Last photos for the month of July are taken outside. First a bird I was trying to photograph.
Then I turned the camera to the dog. Who hates getting his picture and so I had to bribe him with treats.
You can always tell them apart from normal squirrels. They stay in the garbage. They only watch squirrel fox news, and they drive trucks with nuts hanging off the back.
Nothing much happening this week. Got a photo shoot to do and that is about it. I have my daughter helping me and I had to tell her several times that she has to take this seriously. When someone is paying you for a service you have to take into account the fact that they could have gone anywhere else and they decided to stick with you. Treat people who give you money right.
Trying to pad out my calendar is hard. There are shows out there, but sometimes the money just isn’t right. Sure, I could go to Kansas and open for a magician, but for a couple hundred dollars it makes little sense. I will do a show for a booker or a promoter if it means I can get in with them down the road, but sometimes it just ain’t worth it.
Still sifting through the photos I have taken trying to see which ones I will put into the photography competition at the fair. I am excited, but I am keeping my hopes low. I haven’t been doing this for years like some people. I have only about a year of photography under my belt and I don’t want to seem like I will just walk in there and leave with a ribbon. Not gonna lie though. It would be nice.
I didn’t know how to title this week’s article. ‘Pushing The Envelope’, ‘Straddling The Edge’, ‘Don’t Be A Huge Douche’. All those titles were on the table, so I guess when you get to the end of this you can just mentally implant the proper title yourself. Hey, sometimes I can’t do all the work for you.
What I wanted to talk about was comedy as activism. Where the jokes lead to an opinion that seeks to educate as much as entertain. There are many great comedians that have made a living doing just that. George Carlin, Bill Hicks, and Chris Rock are just a few of the comedians that embraced telling you their opinions as funny as possible. People like to hold these comedians up (especially Carlin and Hicks) as the pinnacle of this type of comedy and try to emulate them. Instead of getting the rave reviews that Carlin and Hicks got they get walk outs and silence. Why? Let’s discuss the process.
When many comics start performing for the first time, they have a tendency to do what their favorite comedian does. It’s like watching kids on the play ground do what their favorite athlete does. The thing is they have not gone through the years of perfecting the method in which to pull off that type of comedy effectively. What they tend to forget is that they are seeing the end result of years of trying to find their niche in the comedy world. George Carlin was not that type of comedian when he first started. He was a hippie dippie guy that did impressions and stuff. It was after many years of comedy that he found that voice and polished it with years of road work. You are a 20 something that is still on their parent’s insurance. You have some work to do.
There are barriers to doing this kind of comedy. If you are in your 20s and trying to do this no one is going to listen. Why? Because you don’t look convincing. Now, go back and look at Carlin and Hicks. What is the one thing they both share? They both look like life took a dump on them. You can’t walk up on stage in a polo and slacks and talk about how the banks are destroying America. You look like the banker! When an audience is looking at your performance they are looking at every inch even if they don’t know they are. Now, this hits a snag when you think about Chris Rock. He usually wears a suit when he is up there so how can he get away with it. Well, that is because the audience that sees him knows more of him then just what they see that one night. He has been in movies and has done other stuff so they take that image of Rock with them. You don’t have that cache.
Now, that isn’t the only thing holding you back. You have to think of how you are going to deliver you message. You just got started doing comedy. You don’t really have an act. You are still trying to figure out what works. So it may not be a great idea to start off your set talking about the ills of the world. See, Hicks and Carlin both worked hard as hell on perfecting the best way to tell what they wanted without alienating the audience. You can’t just walk up there and say, “You are all assholes!” and expect everyone to just go with it. Remember, to you this is your calling, to others this is their Thursday night out. You still have to entertain. That is what a lot of comedians tend to forget. If you are just pushing your anti-GMO message without a lick of funny then you are not a comedian you are the crazy uncle at the cook-out that no one wants to sit near. Your job, no matter what you feel, is to be funny. You have to find what makes you funny before you start pushing…the envelope (cue credits). A lot of comics forget that and they walk off the stage after a terrible set saying the audience wasn’t ready for their message. Maybe, or it is just as likely that you just screamed and berated a group of people for 5 minutes with nothing funny.
When I first started doing comedy, I wanted to be just like Chris Rock. Talk about the shadiness of the world while making people laugh. I learned very quickly that you have to have a ratio to make such things work. You can’t just preach and then move on to the next subject. You have to ensure that it is funny enough for the audience to swallow or they could turn on you. It is like giving medicine to a dog. Wrap it up in some ham and it goes down no problem.
I hope I didn’t discourage anyone from trying to do as the greats we talked about. That is not the intention of the article. The article, like everything I write, is just trying to give you one message. Be funny. If you can accomplish that everything else will likely fall into place.
Can anyone seriously look at Donald Trump and say to themselves, “I can see him as president.”? That dude is a mountain hideout away from being a supervillian. Every time this guy announces he will run for president he ends up doing a bunch of crazy shit and makes more money, yet we bitch and complain about Kim Kardashian making money from doing nothing.
Summer is winding done and that means the competitions and festivals are ramping up. I applied to enter the San Francisco Comedy Competition, and I may try to get into the Big Sky Comedy Festival. These can be sure fire ways to get more eyes on you. That is if you can get in. I was opposed to paying to get into a competition. I felt that if you are paying to enter a competition then the people putting it on have no incentive to get the best of the best. They can just look to put on the best show, like a network comedy competition. They will gather two black people, even better if it is a black woman, and then pad the rest just so it looks interesting. I don’t like that. If 19 funny ass white people entered and you have 19 spots then they should get those spots. I don’t want to be thrown on a show just so it doesn’t look whitewashed. Now, I feel like 30 bucks is worth it to possibly get more work. It is way cheaper than driving all over the country and it is more time effective than sending hundreds of emails and getting nothing.
I am going to be entering a couple of my photos into the county fair. I don’t know why I am so excited, but I am. I don’t even know what kind of photo I will enter into the competition. I was thinking I should pull at the patriot in everyone and do something with a flag, but man…that is too on the nose. I will just look through what I have and try to make a decision. I want to win something. I think, just like with comedy, that it will validate what I am doing. At least to me.
If you live in a larger market like Portland or Seattle, this may not apply to you, but for those of us that live around small to medium markets like Spokane, Wa or Boise, ID there is a lull that comes with the summer months. Now, you can call it a vacation and just wait until the shows ramp back up, but if you are serious about stand-up, you may be lost as to what you need to do to keep yourself sharp. As someone that lives in a small market (Spokane) I know what you can do to stay “game ready”.
Still visit open mics: If you want to get paid one day you have to sharpen and edit your material to the point where it is second nature and it is at its best. Now, I know comics that will avoid open mics and just work on new material when they are working. I don’t like that because if the joke doesn’t work, you just dug yourself a hole on a paid show. I would rather work on my new material in a setting where I do not upset a paid audience or upset a booker or show promoter. I know it is hard to get up in front of an audience when it is lovely outside and you know there are cookouts and outdoor activities, but if you want this this is a necessary step in achieving it.
Promote the hell out of your shows: If you do have a paid show lined up, you have to promote the hell out of it! What I see during the summer is that people get complacent. Nothing is going on during the summer months and they present their show as if people will just walk it. You have to make it seem like an event worthy of putting on adult pants. Just like all other times, you are competing with other activities, most of them free. Just slapping it on Facebook and thinking that is good enough…isn’t good enough. If you don’t really want to be inside, what makes you think that others will want to do the same? Make it seem like this is worth their precious summer time! It may seem impossible, but if you promote the show like it is gonna be an event, you will get people. Spice it up a little bit. Have a contest or raffle. That way people will come and be engaged.
Keep writing: Don’t wait until the numbers tick back up at the open mics and local shows to pull out your notepad (or phones if your are a moon man). If you want to be great you have to write! Keep the pen to the pad and keep writing as if you are going to take it to the stage soon. That will keep your fire and your want to be great!
Stay in contact with bookers: You may think that it is a waste to keep in touch with bookers during this time, but it isn’t. Yeah, they have their line ups and shows, but there can always be a fallout. If there is and they just got done reading your emails for the past two months, they may be inclined to throw you a bone if anything then just to shut you up.
Stay positive: It is really hard to stay positive when you go a month or two without a paid show. It makes you wonder if this is actually for you if you can’t keep the momentum from the winter and spring going. You have to stay positive about these sort of things. If you are at the level where you get paid work, but you are not in the clubs and theaters all the time you have to remind yourself that it is part of the process. This is what you have to get through so you can benefit in the future. You have to put in to get out. Put in the work, stay positive that it is a temporary thing and make it happen!