think so too.

Some suggest then that maybe it’s a social/networking issue. I need to make friends with other comics more. Chris Rock said a thing on NPR about being friends with other comics that I think is important. If you don’t think they’re funny, you usually can’t be there friend. It just won’t work. And if you think they are, then usually you can. The same thing is true with regular people though. Your friends are all people that can make you laugh. But then it’s tough sometimes because even if I think someone is funny, a lot of times I come to find they like to talk about things I’m not that interested in, or they like to get involved in activities that I don’t like to get involved in. So the friendship can only go so far.

So what do you do? I don’t know. I’ve pretty much given up trying to work at these places now, and I guess I’ll just keep doing the open mics and the showcases a few times a year etc, and try to think of ways to make my own path, even though that wasn’t really what I had hoped for, and don’t really get why I can’t do what I wanted.

Did I say anything I haven’t said before? I don’t think so.