Saturday, April 30, 2005

"Film" Study

I've been doing a number of things on the computer today, while running a constant stream of various stand-up comedy shows on the TV in the background. It's kind of like "film study" in football. The more you watch, the better. Learn what to do, learn what not to do. And even whem I'm not paying all that much attention, I'm sure my subconscious is learning something.

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

Reminder: Enjoy the Ride

Somewhere along the way, I started taking things too seriously again. It's a tough balancing act. On the one hand, I want to be good. I want to perform. And the more I perform, the more I want to perform. The snowball grows (in my head), and I start getting frustrated because "things aren't happening".

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

No Stagetime, No Peace

No, I'm not threatening to riot if I don't get stagetime soon. Though the thought has crossed my mind. It's just that since I've gotten back into the mindset of a performer, I'm a bit restless if I go too long between performances. Using "the world is my stage" strategy just doesn't cut it. It may help me prepare for my next time on stage (somewhat), but there's no substitute for the real thing. Not to mention the fact that if I truly treated the world as my stage (i.e., "always ON"), I'd be even more annoying than I already am.

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

New Look (Buzzzzz...)

Here's a before & after...

And a couple more from the lineup ("Turn to the right!!")...

Monday, April 25, 2005

Comedy Store -- No Plug (or No Outlet?)

After saying goodnight to my girls tonight (last night, it's after midnight, blah, blah, blah), I drove down to the La Jolla Comedy Store.

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

The Comedy Store (Plugging Back In?)

I'm planning on going to the Comedy Store in La Jolla tomorrow night. In keeping with the theme of my previous post ("Priorities... Family First"), I'll be leaving after the girls go to bed.

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

Priorities... Family First

Last night, I didn't go to Hollywood. Instead, I went to a meeting at my daughters' school.

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

Positive Voice?

Did I already mention a recent choice?
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

Opening Up to Comments

Since I started this blog, comments have only been allowed by members of the blog. Make that "member"... singular. The only member was my daughter. Even though I knew that "the true spirit" of blogging means opening yourself up to comments, for some reason I hesitated.

Not anymore.

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

Reminder: The Man In The Arena

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

Only In Hollywood... and New York, I Suppose

What I forgot to mention in my last entry was some details of the Comedy Class Graduation show that Bob comp'ed me into.

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

Hollywood Improv (4/12/05)

Went up tonight... er, last night. It's past midnight. Technicalities.

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.

Mission accomplished.

Joe "High on Life, and on Alcohol" Palen

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

PDA Entry: Hollywood Improv (4/5/05)

[Keepers: Ashlee Simpson (big egg fart... stuffy nose)]

[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?
Comics Anonymous
Ashlee Simpson
- all 4 voices
- Ballerina

*** Planned (transcribed from a napkin)
Ashlee Simpson
Beatles <-> Bald, Happy Weight
- all 4 voices
Dreams <-> Keeper Wife, Mulligan Wife
- still is
- emmigrants

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Mitch Hedberg, 1968-2005

All you have to do is put a year after the hyphen, and you've said a lot.

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.

Where Did March Go?

No blog entries for the month of March. That might tell you how much progress I've made in the pursuit of whatever it is I'm pursuing in Hollywood.

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.