Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Representation in LA... Merry Christmas to Me!

Yesterday, I signed with an agency in Los Angeles. Santa really came through this Christmas. Not a bad way to end the year.

Anyway, they're representing me across the board... so I don't have to go hunting for more agencies any time soon. Not for a year, anyway.

I'm keeping a level head about this... meaning, I'm not doing cartwheels, and thinking this is going to launch my career into the stratosphere. Level-headed, but still glad to have it happen. Without an agent, most of the job market is hidden. Now, I'll at least have a chance of being seen for roles that otherwise would have been unseen (by me). And just in time for pilot season!

Maybe if some more stuff starts happening in 2007, I'll even blog more than once quarterly.

Don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My Celebrity Lookalikes

According to the face recognition software at MyHeritage, these are the celebrities that look most like my headshot...

I've never thought of myself as a "George Clooney" type. But when I saw George Clooney pop up as a match, I thought, "Hey... maybe I'm selling myself short".

Humility soon returned when my face matched Richard Nixon's.

This is fun. What a better way to spend the afteroon at work?!

Friday, July 14, 2006

I Had A Dream... "There Are No Limitations"

A few nights ago, I had a dream.

The end.

Okay, maybe some details...

I was at a hotel, where all of the rooms faced inward towards a courtyard, with a swimming pool in the center of the courtyard. I was six or seven stories up, stood on a railing, and jumped. On the way down, I was yelling, "There are no limitations!". The people below were cheering. But not because I was so great. It was because I'd finally figured it out. In my dream, I knew what they were thinking (as we often do in dreams, right?). And their thought were on the order of, "It's about time", and "Now you're one of us".

It was kind of a cross between "Almost Famous" and "The Matrix". If you've seen both of those movies, you'll know what I'm talking about. If not, see the movies.

I love that my subconscious is operating on that level while I'm sleeping. I can only guess that it's working the same way while I'm awake. "Belief" has many layers. I don't know which layer I'm at right now, but I do know that waking up with the vivid memory of a dream where I'm yelling "there are no limitations" is a good sign that I've dug through a lot of layers since starting this blog a couple of years ago.

BTW... I landed safely in the pool.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Synchronicity... Starring Brad Pitt

Sometimes I wonder. Actually, I wonder most of the time. But sometimes, I wonder about the mysteries of how things work, how we're all connected "beneath the surface", and whether or not certain "coincidences" are actually part of a big picture that we mere mortals are only allowed to occasionally glimpse at through little cosmic peepholes.

No, I'm not on drugs.

My latest little glimpse through a peephole started with a dream. Just before I woke up yesterday morning, I was treated to a vivid dream involving Brad Pitt.

No, I didn't make-out with him.

That's what my 10-year-old daughter asked me when I started telling her about the dream. I figured other people might have the same idea. That's why I added the above disclaimer.

Anyway, the main point of the dream is that I wasn't star-struck by Brad Pitt. We were friends, or maybe co-workers. Brad was driving the car, and I was in the back seat. The other two people in the car were co-workers of mine. Not showbiz co-workers. They were people from my current day job. Brad Pitt was just one of the guys. Still famous, but just one of the guys.

My interpretation of the dream, for what it's worth, is that I'm finally starting to believe that I belong in Hollywood. My main motivation is not to be a star, but I wouldn't mine going along for the ride. Let the star drive the vehicle. I'll kick-it in the back seat. Play a supporting role.

But mainly, I think the dream has a lot to do with the feelings I'm having while I'm awake... believing that I belong in the industry as much as anybody else does. I'm on the journey.

Okay, so here's where the synchronicity comes in...

My acting teacher (Carey Scott) never drops names of big stars. In fact, he explicitly tells us that he makes it a point not to drop names of big stars. He'll tell us stories about famous people to make a point (e.g., "One of my good friends is a huge star, but he's no happier than he was before he became famous"), but always leave out the name...

Until last night.

Carey was telling us a story relating to one of the scenes being performed in our class. The scene was from "Thelma and Louise", and the story had to do with Carey attending the premiere with a good friend of his... Brad Pitt.

I've been in his class for six months, and he's never dropped the name of a superstar friend. Then the first name he drops is the guy who was in my dream earlier that same day? And I can't remember the last time I had a vivid dream like that, let alone a vivid dream involving a superstar.

What does this all mean?

Who knows?

I had an idea about the interpretation of my dream, but as far as how my dream and Carey's reality are connected... I have no clue. That's just a glimpse through the peephole.

All I do know is that the odds of these two events happening on the same day are astronomical. You can pass it off as a coincidence. I can't prove it's not a coincidence. It just makes me wonder, that's all. Is this foreshadowing of something? Time will tell. Did I catch a glimpse into the future with my dream? I hope not, because that would imply pre-destiny... which I'm not a big fan of. Was Carey tapped into some wavelength emanating from my skull that caused him to mention Brad Pitt? More likely than peering into the future, I think... since that would simply involve some kind of communication "beneath the surface" in the present moment.

And for the last time... I am _not_ on drugs!

I'm just wondering, that's all.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Long Time, No Blog

Recently, a friend of mine (let's call him Lawrence, since that's his name) said that he'd been checking my blog now and then, only to find that it hadn't been updated in a long time.

Well, rather than try playing catch-up on everything that's happened in the past two months, how's about a snapshot of where I'm at?

In a nutshell (see "Where I Belong"), I've been focusing on acting. Stand-up has taken a back-seat. It's not out of the car. It's just sitting patiently in the back-seat, waiting to take the wheel again. Even when it does take the wheel, it won't be for very long. The more I dive into acting, the more obvious it becomes to me that I need to dive in even deeper.

This isn't a hobby anymore.

"Denial time" is over.

I'm in.

In deep.

Going deeper...




Actually, I'm not falling asleep at the wheel at all. That last little snooze was just a stream-of-consciousness thing. It's not a metaphor for what's going on in the real world.

Over the past handful of weeks, I did a stream of acting showcases in Hollywood and San Diego with my acting class. We met with agents, managers, casting directors, producers, and a couple of actors. I'll know soon if any of the agents/managers are interested in meeting with me to discuss being my representation. If not this time, then next time... or the next... or the time after that.

This is a marathon, not a sprint.

In the meantime, while the results of the showcases are up-in-the-air, I'm going to continue focusing on getting better. In fact, that'll be the focus from now on. From here to eternity, with or without representation.

And a big part of that is bidding farewell to ego.

See ya, ego!

Get outta the way, ego!

Are you listening, ego?!

Yeah, I think ego's gotten the message.

So, that's all for now. Feeling good about stuff... inside-out. That is, it all starts on the inside, and works it's way out.

Hopefully, it won't be another two months before I blog/blab again. If so, oh well. It'll mean I've got other things to do. Maybe I'll report back tomorrow, since I'm doing stand-up tonight for the first time in almost two months. Maybe I'll report back after next week, when I find out whether or not I've got any meetings lined-up. Or maybe I'll report back in a couple of months again, telling you how things have been going for the past couple of months.

Whether it's a day, a week, or a couple of months, just remember one thing...

It's always now.

Make that two things...

You're always here.

So, does it really matter how long I go between blogs?


Friday, April 28, 2006

First Audition at a Major Studio (Warner Brothers)

[POST AUDITION NOTE: This audition turned out to be at Warner Brothers Studios. Wow! And the coolest thing, I think, is that it didn't throw me off. I mean, when we (I took the kids) pulled up and saw the Warner Brothers sign, I thought it was cool… but it didn't intimidate me. I was more intimidated last year doing open mic's at the Hollywood Improv. That shows some internal progress, for sure. Even though my post-mortem of the audition is that I was inconsistent with the character, that had nothing to do with the fact that it was at Warner Brothers. It had to do with where I'm at as an actor. They gave me some direction that was different from the choices I'd made ahead of time, and even though I feel my improvisation was okay, the character bounced all over the place. Biggest lesson learned? Pick a character, and stick with it. Related lesson? Either do a dialect, or don't. Somehow, in the middle of the improv, I drifted from my voice, to some kind of East Coast voice. Whether or not that had anything to do with not getting a call-back is beside the point. If I was the type they were looking for, I've got a feeling that they _might_ have worked with me anyway. So, this critique is more about the results-independent side of things. That is, independent of what they thought of me and my "type", what did I think of the job I did? And the answer is that I was okay. Professional. Friendly and confident while being introduced around the table to the director, etc. Decent on the improv. Character consistency needs work. I guess that's what acting class is for, eh? Speaking of that, we're starting to focus on one scene for showcasing… which could lead to getting representation. More on that as it develops.]

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Procrastination Update... Voiceover Demo

I finally booked some studio time to record a voiceover demo. I'm going to pay for an hour of studio time (including a sound engineer) at the end of this month. For now, I've decided that's the best way to go... cheaper than upgrading one of my computers for broadcast quality recording.

And most of all, it'll put an end to years of procrastinating.

Well, it won't put an end to procrastinating. We know better than that. What I'm saying is that it will put an end to years of procrastinating on this particular goal.

Now I can move ahead on my goals of procrastinating in other areas.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Blog Reading Therapy Continues

It's been a couple of weeks since my "Last Comic Standing" audition (17 days, to be precise... but who's counting?), and I'm still addicted to the blogs on the topic. The sting of the experience is long since gone. Really it is.

No, really.

And yet I'm continuing to be fascinated by the continuing shared experience with other comics by reading their blogs. Am I fascinated by their experiences, or by the fact that we're now living in a world where we can (and do) share our experiences in such a public (and global) fashion?

I'd have to say, both of the above.

Reading about people who've had similar experiences is very therapeutic. And in a number of cases, I've posted comments to their blogs, or sent them e-mails... letting them know that they are not alone (even though I suspect they already knew that, it's a nice reminder).

So, one cool outcome from that little bee sting of 17 days ago is that there continues to be a wave of human connections in the wake of the LCS coast-to-coast audition tour.

No matter what the goals are of the folks producing LCS (e.g., getting a bunch of blooper footage for their show), there's a positive outcome that I doubt they planned. And part of that outcome has been enabled by this (relatively) new phenomenon of blogging.

Before participating in this LCS audition, I just thought our blogs were a bunch of little fragmented and disconnected "Dear Journal" entries. Now I see that it's like the rest of life...

It's all connected.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Million Dollar Baby Week

It took me exactly a year to watch the movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture last year. After this year's Academy Awards show (and after the kids' bedtime), I finally watched "Million Dollar Baby". Heavy stuff. I knew that going in, but it didn't spoil the journey. Even after a year, there were more than enough surprises. Yeah... I cried. And I'm man enough to admit it.

Then last night, a little bit of synchronicity occurred (albeit a few days after I watched the movie... does that still count as "synchronicity"?)...

In acting class, one of the scenes the acting teacher gave me to read was from "Million Dollar Baby". He didn't know I'd just watched the movie, so even if it wasn't strictly a case of synchronicity, it was still a coincidence.

When I first started reading through the scene with my partner, I found myself using a gruff voice... which was not good. This was no time for a Clint Eastwood impersonation. It's hack enough to do it as a stand-up. I definitely didn't want to be caught doing it in a method acting class.

Luckily, I found my own voice in time for the performance in front of the class.

And thus concludes my story about "Million Dollar Baby"... that was the week that was... one year later.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Roll-Your-Own Performing Arts School Update (Music)

Last Friday at Martini Blues was fun. Hadn't done the solo singer/songwriter/guitarist thing for a while (as noted in an earlier post). Felt comfortable, but felt too much of the judgemental inner chatter (a.k.a., "Self 1" from "The Inner Game"). Listening back to the tape, it was pretty good. I was singing in key, which is the most important thing. Hate to make people in the audience cringe. That's the low bar to jump over... minimal cringe-factor. The high bar? Well, that's another story. I'm no Judy Garland. People aren't likely to be brought to tears hearing me sing. Then again, I need to stop making assumptions about what other people feel (see "The Four Agreements").

That's part of that useless inner chatter.

Every experience on stage helps. It doesn't matter which facet of performing is being... um... performed. There's a lot more commonality between stand-up, acting, and music than there are differences. The differences can seem huge, but all-in-all, the same fundamentals apply for all of them (e.g., focus, relaxing, confidence, etc.).

Not sure how much I'll be performing music in public in coming weeks. All I know is that last week's performance Smorgasbord was tasty. I could definitely make a habit of that.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Dish on LCS, from the Left Coast [from]

A spy from Los Angeles sent us an email, from which we extracted he following:

1. Anthony Clark will host LCS IV. He has signed a 3-year contract, so I guess NBC is banking on LCS being a ratings hit again...

2. There will be NO HOUSE this time, just comedy -- NBC wants it to be more the comedy version of American Idol.

3. ...the Simon Cowell of LCS IV (a producer of the show) is tearing up established comics left and right... trying to make a scene... to be like American Idol.

4. Comics with numerous Tonight Show appearances to their credit (among other things) auditioned in LA at the Improv only to be "Simonized." (Our term, not his-- Editors)

5. Comics who have already made it on LCS IV: Gabriel Iglesias, Gene Pompa, Tig

The author warns that these are just some L.A.-based comics who've made it and that, if other comics from other cities are added, these folks may be cut. Hmmm... Stay tuned. We're not saying any of this is true... but it certainly sounds plausible. (And, in defense of Simon Cowell, he is not uniformly nasty or unnecessarily so. He is knowledgeable, he is sharp and he is honest. Might it be giving this LCS producer too much credit to compare him to Cowell?)

Sounds less like reality programming and more like a comedy contest... which, to be quite honest, is reality programming. The more things change...

posted by @ 4:51 PM

[Note (by Joe Palen): I just had to re-post this post that somebody else wrote... because some of it made my audition seem a little less awful, and a little more like "you're in good company" (e.g., item #4, and the paragraph after item #5). Hopefully, this post will also help any other comics who auditioned for Last Comic Standing (and got slammed) realize that a lot of the slamming was just slamming for slamming's sake. And if you already knew that, just add this article to the evidence.]

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'... Keep Them Dawgies Rollin'...

Last night felt good. It wasn't the best of sets, but it wasn't the worst of sets, either. The main thing is, it was much-needed stagetime. A small but friendly group of "real" people.


And outside of the stagetime itself, there was also the usual mingling before and after... not just with other comics, but also with a number of the customers. That's one nice thing about more intimate rooms. There may not be huge crowds, but there's the added bonus of hanging out with some of the audience... before, during, and after the show.

After my set, I had a good time yapping with some "kids" sitting next to me at the bar in the back of the room (at my age, "kids" means they were in their 20's). Before I went up, we weren't interacting. After my set, the dynamic was a bit different. Being on stage is somewhat of an ice-breaker, you know? Sometimes, I still have a hard time just striking-up small talk with people. But after going up, they know something about me, and talk about stuff in my act that they related to.


So, what was I saying?

I guess this is it.

Tonight, it's back to acting class after over a month's hiatus. Most of the layoff was due to the fact that the instructor was directing a movie (did I already write about that in another post?), and then I missed last week because it was my daughter's birthday (balance, grasshopper).

It'll feel good to jump back into the class again (duh), in a supportive environment... and yet a tough/disciplined environment. Again... balance.

This week is like a roll-your-own performing arts school. Not only did I get to do stand-up, and am about to leave work to do some actin'... I've also been invited to do the old solo singer/guitarist/songwriter routine on Friday night.


So, in closing, all I have to say is...

Last Comic What-ting?

Or, better yet, here's a new goal...

Last Comic Laughing


Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Getting Back on the Horse

It's been a week since the Last Comic Standing audition, and I'm looking forward to getting up on stage in front of real people for the first time since that infamous day. Okay, maybe not "infamous". Then again, maybe "infamous" is an accurate description.

How many times can I flip-flop in a single paragraph?

Tonight, I'll be doing one of my rare San Diego performances. Co-workers might show up for this one (since it's within the same hemisphere as our job), which is a double-edged sword. After all of these years, it shouldn't make a difference... but it does. So maybe I should leave the word "shouldn't" out of the mix? I mean, what we feel is what we feel. Who's to say what we "should" and "shouldn't" feel?

The double-edged sword has to do with the fact that they've seen my act, so there's not that element of surprise that a lot of comedy relies on. But the other edge of the sword is that they are my friends, so will likely be friendly. "They like me... they really like me." The third edge (that's a strange sword?!) is that if I suck, I have to face them the next day.

But all-in-all, it's good to have friends, isn't it? And chances are, I'm not going to totally suck (how's _that_ for confidence?!). It's just that, well, you never know... you know? If this were a slam-dunk, where'd the thrill be? It's the uncertainty that gets the heart pumping.

After all is said and done, much more is said than is done.

(I think that's a paraphrase of a quote I heard... so as not to be a plagiarist.)

After all is said and done, it'll be nice to get back on the horse. I could have done it last week, on the same evening as the audition. But in reality, I couldn't have, because I didn't.


If I'd had the energy, and didn't think I'd die in an accident on the way home, I'd have gone up that evening. Fact is, I didn't have the energy, and went home. And another fact is, this is probably the better way to get back in the saddle... by going up in front of some friends, and hopefully some non-comic strangers. Had I gone up the same evening as the audition, it would have been in front of mostly comics... who've seen me week after week for nearly a year. That's okay for working-out and developing new material, but probably wouldn't have served as much of a confidence booster after 13 hours waiting in line for my less-than-stellar moment-in-the-sun.

Mmmmyeah... I think this way is better.

In any event, it's the way I've chosen.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Go As Fast As You Can... Slowly

Years ago, after my mom and dad had built-up a lucrative rent-a-car business, people would ask my dad how they did it. One of his replies was the following:

"Go as fast as you can... slowly."

Back then, as a young pup, I thought he was nuts, joking, or both. Now, as a crusty old dog, the message is finally sinking in. It definitely applies to my current pursuit of a career in Hollywood, and it's something I definitely didn't understand when I crashed & burned in Hollywood years ago.

I'd explain further, but my guess is that if the message doesn't sink in all by itself, no amount of verbose explanation is going to drive it home. You'll either get it immediately, or it'll hit you years later.

Hopefully, you're smarter than me, and it hit you right away.

Fight On... and on, and on, and on...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bee Sting

My 10-year-old daughter compared the poison that's still in my system from the comments by the one guy at the Last Comic Standing audition to being stung by a bee...

First, you can't get the stinger out. Then, after you get it out, the poison is still in there. It itches. There's a red splotch. You just can't stop it from stinging. But eventually, the red splotch and the itching go away.

That's my favorite metaphor about this situation so far.

It's not a huge tragedy, so the Phoenix/Ashes thing is a bit too large and dramatic (as my wife made clear to me when I used that metaphor last night).

Lemons/Lemonade is a good reminder for taking positive action in the aftermath (and it's not as dramatic as the Phoenix/Ashes thing), but it doesn't cover the part that you can't do anything about. Taking action is good, but it doesn't remove the poison all by itself.

Enter the Bee Sting metaphor. "Time heals all wounds."

Okay, maybe not all wounds. And maybe all wounds don't heal completely. But in this case, I'm sure it will heal. How do I know? Well, because it's only been five days, and the itching has nearly disappeared. That guy's little stinger wasn't enough to put me in the hospital. It just made me scratch for a few days.

And since I've stopped scratching, there's a clearer picture in my head of the guy sitting next to him. The one that didn't sting me. His smiling face and positive comment are finally coming into focus...

And I can barely see the red splotch.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Turds In The Punchbowl

I'm guilty of the same crime as the news media (and most other human beings, for that matter)...

Focusing on the bad stuff (a.k.a., the "turds in the punchbowl").

The phrase "turds in the punchbowl" is not mine, by the way. Can't remember where I first heard it. I Googled the phrase, got thousands of hits, read a number of interesting stories... but no indication of the origin of the phrase.

In any event, the reason I'm bringing this up now is because of my blogging, talking, and thinking since the "Last Comic Standing" open call. The vast majority of the day was fine. It was normal, nice, mundane human stuff (the punch in the punchbowl)...
  • Conversations, laughter, commaraderie [Elapsed Time: Over 12 hours]

On the flipside, there was a small amount of nastiness (the turds)...

  • The guy who tried to steal my spot in line [Elapsed Time: Maybe 15 minutes]
  • The nasty parting shot by one of the talent scouts [Elapsed Time: About 5 seconds].

Then why have I spent the majority of my time since the audition talking and thinking about the number-stealer and the bitch-slapper?

Well, one reason might be because I'm human.

But it stills bothers me. All of that good stuff, and the prevailing feelings are negative.

There's still hope, however. Coming to the realization that most of the day was good (and that I don't actually suck) is helping me to reverse the trend. And I've found a bunch of other blogs written by other people who auditioned that day, too... which has helped to put things in perspective. And those other bloggers also mentioned that they had a lot of fun hanging out in the line, waiting to be bitch-slapped.

Ooops... there I go again.

Now it's time to go pick up my kids at school. There's some more perspective. They don't care what happened at that audition. In fact, they're probably tired of hearing about it. And best of all, they think I'm an okay guy... no matter what that guy from the Tonight Show said.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Reminder: Man in the Arena

Yesterday's nasty comment from one of the Last Comic Standing "talent scouts" is still echoing in my head. Though his venom is not about to make me quit, it has made me stop and think. Mostly, I've been thinking about how easy it is to criticize. Which brings me to the following quote...

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles 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 dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

-- Theodore Roosevelt

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Last Comic Standing Audition... National TV?! (ouch)!

I feel like I've been Punk'd. After spending 13 hours on the sidewalk outside of the Improv (at least I didn't camp-out the day before for the humiliation), I walked through the curtain, NBC cameras rolling, and had one of the Tonight Show guys pull a "Simon" (American Idol) on me.

The other guy seemed to like me, but that surely won't matter to the editor. They've now got a perfect sound bite (and I do mean "bite") to slam me in front of millions of people.

The details are this...

I opened with a bit about being a former USC linebacker... (paraphrasing) "three years on the team, came off the bench for one play as a Senior, but I did set a college football record that year because... I graduated. Teammates went onto the NFL, made millions of dollars but... I got my degree. They've got nothing to fall back on."

So, here's the slam from the Tonight Show guy as I'm walking off the stage...

"It's a good thing you've got something to fall back on, because it's not stand-up comedy."


What was weird is that I heard the other guy talking during my set, and he was saying "that's funny"... and they had me continue. I thought they were cutting me off when I heard their voices over the PA after my first joke, but when I asked if I should stop, they said, "No, go on". Well, according to what I'd heard from the people who'd auditioned during the day, that was a good sign. Some people were getting cut-off in the middle of jokes, 30 seconds into their set. The fact that they told me to continue was a good sign, right?


Even though I laughed it off immediately afterwards, the words of the guy who didn't like me still stung. He could've just said "Thank You", like the other guy. All day, people were saying all they'd heard was "Thank You", and that was that. But I guess his call-back to my joke makes for better TV. At least, that's what some people were saying to console me after my set.

The thing is this...

I know I'm not the best comic in the world. But I also know that after several years and several hundred times on stage, I'm not the worst, either. People have been known to laugh during my act. This guy's comment was the kind of thing you might say to somebody who showed up for this thing without any stand-up experience (and I know for a fact there were a lot of those).

Or, it's the kind of thing you say to comic #116 out of #120, no matter what kind of experience that comic has. Yeah, that was me. #116 out of #120, feeling fortunate to be in the last group of comics to be seen. I'm not sure how many didn't get seen, because they stopped numbering the applications somewhere in the #200's. I feel really sorry for the group right behind me. They showed up only minutes after I did (between 4:00-4:30AM), and didn't get the chance to roll the dice (the cut-off happened between 4:30-5:00PM).

Speaking of some applications not being numbered, there were some weasels trying to scam their way into the line by writing a number on their un-numbered applications. One of those weasels wrote #116 on his application. Well, luckily for me, I had about a dozen witnesses watching my back. We'd been sitting together for 13 hours, and weren't about to let some weasel take my spot (let alone cut in front of the hundred or more people behind me). That really made for a relaxing scene just before going into the studio. The weasel was getting very confrontational, yelling at all of us (and the production staff) as if he'd been the one getting screwed. Then, just as he was leaving, he turned to me and said, "No hard feelings". He put his hand out, looking for a fist-bump, and I told him to take a hike.

Anyway, it was a real natural setting for stand-up... hours on the curb, no audience in the studio, two "talent scouts" glaring in the middle of the room, various & sundry people staring from the back of the room... and the "talent scouts" talking over their hot microphones over the PA during your set.

Some other comics warned me about their experiences from previous seasons, and yet, I still had to live through it myself to believe it.

I may be on the verge of being seen by millions of people, and it kinda makes me sick to my stomach.

The funny thing is that I've been wanting to get on National TV for some time now, and may have finally gotten my wish. Unfortunately, if it does happen, it'll be as one of the suckie comics on Episode One.

Hey, I can still keep my hopes up. Maybe I'll be the "William Hung" of stand-up?

Joe "Be Careful, You Might Get What You Wish For" Palen

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It's a Wrap!

Before I begin (wait... I _am_ beginning), let me just say that what happened on Valentine's Day did not give me a big head. I do _not_ have a big head. Okay, maybe physically. I see pictures of myself next to people, and am amazed at the size of my head compared with theirs.

But that's another story.

The point is this...

The shoot couldn't have gone better. In my wildest dreams about how my first shoot would go, I didn't dream it would go the way it did. It was a bigger shoot than anticipated (38 crew members, a wardrobe/production trailer, a make-up/talent trailer, two semi-trucks for the gear, and best of all... free food all day!), and my experience/performance on the set far exceeded my expectations (how often does _that_ happen?).

Grab a cup of coffee, folks... maybe a whole pot. This is a long story, but I have to let it out...

The whole day was surreal (or is that "so real"?). Hanging out in the trailers? Going through wardrobe and make-up? Being shuffled from place to place by the 2nd AD (_and_ learning what a 2nd AD does)?

On the one hand, it was unreal. On the other hand, I felt right at home.

And luckily, that "right at home" feeling also happened when I was called to the set.

Although, when I first walked onto the set, it was a bit overwhelming.

In the past couple of weeks, every door that opened (literally and figuratively) revealed something bigger than I’d imagined. Walking through this door revealed a roomful of people and equipment like those you usually only see in one of those “behind the scenes” special features on a movie DVD. This was a commercial shoot, but it had all the look and feel of a movie set. The picture in my head from the night before (when I was doing some positive visualization of being on the set) was now replaced by an even more impressive picture… including a stand-in sitting where I was about to be sitting.

Yeah, I had a stand-in.


What a riot.

They sat me down on the couch, and continued dressing the set around me. There I was, all alone at the focal point of this big production, doing my best to be as relaxed as was humanly possible… with prop people swapping the red pillow for the white pillow, filling my bowl with pretzels, then switching out the pretzels for Doritos… one of the make-up ladies touching me up… the wardrobe lady tweaking my outfit… some guy by the camera extending a tape measure to the tip of my nose… and the director squatted down at my feet, giving me direction (“we’re going to want to go slow here, fast there, emphasize this, de-emphasize that, etc., etc., etc.,)…

And all of this was happening at the same time.

Somehow, I managed to stay focused, and give them what they were looking for. In fact, they even had time for some “gravy” (which I first thought was a cue for going to lunch, but soon discovered meant that we had what we were looking for, and now had some extra time to improvise a bit).

After I finished shooting my primary script, the director complimented me on being "very well rehearsed", the executive producer was all smiles, and people around the location were calling me "Superstar".

They must be joking, right?

I mean, "Superstar" must be some kind of Hollywood insider slang for "rookie over the top". It couldn't possibly mean I was actually _that_ good.

My guard was up. I didn't want to get my head inflated to the point where I wouldn't be ready to shoot the back-up script if called upon.

But I took the compliments... saying a simple, "Thank you"... and continued to conserve energy while soaking-in the day, and waiting to see if they'd need me again.

And they did.

The bad news is that the reason I was called upon again was because the job wasn't getting done by one of the other actors... or "talent", as they kept calling us.

That's another word I'm not accustomed to hearing in reference to me. When one of the production staff said something like, "The talent needs water"... I almost looked over my shoulder to see where the "talent" was. "Did somebody just walk onto the set?” I thought. Then, realizing they were talking about me, I had to fight back a grin. "Act like you've been there before", a little voice in my head told me. They knew I was a rookie (since I don't pad my resume), but there was no need to remind them of that by tittering like a little girl every time they called me "talent".

So, back to the mixed emotions of getting another moment in the sun...

For most of the day, I'd been hanging out with this other actor in the trailer. There's lots of downtime during a shoot (anybody who's seen those "behind the scenes" things knows that), so we talked a lot. And there were other actors and production staff coming in and out of the trailer throughout the day, too. But as each spot was completed to their satisfaction, one by one the actors were getting "wrapped" (i.e., "you can go home now"), and eventually I was sitting alone in the trailer. Occasionally, somebody would wander in and out, but for the most part, I was alone... doing my best to stay relaxed, and periodically glancing at the rewritten script that the other actor had left behind...

Just in case I was needed.

At some point, the 2nd AD told me to head over to wardrobe...

Just in case I was needed.

He wasn't sure yet, but somebody was speaking into his headset, telling him to get me prepared...

Just in case I was needed.

The responsibility of this back-up position started to grow in my mind, and I started to run the new lines in my head more often. If I was needed, that meant they'd just burned a lot of money, so I had to make extra sure I was ready.

This wasn't what I wished for. I was prepared for it, just in case... but that other actor and I had bonded throughout the day, so it was sad to hear that he was having trouble on the set. I'd been helping him prepare in the trailer while we waited for our turns, and knew he was really nervous, but was hoping the director would be able to get him to that relaxed and conversational tone they were looking for.

Then the word came that it was time for me to go back to the set.

As I started walking away from the trailer, I saw the other actor being brought back from the set, with a stunned look on his face. One of the make-up ladies was walking out in front of him, crying. Other crewmembers were heading towards her, asking what happened. The other make-up lady grabbed me by the arm, like she was escorting me to a dance. She flashed a huge smile and said, "Come on, gorgeous!”

Yeah, I know... I'm not really "gorgeous". It's like when a waitress calls you "sweetheart". You know it's not really true, but it feels good anyway, right?

So, arm-in-arm, we headed back to the set.

Did I mention that this was a set built in somebody's house? They may have actually rented the entire cul-de-sac for the shoot, because the part of the neighborhood that was blocked-off was dead. And we'd eaten lunch in the driveway of the house across the street, so I know they'd at least paid for two houses to be empty for the shoot.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because as we were walking back to the set, some neighborhood kids had gathered near the front of the house (as close as the police and security guard would let them). It felt kinda cool walking past those kids while I was dressed in wardrobe and make-up, arm-in-arm with a cute make-up lady... feeling like a (dare I say it)... “Superstar”.

Mixed emotions... sad for the other actor, feeling like a “Superstar”, fish-out-of-water, excited, relaxed, comfortable, confident...

Is this really happening?

We headed past the producers (who were sitting in the garage, watching the shoot in their remote monitors), and back into the house/set. The energy was definitely different than during the first shoot. People were swarming around me, asking if I needed anything, and really going out of their way to make me feel comfortable. Not that they'd done anything to make me uncomfortable during the first shoot. It's just that this time around, they were in "pamper" mode.

After all, I'm a "Superstar", right?

Yeah, right.

Little did I know that earlier in the day, when they were calling me "Superstar", they actually were giving me a compliment. I finally allowed myself to believe that it actually was meant as praise, and not some sarcastic remark. Okay, not like I'm actually a "Superstar", but like I'd actually done a professional job, and looked good enough on camera to where they had dressed me up again to do another spot.

Speaking of "looking good on camera", that was another question in my head before getting this first shoot. Believing in yourself is one thing, and performing on stage is one thing, but being photogenic is another thing altogether. What if after all these years of dreaming about being on TV and in the movies, I just didn't come across well on film? That would suck, wouldn't it?

As it turns out, apparently I'm photogenic enough to keep plugging away at this.

That became obvious partway through the shooting the 2nd spot. One of the production crew was looking down on the set from up on a stairwell, and told me, "You're doing great". "Thank you", I casually responded. "No, you don't get it", he went on, "you're saving our asses". Again, doing my best to stay calm, I thanked him, and remembered how often it happens in life that somebody will heap praise on someone, only to have that person trip over their own feet moments later.

Focus... inhale... focus... exhale... focus... look... focus... listen...

We continued with the shoot, and by the end of it, that same guy up on the stairwell said to me, "Man, you're our All-Star Pinch-Hitter. Let's hear it for Joe."

And the entire set broke into applause.

Who in their right mind would _ever_ imagine a roomful of crewmembers busting into applause during their first commercial shoot... or _any_ shoot, for that matter?

I acknowledged the applause, shook the director's hand, and started wandering towards the make-up and wardrobe ladies, who were sitting on the perimeter of the set. They told me what a good job I'd done, and I told them, "It's a bittersweet feeling. I’m glad I did a good job, but I feel bad for [the other actor]."

At this point, I'm not sure exactly what they said, or what I said... but there was some head-nodding, a little moment of silence, and then time to find the exit. After a slight detour into a bathroom, I decided to follow the director. "You look like you know where you're going", I told him. "Sometimes I do", he replied.

I just hope this wasn't all a dream. Am I going to wake up soon, disappointed that none of this really happened? It still feels like that, even a few days later. The pictures run through my head, the realization hits me that something I've been imagining since I was a kid has actually happened, and I'm still in a state of disbelief.

This may be no big deal to all of the jaded people who've been slugging away at this for years in Hollywood, disappointed that they're not household names by now. But for me, it was a rare occasion in life where a dream came true. And it was an even more rare occasion in that the reality was even better than the dream.

This changes everything.

In one day, my pursuit of a career in Hollywood went from pipe dream to reality. If I can do it once, I can do it again. Up until this shoot, it was all speculation on my part that I could do it at all. Now, a series of small events over the last couple of weeks (from audition to booking to shooting) have given me validation. No more guesswork. I can actually hang with the big dogs.

Again... no big head. Physically, yes. Mentally, no. Confidence, yes. Huge ego, forget about it. This is actually settling me down, giving me inner strength, and reminding me how much to quiet the ego, become even more disciplined, and let the God-given talents take over.

And I'm barely out of the starting gate.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Eve of My First Commercial Shoot

Every little step along the way of this process, my guard is up, not taking for granted that the next step will come.

The latest example of that came to an end a short while ago, when I (finally) received a call from the production office, telling me my call time for tomorrow.

Even though they said they'd call me Monday to tell me the call time for Tuesday, I was becoming less relaxed as the day progressed without a call. Then, at 4:22 PM, the phone rang. Paraphrasing...

"The call time for Tuesday is 8:00 AM. Be at cast/crew parking by that time, and a shuttle will take you to the shoot."


Now I can get back to the business of relaxing. All weekend, I was relaxed. And why not? I've been invited to this party. They picked me (and 11 other actors) out of the crowd, and think we're the ones to do the best job on this particular job.

That's a nice little confidence booster.

The only reason I stopped being relaxed today was because of the aforementioned anxiety over not receiving a phone call earlier in the day. It had nothing to do with second thoughts about my ability to do the job. As far as that part of it goes, I'm ready to have fun, be myself, and (in golfing terms) "grip it and rip it".

At this exact moment, I'm ready to leave my day job... just for the day, mind you (though I wouldn't mind if the day came when there was enough money in the bank to say goodbye to software engineering again).

But for now, let's focus on this one job.

I'm ready to leave for the day, to begin heading physically and mentally towards that one job. First I've got to buy a pair of jeans (I already bought a "sports fan" shirt at lunch), wash my car, and go give Valentine's cards to my girls. Since I won't be at home on Valentine's day, they're getting their customized Ricky Roach cards a day early.

Juggling _can_ be fun, you know?

(It's just waiting for those phone calls that I have to get used to.)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

First Commercial Booking in LA

"It's all happening."
-- Almost Famous

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that I'm almost famous. That's just a relevant quote from the movie "Almost Famous".

The limbo state is over. I got the call from the Casting Director telling me that I've got the booking, and the commercial shoots next Tuesday.

Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), I'm jazzed. Want to know how jazzed I am? I never use the word "jazzed". That's how jazzed I am.

Actually, I use the word "jazzed" whenever I repeat that attempt at humor.

Man, oh, man... this feels good. And it's not just the bottle of champagne I just polished off. I've been floating since I got the call.

Though I do have to remind myself not to get too high. Don't get too high, don't get too low. Balance, grasshopper.

Ah, to heck with that BS. I'm feeling good!!

There's nothing like the first time.

This is validation. It's popping my cherry in LA. It's all kinds of things. It's the start of a snowball. It's... it's... it's about time.

Not that it took all that long since I started pursuing this avenue. Far from it. This booking came on my second audition. And to raise my batting average even higher, it came on my first commercial audition.

When I told my dad it might be a good idea to quit with that high percentage of bookings, he agreed, and suggested that I could start teaching workshops on how to book 50% of your auditions. Later on, we had to revise that to say that I could teach how to book 100% of your commercial auditions.

Reality check... I might not book my next 20.

But in the meantime, this feels pretty damn good. I was prepared to wait a year or two to get my first commercial booking. That was based on anecdotes from working commercial actors. It just goes to show you, you never know. Even as recently as this morning, I didn't know.

And after waiting all week for the call, I was afraid that I'd missed my chance.

I'd decided to stop calling my voicemail several times an hour, and waited until lunch to check my messages. Well, after waiting from Monday to Friday for the call, I had two messages from the CD. The first one was at 10:51 AM, congratulating me, and asking me to call back "immediately" to confirm. Then at about 11:15, there was another message, urging me to call back "immediately". I'm not sure I even let that message finish playing. I called her back, thinking that I may have missed the window of opportunity. But all turned out okay. I got the booking.

Needless to say (but I'll repeat it again), I'm feeling pretty damn good right now.

This feeling can fuel me for quite a while... not to mention paying for my acting classes for a few months.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Thanks to the powers that be, on earth and beyond.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

First Time "On Avail"

Since Monday, I've been "on avail" for a commercial. In case you don't know what that means [note: I didn't know until very recently], it means that I've passed the audition, but don't have the booking yet. It's a limbo state.

The audition was in Los Angeles (on January 30th). A week later (February 6th), the Casting Director called (actually, one of her assistants called) to tell me they'd like to put me on avail for the shooting dates next week (February 13th and 14th). I called to confirm, and am now playing the waiting game.

This is part of the deal.

No matter how far I go, and no matter how long I stay in this industry...

This is part of the deal.

Everybody goes on auditions, waits for call-backs, waits to get put on avail, and waits to get bookings. It doesn't matter if it's for $750, or $7.5 million dollars, everybody is waiting for the phone to ring.

This is part of the deal.

I knew that before going on my first audition (on January 9th, by the way). During a class last summer (Commercial Auditions, Second City), the instructor (Tom Booker) taught us the ropes, and prepared us for this.

This is part of the deal.

Fine. I know that. You know that. Whoever you are, you probably know that. And if you didn't know that before, you know that after reading the last several paragraphs.

This is part of the deal.

The thing is, no matter how much I repeat that to myself, it's still hard. Okay, not hard in a back-breaking sense. Not hard in a losing-a-loved-one sense. Let's get some perspective here. It's hard in its own way. It's not exactly excruciating. It's not exactly numbing, death-defying, heart-breaking, or fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-pain-ing.

Nonetheless, it's no cup-of-tea, either.

With that said (yeah, I said that), it sure beats the living shit (yeah, I said that, too) out of not doing it at all.

While I was driving back from another audition earlier this week (was it yesterday? time is off-kilter at the moment), I had a huge smile on my face. Why? Because I had only started submitting myself for auditions in December (file under: it's about time), had only gotten my first audition(s) in January, and was suddenly in the position of being in the running for two projects at the same time (that's "simultaneously", for those of you looking for a single word rather than four words).

In the whole grand scheme of things, this may be no big deal. But in my little scheme of things, it's pretty cool. My expectations were set low by the folks "in the know" (no rhyme intended). That is, you see, some folks who do this for a living have been kind enough to share some ratios with me. And based on those ratios, I didn't expect to get many auditions in the beginning.

For one thing, I don't have representation. And without representation, it's harder to get auditions.

For another thing, even when you get auditions, you're not supposed to sit around waiting for the phone to ring. It doesn't ring very often. What you're supposed to do is just keep submitting, hope to get some responses, and just keep going out on auditions, knowing that once in a while, you'll get call-backs. Maybe 1 out of every 20 times.

So, when I got a call-back on my second audition, I was pleasantly surprised. Even though I felt like I was right for the part, I was still in a state of disbelief when the voice in the recorded voicemail told me that they'd like to put me on avail.

The thing about ratios is that they're not evenly distributed. Since I've got a degree in Mathematics, I know that kind of stuff. You know it, too. You just may not know the theorems behind the stuff. Am I getting too technical here, talking about "stuff"?

The point is (on top of my head, but besides that)... I said, the point is that 1-in-20 doesn't mean _exactly_ 1-in-20. It means that in the long run, you're doing okay if you get 1 callback for every 20 auditions [note: your mileage may vary]. In the short run, you might get 1-in-2. Or you might get 1-in-100.

This is part of the deal.

No matter what, it sure beats the heck out of not doing it. Oh, did I already mention that? And did I already mention that another reason I had a smile on my face driving back from another audition this week was because this was all just a thought in my little head last year? No magic was involved. We all have the power. Think it, then do it. It's that simple.

One thing I didn't mention (but am about to mention) is that there's a "cosmic" reason I'd really like to score this particular booking.

My mom's birthday is February 13th.

Wouldn't that be a cool story to tell on David Letterman's couch? Or chair. Whatever kind of furniture it happens to be, or whatever host happens to be sitting on the other side of the desk, it would be cool to talk about the fact that when my mom died, it really drove home the point that life is too short, and that my mom and dad often talked about me "missing my calling" when I quit pursuing a career in Hollywood, and that my first "break" (be it little or big) in Hollywood was a commercial that shot on her birthday.

As my dad said, the thought makes me happy and sad.

So, I may not be in control of what happens here, but am still holding out the hope that the above story will become part of my bio in the future.

Until they call to tell me they've released me from the avail, it's still possible.

And if they don't book me on this one, there's a whole world of possibility around the next corner.

That, too, is part of the deal.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Happy New Year

The year's off to a good start. Since the first of the year, I've had my first non-stand-up audition in Los Angeles, performed stand-up twice in one evening for the first time in a long time, and started taking acting class.

I've even done Karaoke.

It's all connected.

As much as I've avoided Karaoke over the years, the urge hit me between stand-up spots this past Tuesday. I'd already done a show at the Improv in Brea, then raced across town for my second spot of the evening at Martini Blues in Huntington Beach. When I got to Martini Blues, I discovered that I'd have a _lot_ of time to kill. I'd requested a late spot, so it wasn't a problem or anything. It's just that the drive from Brea was quicker than I'd thought. So, next thing I knew, I was doing Karaoke.

It's all connected.

When people go to a Performing Arts school, they learn multiple disciplines. Nothing new. I'm just doing a roll-your-own Performing Arts school.

Taking the plunge into a "real" acting class feels real good. Not only does it put me on the road to becoming a disciplined actor, but it also takes some of the pressure off of the stand-up path. Maybe that's not the best way to put it. What I mean is, since all of my eggs aren't in one basket, I don't feel the need to push so much to get "seen" by the folks at the Hollywood Improv (for example). That's not off of the table, but it's also not an all-or-nothing thing anymore.

And getting that audition earlier this week was a cool milestone. And to think... it only took me fifteen years to get it. Stephanie and I moved to LA early in 1991, and were living back in San Diego before the end of 1991. About seven months. And in that time, I didn't get a single audition. There's a reason. I had no clue how to get one. Now, I've got a slight clue, and have finally popped my audition cherry.

Not a huge milestone, mind you. But a milestone nonetheless. It's like that ancient Chinese proverb about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single, "Oh, crap! I've got a thousand miles ahead of me!!".

Or something like that.

And the trippy thing about the audition is that it was just a stone's throw from the apartment complex my parents used to manage. Just a couple tenths of a mile away, in the same 100 block (audition at 10960 Wilshire, parents' old apartment at 10969 Rochester). Considering the massive sprawl that is Los Angeles, I can't even calculate the odds of that happening. It was a strange feeling walking around that area before and after the audition. Can't put it into words. Let's just say there's some full-circle stuff, some looking to the sky stuff, some holding back some tears stuff...

It's all connected.