Sunday, November 24, 2013

Free Will? Hah! (Stand-Up Comedy Urges Strike Again)

Free will may be the biggest joke of all.

Would you like me to explain?

Well, like it or not, I'm going to.

Earlier this year, I made the declaration that I _was_ a stand-up comic.  I'd put it in my past.  That was it.  No need to keep the urges lingering.

Yeah, right.

When will I learn?

How many times do I have to declare that I've quit doing something before I realize that as long as I'm alive, there's always the chance that I'll eventually go back to doing the thing that I've supposedly "quit"?

When I declared that I was quitting stand-up, it wasn't a huge de-committal on my part.  I hadn't been on stage for quite a while.  So, it wasn't like anybody was going to notice.

Hell... I barely noticed.

The declaration was an attempt at not spending any more of my energy even thinking about the possibility of being a comedian anymore.   Not on stage, anyway.  I'll always be a comedian in real life...

Whether I choose to be or not.

Free will?  Hah!

This most recent declaration wasn't the all-encompassing "quitting" that I've been foolish enough to declare in the past.  There was a time when I declared I was no longer going to do _anything_ in the entertainment industry.

At least I'm not that foolish anymore.

Several years ago, I realized that in one form or another, I'd like to keep performing indefinitely.  Whether it be comedy, acting, music...

I'm going to keep performing for the rest of my life.

At times, I may go weeks (or months) between performances, but I'm never going to stop performing... whether it be in person, online, TV, film, or whatever venues the future might bring.

The difference (or so I thought) with stand-up comedy is that I felt it was okay to make that declaration for a subset of performing, and be done with it.  It wasn't the same as quitting showbiz altogether.  It was just getting rid of one facet of performing.  The one that I felt was best to leave in the rear view mirror.

But why quit stand-up versus all of the others?

Because stand-up is a different beast.

It's the most difficult form of entertainment that I've pursued.

While it does have _amazing_ highs, it also has equally amazing lows.

Not only is it difficult to be good at it for a sustained period of time, it's even harder to be good at it in small doses.  And I'd gotten to the point where I realized that the small highs I might experience now and then doing few-and-far-between gigs weren't worth the (inevitable) lows of a bad set.

And then along come the urges.

Months after "quitting" stand-up, I started getting the urge to do it again.


I have no idea.

Free will?  Hah!

For a while, I tried stifling those urges.  But then I realized it was a losing battle.  And I also realized that pushing down those urges was unhealthy.  It doesn't matter "why" I feel like doing stand-up again.  The only thing I know is that I feel like it.

So, I'm going with the flow.

That might not always be the wisest choice.  I mean, just because a person has an urge, that doesn't mean it should be carried-out.  Drugs and alcohol come to mind.  Sometimes, it's okay to fight an urge -- and find healthier alternatives for filling time...

And for filling whatever void would otherwise be filled with consuming various substances.

In the case of stand-up, I feel it is a healthy choice.  I'm not going to destroy my liver by going onstage.  In fact, diverting my attention to writing and performing could keep me from drinking.

Emphasis on _could_.

Stand-up could also lead me to drinking... or smoking... or any number of other vices.

But I don't think so.

Not this time around.

Since I'm generally happy these days, I'm not feeling susceptible to the downward spiral that sometimes comes with stand-up.  I'm just looking to satisfy the urges, man.  Really.  That's all this is.

At least, I think that's all this is.

Free will?  Hah!

Even though I haven't hit the stage (yet) since the urges hit, I've been working on material.  And the act of doing that again feels good.

When I'm not physically writing things down, bits are constantly swirling around in my head.  Old feelings of satisfaction have returned.  That satisfied feeling of coming up with material out of thin air.  And it beats having those mental voids filled with political bullshit, or other so-called "important" news items.

I'm filling my head with creative things instead of the externally-generated destructive things.

And it's all new material.

One thing I decided is that if I'm going to do stand-up again, it's not going to be to regurgitate material I've been doing off-and-on for 25+ years.  It's going to be completely new.  And it's going to be different -- somehow -- though I'm not exactly sure how to explain it.

Let's just say that I'm not looking for funny things to say anymore.  I'm just thinking about stuff that's important to me, and waiting for funny stuff to bubble up to the surface.

In the past, when I went looking for funny things to say, it often ended up being "observational humor".

I'm going to do my best to avoid that trap.

You know, stuff like, "Didja ever notice... cats?  What's up with cats?!".

So, why haven't I hit the stage yet?

I'm glad you asked.

The reason I haven't performed (yet) is because my urge is very specific at this point.  I want to perform in the Nerdist Showroom at Meltdown Comics (a.k.a., NerdMelt).  If I wanted to perform just any-old-place, I could have done that by now.  But I'm only interested in doing NerdMelt (at the moment).

So, what am I doing about it?

I'm glad you asked.

Most importantly, I've compiled a tight 3-minute set.

And last Monday, I drove up to Hollywood to sign-up for the NerdMelt open mic, but didn't get a spot.  There's a lottery (which is typical of popular open mics), and my name wasn't drawn from the hat (actually, the bowl).

No biggie.  I've been through this drill before.  I'll just keep going up there until I get a spot...

Or until I don't have the urge to go up there anymore.

And in the meantime, I'll enjoy being in the belly of the beast.  Whenever I go up to Hollywood for stage time or an audition, I get a bit pumped-up... even if I don't get the gig.

It is the entertainment capital of the world, after all.

The stakes (and rewards) are higher in Hollywood...

Even at an open mic.

Which makes it worth spending hours on the road at a chance for a few minutes of stage time.

At least, that's how I'm feeling about it today.

As for tomorrow...

Who knows?

Free will?  Hah!

Here's what's baffling to me about all of this...

I have no idea why I get the urge to drive hundreds of miles for the possibility of 3 minutes on stage... just as I have no idea why I lost the urge to do that a few years ago.

When I've got the urge, it's no big deal to jump in my car and make a round trip to Hollywood.  When I don't have the urge, I think it was crazy that I'd spend all of that time making the round trip(s) to Hollywood.

And we think we have free will?

Now _that_ is funny.