I Built An Ark Out Of Toothpicks

This week has been a somber one.  A friend committed suicide, and it just brought up all these emotions. Here is the thing though: I respect her decision.  I always find it odd that people call persons who commit suicide selfish.  How is it selfish?  I think it is the other way around.  I feel it is selfish to want someone to keep existing because it makes you feel better.  If you don’t want to deal with someone dying then listen to them when they talk.  What I mean by that is, by just listening to people while they talk you can gather a lot of information.  People don’t do that though.  They just wait for their time to talk again.  I’m not blaming anyone, I just accept that if a person is in so much pain that they think about not existing anymore then it must be a terrible pain.  Or, maybe it is because I have felt like that in the past and so it makes more sense to me then it does most people.

I finally got the podcast started!  It wasn’t that long, but it got out there.  I am still trying to work on the finer points of the podcast.  I want to make sure it is a great podcast, so that means probably adding a couple more segments.  I am still trying to stay away from a co-host.  It isn’t as dynamic when it is just one person talking, but what it means is I can do it without worrying about another person that may not want to do it as much as me.

The photography side of things have been ramping up, but I think a lot of the quotes I give, causes people to pause and reconsider if they really want to pay that much for pictures.  I think the same thing happened to music.  Because everyone can just get music, they value it less.  Whenever you want a picture, you just jump online and save one.  The thing is, someone had to take that picture.  The reason why you find someone that knows what they are doing is the same reason a lot of people find a plumber instead of doing it themselves.  You want someone that took the time to learn what they are doing.  Since starting this photography thing, I have come to realize that, and I feel bad for photographers because people think that their camera phones is good enough…until they try to blow it up or have it printed up.

Oh, and all pictures that appear on this podcast are license free.  Just go to Bing or Goggle and look for an image and there is a tab above the photos where you can select the license of the image.  I pick public domain, or free to share and use options.

Keeping Your Head Up When All Seems Lost

This thing we do is hard sometimes.  There are a lot of lonely nights, of self doubt, where you can only see the darkness.  Standing up and bearing your soul to the world is a painful thing to do, and to complicate matters you also have to put up with the rest of the world when you step off stage.  Relationships, relatives, jobs, all of the hardships others have to deal with.  What makes it even worse is that you are one of the few that notices it. That is what makes a comic a comic.  They have the ability to see the nuances of the world that other people just ignore.  That can tire you and make you look at the world negatively.

With that going on for years and years it will eventually get to the point where you see no other way out. Your non comedian friends just don’t understand what propels a person to drive 3 hours for 100 bucks. They don’t know how it feels to notice the world the way you do.  So, you hang out with like minded people. The problem is that those people also tend to be in the dumps as well because this is the albatross we carry to be able to do this.

How can you keep on going when it seems the world doesn’t understand you and you feel as though you are falling down a jagged cliff?  I have no idea.  I am in the same boat as you.  I can tell you what deadens the pain. I find the things I like to do and I do them a lot.  That is easy for me to say however, my favorite things don’t include ingesting drugs and/or alcohol, which could make matters worse.  I read, play video games, and go to the pawn shop, and hang out with my loved ones.  I try to stay around positive people. Those people tend to be comics, but more often then not they make me feel good to be around them.  I also try to keep as busy as possible. The way my mind works (and the mind of most depressed people) is that if it is left idle, to just rummage around through the blank spaces in my mind, then negativity will arise from that.  That is why I decided to start photography and videography and podcast and anything else to stay out of that place that brings me down.

It’s hard.  You don’t know if this thing you love will be loved by others to the point where you can earn a living from it.  The grind of being a comedian can get you down.  I just hope that while you are pursuing your dreams that you stay positive and make sure you are doing the things that make you happy, not the things that you think will make others around you happy.

 

This blog post is dedicated to Meredith Flanders.  She was a not only a great comedian, but also a great person.

meredith

Heartbreak Motel

I came in 7th in the 2015 San Francisco Comedy Competition.  I tried my best, I think.  I left the state of California with a check and a broken heart.  The last time I felt this way was when I didn’t get into the finals of the Spokane Comedy Competition all those years ago.  Personally, I thought I was good enough to be in the top five, but the judges thought otherwise.

When you get your ass handed to you like this, you start to wonder if your head is to big, or you think more highly of your abilities than you should.  The second to last night I put on a performance that I thought was worthy of placing.  I felt good about it and the crowd buzzed.  I can’t explain it, but you could feel the energy coming off the audience.  I didn’t place that night, and I was just a zombie driving back to the hotel room.  I couldn’t believe it.  I kept questioning the things in my head.  Did they not believe I had a heart attack?  Did they not like the description of child birth?  Do I look too stupid?  All these thoughts popped in my head, I was just heartbroken, like a love had just left me.

I wanted to make the finals so the comics in Spokane could be proud of me honestly.  A lot will tell me I did alright to my face, but when they are with others, they will let the truth be known.

I won a prize for my photography at the fair!  It wasn’t for placing it was like a consideration award.  My photos were posted for all to see.  That is what I really liked.  My eye basically shown to the rest of Spokane. It was a great feeling.

I got accepted into Idaho Laughfest down in Boise Idaho.  I am excited.  Why?  Because it is a festival and not a competition!  I can just go there and do my thing and not worry about scores and stuff.  I can also hang out with the comics without that layer of competitiveness seeping through.

I am for real for real gonna start the podcast….soon.

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.

 

 

When Your Crappy Life Ruins Your Comedy

Comics are a very weird bunch of people.  Almost every comic I have spoken with has some hangup, something that has turned them from a normal upstanding citizen to someone that wants to tell jokes to drunk people.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  There is. When the crap in your life messes with your comedy.

The most common affliction with comedians is drug and alcohol abuse.  I don’t know how many performers I have talked to that have had their careers derailed because they couldn’t stay away from the stuff.  If you are addicted to drugs at least when you get on stage you are away from it for a bit.  If you are an alcoholic you are basically looking at a room full of people that are indulging in the thing that is crippling you, not to mention that performers usually get free booze.  It is hard to keep yourself straight when after every show people are shoving drugs and alcohol down your throat (or up your nose).  I know of comics that are so damn talented, but because of drugs and booze, they spiral out of control and mess up everything they worked hard to get.  It is sad.

There are people out there that can perform really well, but they have a mental illness that prevents them from achieving greater success.  I suffer from major depression.  When I am in a down spell it is basically 1 or 2 months of wasted time.  I don’t push for shows.  I stop sending emails.  I may even not go to open mics and stuff because I feel like such crap.  1 or 2 months might now sound like much, but you have to understand that you are booking for months in advance and if you are in such a depressed state that you didn’t do what you needed to do to book those shows you will then feel bad that you felt so bad that you didn’t get shows booked and so it is just a tired, depressed circle.

There are also a couple of comics I know that suffer from bi-polar disorder (manic-depressive illness).  That is when they have extremes spells of ups and downs.  I have seen some of these guys when they are in the upswing trying to take over the word.  They are writing new material and thinking about releasing albums and then they disappear for a couple of months and you don’t hear anything from them.  That has to be so bad.  I mean at least in my case, I kinda have a solid disposition.  To go from thinking you can carry the world on your back to can’t get out of bed must be so painful.  Also painful for a successful comedy career.

Then there are the self destructive people.  They may have an issue like the ones above, but they mainly just can’t seem to get their shit right.  They will do things like burn bridges with people that could probably be good for their career, for no other reason then they just had to do it.  I have seen guys that are married or dating and just throw everything away just to mess with some crazy person that any normal person would have avoided.  These are the type of people that just can’t seem to get out of their own way.  Whenever they are doing great in comedy they have to go on a cocaine bender and mess everything up.  Some people let their arrogance or confidence mess up stuff.  Like if they don’t get a booking they will burn every bridge just to show everyone they are worth it.  It doesn’t solve anything.  In fact when the dust settles you have not only lost one booking, but several more down the road.

What I try to do is anticipate when my crap is about to get in the way of my career and I brace myself.  I try to get bookings done when I am feeling great.  I try to keep myself busy as well.  It seems like when you are idle, your brain starts to throw doubts out there and the next thing you know you haven’t gotten out of bed yet and you need to call people about shows and stuff and so they have gone to other people.  If you are suffering from a mental illness, I suggest getting some professional help.  Drugs and alcohol will only deepen the problems.  If you are a self destructive person that just can’t help, but be a douchebag…STAHP.

The Wheat From The Chaff

Guess what?  Not everyone is a comedian.  That is probably not a surprise, but what I mean is that people that are getting up on stage and doing comedy might not even be a comedian.  I’m not saying it in a stuck up way (I hope), what I am saying is that not everyone has what it takes to be a comic, and there is nothing wrong with that.

I see it every year.  I see new comics come out to the open mics and they will hit it hard for about 2-3 weeks and a couple of things become apparent.  One of the hardest things for newer comedians is what happens once their friends stop showing up.  A lot of people just can’t tell a joke if their friends are not there to laugh at them.  A lot of people are funny, but fewer people can make a room of strangers laugh consistently.  People show up with a table or two of friends and they can make them laugh, but when they show up by themselves (because your friends have better things to do) and realize they can’t make that room full of people that don’t know things about them.

What people don’t realize is that the majority of comics actually write material and then work it into something that people will laugh at more often than not.  What a lot of these guys do is get up and then talk to the audience like they are talking to their friends and they realize that it didn’t come out the same way.  Writing is an integral part of being a comedian.  You are as much a writer as you are a performer.  If you don’t have someone writing your jokes and you think you can get up there and wing with success you may fall flat on your face.  A lot of people run into to that wall and they never return.

What really pisses me off is the guy (or gal, I’m just using guy to represent all comics…don’t make this weird) that walks up after doing it for 3 months going, “So, how do I start making money?” That is not how it works!  A lot of people work their asses off, coming every week to open mics, and working on their jokes and getting their material to the point where they have a great half hour…and they still might not be getting paid.  I lucked out.  After I was doing it for about 3-4 months I was getting paid, but those were independent shows that just took a shot on me because they saw me every open mic.  When it came to clubs…hell, I am still not getting paid to perform in every club!  In Spokane it took me about 6 months in before I got to feature a weekend at a club.  It doesn’t happen that way for everyone.  If you have the material and it is good and you know the right people then you can get work, but getting work should not be the end goal.  The end goal should be to be funny.

People also just don’t commit.  If you don’t want to be a comedian and just want to do it every so often there is nothing wrong with that.  If you see it as a hobby or something on your bucket list then go ahead!  You can’t however, show up every couple of weeks and think you can become this great comedian.  It doesn’t work that way.  The reason people get out and do as many open mics they can is to polish their jokes and the stage persona that they are gonna go with.  If you want to be a comic but can’t get out often then it will not work.

Sometimes you just run up on someone that thought they were funny and it just doesn’t translate to the stage. I have seen that a lot.  They did everything and they were not funny.  There is nothing you can do about that.  They either can’t write a joke or they just don’t understand how jokes work.

Not everyone is made to be a comic.  Even if you get all that stuff above together you may still not want to be on the road all the time or worry about where your rent money is gonna come from or running around to get work.  Not to mention the people that will tell you you suck or the family that question your career choice.  If you want it though…GO out and get it!!

No Excuses

Had a great show in Seattle last week.  Got to see a friend I haven’t seen in awhile.  Seattle is fun for me because there are all these nooks and crannies that I haven’t explored and that is exciting.  I also go over there and as soon as I hit Seattle proper I get angry as hell.  Traffic is lousy.  There is always construction or something going on which means as soon as you remember how to get somewhere you have to learn something again…it is a silly complaint, but I always get flustered over there.

Me and my friend (or is it My friend and I…) were talking about comedy and how to get more of it.  I will admit to anyone that will listen that I am a procrastinator and as such don’t get as much work as I think I could otherwise.  I try not to use any of my ailments as excuses.  Sometimes I have a flare up (Lupus not Herpes) and I will get fatigued easy and end up sleeping most of the day.  That isn’t an excuse because I can use that time I am awake to send out stuff and try to get more dates.  I think what happens with a lot of us is we will use our shortcomings as a crutch for why we haven’t met success. I try not to do that.  I want to be exposed for what I am.  Lazy.  That way you either try to change it or you just accept you are wasting your time.

The past 6 months I have been trying new things as far as comedy goes and it has been working pretty well for me.  I have stopped accepting any old gig.  I am not swimming in money, but not all shows are created equal.  I would rather spend my time promoting a great show then one that was thrown together at the last minute.  I would also be valued in my performance.  What used to happen is I would go and “headline” a show for 50-60 bucks and what would happen is I would be there with open micers.  That does two things.  It makes it so I can not charge what I think I am worth later and it makes me look suspect because I am on the tail end of a lot of comics that don’t have the time to be up there. I have stopped just going to every open mic.  What happens when you do that is people just go to the open mics and not to your paid shows.  It makes you a rarity.  It makes people what to see what you are up too.  I love comedy, I just know I should not be at everything every week.

I was watching a video of myself and man…I need to lose weight.  I looked like a pregnant man.  I hate working out, but it just needs to be done.  Either that or I need to come up with an excuse for why I am fat…wait.