Comedian Pet Peeves

There are things in this world that just get on your nerves. The same is true for comedians.  Here are some of my pet peeves.  They are not aligned in order of peeveness (yay I created a word!) and this may not be a final list.  Ok.  Now that the disclaimers is out of the way…

Shows that start late: You have been sitting there for what seems like forever and the show runner is waiting for more people to show up…why?  Why are we waiting for the assholes to show up?  If you told people 9 and you were about to start at 8 that is one thing, but to hold up the show for what will most likely be 4-5 extra people is just maddening to me.  The exception to this though is if there are only two people in attendance.  Nothing is sadder than doing a show for two damn people. It’s even sadder if they are seated in the back.

Comics that show up late: As a comedian, there isn’t much expected of us.  We are supposed to know what a microphone is.  We are suppose to be funny.  And we are supposed to show up on time! Nothing says, “I don’t deserve this free dinner” like showing up to the show late.  I have always gone with: be there at least 30 minutes early.  That way you can see the set up and see the people and get a feel for things.  I have been riding with people that have shown up to the show at showtime.  Then the show is late because they have to lie to the promotor on why they weren’t there earlier.

Comics that wait to the last minute to tell you they won’t be there: Again.  Not much is asked of us.  We don’t have to bus the tables after the show or resurface the damn place.  It always boggles my mind to see comics that want to be comics, but have a hard enough time just being functional adults.  Oh, you realized that you never owed a car and can’t get to the show?  Maybe you should let the people running the show know BEFORE showtime.  I have been sitting in a bar waiting for the feature or whatever just to have the booker alert me that the asshat isn’t showing up.  It’s never a good excuse either.  It’s always like, “Well, I just got another cat and I didn’t want it getting into a fight with my previous cat.”

The strong silent type: This is the douchenozzle that sits in front damn row and you can see by the look on his/her face that they do not want to be there.  They intentionally go out of their way to not laugh.  You could be causing seizures in the back, but this person is determined to show their significant other that they didn’t have a good time and they should have done what they wanted to do.  Something boring I bet, like goat milking or something.

Waiting around to get paid:  So, the show’s over.  Everyone has left…except you because the person that is supposed to pay you is dicking around.  I’m always baffled  as to why they are doing this.  Do they not have the money to pay you and they are just waiting for the guy from Monopoly to come in and buy the bar?  Do they think that you will forget that you are supposed to be paid and just leave?  It is not a damn bear attack!  Playing dead will not make me go away.

People asking for requests: I’m not a damn cover band.  I don’t have a pocket full of Scandinavian jokes just for you.  Comedy shows are usually prepared things.  Comedians have jokes that have worked in most cases.  Just sit back and enjoy those.  Why do people think they should get a tailored show just for them?  Did you walk into a damn improv show?  If yes then scream out all the shit you want.  If not, shut the hell up, and order the shrimp basket I heard it’s pretty good.

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Money Means Nothing If You Have To Eat A Bag Of Spiders

This has been a great Spring comedy wise.  Comedy in this area usually shuts down, but I have been fortunate enough to have two distinct qualities most other comedians in the area do not possess.  First, I can work really long clean.  Some may have 5-10 minutes, but I can go an hour without the curses and the sex stuff that I get booked to do private stuff.  Second, I am lucky.  I have been doing it long enough in the area that I am a safe bet to most people looking for comedy.  I hope the same holds true for the holiday season.

I was about to buy a car, but it didn’t happen.  The dealership (Camp Chevrolet in Spokane, WA) must have taught all their employees from the old ass school of selling cars.  First, they were typing things into a computer, but printing everything out on paper.  Why?  It is 2015!  I can see you typing it into the computer.  Just show me the damn screen.  Then they did stupid shit like lowball you on your trade when I can look up what it is worth (give or take 10%).  We had a wedding to go to, but they kept trying to keep us there by stalling.  That made me feel like a wooly mammoth getting pushed on the edge of a cliff.   We left and came back the next day at 10.  The guy tried to get me to sign for a deal that I told them the day before would not work.  I know he remembered me.  I was the only black guy in there that day…trust me. We walked out, but I wanted the car so I made a different offer.  They said they just needed to talk to the bank and would call me.  They call me and the guy is all, “Hurry up and come look at it, or this lady will get it.”  Really?  That’s how you do your deals Camp Chevrolet?  Ultimatums?  I said I wanted the car.  When I told you I would come down I came down not late, but actually early so don’t pull that school yard shit.  We get there and it is the same deal from the day before!  Not the one we shook hands on.  The one that I already told them I didn’t want to do.  So I was just pissed and left.  The car was nice, but not if they are going to pretend it is 1998 and I can’t find a better deal elsewhere.

Haven’t seen the kid in awhile.  About a week.  We still text.  Well, I text…she just reads em and continues enjoying her dad free life I guess.  She will text when she needs something though.  At least I know that is the relationship my child wants with me.  No pretense.  No tomfoolery.  Just right out in the open.  You have to admire that.

I am doing more than just taking pictures of people’s faces.  I will be doing some photography for some ad stuff and some fine art stuff in the future.  I never even though I would go down this road.  The view is nice so far.

 

Is Political Correctness Ruining Comedy?

Not really.

Oh, you wanted a more detailed answer than that?  You probably want to know why someone who pays his bills with comedy would say something so silly.  Well, ok.  I will try to explain why I believe political correctness (PC) isn’t entirely to blame for the downfall of comedy (that was a tad heavy, but you understand).

PC came about as a result of groups of people getting fed up with being ostracized by the society in which they found themselves.  For instance:  The term “Native American” came about because natives didn’t want to be called Indian.  Why?  Because it was geographically wrong and it was used as a derogatory term.  The same goes for midget, colored, nigger, negro, retarded, lame, gay and I am pretty sure about 70 others I missed.  And not just words, but policies and actions taken to take your rights away.  Like higher interest rates for non whites, or not being allowed to rent an apartment.  This was used to downgrade another’s humanity to make them less then human.  So these groups took charge and decided this is what they wanted.  Then a problem arose.

The problem is that there are just people that don’t care what you want to be called, or how you feel about your 22% interest on that car loan. They want to call you what they feel like for many reasons.  They are lazy.  They are stubborn.  Or they may actually just hate that group of people and want to degrade them every which way.  See, political correctness is a bigger problem if you are ignorant.  If you don’t understand why someone with Down Syndrome doesn’t want to be called retarded then you are ignorant to their plight, or you don’t see why there is a law that forbids you to discriminate against someone because they have one leg, then you don’t understand why this is needed.  This is especially the case with comedians. See, there are comics out there that will use non PC language because it is the easiest route to a joke.  If I just called someone retarded that gets a laugh on two different levels.  One on just the punchline and then because of the perceived balls I have for saying retarded in front of people. I have seen white comics do that with the word nigger.  They know that there is a shock factor that will get them a reaction even more so then the punchline.

This sounds like I am all for PC language and culture.  I am.  Until it gets out of hand.  That is why at the start I said not really.  The thing with being PC is that because there are so many groups and things are constantly changing you don’t know if you are up to date on what a group of people want to be called. And you don’t even know if all people in that group want to be called that in the first place.  I don’t want to be called African American. That takes forever to say.  Just call me the black guy or better yet, Harry.  I used to do a joke and I would talk about a midget.  I learned that they wanted to be referred to as “little people”  I started using that.  Until I met a little person at a casino and they were pissed that I said that instead of midget.

Political correctness gets out of hand because of the internet.  I know it seems easy to blame the internet, but hear me out.  The internet makes even the most minute thing bigger than it already is.  Add to the fact that millions of people in a group want to be recognized differently and you have a problem.  There are some groups of feminist that won’t like certain language that shows a male dominated society.  While others are even more strict and will get mad that you would even call them a woman (there is man in there).  So if need be a small group of people can make enough noise on the internet and it makes everything seem crazy in retrospect (I hope this is coming off clear).

This is what you actually came to read.  How does this matter to comedy.  It matters because you have a mix of people in a collective with only one person’s life and view point being expressed.  The same goes for movies and music.  If a movie has a rape scene in it and it is a movie that takes place in a world where this may happen then we have to understand that the artist’s viewpoint, not ours, is what is shaping this.  The same for comedy.  I have seen a guy get in an argument with a lady because he used the word autistic.  He didn’t make fun of autistic people.  That is when PC gets out of control. Everyone from all walks of life come to a show and they all want to be entertained personally because the internet has made it so.  You can go watch an episode of your favorite show on your terms.  You can check out the new viral video while you sit on the toilet.  So when people come to a comedy show they have an expectation (a false one) that their views are the ones that will be the focus.  It is not.  The comedian is the narrator of events.

As comedians, our first job is to make people laugh.  That is your first job.  If you can’t do that then you are just talking…like a politician.  The problem is we are people and we have different fears and thoughts and beliefs and they might not always jive with the gathered collective.  It might not be up to date with the beliefs that out there.  Some comedians might have a different view of what it takes to get that laugh. We still have to remember out job though.  That is to make people laugh.  If you are on stage making everyone uncomfortable while you talk about stealing from a handicapped person then you are not doing your job. So how do you solve this problem?  You have to work with the majority of the audience.  What that means is that if you took a gig at a lesbian retreat they probably don’t want to hear your vagina licking puns all night.  That is why you watch the host to see the temperature of the crowd.  Are they into an edgier show?  Is the show happening at a church?  These things you have to take into account.

I hope there is not a comedian that is reading this and saying, “So, I’m not supposed to be myself?  I thought I was supposed to be able to say what I want?”  No one is saying you can’t.  If you want you can read this.  You are allowed to say whatever it is you want.  Just don’t expect people to accept it anymore. People act as though this is a entirely new thing.  It isn’t.  It’s just that now people have the power to talk about it to a vast number of people.  In the 80s you could say messed up things about handicapped people because they probably couldn’t get in the club if it were down some stairs.  Now, people have access to you and your shitty jokes and they don’t want that.  On the flip side, we are are suppose to pick at the scabs that cover society.  Those awkward social barriers that keep people separated.  We are supposed to look at that and make light of it.  We are jesters.  We push on issues until the puss comes oozing out.

In a perfect world, those people would just not come out.  If you are afraid that someone is gonna say something you might find insensitive you may want to stay home.  The thing is we live in this world, and people go to comedy shows and for the majority of shows going on, the audience doesn’t really know what the comedian is going to talk about.  The comedian may not have a built in audience and everyone there just wants to laugh. They go up and tell a joke about punching an old person and you don’t like it…well…

I predict that with everyone being able to voice their disapproval of things said on stage that the number of people going to shows will dwindle even further.  Shows will get pushed out of the bars and into the theaters where it seems like the people on the show has been “vetted” by someone.  There will still be an audience for the “edgy” stuff, but it will be really small and the comics that are working in that capacity will be getting crazier with their material. I think PG-13 comedy is going to be the future of comedy because the clubs are not what they used to be (because people don’t want to hear 100 fucks before 11pm) and the real money will be in being able to go anywhere and tell comedy.

What I find sad about this is that Jerry Seinfeld, who has made his career of not cursing and stuff, is saying this is a problem.  If Seinfeld doesn’t want to do a show because he doesn’t want to deal with the PC, then someone like me has no future in comedy.

Video Games And Getting Old

This week was the start of the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, This is a convention that happens where game makers show off the games that will be coming out in the future.  I don’t know if it is because I am getting older or what, but there wasn’t really anything that I saw that excited me like it used too.  I don’t want to become one of those old people that stopped doing the things that they love.

I have been getting request to take photos of all kinds of things.  I like the fact though that people are asking me how much I charge first.  That makes me feel good.  That means that people see what you do as a value, and worthy of payment.

A couple of good friends (and great comics) are moving and it makes me feel like I am just complacent. I mean I do go out and do shows and stuff, but I also feel that if I were in a larger city, then I could actually do even more than what I am doing right now.  The emails keep going out and I keep scrapping along, but I really feel I could do better if I were in a place that had more entertainment going on within it.  Both of these guys that left are really good comics, but also really good at working to get to places that people who don’t work as hard can get too.  I feel like I am one of those people who isn’t working hard enough.

My kid is out on summer vacation.  I hope she doesn’t think that she will just be sitting around the house eating candy and getting money every time she wants it.  I want her to sharpen her math skills.  I will probably look at getting her a tutor.  Last year I got her some damn singing lessons and she didn’t do them all.  That kind of pissed me off.  I feel if you want to do something you have to follow the steps necessary to be successful at that.

 

Not Always Roses And Slurpees

Comedy is one of the hardest parts of the entertainment industry to break out in.  For every Jerry Seinfeld they are 10,000 comics like me that have a lot of holes in there calendar and don’t know how to fill it.  I think a lot of people get into certain things looking at the end result before looking at the trail needed to walk to get to there.  No one just gets up on stage and their second or third time on stage they get a special and a TV show.  Unlike music or movies, comedians go through the gauntlet and a lot of people never really make it out.  From crappy bookers to long lonely drives it is not always being a superstar.

Starting out you will spend a lot of time in bars and comedy clubs trying to write a set 2-3 minutes at a time.  If you drink I guess this isn’t a problem, but if you don’t then you will have to deal with the one comic that is drunk, and he can’t get on stage unless he is wasted.  You will then notice a trend. Comics are broken people. I have never met a normal comic.  They all have perverse minds that see the world as a playground.  They are troubled and feel a need to be accepted and this is before you even get paid work.

I have been doing it for 10 years now and the majority of my shows still take place in a bar.  A lot of the time the people in the bar didn’t know something was going on even though there have been posters of your face plastered over every inch of the place for a month.  Some of the bars patrons don’t want to hear you.  They want to look at the TV so you have to come out HARD to get their attention.  If you lose em?  You may have to perform for two tables up front.  If you don’t get a drunk person yelling at you, then you will be forced a lot of the time to sit around while the bar staff figures out who is supposed to pay you.  I don’t know how many times I have had to sit there while the owner of the bar sees if I will just walk away without pay or something?  Does that work?  Are people just leaving their jobs without getting their paychecks?

Most of the time you will deal with bookers and not all bookers are true to their word.  You may get there to find out the pay has changed or that you have to wait two weeks to get paid…if at all.  Bookers are people as well. Usually people that want to make more money than you.  If you don’t want to be pissed off, don’t find out how much the booker makes compared to you each show.  I have met a lot of bookers and only a couple would I leave my prized sheep with.

There are lonely drives and lonely nights after not so great shows where you have to sit in hotel room that was last cleaned in the 90’s watching the history channel.  Well, unless you get drunk or high then you will probably forget to lock the door to the shady hotel room and get robbed of the 40 dollars you have left from the show.  You will be eating terrible food, unless you eat just fruits and vegetables. When I am out doing comedy, I eat like a raccoon in a suburb.  Just junk.

Now, you may be saying, “Well, why are you doing it then?”.  Why would you do this?  Why would you subject yourself to abuse and being told that everything you have worked so hard on sucks?  For the love of the craft.  No one goes into this (or should) thinking they will be the next big star.  You do it because you love to make people laugh.  So much so that you want to make it your profession.  This post is not to discourage you.  I get down on myself for weeks at a time.  I sulk about wondering what I am missing and why no booker will call me back.  Then something breaks and I am on the road for a month straight.  The thing is that you have to work.  I mean WORK.  You want to be a professional comic?  Well, are you willing to give up 2-3 hours a night 6-7 days a week to perfect your jokes and network?  Are you willing to drive to whoknowswhere and tell jokes in front of 8 pissed off locals for 30 bucks and all the off brand energy drink you can chug?  Are you willing to email bookers everyday for weeks on end to get some bookings?  You have to be honest with yourself.  If you are willing to do it 40% of the time then expect 40% in return.  You can’t expect this to drop in your lap.  Out of all the forms of entertainment, this take more fine tuning than any other and if you would rather sit at home and watch America’s got talent then you should not be upset when someone that works their ass off every night goes further than you.  This is the reality of the game you chose to play.