Tuesday, December 20, 2005
In any case, whatever you call it, I've never been one to keep it up on a regular basis. No rude comments here. There's always innuendo. We'll pass past this one.
Not in the mood to hit the backspace button, this is much like an "old school" journal entry. Okay, not exactly. I am correcting small errors as I go along.
But what about the original question?
"Where has all the blogging gone?"
Is it because I don't care? Maybe.
Mostly, though, it goes back to just a few sentences ago. I'm just not one to keep anything like this, or anything else, going on a regular basis.
The good news is that I've continued to do stuff in real life (IRL). And isn't that the most important thing? Maybe not to the daily bloggers, but that's what matters to me. And that's not to say that all daily bloggers aren't doing anything IRL. It's just to say that maybe 99% are that way.
The same goes for regular message board posters. Who has time to have a life IRL, _and_ post 97 messages a day?
So, back to the first point...
"Where has all the blogging gone?"
More importantly, who cares?
Sunday, October 16, 2005
The more experience I get, the more it becomes clear that attitude is the key. This isn't a comedy thing. It's a life thing.
And it's obvious when you think about it.
(But if it's obvious, do you have to think about it?)
Sometimes, it's just seems embarrassingly simple. For the past few weeks, that's the feeling I've been having. It seems simple. Clearly, attitude is the key.
This keeps being driven home by personal experience, and is reinforced by various books and CD's. The lesson is nothing new. That's okay. We've all heard this statement: "There's nothing new under the sun". Even that statement is as old as recorded history.
The fact that there's nothing new means that we just keep reliving experiences that we've relived before. We keep experiencing things that humans have experienced throughout history. And yet, we keep forgetting the lessons, relearning them, forgetting them... ad infinitum.
So, even though it seems painfully simple now that attitude is the key, it's also painfully obvious that I'm likely to forget that someday.
Or am I?
Maybe this is the time that I finally get it, and keep it. Maybe this is the time where I finally understand that no matter how much negative stuff is bombarding me on a daily basis, I can maintain control over my own attitude. Maybe this is the time where I finally realize that nobody else can make me feel a certain way. If I feel a certain way, that's on me. I have nobody to blame but myself.
Only time will tell.
All I know right now is that this feels good. It doesn't mean I have a perfectly positive attitude every minute of the day. What it does mean is that when I do slide into a negative attitude, I know that it's within my power to remove my head from within my anal cavity.
Nice metaphor, eh?
Whether I'm walking towards a stage to grab the microphone, walking towards the front of the line to slate my name in an audition, or walking down a hallway at work... my attitude is up to me. I can be confident, or wallowing in pity.
It's up to me.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
But aside from the bus scenario, this will not be my last time. That thought is prevalent in my head right now because I've got more than the usual level of Game Day butterflies. That's a good thing, since I've never done well without being pumped-up for a gig. However, I've got to settle it down... or channel it properly. And that's what I'm working on at the moment. That's what brought me to the blog.
For most of the morning, I wasn't focused properly. The day started off great, taking the girls to their first day of school, and focusing on their experience. It's a big day for them, and I enjoyed being with them to share that experience.
Then I started thinking about my upcoming experience...
And the thoughts about tonight were starting to feel like my old habit of doubting myself, and feeling like I don't belong. That's bullshit. After all of the time and mileage I've invested in going up to Hollywood in recent months, I'm not going to sabotage myself. Or, to put it positively, it's time to blitz... make something happen... live in the moment... and have fun.
Even though I don't hope to get hit by a bus any time soon, the thing about performing is that it's got to be in the moment, as if it's the one and only time.
And if it is the one and only time, it's best to surf the wave to the shore. Let `er rip.
Own the stage.
So, from now until I get up on stage tonight, the rest of my thoughts and feelings are going to be made with a smile on my face... an evil, maniacal smile... a blood-curdling smile...
Okay, maybe I went off on an unwanted tangent there.
Nonetheless, I'm about to hit a little milestone in my return to the comedy stage, and it sure beats the alternative. I could have been at work today, watching the cubicle walls close in around me. Instead, I'm all full of butterflies, about to drive up for a show at the Hollywood Improv.
In the words of my alma mater...
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Can you _feel_ the love?
This is going to be a nice couple of weeks... tonight at Ontario Improv, next Tuesday at Hollywood Improv, next Wednesday at Martini Blues, and the following Tuesday at Brea Improv.
It's feast or famine, eh?
Time for a feast!
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
I woke up a couple of years ago, once again realizing that life's too short to be stuck in a cubicle. If cubicles are your thing, no offense. I just don't want to look back at my life and wonder, "What if?". Like, "What if I'd actually ventured out of my cubicle long enough to fulfill one of my dreams?".
My bad pattern has been to pursue a dream only long enough to _almost_ grab the brass ring...
+ USC Linebacker (1978-80: hundreds of practices, one game, knee injury, skip last year of eligibility, done)
+ Cartoonist (1984: submit strips, receive rejections, done)
+ Stand-Up Comic (1986-91: hundreds of shows, move to LA, stop having fun, overwhelmed, done)
+ Actor (1996: community theatre, one play, done)
+ Singer/Songwriter (1999-2002: lots of coffeehouses, dead end, done)
Now I'm in the stretch drive, the mantra is "have fun", and it's "brass ring or bust"...
+ Comedian/Author/Actor (2003-Present: campaigning at the Hollywood Improv, writing my first book, taking improv/acting classes to prepare for auditions)
I'm a comedian. Always have been. Always will be. The fact that I quit doing it on stage for 12 years is a technicality. I'm on the Rodney Dangerfield Plan. He also quit doing stand-up for 12 years, and resumed his showbiz career in his 40's. It's never too late. Wait, I take it back. It's too late once you're six-feet-under. Until then, Fight On!
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Just over the horizon is my first non-open-mic performance at the Hollywood Improv. And whether or not anything results from that is such a crap shoot. It depends on who's in the room, and whether or not they like me and my act. The constant reminder is that I have no control over those things. All I can hope to have any level of control over is myself. And that's even questionable. On any given day, who know what level of control I'll have over myself?
In any case, September 6th (the date has been moved from September 20th) is going to be fun... assuming it happens. The gig still hasn't shown up on the Improv calendar, so I'm prepared for it not happening. We'll see. I have to plan for it happening, obviously. It's just that, well, this is showbiz. You never know what's going to happen. All I do know is that I'd rather be doing this than not doing it. And the more I'm back into it, the more I know that this is what I'm meant to be doing. There were years of denial. Or fear? Whatever it was that stopped me for all of those years doesn't matter. I'm in it again, and here to stay. Whether or not I get my first TV spot this year, next year, or the year after that... it's going to happen. I have no choice anymore. Well, okay... I always have a choice. But the point is, the more I look back at all of the years I stopped doing this, the more determined I am to stay the course this time. I'm 45 years old. It's not like I've got a lot of chances left. This feels like the stretch drive. Even though I've heard stories of people who've started new careers in their 60's or 70's, I think it's best if I don't take another break this time. I'd like to be working at something I love to do in the coming years, and that's not going to happen if I anchor myself to a cubicle again. I still have to be responsible, and do what I'm getting paid to do in that cubicle. But it's the stuff I'm doing outside of the cubicle that's keeping me from going completely nuts. Partially nuts is okay. Somebody might even be willing to pay me for being partially nuts. Completely nuts isn't very marketable. Not even in Hollywood. And that's a moot point anyway. The path that was leading me to being completely nuts had nothing to do with Hollywood. It had to do with a cubicle, and no hope for the future. Damn, it feels good to dream again. I have to remind myself, whenever I'm working on that "next level" stuff, that the journey is what it's all about. Getting to the "next level" is an ongoing effort. Every time I get to the "next level", I'll be shooting for another "next level" above that. So, grasshopper, remember to enjoy the journey. And remember to be a good dad. Because if I'm not a good dad, nothing else matters. I'm not trading my family in for anything. They're coming along for the ride. Balance, grasshopper.
[Ramble mode off.]
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Disclaimer: I didn't go to an Ivy League school, but some of the comics did... so it's still technically an Ivy League show. As for me, I went to the University of Southern California (USC)... which does have a lot of ivy-covered buildings. There, I feel better now.
Thursday, July 28, 2005
NOTE: DATE CHANGED TO TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6TH!
Disclaimer: I didn't go to an Ivy League school, but some of the comics did... so it's still technically an Ivy League show. As for me, I went to the University of Southern California (USC)... which does have a lot of ivy-covered buildings. There, I feel better now.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Prior to this set, I finally got around to buying a small digital recorder. This is going to help my progress. No big secret there. I used to record myself all the time. Now I'm returning to the fundamentals. And after only one crappy open mic set, it's obvious that I need to record every set. I learned a lot from listening over and over to a crappy set. For one thing, I learned that my pacing still speeds up at times, to unintelligible levels. That's my #1 thing to work on in the coming weeks...
S... L... O... W...
D... O... W... N!
It's not as bad as it was last year. I'd recorded myself at the Irvine Improv, and was shocked to hear how fast I was going. And mumbling to boot. How can the crowd follow me along for the ride if they can't understand what I'm saying? Duh.
So, I've improved, but need to improve some more.
Mainly, I speed up a lot when I'm filling gaps. And there were a lot of gaps to fill during this particular set. When I'm improvising, I tend to speed up... and mumble. Every once in a while, I caught myself speeding up, took a breath, and slowed down. What I need to do is not speed up in the first place.
Listening to the recording over and over, I also found that there's still a lot of superflous words in some of my new set-ups. As I was listening, I was yelling at the recorder, "Get to the point".
I've already gotten my money's worth on the $90 digital recorder.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
One of the guests on LLS was a comic, and that helped in the "making it real" exercise. I got to see him walk to hit his mark only several feet away from me (I was in the front row... like my old days "on the bench" at USC... "the more things change, the more they stay the same"), learned that the comic's act is provided on cuecards (keywords only, not totally written out like the host's monologue), and watched his act through the camera operator's viewfinder (not a view you normally get, needless to say... but I said it anway).
After the show, I was going to try getting a spot at the Laugh Factory. The key word is "try". As it turns out, I drove past it a few times, looked for parking after each drive-by, and eventually gave up. If I'd really wanted to do it, I'd have found parking somewhere. The truth is, I wasn't really keen on the idea to begin with, so it wasn't that hard to bail. Maybe I'll learn the ropes there someday, and figure out how to get a showcase without waiting in line by the curb. Or maybe I'll decide one day to wait in line by the curb. In the meantime, back to the Improv. There's only so much time in a day, and only so many ropes we can learn.
At the Improv, my "usual spot" was taken, so I sat at a table next to the entrance of the dining room. While I was eating dinner, I saw Lesley Wolff, the comic/producer who'd seen me get pulled out of the audience during one of her recent shows. When she saw me, she came over to my table, and asked me for my name. She sees a lot of people, so it's no big deal that she didn't remember my name at first. Especially when you consider that after hearing my name, she told me that she had me down for a spot on her next show (September 20th).
To quote a line from "Almost Famous"...
"It's all happening."
That's not to say I'm "Amost Famous". It's more the spirit of that line that I'm talking about. Stay in the moment, go places, get in the arena, get better, work on building relationships, and next thing you know... stuff happens.
So, mark your calendars, boys and girls. My first booking at the Hollywood Improv. And it only took me about a year and a half, plus an additional 6,000 miles of driving. It may sound facetious, but it's not. In the whole scheme of things, to me, that's a small price to pay. The time would have passed anyway, even if I'd spent the last 18 months sitting on my couch. Now, when time passes, there's a good chance that something will have happened. It may be "only" a Tuesday show, but it's a big deal to me. After performing between 10:30 PM and 2:00 AM for the past year, I'll take it. I've got to take it. It's where I'm at. Not ready for the weekends, but ready to graduate from the "I Can't Believe How Freakin' Late It Is" show. I'll still do those shows (if and when they return), but I'll do them with the knowledge that I've got a little notch on my belt.
Funny, isn't it? Earlier this year, I started believing that I belong there. And now, some other people believe it, too.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
[Pre-Gig: First time doing gig for Lynn Epstein. TBD minutes. Planned = new "standard" set... all material... cut & pasted from 7/12/05, added back the not-so-clean stuff... & some rordering. Feed this back into new "standard".]
Like my previous blog post, this is also being written a couple of weeks after the fact (7/29/05). I've got a few minutes to play catch-up, and didn't want to lose some of this "historical" context.
Before the gig, I hung out at the beach for a while, then wandered across the street from the beach, and into the library. That was a unique experience. The library in Laguna overlooks the ocean. It was actuallly a partial ocean view (to use hotel terminology), which was a first for me. With a lot of time to kill, I found a book by Stella Adler ("The Technique of Acting)", and sat in a comfortable chair, facing a large window overlooking the ocean. I plowed through half of the book before it was time to head over to the club, and made a note that I needed to own that book. When I said there was a lot of time to "kill", that was a misnomer. I didn't kill the time. I made good use of it.
The gigs at Brea and Laguna were on consecutive days, which hadn't happened since my previous stint as a comic back in the 20th century. It was a good week. I got to stretch my legs in Brea (15 minutes), and follow it up on the next day with another gig (8 minutes).
It's still not nearly enough work to get in a really good groove, but sure beats the heck out of the sparse scheduling I had last year. Step-by-step... brick-by-brick...
I've finally realized that I can't limit myself exclusively to the "good" clubs and "good" audiences. For one thing, that's all relative. Who's to say what's "good"? And who did I think I was, thinking that I could develop my act by only waiting around for the "good" rooms?
Live and learn.
The thing about rooms like the Laguna Beach Brewing Company is that they're not easy. It was a small room, with a handful of tables, and a capicity of maybe 25 to 30 people. The ambient lighting was a reddish hue, and there was no spotlight. There was no elevated stage. We stood on the same floor the customers were sitting on.
With all of those factors working against us, the good comics still got laughs.
It was a good reminder to me. When I watched the comics who are further along than I am, it reminded me that if it's good, it's good. My act had limited success. I didn't die, but I didn't kill, either. A couple of the comics smoked the room... at least, as much as you can smoke in a room of 25 to 30 people.
Speaking of the people, they were great. There were a lot of regular customers there, and they were there to have fun.
Bottom line... I need to keep focusing on being "good", rather than looking for "good" rooms. If it's good, it's good.
Sure, there are limits to that logic. But mostly, the "bad" rooms are the ones that are filled with comics, and those have to be kept in perspective. You do rooms full of comics for different reasons than you do rooms with paying customers. And as long as I keep focusing on my abilities and development, there's something to be learned from every room... good or bad.
So, I'm looking forward to returning to the Laguna Beach Brewing Company. Next time, I'm going to approach it with a lot more confidence. I shot myself in the foot. It was the first time I'd done a room like that in a lot of years. I never found my footing. Next time, I'm going to connect more with the audience, and own the room. I can't control the reaction of the crowd, but I can control my attitude. And "owning" the room is about confidence. It's not about "killing". It's about control. Stay in control, no matter what. And even though I didn't feel like I totally lost control during my set in Laguna, I was a bit timid. And afterwards, I was talking to one of the comics (Bernadette), and heard myself making excuses about the lighting and the sound system. That was BS. The room was fine. The crowd was friendly.
Next time, no excuses.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
[Post-Gig: Great night. Reminded me why I'm doing this. I'll blog more later.]
In reality, I didn't blog more later. Although I'm posting this as if it were on the same date as the gig, it's actually a couple of weeks later (July 29th, to be exact). I just wanted to follow-up, for context.
It was a great night, about 150 people, and I did about 15 minutes. It felt great to stretch my legs. Like I noted before, this is the longest set I've been booked to do since returning to stand-up two years ago. It was a confidence builder to do a good 15 minute set again. The crowd was with me, and I had a lot of material left in the bag. I worked totally clean, and used roughly half of my act. Now I have the evidence to back-up my claim that I can still be a feature (a.k.a., middle) act.
Another cool thing about the Pure Comedy show is that the host/producer was a really cool guy, and all of the comics were positive and supportive. It's no big surprise to note that having a positive, supportive atmosphere is not a given in the world of show biz... and comics can be especially brutal at times.
I've got to have thick skin to make it through the negative stuff, since that's part of the deal. But it was nice to know that it's possible to have a show where the crowd is fun, the comedy is clean, and the performers are supportive.
And to top it off, Thor gave me an open invitation to return any time. He's doing shows once a month through the end of the year, so I hope to have that positive and supportive experience a few more times before the year is out.
I've got a 15 minute spot at the Brea Improv tonight. That's the most time I've gotten since re-starting stand-up nearly two years ago. It's been a slow climb, but worth the effort. Days like this are the payoff. Have fun. Enjoy the ride.
It's game day!
In the pit of my stomach is that old familiar performance buzz. Some call it fear or anxiety. Not me. I call it... umm... well, I actually don't have a special name for it. Not off the top of my head, anyway. Let's just say that I like it. It's the same feeling I get on the day of any performance, and the same feeling I used to get when I was playing football... on game day.
Hence the title of this blog.
I'll get back to you soon on how tonight goes. No matter what, I'm going to have fun. That's the mantra, remember? And for those of you reading this who don't do stand-up comedy, it's not a given. Many comics do not have fun before, during, or after a performance.
Okay, maybe _during_.
But the age-old stereotype of the miserable comedian has its basis in fact. I'm not going to argue numbers. It doesn't matter what percentage have fun. All I'm saying is that it's not a given. And I know, because I was once in the category of comics who forgot the mantra. Even now, while experiencing this comedic rebirth, I still have to remind myself. It's easy to fall back into the traps.
But I'm not going to get trapped again.
Not for long, anyway.
There may be transgressions here and there, but I'm determined to enjoy the ride this time, wherever it might take me. After all, that's the whole point of life...
Enjoy the ride.
There are really no "destinations". It's just a funky little train ride. Look out the window. See the sights. Smell the smells.
It's game day!
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
His response was more than I asked for.
He said he'd be back to doing warm-ups at LLS in August, and invited me to be his guest.
How cool is that?
Isn't serendipity a wonderful thing?
And how many more rhetorical questions will I ask?
Gary and I still haven't met in person, but we've established enough of a virtual relationship for him to toss me an unsolicited perk. Even though I don't know if that will give me any more "access" than a normal ticket holder, the gesture is cool. And, at the very least, I won't have to wait in line.
That's always a plus... in any context.
At best, it may mean a bump-up in access (e.g., hanging out with Gary before/after the show, meeting other crew members, going backstage, etc.). Those chickens are over the horizon one way or another (and I'm not counting them now). If it happens in August, great. If not, then some other time.
In the meantime, it's more than I asked for... just like being pulled up on stage on Tuesday.
I'm not going to call this stuff "luck", because it's not like these people wandered into my living room to nudge me along in Hollywood. It kinda has to do with me putting myself into various situations, and sending e-mails to various people. The only way "luck" might enter into it is in the context of my favorite quote on that subject:
"Luck is where preparation meets opportunity."
I'm finally feeling prepared. Bigger and better opportunities are just around the corner...
The catch is, there's no way to know which corner.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
[8:00 show... Bonus... Got pulled up on stage by one of the comics. She had me cold-read the part of David Letterman. Foreshadowing? Don't know that yet, but I do know that it was fun (I was up there for her entire set!), and I got good feedback. One person I got good feedback from was the Producer of the show, Lesley Wolff. She's also a comic. I didn't give her a business card right after the show, but I did e-mail her the next day, requesting a booking. In her response (yes, another person who actually responds to correspondence), she told me I was "SOOO awesome", and that I should remind her in a couple of weeks for a possible booking in September. I'm not counting the chickens, mind you... but I'm jazzed. You know how jazzed I am? I don't normally use the word "jazzed". That's how jazzed I am. Remember that bit? Well, it's worth a rehash, I think. It's nice to see the door creaking open a little bit. And it's nice when an unplanned chain of events leads somewhere. Who would have thought that I'd get "seen" for my first time in one of the early shows because I was sitting in the audience, and looked a bit like David Letterman. There's not really a resemblance, but I am an old guy with short thinning hair. Would you have guessed on this scenario? Not me. I thought I'd be passing a showcase one of these days, become an Improv regular, and _then_ get on stage in Hollywood before 10:30. You just never know. Once again, John Lennon's words come to mind... "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans". I'm still going to make plans. Otherwise, I'll just wind up back on my couch doing nothing. It's just a reminder that things aren't likely to go _exactly_ according to plan. Right now, I plan on ending this paragraph.]
[10:30 show... I sucked. Oh, well. You need a character-builder now and then to make you work harder, right? The good news is that I didn't get all pissy about it. I kept in control (i.e., remained "professional" in some sense of the word), though I do want to correct the problem of bailing on my set in that room. Rather than sticking to the material, I ventured into savers and rambling. That might be okay during a "normal" gig, but one clue I've gathered about doing these sets at the Hollywood Improv is that I need to practice staying on course. This is all about preparing for showcases. And it's about remembering that the late show there is effectively a showcase whether anybody "important" is watching or not. I'll correct it next time. Stay the course. Don't bail on the set. Not only is it practice for showcases, but for TV, too. No savers. I repeat... no savers. It's a tough habit to break, but I have to break it. Just over the horizon, I may be getting a spot in "prime time", and I need to have the habit broken by then. No savers... no savers... no savers... Ommmmmm. Maybe I need a "sleep tape" that just repeats that over and over while I'm sleeping... "No savers... no savers... no savers... don't bail on the material... stay the course, grasshopper... Ommmm... when you awake, you'll be alert and refreshed, ready to face your next showcase... Ommmm... no savers... no savers... no savers...". Good night.]
Disease Control (CSI+American Idol)
Beatles... [partially, bailed before actually doing the voices]
The bit about quitting stand-up, then coming back
[Signs of life in the audience, likely just feeling my pain]
[Someone may have snorted]
Dreams (kids - gave up)
Football (USC motto)
[Mac started playing music... insult to injury]
Disease Control (CSI+American Idol)
- all 4 voices
Dreams (kids - gave up)
Football (USC motto)
Football (USC Graduated)
Football (USC Bench)
Food (Happy Weight)
Food (Ding Dongs)
Sunday, June 19, 2005
It's hot off the presses. And the ones IRL are printed on glossy paper, with a white border around the edges. The border is pretty much a necessity, due to the precision (or lack of precision) of my home printer. Ideally, the card would have no border. Just photo from edge to edge. In any event, they turned out better than I'd hoped.
I love it when that happens.
Now I have something to hand-out when I'm in Hollywood. I also have my Beatles Complete DJ cards, which mention the fact that I'm also a comedian. But these cards are much better for making the point that I'm a comedian first... although the first point this card makes is that I was a linebacker at USC "back in the day". The second point it makes is that I'm a comedian, and have been since birth.
Okay, so I stand corrected. Sit corrected, actually. Typing while standing is awkward. And did you ever notice how awkward it is to type the word "awkward"?
The point is, I now have a card that's focused on the comedy part of my pursuits, with a couple of visual reminders of who I am: my past as a USC linebacker, and my current mug shot.
The USC part of the card is a good differentiator, don't you think? Why am I asking? I know it's a good differentiator. It's the thing that people remember about me. It's part of my brand recognition.
I may not have gotten a degree in marketing, but this is like Marketing 101.
Having USC highlighted on the card is also a cross-promotional thing. Now when I hand out a card at a USC event, it should have more of an impact. One of my goals is to speak at USC events, not to mention the fact (although I'm about to mention it) that I'm writing a book about my time on the football team at USC... so it all ties together.
Anyway, it may seem like I'm making way too big of a deal about new business cards. But it's about more than that. It's about a new attitude. It's about setting goals, and taking steps to reach those goals. It's about consistent, daily action. It's about balance. It's about focus.
And it's about time that I go to bed.
Monday, June 06, 2005
One booking is from Bill Word, the producer of the comedy shows at Martini Blues. He's booked me to do a show for a couple's 25th Wedding Anniversary on June 28th. That's also my mom and dad's anniversary, which brought a lump in my throat when I got the booking. No need for details. If you know me very well, you'll know why.
The other booking is from Lynn Epstein, one of the comics who performed in the competition that same evening. She was one of the top 4 (I voted her #1 on my ballot), and books a room in Laguna Beach. I'll be there on July 13th.
Aside from the two gigs, I should also probably note that I felt good about the performance. It was all I could have hoped for... all any comic ever hopes for: laughs, applause breaks, connecting with the audience, being myself, improvising. It was my best set since returning to stand-up almost two years ago.
The only thing missing was enough votes to get into the top 4...
In fact, I ended-up paying to perform.
I was sitting with a couple of friends who'd made the long drive (thanks again, Alan and Mike!), and when the tab came, there were 3 cover charges. So, I paid $5 to perform. Not that I'm upset, mind you. Actually, I think it's funny. I didn't say anything to the waiter. The way I see it, the club owner and producer have a good thing going there, and I appreciate it. Normally, the pay-to-perform thing isn't something I condone. But in this case, I'll make an exception. For one thing, I think it may have been a mistake (since I wasn't sitting in the back of the room with the other comics). And even if it wasn't, I think $5 was a small price to pay for a fun evening, and a couple of unexpected bookings.
And remember, grasshopper, it's not about the money.
Not yet, anyway.
One of the mistakes I made "back in the day" (1986-1991) was that my primary focus was money. I worked on my act, and thought of myself as an artist, but my main target had to do with fame and fortune. I thought way too much about "How can I make a living at this?", as opposed to "How can I make myself better at this?". Even as I type this, something inside of me is rebelling, trying to tell me that I was really focused on getting better. Maybe. At times. But I still think that my striving for fame and fortune eventually overshadowed my onstage improvement. By the end of that "era", I wasn't having fun. Every showcase felt too damn important, which led me to being too uptight for them... and not doing as well as I was capable of doing. And on the rare instances when I did have a good showcase, I did nothing to nurture any business relationships that could have led to me making a living in showBUSINESS.
So remember, grasshopper... stay focused on being yourself, being good, and just plain being. Anything else is gravy. If fame and fortune happen, oh well. Fine. Take it. But don't dwell on it. That's a crapshoot at best. And we know that in a crapshoot, the house always wins in the long run. Not to mention the fact that the shooter isn't in control of the numbers on the dice.
Ah, to heck with the metaphors. Stay in the moment. Have fun. The end.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
As a friendly reminder, I have no control over how people will vote. The only thing I can do is get up there and give it my best shot. Yeah, I want to advance. If nothing else, for more stagetime. It's also good practice for higher-visibility stuff. In fact, compared to a lot of gigs I've had over the years, this _is_ higher-visibility stuff. And as another comic told me years ago, it's best to approach every show as if it's your Carson spot. That advice may be dated as far as the Carson reference goes, but the sentiment remains valid.
So, to sum things up to this point...
I'm a comic!
I want to do well, and that means going up and having fun. Otherwise, I'd might as well just chain myself into my cubicle and drool myself to death.
It's not that I don't appreciate my day job. I do. It pays the mortgage, keeps food on the table, and stops me from putting too much pressure on myself about "this comedy thing".
But let's face it. I'm hooked. Hook, line, and sinker. I'm getting some old familiar feelings, along with some new ones. The old ones are the usual performance buzz, and the obsession with getting on stage. The new feelings are a kind of confidence I don't recall having "back in the day". Sure, I'd gotten to a point back in the last millenium where I felt good about my abilities as a comic. But it was on shaky ground. And even though I guess performers are always on shaky ground (Oh, oh! Watch the "self-fulfilling prophecy" in that statement!), it was especially shaky towards the end. Once Stephanie and I moved to Hollywood, without a clue about how to nurture a showBIZ career, every step I took felt huge. Every showcase was "the most important thing that ever happened to me". I'd wait months, then if things didn't go perfectly, I'd sulk and whine and suck down a gallon of cheap white wine.
So, what's different now is that I've got the day job, can visit Hollywood for the nurturing of the showBIZ career, and come back home to my loving family.
The showcases I get will still get my blood flowing, but won't disable me if things don't pan-out right away. Things are in a bit healthier perspective now. Tomorrow's competition is just another step along the long and winding road to wherever it is that I'm heading. It's important, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. But no matter what happens, I'll live to compete another day.
With that said...
BRING IT ON!
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
I apologize for the above punctuation mess... though it shouldn't really matter much... in this stream-of-consciousness mode. Back to the stream...
A door closes, and other doors open. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
On the one hand, I feel really good about this evening. But keeping balance in mind, I'm not jumping-up-and-down-happy. Even keel. Not too high, and not too low. It sure does feel good, but I can't let it go to my head. I can't let it make me complacent. Exactly the opposite has to happen. Pedal to the metal. The time to work harder is when things are going well.
It'll be a trip going back to the Comedy Store after all of these years. Funny stuff. Once again, like with the Hollywood Improv, I'm walking backwards. A little over a year ago, my sights weren't set towards Hollywood. I was invited, in order to get a shot at Irvine (as you may recall from previous blog posts). Now, I've been offered a chance to circumvent the open mic process at the Comedy Store. We'll see what happens. Don't know if it's legit. For now, I'll assume it is. No big deal one way or the other. It's just another door creaking open. And I'm looking forward to going back to the Hollywood Store with a totally different attitude. I never did like going to that place "back in the day". Now I feel ready to walk through their doors with my head high. It may only be a one-time deal, or it may lead to other things.
You never know.
Maybe next Monday, I'll find out.
It was a good night.
"Now it's time to say goodnight..."
Monday, May 23, 2005
A friend at work (we'll call him Lawrence, because that's his name... as you may remember from a previous post) was about as excited as me about my new IMDb entry. So was my oldest daughter, Autumn. My wife went, "Oh... so... I've been thinking about going to the Street Scene this year". I keep forgetting that there are some things I shouldn't share with my wife. She's cool about me peforming, but really isn't interested in the details. I should leave well enough alone, be happy that she's supportive (to a point), and bite my tongue when it comes to the details. It's tough, because she and I usually talk about everything. Show biz is just something she's put in her past, and doesn't want to talk about.
As for me, I'm back in the saddle again, and riding higher all the time. The next goal related to the movies is to get a screen credit. Perhaps I'll need to get some auditions one of these days? Mmmmyeah... that might help. Don't want to wait for those door-to-door talent scouts to find me here in Oceanside. That strategy didn't pan-out back in 1991. There's no reason to think it would work in 2005.
Before setting my sights on movie auditions, I've got to stay focused on marketing myself as a stand-up. I'm heading to Hollywood again tomorrow, and probably next Tuesday, too. Even though they aren't doing the Improv Booking Showcases anymore (stay tuned for a new process), I still need to keep chipping away. If nothing else, it's stagetime. And you never know what else might happen. On June 2nd, I've got another spot at Martini Blues. This time, it's in a competition... on a Thursday night. It will be the closest I've come to a weekend since returning to stand-up. And it could dovetail into other gigs.
In a way, I have a lost opportunity to thank... or maybe not "thank". Yeah, forget that sentiment. I'm the one that chose to take a couple of my eggs out of the one basket they'd been sitting in. Forget thanking the person who's not being... professional? No need to look for synoyms or euphemysms... but I will. I may not "need" to. But I will. The point is that when one door closes, several more open. The person who's name I'm avoiding using here did me a favor... in a way. But no thanks are due. He didn't do me a favor on purpose. Enough said. Maybe more than enough said. Maybe not enough said. Enough said?
The snowball is growing... slowly but surely.
Did I mention that I'm in the IMDb?
Joe [tittering like a little schoolgirl]: Tee hee hee...
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Said a few words to Flip Schultz just before heading back from Hollywood. I think I may have startled him at first. No big deal. I just hit him with an abrupt non-sequitor when I spotted him coming back into the lobby from the showroom. "I LIKE YOUR BLOG!", I blurted. The look on his face indicated that he was taken aback a bit. Then we proceeded to share a few words before I left. Hopefully, he doesn't think I'm some kind of stalker. Again, as my dad has told me for most of my life... I think too much. But hey, if I didn't think too much... I wouldn't be pursuing a career in Hollywood, would I?
Who knows why some other people perform up there. Not for me to determine. But I had an interesting conversation with one of the doormen up there, who also teaches at Pepperdine, and has a minor in Psychology. He wondered why some people would get up on stage week after week, bombing with the same jokes, and not change anything. He quoted the old definition of insanity: "...repeating the same thing and hoping for different results". I counter-quoted with a line from "American Beauty": "Never underestimate the power of denial". I'm sure the psychology behind crappy performers has been the subject of a few Psychology Theses. If not, it should be. There's a never-ending supply of people showing up in Hollywood... some good, and some really sucky. The allure is obvious. How some people can think they're so good when they're not is beyond me. I'll fight the urge to put myself in that category. Old habits die hard (namely, inaccurate self-ridicule). I know when I suck. With that fact in mind, there's still hope.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
So, is it a long layoff or not?
And, more importantly, what difference does it make?
Long or short, it will feel good to head up there again. Funny, isn't it? Last year, I didn't want to go up there. Now, I have a hard time staying away.
Of course, Hollywood and I are "just friends". We have no plans for a serious relationship.
That's what my wife and I both said when we first started dating...
Fifteen years and two kids ago.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
I'll tell you more about the room in another post.
It's past my bedtime.
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Action is usually the best cure. On the way up to Martini Blues, I'll be able to relieve some of this gnawing feeling by running my act over-and-over. And even the simple act of moving closer to the club should also bring things down to a more pleasant level.
Adrenaline is fine. Jitters are fine. Getting excited is fine.
But this constant buzz of anxiety can be a bit annoying.
Once again, it goes with the territory.
I've never had a good performance without feeling like this to some degree. In fact, it's hard for me to even remember the handful of times when I was totally relaxed before a show. All I know is that it didn't work out too well. Maybe on those occasions, I was fooling myself into thinking that I somehow "had it licked". As if anybody can every "conquer" this thing...
Whatever "this thing" is.
The bottom line (if there has to be one... and apparently there does) is that I'm looking forward to tonight. Ironically, that's where the anxiety comes from. My favorite definition of anxiety is that it's "the distance between where you are and where you want to be". Right now, I'm sitting at my desk in the daytime at work... and I want to be standing on stage in the nighttime at Martini Blues.
It'll happen soon enough. I don't want to wish my life away. Not even a few hours of it. So, back to work...
Monday, May 09, 2005
Tomorrow night, I'm going up for the first time in almost a month. The bottom line...
That's it. Nothing else. Prepare... sure. Fine. Prepare. Got it. Go over some stuff, get the attitude right, etc., etc., etc. But in the end, there's only one thing to do...
Now my work here is done.
Sunday, May 08, 2005
Haven't been on stage in 26 days... unless you count my schmaltzy (sp?) performance of "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" on the bus while leaving San Francisco last week.
Count it or not. No matter. If we stick with "the world is my stage" philosophy, I haven't missed a day yet.
This Tuesday, I'll be going up to Martini Blues for the first time. It will be nice to get some of my eggs out of the proverbial "one basket". Whether or not this new basket will be a nice place for my eggs remains to be seen. What's the worst that can happen? So, I break a couple of eggs. Big deal. There's plenty more where they came from.
Speaking of nonsense...
Believe it or not, I'm at a loss for words. Time to go to sleep, and dream that my first day back at work might actually be pleasant. Who am I kidding? Of course it won't be pleasant. Or was that "of course it _will_ be pleasant"? Now I remember. It's up to me. Geez. When will I remember that without forgetting it? Probably the day I die, if I'm lucky. Of course, how lucky could I be on the day I die? Depends on how you look at it, I suppose. And now, I suppose, it's time to stop this nonsense. Of course, there's plenty more of this nonsense to be had on another day. I just want to stop this particular dose of this nonsense.
So much for being at a loss for words.
But then, you didn't believe me in the first place, did you?
Now get outta here.
I mean it, you knucklehead!
Saturday, April 30, 2005
Later today, I actually hope to spend some time on _my_ act.
In the meantime, life beckons.
Got chores to do...
Thursday, April 28, 2005
It's all in my head.
I have to keep reminding myself that there are certain things beyond my control. There's no way to make someone book me. There's no way to make someone put me on TV. There's no way to make someone publish my book.
It's okay to want these things, but don't let the desire for these things take over.
The #1 focus should be on the things I can control. Remember? Writing is strictly up to me. My attitude is mine, too. Rehearsing isn't anybody else's domain. As long as I keep focusing on doing whatever it is I need to do to improve myself, not only will I enjoy the ride more, but I'll also be giving myself the best chance of success on those rare occasions when I get to showcase my talent.
Yesterday, I played my guitar and sang in the backyard. It wasn't exactly a performance, but almost. We have neighbors, and the sound doesn't stop at our fence. It may seem silly to think of that as stagetime, but it had that feeling. I had to focus on my playing and singing without being self-conscious... that is, thoughts were creeping in about what the audience might be thinking, and I had to push out those thoughts, and focus on the playing and singing. That's where it felt like a performance. And even if I'm only doing voices in my car, or in the bathroom, it's all preparing me for my next showcase.
And you know what? I can't control when my next showcase will happen. Oh, did I mention that already? It's okay. It's worth repeating.
Slow down. Have fun. Get better. Focus. And above all...
Enjoy the ride.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
The story for this Tuesday was that I was rarin' to go, with no place to go (up).
No Improv Jam at the Hollywood Improv. A lot of searching on the Internet yielded nothing in San Diego... or Orange County. I did find something up in LA, but didn't feel like making that long trek to some unknown club. If it sucked, that would have... sucked.
So, I hit the road early anyway (as planned), thinking I might as well head up to the Hollywood Improv anyway, just to hang out. Somewhere between San Diego and San Clemente, I decided against going all the way up there. Too bad I couldn't have dropped in at the Irvine club... just for a dose of live comedy... even if not from under the spotlight. No need to dwell on that situation. I'm not going to put myself in another awkward situation like the last time I popped-in up there.
So... I stopped in San Clemente, had dinner at Tommy's, then headed back south. Even though I'd resigned myself to the fact that there would be no performing, I still didn't feel like going home. Somehow, I wound up at the Pala Indian Reservation. I'd never seen their Casino. Thought there might even be an off chance that I could find a venue to perform sometime in the future. As it turns out, I don't think they're really setup for stand-up comedy. But I'm glad I went. It was surprising how much it felt like Vegas. I'll go back again sometime, and hang-out longer. This time around, I just played $10 in a Video Poker game, wandered around, and left.
After that, just some more driving, more thinking, working on my act, my strategy, my confidence, my reason for being... you know... the usual.
Now I'm in the home office, blogging.
I'll probably just shutdown for the evening after this post. I was going to work on my act, and on my book... but I'm not in the mood. Tomorrow morning, I'll be dialing into an all-day meeting... so I guess I should get some sleep.
I've got a vacation coming up, and will rearrange my act then. No stagetime until May 10th (at Martini Blues), since I'll be in Northern California next week on a school field trip. At least I know I've got one booking in May and June. It may not be much, but it's better than nothing.
Remember... there's no time limit. Remember? Good. And good night.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Monday, April 25, 2005
Lights out, nobody home.
Maybe it's all for the best. Or maybe that's just my rationalization.
And maybe I'll grow a spine someday, and stop having wishy-washy opinions.
Then again, maybe not.
The point is... on top of my head.
Which reminds me, I got a buzz-cut on Saturday. It's not, like, Marine short. I asked the barber to cut it down to about 1/2 inch... which he did. Give or take. On the sides, it's less that that. On top, it's a little more. In any case, I don't recall having my hair this short. At least, not since I was an infant. But since I don't recall that, my statement stands.
Back to the Comedy Store...
Actually, I'm not back to the Comedy Store. When I got there at 10:30, the show was over. No signs of life. I peeked through the big pane glass window at the front of the club, and nobody was in the chairs. Nobody was on stage, either. That last part doesn't go without saying. At the end of an open mic (or "Potluck") show, it's not unusual to have a room full of empty chairs with a comic on stage.
I'm still unplugged.
Which brings me to my first point...
Maybe it's all for the best.
The reason I say that is because I was feeling a _lot_ of anxiety today about going down there. I kept telling myself how silly that was, considering I've been exposing myself (AHHH!) in Hollywood for the past year. Why would I feel so anxious about going to La Jolla?
Perhaps I should ask my local psyciatrist.
I'm sure it has something to do with "going home". There's more pressure/anxiety/whatever involved in that kind of a venture.
We'll see what happens in the coming weeks/months/years. I'm still not interested in giving up family time on Sunday to wait around in the Vons parking lot for the Comedy Store to open. If that's my only chance of getting some extra workout time at a real comedy venue in San Diego, then I'm not going to be getting extra workout time at a real comedy venue in San Diego.
The only chance I can see at getting stagetime at the Store that fits my needs/desires/wants/whatevers is if their business picks up over the summer. That's a possibility. Maybe they don't roll up the streets in La Jolla at 10:30 in the summertime. More to the point, maybe the Store has customers after 10:30 in the summertime.
If not, that was a short re-visiting of the old stomping grounds.
Time to re-focus on Tuesday in Hollywood.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
I contacted Wally Wang, to see about getting a recommendation for performing in the late show. He provided some info on who to contact, when to show up, etc. I guess it's the usual ropes again. That is, no short-cut. It never hurts to ask. And if it does hurt, it's not a place I want to be.
Anyway, I wasn't looking for a huge leg-up from Wally. I just wanted to skip the usual afternoon in-person sign-up for the 7:00 open mic, and proceed to the late show on Sunday. Again, in keeping with the "Family First" theme. I don't want to hang out half of the day on Sunday for a spot. I'm just looking for late workout spots. So, I'll see if the manager will allow me to sign-up by phone for a spot near closing time. If he doesn't, I'll be willing to show up once for a showcase. But after that, my boundary will go back up between Family and Fantasy... er, ShowBiz.
No matter what the result of my phone call is tomorrow, I'm going to hit the club after the girls hit the sack. The moratorium is over. I'm still not a huge fan of Mitzi, but that doesn't matter. She's probably not a big fan of me, either.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
The decision was a no-brainer.
And that's good news... to me. It means I have my priorities straight.
Nothing against somebody who would have driven up to Hollywood instead. This has to do with my priorities. Nobody else's priorities matter when it comes to my juggling act.
Throughout the day yesterday, I still continued to work on my act. Remember, boys and girls, you're always in control of how much you write, vocalize, sing, dance, etc., etc., etc.
So, rather than performing/testing my newest material last night, I'll perform/test it next week. Nothing was "sacrificed" by going to a meeting at my daughters' school. Yesterday was actually the best of both worlds.
Oh, and I went to work, too.
Would you like to guess where the day job fits into the list of priorities?
Speaking of a "no-brainer".
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The one to have a positive voice?
I didn't start out here meaning to rhyme.
It just came out that way, look at the time!
It's after midnight, not too late for me.
But in the morning, I have got to be
up early for yet another big test
of patience, mostly, I shouldn't protest.
The coin they pay me is rather obscene
considering just how useless I've been
for days and weeks and months at a time
it's made me crazy enough to bust rhyme.
So much for the positive voice choice I made
perhaps that can wait `til I'm out of the shade
to work on the habit of stopping the hating
it's taken some years to build up the berating.
Before I embarrass myself any more
it's time to hit "Publish" and walk out the door
from office to downstairs to couch and to sleep
to dream I have patience until the clock beep.
And now a bedtime prayer:
Please, Lord... don't make me do that again.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Whether or not I get comments remains to be seen.
Even if I don't get any, the point is that I've jumped another hurdle. A mental one. The kind all of us deal with most often. Rarely do we see actual hurdles in our path throughout the day.
That would be silly.
What pushed me over the edge was a discussion with a co-worker today. Let's call him Lawrence... since that's his name. The more I made excuses about why no comments were allowed on my blog, the more I realized how lame I was being. I'm pursuing a career (or, at the very least, a glorified hobby) in Hollywood, and don't have the balls to find out what someone might thing of my blog entries?
Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. At least I got a clue. Many more clues (hopefully) await. As Lawrence and I were discussing (in a rather lengthy diversion from "work"), improving yourself is a lifelong process. That is, if you're into that kind of thing.
So, this may seem like a small hurdle to any stranger reading this. It may even seem like a small hurdle to myself as I look back on this post. But for now, it feels like a big deal. Another door is creaking open... slowly but surely.
I can't wait to see what's behind the next door.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Today, at my daughters' elementary school, there was a girl who sang "God Bless America" in front of several classes. I was sitting in the back of the room, listening to this brave young girl, and watching a group of boys in front of me laughing and covering their ears.
Cowards, not brave enough to do what she was doing, but bold enough to sit in the back of the room and mock her effort. It reminded me that at any given show, there will always be those cowardly critics in the audience. Nothing personal. It's just a fact of life...
The Man In The Arena
by Theodore Roosevelt (From a speech delivered in Paris in 1910)
It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by the dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.
The happy ending to the above story is that the brave soldier on stage got a huge round of applause following her solo singing performance.
Her critics, of course, continued to mock all of the remaining performers.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
For one thing, Richard Pryor's daughter was one of the performers. Her name was Rain Pryor... and it probably still is.
Tuesday night. Comedy class graduation. Richard Pryor's daughter. I'm not disrespecting that fact, mind you. It's just another dose of perspective. She's Richard Pryor's daughter, and apparently isn't on the list of Improv Regulars. And isn't performing in "prime time".
Another reminder to be patient, don't you think?
And in addition to Richard Pryor's daughter, a good portion of the Comedy Class Graduates were introduced with TV and movie credits.
Only in Hollywood...
And New York, I suppose.
The level of competition in Hollywood is obviously high. No news. I've been around the block a couple of times. Got that clue a number of years ago.
What was drilled home the other night is that every time you go around the block, you pick up more clues.
"Hollywood is competitive."
Yeah, yeah, yeah... I get it.
It's a simple statement.
And you don't even need to be somebody chasing a dream in Hollywood to understand that concept.
But the level of competition is what keeps revealing itself the more I'm in the arena. I mean, it becomes more and more obvious how high the level of competition is. Just when I think I understand, I get hit in the face with another example that tells me I've underestimated the playing field. If I'm not getting my name on the various lists up there, it might have something to do with the fact that the list of people who've been paying their dues up there is a little bit longer than I thought. Make that a _lot_ longer than I thought.
The cool thing is, in spite of the fact that I'm not getting on any of the "lists" in Hollywood (yet), I'm having a lot more fun up there than I did the last time around.
And in the end, having fun is really the only thing that matters...
Until something better comes along.
-------- Joe "If My Daddy Were Richard Pryor, I'd _Still_ Be Performing on Tuesdays" Palen
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
I'm drunk. It's okay, though. I mean, I'm sitting in the cozy comfines (er, confines) of my hotel room. Travelling on business. Best of both worlds. Got to do a set at the Hollywood Improv (after sitting at my "usual table" for dinner), then threw back a couple of Foster's at the Hotel bar. It's always nice to be able to walk home after drinking. Fewer cops between the lobby and the elevator than you'd normally see on the road.
Not to mention that, oh, drinking and driving is bad.
Back to comedy...
I opened with the Beatles' voices. "There's no joke there... I just like doing that."
A couple of people clapped (recognition claps, or acknowledging my ability to do four different British accents, somewhat resembling the Beatles?). Then I quizzed the audience on a few things (like, does anyone have no clue what the heck I just did? who has a clue? who couldn't care less?).
Let's see... after that, what happened?
I quizzed the audience on something else... oh, yeah... like how many comics were in the crowd... "or, better yet, how many non-comics?". When several people applauded, I told them we'd set a new Tuesday record. And actually, I think we did. It was a decent sampling of non-comics, perhaps due to the fact that the early show was a Comedy Class Graduation?
In any case, it was a decent room when I got up there. And I got a good spot again... #2. Thanks again, Bob. He's the manager that gives me good spots because I spend money there. Sitting at my "usual table" has paid off in a way that I hadn't planned. And tonight, Bob even used the phrase "usual table" when I told him I was eating dinner... as usual.
What material did I do after the polling? And by the way, I made some mention like, "Why don't I just poll the audience for my entire 4 minutes?" That kind of comment was in the spirit of my goal(s) for the evening. Namely, bungy-jumping. A loose idea of what I wanted to do, but allowing for A LOT of improvising. The bad news is that some of my new material doesn't have jokes... better put, I haven't found the jokes in some of my new stuff. But that was as designed. I went up there wanting to get out of my comfort zone. Just like last week. Trusting that the jokes would/might arrive on stage. And if not, I'd improvise savers... as was the case tonight... and last week.
After the polling...
I think I used the line about being a "45 year old white guy... which trips me out... not the white guy part... I've been white most of my life". Verdict: That line has never worked.
Then I launched into talking about dreams... did the ballerina line... which worked.
Also did a remix of talking about quitting stand-up for 12 years, got married, had kids, then went back to doing stand-up because I got tired of feeling so damn good about myself.
Maybe I did that stuff before the ballerina line?
Oh... also ad-libbed something about fishing... the thing about "the worst day fishing is better than the best day at the office"... only related it to comedy. Don't remember exactly when I said it... again, no biggie... just wanted to record it from memory in some order.
Another thing I did, which seemed to work, was about having a wife and two daughters, but not being the man of the house. At that point, I got the light, and segued to football... a natural segue... something to the effect of "which is sad, because I used to be a football player... played linebacker at USC... the closest I came to fulfilling a dream... NFL... missing one thing... I wasn't good enough".
Leading to an ad-libbed closer...
"And I'm having a flashback!"
All in all, pretty good. A couple of people approached me (or said something in passing) in the lobby/bar area... like, "good job". Not that I need that (yeah, right), but it's nice. Okay, so I might need it to some extent. Or want it. That's better. I don't need it. But I do want it on occasion. What's important is that I stay true to myself. I'm not searching for an audience. My audience will find me.
Speaking of "needing" versus "wanting"... I feel like I wanted to drink tonight. I didn't need it. Kidding myself? Who knows? All I know is that I didn't drink for one of the numerous "wrong reasons" (e.g., pissed-off, depressed, wanting to drown my sorrows). Instead, I drank because I was feeling good, and wanted to catch a buzz.
Joe "High on Life, and on Alcohol" Palen
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
[Blog: I was the opener (at roughly 10:15 PM), so I threw in a couple of "howdya do's" at the beginning. These weren't planned at the time of writing on the napkin, because I didn't know I was going up first at the time. Or I did, and didn't think about it. In any case, I decided to add the "hello" stuff while I was waiting to go up. It was a good set. About 15-20 people in the room. They liked me, and I just adored them. Okay, that may be a bit over the top. That's okay. At the moment, a few hours after performing, I'm still a bit over the top myself. It was just what the doctor ordered. As usual. And the added bonus of being able to be home before I've been going up lately makes it especially nice. That was English, wasn't it? Not going to edit. You should know what I'm talking about, since you're probably me, only older. The thing I most want to report is that I did mostly new stuff, and felt VERY comfortable. I repeat... VERY comfortable. It's only a matter of time before somebody notices. In the meantime, I've got other irons in the fire. I've started writing my first book (my self-imposed deadline for the first draft is 6/1/05), made a couple of committments on projects with my dad (rework his book & begin collaborating on a sitcom script... both of which happened as a result of a lengthy cell phone conversation while sitting at my "usual table" at the Improv tonight), and I've got 2 dates booked outside of the Improv next month. It's a place called "Martini Blues". I found out about it by checking out the bios and resumes of comics I've seen at the various SoCal Improvs. I'm still not interested in performing at any and every so-called "comedy night" at your local bar and laundromat, but needed to do something to counteract my frustration with the lack of response from the guys booking the Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Irvine and Brea Improvs. My initial reaction of asking them for feedback was a mulligan. At least that's the way I'm looking at it. I can't take it back, but I'm moving on. I'll still send them my avails every month, but no more extra effort. That one-way-street way of doing business sucks. This isn't about comedy. This is about business, and human decency. In contrast with the comics booking the Tue/Wed/Irvine/Brea spots (who are "too busy" to respond to anybody's e-mails), I've already had several back&forths with Bill Word (who's booking Martini Blues). In fact, I received two responses from him in a single day. That's two more than I've received from those other guys in months. So, onward and upward. Many roads lead to Rome. I'm pulling an end-around. Chances are, the next time I do Irvine and/or Brea, it will be when I'm booked out of Hollywood. Funny stuff. Joe gets clue. Joe snickers at the irony. Joe stops writing in third person. In fact, I'm done writing in any person... for now.]
NOTE: "<->" means tangent, then return to topic
*** Actual (transcribed from my skull)
How many of you first time here?
- all 4 voices
*** Planned (transcribed from a napkin)
Beatles <-> Bald, Happy Weight
- all 4 voices
Dreams <-> Keeper Wife, Mulligan Wife
- still is
Saturday, April 02, 2005
I first found out that Mitch Hedberg had died when I went to the Improv web site, looking to see what's going on next week in Hollywood. What I found instead, on their front page, was a picture of Mitch Hedberg. Beneath his picture was the tell-tale year following the hyphen.
He was 37 years old.
You just never know.
Stephanie and I planned on going to see him last year. I can't remember why we didn't go to the show. It doesn't matter, I suppose. Just the usual human stuff. One excuse or another. Or maybe we actually did have something else going on.
Anyway, what I do remember was thinking, "We'll see him next time he's in town".
You just never know.
I was telling Autumn about a couple of other comics who died in their thirties: Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks. There have surely been others. But it's eery how the unique ones seem to leave us at such a young age. "The brightest candles burn the fastest." I know it's nothing new. Rock and Roll lost its share of young stars back in the sixties: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin. Actors: Marilyn Monroe, James Dean.
The list goes on.
"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
-- John Lennon, 1940-1980.
You just never know.
Then again, it might not.
While my stage time isn't breaking any records, I've been focused. Writing, rehearsing, marketing. Part of my marketing is spreading outside of the Improv boundaries. I'm not giving up on the Improv. Just tired of the frustration I've been feeling by having all of my eggs in one basket.
My life may not depend on the progress I'm making in Hollywood. Nonetheless, my sanity may be at stake. And I can't let the opinions of a few people spoil my dream. If I let that happen, it's my own damn fault.
Some things I control. Other things I don't. I have to keep remembering to focus on the things I can control. The other stuff will take its own sweet time in parallel with my actions.
March came and went without much fanfare for me in Hollywood. A quarter of the year is gone, and I don't feel any closer to my arbitrary goal of getting on national TV by the end of 2005. Funny thing is, how would I know? How close am I? Am I five years away? Five months? Five days?
Speaking of things I have no control over.
And who knows how it will happen? Maybe I'll get on the "Absurdly Late Show" (thanks, Autumn) while I'm on my first book tour, promoting "Joe Palen On The Bench".
Many roads lead to Rome.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
February has been wet as far as the weather goes. As far as stagetime goes, it's been the Sahara.
There's a chance I might get up to Hollywood next Tuesday. That would put bookends on February if this were a leapyear. Since it isn't, looks like my next chance for performing will be next month.
Sometimes, it just be that way.
A number of forces have conspired to keep me off of the stage. Important ones. Family matters. Work matters.
Not these days.
But that's another story.
After going to Hollywood on the 1st, the following Tuesdays were occupied by SUV-hunting, preparing for a demo at work, and Jordan's birthday. Aside from the work-related one, I have no regrets. And even the work-related one shouldn't be something to regret. Even though I'm heading for the exit in my current position, I've still got to be responsible.
Anyway, that's the story of February.
I've still been thinking about the dream, man. No worries about that. This isn't a sign that I'm headed for the exit in Hollywood. It's on my mind. I'm writing. I'm singing, dancing, burping, farting... honing all of the necessary comedy tools.
Now if I could only find my way back into the spotlight...
Without giving-in to the urge to go to the Comedy Store in La Jolla.
Hmmm... let me sleep on that. Never say never. What's my problem with that place again? Let's face it... it's just a stage. So Mitzi pissed me off. So what? I thought she used me, and the other comics. So what? We drank her liquor. We used her, too. Who do I think I am?
Anyway, it's not about her. Or the Store. Or the Improv.
It's about the never-ending battle to shape my own damn character.
And lately, it's been a battle.
I don't know where the "Ommmm..." of a few weeks ago went. I'm hanging onto the hope that I'll grab it back again. But that's only if I don't try too hard. Anxiety rules these days. Dad came to town, which was good. But leading up to his visit, there were bad memories. And even when he was here, and the anxiety of something happening before him getting here went away, there was still the anxiety of the memories. And of my dad not being able to sleep, needing to drive around Oceanside in the middle of the night.
It's easy to be enlightened on the mountaintop. Staying strong and focused in the midst of emotional turmoil is another story.
Add to the memories some of the current anxieties over my job, and finding a new vehicle for Stephanie...
Damn, I know... I know... I know... it's not life and death. Still, it's gnawing at me. The more I type, the more I realize how silly it is. And yet, it's been gnawing at me.
Maybe this blog post will help.
I'll have to sleep on it to find out.
Or maybe I'll have to perform again to lift the cloud.
Definitely not me.
As my dad said to me years ago... "You think too much."
Of course, thinking is good. But not when it's the equivalent of a dog chasing it's tail. Or, worse yet, a snake eating it's tail.
Time for bed. Sweet dreams... I hope.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Even in Hollywood.
Oh, sure... stars are always popping in and out of various venues around Tinseltown (does anybody still use that phrase?). And most of the people in those venues are accustomed to it. It's no big deal.
At least, that's how they act.
At least, I think it's an act.
So, Chris Rock did eleven minutes (give or take a few seconds) at 10:00 (give or take a few minutes), and that was that. Time to wait another three hours or so for my spot.
No big deal.
I've only told everybody at work about it. Told my family, too (of course). And here I am on Friday morning (the Jam was on Tuesday), still thinking (and writing) about it.
One thing that I'm thinking about is how it doesn't matter how big you are, you still have to go through the same process as the little hack wannabe comics to develop new material. The difference is in the results, the speed of development, and the ability to get a spot anywhere in town at a moment's notice.
Aside from that, it's the same process.
I can't wait to see how Chris does at the Academy Awards. If his performance is anything like the one at the Improv, it's not going to be your typical Oscar hosting job. They hired Chris Rock, and it looks like they're going to get Chris Rock.
At least, I hope so.
I'm not going to try and reproduce his material here. Let's just say that he's a funny MF. No news. Saw that when he was 18 years old, the last time I saw him live. That was at the La Jolla Comedy Store, a lifetime ago. Maybe several lifetimes. That's back when I was a doorman/comedian, and Chris hadn't popped yet. In the lobby, I told him how much I liked his stuff, and how cool it was that he was able to make "statements" without being preachy. That was the extent of our contact. He's since gone on to make his "statements" to millions of people, will soon be making "statements" to millions more in a single night at the Oscars...
After he's finished polishing those "statements" in front of dozens of people around Hollywood.
And to think I almost didn't go to Hollywood that night.
I'd called for a spot, but Matt Komen wasn't able to help me out. Said to check back in a couple of weeks. No problem. My call-in privileges are a new thing, I'm still low on the totem pole, I appreciate it when I do get a bump-up, and am not taking any privileges for granted.
With that said, I was pissed!
No, no, no... just an attempt at humor.
Actually, I took it in stride, and thought about heading to Ontario instead (since they haven't returned my phone call). Then I thought I'd rather call them again, or send an e-mail. How about Irvine? No chance of performing that night, but I'd gotten an e-mail from the club offering me free tickets to the Tuesday show (not because I'm a comic, but because I've been a paying customer on a number of occasions). I needed a night of comedy one way or another, performing or watching. And I might run into Kristian Vallee in Irvine (who's the house MC, and books a lot of the Tuesday shows there). But when I called, the show was sold out. Good for them, I thought. Sold out on a Tuesday. Good for stand-up comedy.
Anyway, after Plans B and C fell-through, it was back to Plan A... version 2. Drive up and hope to get a spot. If I didn't get a spot, there was always the chance that something interesting might happen. As I've written here before, the trips to Hollywood are always about something more than the 4 or 5 minutes on stage.
That was definitely true this week.
And if the show hadn't been sold out at the Irvine Improv, I'd have missed that "something more". Funny how things work out sometimes.
I know that there's stuff going on up there every day, so in a way I'm "missing something" on a regular basis. But let's ignore that fact for the moment, shall we?
By the way... I was #50 on the list, went up at about 1:30am, and had a good set. Not just in my eyes, either. Mac (the "sound guy" and MC) told me he thought it was my best set yet. Even though my main focus isn't to impress/please other people, it's definitely a part of the game.
And it's also nice to hear.
So, remember, boys and girls...
No excuses, man!
An audience of mostly comics is still an audience. You have to connect. It doesn't matter if you're Chris Rock or Joe Palen (I just wanted to see our names next to each other), you have to connect.
Sometimes, it seems so simple.
Comedy may be hard, but certain aspects are so simple...
- Be confident, have fun... and connect with the audience.
- Don't just talk in front of them... talk to them.
- Pay attention... look and listen.
Oh, and did I mention "connect"?
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
I was just reading various articles about various stand-up comics... 12-year veterans, 15-year veterans... and it reminded me about my "place" in the scheme of things. I'm a 7.5-year veteran (6 years on, 12 years off, 1.5 years on). How good will I be in 4.5 years when I'm a 12 year veteran? How about another 7.5 years when I'm a 15 year veteran?
Doing it for a long time doesn't guarantee success. And there are some people who burst on the scene with amazing acts in a very short amount of time.
So what's my point?
As usual, the point is that there is no point.
The reason I sat down to record something for the second time today is that I was relaxed a bit by reminding myself about the lack of a time limit. And even though I need to be in the moment to be good at stand-up... or at anything, for that matter... I also have to remember that there's some amazing horizons awaiting me several years down the road.
As long as I focus on getting better, good things are going to happen.
Maybe not this month. Maybe not next month. Maybe not next year.
But they will happen.
And every step of the way, "good things" come in the form of a lot of little rewards from a lot of little audiences. Sometimes they come from singing in my car on the way to the Improv. Eventually, bigger rewards will arrive (oh, like, National TV appearances)...
As long as I keep working on staying centered, and thus (thus?) staying "real".
Oh, sure... I could get National TV spots as a neurotic asshole.
But that's so unoriginal.
Part of my problem (if we want to call it a problem) may be sleep deprivation. Or it's just one of those things.
I guess we can't be totally focused 100% of the time, can we? Or can we? Can we? Huh? Is anybody out there? Is anybody in here?
Perhaps I should get some sleep.
"Slip slidin' away..."
I also didn't go up to Irvine, which was "Plan B". Thought I'd hang out, watch the show, and maybe have a chance to perform if somebody fell out.
As much as I wanted to get back up on the horse after last week, it just didn't work out. Priorities, man. Priorities.
Had some work to do at the office, and (more importantly) had to go over some details with Stephanie about her new (as yet to be purchased) vehicle.
Hollywood ain't going anywhere.
I'm kidding you (and myself) with the "Ommm" thing. I'm a bit antsy. Reaching to get back to being centered, but mostly flailing. That's okay. It's not disabling. Just a little annoying.
I watched "Collateral" a little while ago, just before the stroke of midnight. Great movie. Inspirational, too. Man, oh, man... I want a piece of that stuff. And why not? This ain't no dress rehearsal, buddy! If you want it, here it is, come and get it (Badfinger).
Even though I'm flailing a bit, I'm still more on-track than off. If that makes any sense at all. Does that mean I'm like a train that's only partially derailed?
In any case, I feel that little ball of energy inside of me that I mentioned last week. It's in there, and I have to use it for good, not evil.
So much of my life has been like the Tazmanian devil, spending lots of energy to spin around and around in circles, but not moving too far... eventually tiring of the spinning, slobbering all over myself, and going to sleep.
To heck with it. Why change. Time for bed.
But seriously, me. This is different. It is. I should stop writing about it, and just freakin' do it. Or I could keep writing about it _AND_ do it.
Yeah, that's the ticket.
Good night, me.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Even though he was 79 years old, his death still came as a shock.
Should we call it "The Day the Comedy Died?".
Whatever we call it, the words will be cheap. They always are at times like this. There's no way to dump our collective memories into letters and punctuation marks in a way that will give the uninitiated reader a clue about the significance of Johnny Carson.
So I'll stop my feeble attempt now.
Friday, January 21, 2005
I'm, like, fully recovered from this week's rejection. Unless you count the added determination I'm feeling to keep the ball rolling. I'd call that "recovered". Keeping one's head down (or inserted in one's ass) would be an example of _not_ recovered. Turning disappointment into added determination is, as I said, an example of "recovered".
The preceeding was brought to you by The Department of Redundancy Department.
Fight On, and on, and on...
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Right now, today... I'm disappointed. As much as my attitude has been "centered" and focused in recent weeks, finding out that I won't be performing in the "Improv Booking Showcase" tomorrow night put a little damper on my mood.
Okay, a big damper.
Maybe a medium one.
This past Tuesday, I had as good a set as I've had at the Improv Jams. And in my opinion, I've crawled my way out from under the bottom of the pack. I left there thinking I had a damn good chance for a call-back... EVEN THOUGH I KEPT REMINDING MYSELF THAT I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER PEOPLE'S OPINIONS, WHERE I FIT-IN, ETC.
Okay, so the good news is that I was able to call-in for a spot for the first time. Matt Komen was kind enought to send my name to Reeta, and I got put on the list at #10... without having to go through the usual cattle-call lineup/scramble to sign-up.
And the good news from the week before is that I once again had a good set... with different material than I used this week. I thought that might count for something. Maybe it did, or maybe it didn't. Who knows. Just because I didn't get into the showcase doesn't mean Reeta isn't tracking the material I'm using. She was there during both sets, keeping notes (as she was doing for all of the other acts).
It's a little bit of a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but not a drastic one. Yeah, I'm disappointed. But no, I'm not discouraged. There's a big difference.
Deep down inside, I finally believe that I belong on this path. I belong at the Improv. And eventually, someone else will agree.
I don't want the positive gains I've made in my attitude to get buried beneath today's "setback". Strike that. It isn't a "setback". Just another test. Many more tests will come and go. That's the nature of the biz. And many, many people will come and go.
As for me, I'm enjoying the journey more than ever. It's all connected: family, day job, Hollywood. And lately, I've been fortunate enough to be in tune with the energy inside of me... able to recognize tension, and release it. Let the energy flow. It's helped my sets at the Improv, my singing at home, playing with the kids, solving problems at work.
It's all connected.
So, message to self...
Don't let one little thing like "not getting a showcase" destroy all of the enlightenment you've been feeling. Continue to be good. Continue to believe.
And don't forget to breathe.