Friday, December 17, 2004

Holiday Slump

I haven't performed since the AOL Showcase last month (November 23rd). Getting antsy. Yeah, yeah... I know... there's no time limit. Still, there's a limit to my patience. Gotta get back on stage... soon.

Looks like I'll be able to hit the Improv Jam in Hollywood next week. If I get a spot, it will be my first one since October 27th! This long layoff has been caused by me not getting a spot (on November 10th), me taking a break (see "Other Committments"), and the Jams taking a break (see "Holiday Slump").

It's not actually a slump on the part of the Improv. Holidays are busy for them. It's just that I'm not yet on the list of comics who get called to perform for the special Holiday shows.

Maybe next year?

Anyway, back to the topic of what I _can_ control...

I contacted Matt Komen and Bill Bowley to see about future bookings (since, as you know, it's difficult to pursue bookings in the past). Both of them said I should contact them again in a couple of weeks, after the Holidays. Matt's gave some additional info, noting that when the Jams resume (now on Tuesdays), the topic comics will be eligible for Tonight Show, Letterman, and Montreal Comedy Festival showcases.

That was enough to light a little fire under my ass during this stagetime slump.

So, I'm re-focusing on developing TV material, and re-organizing my development process. Sounds kinda techie, but actually, it's just a matter of sorting through the clutter of ideas for stuff that I think is worth developing.

I've also got to re-focus on my original goal of getting a week in Irvine. Actually, it's all connected. The better I do in Hollywood, the closer I am to a week in Irvine. I just have to remind Matt that I'm shooting for that. If I forget at times, he's likely forgotten, too.

All of this Hollywood-related stuff can fog your mind. Tonight Show? Letterman? I'd given up on those dreams years ago. Now the dreams have come back... through the back door. I didn't ask about getting a shot at those shows. The info was offered as part of my ongoing dialogue with Matt. Now that the prospect is on the table, I'm excited about it... but don't want to forget the basics (e.g., have fun, don't try to hard, there's nothing to prove to anybody else, etc.).

Still, it's cool to be playing in that arena.

But... if I don't pass to the proverbial "next level" in the near future, I've got to keep plugging away for my own reasons... into the distant future.

Showcases come and go. TV shows come and go.

In the meantime, I have to write, write, write...

When I'm in the mood.

Friday, November 26, 2004

AOL Showcase

The AOL Showcase show on Tuesday night at the Irvine Improv went well. It could have gone better, but that's usually the case... if you're striving to improve, that is.

Post-Mortem: Started strong, lost 'em in the middle, then recovered a bit at the end (though not as strong as in the beginning).

Bottom Line: Had fun.

The coolest thing about the show is that it was a three-camera shoot, complete with a wireless lavalier mike to supplement the usual hand-held mike. Even if only four people end up seeing me via "AOL Keyword: Comedy", it was good training for a "real" TV shoot. And who knows, with all of the paperwork I signed ahead of time (including one that had something to do with AOL/Time TV), parts of this performance might wind up on edited into a cable stand-up TV show somewhere.

Whether it does or doesn't, it felt good. Mission accomplished... Had fun, got laughs, got "seen" by someone from Power Entertainment, and got added to the AOL comedy archives.

All in all, it beat the heck out of a usual Tuesday night (which normally includes attaching myself to the couch with Velcro, watching other people perform).

And an audience of forty friendly, paying customers was a welcomed break from the small gathering of comics in Hollywood on Wednesday nights. I must remember, however, that the Wednesday spots at the Hollywood Improv have opened the door for the "payoff" spots like this AOL Showcase.

My appetite continues to grow...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Re: Booking Request: AOL Showcases

[On the topic of taking action (see previous post), here's a thread between myself and Bill Bowley (from Power Entertainment)]...
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 13:42:48 -0800
From: Bill Bowley[+]
To: Joe Palen[+]

See ya' then

-----Original Message-----
From: Joe Palen []
Sent: Tuesday, November 16, 2004 1:37 PM
To: Bill Bowley
Subject: RE: Booking Request: AOL Showcases


Count me in. Next Tuesday (11/23). 10 clean minutes.



On 11/16/2004, "Bill Bowley" wrote:

>Hey Joe,
>I am doing another AOL show next Tuesday night(a week from today)
>Wanna' come do 10 mins clean?
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Joe Palen []
>Sent: Friday, November 12, 2004 11:47 AM
>To: Bill Bowley
>Subject: Re: Booking Request: AOL Showcases
>I'd love to hit the stage in Irvine again soon, so I'm following-up to
>if you've had a chance to view my online demo
>( and/or talk to Matt
>Komen about me.
>Thanks again for your consideration...
> Joe

Friday, November 12, 2004

Slight Disappointment Hangover... Focus & Patience

Yesterday, after not getting a spot in Hollywood the night before, I was feeling some disappointment. More than I'd felt the night before.

Action is the cure.

I need to focus on the things that are under my control: writing, writing, and more writing.

It's also time to ping a couple of contacts, to remind them that I exist... and to get at least one live non-comic crowd as soon as possible.

But above all, patience is the key. Persistence and patience. Nothing new. Just need to continuously remind myself. This doesn't mean that I shouldn't care about making progress. It just means that it doesn't do me any good to bang my head against the wall over stuff that's beyond my control.

Stagetime will come. Slowly but surely. And as long as I keep working on my act, things will happen... when the time comes.

I'm not a hack. I'm not an open-miker. I know that. And I can't forgot that. It will just take some time to rise above the massive hoards of hacks and open-mikers to the point where others know that.

Final Thought: Focus. Polish a tight, clean 3-4 minute TV set. One day, you'll need it.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

No Spot in Hollywood

Every week is about something in addition to the stagetime. Sometimes, like this week, it's about something instead of the stagetime.

So, what was this week about?

It was about seeing Judy Tenuta outside of the Improv, waiting for her car. That was the only new star-spotting to report. Anthony Clark was hanging out again. Didn't talk with either of them. Just saw them, and am now writing that I saw them.

This week was also about talking to some clown... literally, in makeup and tattered duds... outside while waiting for the late show. Didn't catch his real name. He said he'd seen me perform there on Wednesdays. He's been coming to scope things out before signing-up. Nice guy. Nice conversation.

And it was about watching about 20 comics perform. Some good, some bad, and some in the middle. The usual. I sat in the showroom for all but one of the acts, and that was only to go to the bathroom. It wasn't until about 12:45 AM that I knew I wasn't going to get onstage. I'd signed-up as #37, and didn't get a bump up to a lower spot. It was a good bet that I wouldn't get up. Nonetheless, I prepared as if I would. No big disappointment in staying on the sidelines. Sure, I'd have rather gone up, but I'm a big boy. Patience, grasshopper. Keep campaigning. Slow and steady.

At the end of the night, after the room had cleared, one of the better comics (a guy named Flip, who was celebrating his birthday) got back up onstage and did a little riffing. Mostly, he went over-the-top with hackneyed premises. Intententionally hack. Funny stuff.

By hanging out to watch that bit of extracurricular activity, I found out that Mac (who works the soundboard and hosts the show) is a Second City guy. He was trained at Second City in Chicago, and now trains/performs at the location adjacent to the Improv. I'd like to see him perform sometime, though I don't know if I'll be able to make it up to see his current show. It's on the weekend, and my current quota of one trip per week to Hollywood is plenty. Family on the weekends. Mac will have to wait.

That's what this week was about.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Anniversary in Vegas

Stephanie and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary in Vegas. The night of our anniversary, we went to the Improv. Allan Havey was the headliner. It was cool to see him live, since I'd studied his act back in "the day", when I was learning how to construct my own act.

We sat in the front row. My knees were within inches of the stage.

So close, yet so far.

One day, I'll be on that stage.

Anyway, even though I wasn't one of the comics onstage, I was part of the show. That's usually the case when you sit so close. And being so close reminded me what the audience sees from that vantage point. Every subtlety is magnified.

During the show, my mind went back & forth between analytical comic and audience member. Mostly, I was an audience member. My gut hurt. My face hurt. Laughs.

That's what it's about, remember?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

My First Audio Post ("Is This Thing On?")

this is an audio post - click to play

It's The Material, Stupid

Message to self...

No matter how little stagetime is available, you're always in control of how much material you're working on.

Stay focused on what's under your control, and let the rest come to you.

There's no time limit for this thing...

Whatever this thing is.

No Sleep, No Stagetime

I'm a little bummed that I didn't go up to Hollywood last night. However, it was the best thing to do.

Several weeks ago (after almost falling asleep driving home), I decided that it would be better to miss a performance and live (rather than getting my five minutes and dying... literally... on the way home).

The reason I didn't get much sleep Tuesday night was because it was election night. Like a lot of Americans, I was glued to the tube, watching the results until late into the evening. I was also working on some of my material, so the evening wasn't a total loss showbizwise.

So, I missed a week in Hollywood. The good news is, Hollywood will still be there next week... and the week after that, and the week after that... and...

It will be there long after I'm gone.

Not to mention the fact that it was there week after week during my 12-year hiatus.

Remember... there's no time limit on this thing...

Whatever this thing is.

Monday, November 01, 2004


My oldest daughter encourages me a lot. She helps with my material, and gives advice. A couple of things she's said that keep rattling in my head are...
  • "You can be that good. You just have to believe." -- while watching Mitch Hedburg on TV
  • "The best chance you have to succeed is to just be yourself."

Age and wisdom don't necessarily correlate. She said the above things when she was eight years old.

There are many other bits of wisdom, too. These are just the two that stand-out.

I often think of these words before I go onstage.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Availability: Tue/Wed in December (for Irvine/Brea Improv)

From: Joe Palen (
To: Kristian Vallee (


I'm available for any Tue/Wed in December.

Thanks again for your consideration...


Saturday, October 30, 2004

TV or not TV?

I'm already spewing contradictions. On the one hand, I'm not really interested in being a star. On the other hand, I'm aiming for my first TV spot.

What's the deal?

Here's what's going on...

Back in "the day" (circa late 1980's, early 1990's), comics had to work their way up the ladder in the clubs in order to get on TV. Now, it seems to me, it's the other way around (i.e., opening acts have TV credits, and can't move up the ladder without more TV credits).

So, once again, I'm backing-in. Not really wanting TV in the first place, but coming to the conclusion that in order to move up the ladder at the Improv, I'll need to be on TV.

Remember, this all started because I wanted to get a week at the Irvine Improv. With that goal still over the horizon, I may be on National TV first.

Now that's funny.

TV - Focus on First Spot

I need to pull together my best 3-4 minutes for my first TV spot. My act is broken into 6-7 minute chunks, which is fine for clubs, and for some TV shows. But on Premium Blend, comics get 3-4 minutes. Lots of comics I've seen on Wednesdays at the Hollywood Improv have been on that show. Seems like a good target.

Just aim, focus, and shoot. Don't know how long it will take to get the first shot. The cool thing is, there's no time limit...

No rush.

It may sound big-headed, but I feel like it's only a matter of time.

And in some odd way (at least, I think it's odd), the only reason I'm a little anxious to get my first spot is so I can get it out of the way. Then it won't loom as such a big deal anymore. Lots of comics I run into at the Improv have had multiple TV spots. I hope to be in that category some day.

But until then, I want to come up with the best set possible, as if it will be the only TV spot I'll ever have. It has to be something I'll be proud of, and something I'd be proud to have my grandkids see someday.

Paradox Alert: It's no big deal, but it's stored away forever.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hello, World

Suffering from sleep deprivation today. Actually, "suffering" isn't the right word. It's actually kinda cool. The coolest thing about sleep deprivation is that it's like being high, but doesn't show up on a piss test.

I don't deprive myself of sleep just to get the buzz. It's to have a life. Sometimes, in order to juggle family, day-job, and pursuing-a-dream (welcome back!)... there's not much time for shut-eye.

Do I use enough hyphens?

So, one night a week, I don't get much sleep. Hours on the road for a few minutes on stage at the Hollywood Improv, arriving home in the wee hours of the morning, waking a couple of hours later to fulfill the day-job obligation... under the influence of sleep deprivation.

It's worth it.

Not only do I get the chance to "expose" myself in Hollywood, but there's always a couple of celebrity spottings to enjoy... albeit in a somewhat subdued manner. It's cool seeing the 2D stars in 3D... but no need for a drool bucket.

ANYWAY (since there should always be at least one "anyway")...

Last night's spottings included Eric McCormack (Will, from "Will & Grace"), Kevin Nealon, Kathleen Madigan, and Bobcat Goldthwait. Budd Friedman (the owner/founder of the Improv) was there, too. The first show was a charity benefit. That's why there were a few more "heavy hitters" than usual.

Speaking of "heavy hitters", last night was the night the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Cool night. At one point, Eric McCormack sat next to me at the bar, and we talked about the Red Sox winning the Series for a bit. Just guy-to-guy stuff. No showbiz talk. Once again, pretty cool...

But no drool bucket.

Oh, and I performed, too. After the benefit. During the late show (a.k.a., "Improv Jam"). That's ostensibly my reason for going up there. Actually, that is the primary reason, with the goal being to become an Improv Regular one day.

Originally, my goal was just to get a week at the Irvine Improv. Ironic that I need to go to Hollywood to get booked for a week in Irvine. I was reluctant at first (considering how things turned out the last time I immersed myself in the scene up there). But as it turns out, I'm enjoying it, and even shooting a little higher than Irvine.

Not much higher.

I'd be happy becoming an Improv Regular, and performing as a Featured Act (a.k.a., Middle) at Improv locations around the country...

While keeping my day job.

I wouldn't mind doing a little TV now and then. Little spots on shows featuring several stand-ups...

While keeping my day job.

No aspirations to have my own show. No dreams of starring movie roles. No shooting for the stars this time around. Instead, I'm satisfied with getting my performance fixes, and the occasional celebrity elbow rub...

While keeping my day job.

Am I in denial? Stay tuned...