Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Late Late Show (LLS)

Gary Cannon wasn't working warm-up on the day I went to see the LLS taping, so in an e-mail prior to the taping, he asked me to let him know what I thought. I told him it was fun, and that his friend Roger (Lundblade) did a great job of getting us (i.e., the studio audience) up for the show (and keeping us there). I also told him that I liked it so much, I'd already gotten tickets for another taping (in July).

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

Hollywood Improv (6/21/05) [PDA Entry]

[3:45 - Went to see the "Late Late Show" taped at CBS, making my National TV goal seem more real. Fun time.]

[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.]

*** Actual
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]

*** Planned
Disease Control (CSI+American Idol)
- all 4 voices
- Help!
- Ballerina
Dreams (kids - gave up)
Football (small)
Football (USC motto)
Football (NFL)
Football (USC Graduated)
Football (USC Bench)
Food (Happy Weight)
Food (Ding Dongs)
Quitting (Elbow+Throat)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

New Business Cards... Back to the Future

A couple of weeks ago, Lynn Epstein handed me her card. It was a glossy card with her picture on it. I liked her card. Still do. So much, in fact, that it inspired me to make a card of my own...

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.

Integration, grasshopper.

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

You Lose Some, You Win Some

At the competition, I didn't finish in the top 4, so I'm not passing on to the next round. However, as a direct result of that 8 minute spot, I've got two more gigs.

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...

And money.

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


I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's competition at Martini Blues. It's called "The Ultimate Laffdown VI". And even though part of me is saying "it's just another show" and "it doesn't matter if I advance to the next round", a bigger part of me is saying "bring it on!".

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...