Thursday, July 28, 2005

Flyer for My First Booking at the Hollywood Improv


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

Martini Blues (7/26/05)

Did another "booked open mic" at Martini Blues. This time around, I used nearly all new material. For the past several weeks, I'd been focusing on rearranging my existing act. Now that I'm feeling good about the structure of the "standard" set, it's time to jump out of the plane without a parachute again.

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

My First Booking at the Hollywood Improv (and LLS #2)

The open mic at the Hollywood Improv is on hiatus through the summer. But I'd already reserved a ticket for the Late Late Show, so decided to make the trek up to Hollywood anyway.

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

Laguna Beach Brewing Company (7/13/2005)

PDA Entry...

[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".]

Additional Rambling...

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

"Game Day!" Follow-Up

Here's the only thing I wrote in my PDA after the "Pure Comedy with Thor Ramsey" show at the Brea Improv:

[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.

Game Day!

It's game day!

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!