A musically appropriate summary of my trip to Baton Rouge so far (to the tune of Johnny B. Goode):
Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans
Way back with people obsessed with LSU’s football team
There stood a comedy club made of earth and wood
Where telling jokes was a boy named Jean-Louis Be Goode
Who actually learned to read and write very well
But he preferred telling jokes inside a comedy hell
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode
He used to carry legal papers in a leather sack
Now he walks aside the roads and the railroad track
Oh, doing shi*ty southern gigs with no car
Since Ferguson wondering how he fell so far
The people watching his act would stop and say
Oh my when is the headliner gonna play
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode
His mother told him “Someday you will be a man,
And maybe then you’ll abandon your comedy plan
Dozens of people coming from miles around
To ignore the jokes you tell when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
saying “Manager on duty tonight.”
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Go J-L go
Jean-Louis Be Goode
A few years ago I was attending a Halloween party, but I did not have a costume. I went to all the large stores that emerge in Manhattan like a plague in October every year to look for a costume. There even was a section of pre-packaged costumes in the “large male” section or whatever they called it. And everyone of the costumes in the pituitary affliction section said -“will fit men up to 6’4″ tall.” If you read this blog, know my jokes or have met me since I turned 19 you know that I am 6’7″. It was that day that I had literally outgrown Halloween.
Comedy is starting to feel like a Halloween store to me. Like a 6’4″ shooting guard in the NBA I am starting to feel like I have no position. Sometimes I like to make political jokes, sometimes I like sharp social commentary, sometimes I like doing impressions and sometimes I like making the occasional crude joke. But that is what you get when your favorite comedians range from Chris Rock to Jim Norton to Jerry Seinfeld to Patric O’Neal to Gary Gulman to Bill Hicks to Greg Giraldo. I like different styles and I just like to write funny things. Perhaps I should just get a job writing for comedians, except my ego is not ready to give up the stage or to submit my writing to potential overwhelming rejection.
Last night I received a very precise and helpful critique from a club owner regarding my set. Without getting into specifics, it is clear that to make it in comedy I am going to have to choose a persona and style and be consistent within it. For example after 7 minutes of jokes that are detailed, sharp, clever and clean, it was not consistent closing with a joke about Moms pimping photos of their kids on Facebook and masturbating to the photos just on principle. The joke got a big laugh, but was slightly out of sorts with the rest of my set.
The thing that makes me sad about this is that comedy is no different than acting. Live at Gotham had made that brutally evident to me after being passed over several seasons and then watching a show that looked like they were trying to re-cast The Hangover (sans Bradley Cooper), no matter what sacrifices had to be made occasionally in the comedy department. Humor is still important of course, but I had always hoped that I would not have to necessarily be a niche performer – that I could just say funny things and if a few happened to be dirty or provocative, or if a few were clean and a few others were socially critical I could do it if the crowd laughed. Basically because I hate niche comedians. And I don’t want to be them. For all the frustrations I have with comedy it would be unforgivable to become one of them.
One of the other critiques I got was that I sometimes come off as “a bit of a dick” on stage.
Last night I was on a bringer at Gotham Comedy Club, trying to make a tape for some college showcases (see my epic mission statement that this is the only reason to do them). My routine had video games, masturbation and a couple of decent bits and I would rate my performance as a B. That basically means it was an F. I was trying to polish some newer bits and get a tape together and it was basically a failure on that level.
So after my spot I went outside briefly and had a tirade that would make David Mamet blush. But my night was about to take a turn for the better.
I am not going to bullsh*t the loyal readers of this blog. I find it hard to be completely happy for other comics (I could have Daniel Plainview’s monologue tattooed on my back). Stand Up Comedy is not a zero sum game, but comedy work is – when one guy or girl gets an audition or work, that means I didn’t. Even for good friends I can be happy, but being 100% happy is almost always impossible. But one of the few friends that is the exception to that rule is Mick Diflo.
Mick Diflo is well known in NYC comedy because he is a constant presence at open mics working on his distinct brand of clever and dark humor. But he is also a presence at other people’s bringer shows, supporting other comics trying to make it. Sure he, like anyone else, can gripe about what one has to do to “make it,” but unlike someone like me, he never has let that interfere with doing a good show or being supportive of other people’s success.
Well last night at Gotham after I performed I went outside and delivered a rant that would make David Mamet blush, but there was something to make it better. Mick Diflo delivered a flawless set and got passed at Gotham.
I have seen Mick perform probably 100 times and last night was the best I’ve ever seen. It was like seeing a gymnast do a perfect routine, stick the landing and not get raped by her Romanian gym coach. And then after the show, the owner of Gotham gave Mick the word that he was passed (meaning approved by the owner to get paid work from the club). For those who are not comedians – this is a very important step.
What Mick did was basically shatter, albeit with tireless work and a relentless optimism masked by his macabre humor, the idea that bringers cannot work (or if you are still cynical, then he is the exception that proves the rule). As Jim Dodge said to me yesterday while looking at Mick – “Mick has no backing, no management, just merit and talent and he got passed from a bringer. I feel like I’m looking at a unicorn.” Mick Diflo – mythological creature. And don’t think that I am confusing this with some sort of floodgate being opened – I do not expect to hear great news from a lot of comics, but this is good enough for right now. And by right now I mean for a few days.
When Mick told me that he got passed something weird happened to me – I felt 100% happy for him. Usually I would instinctively think, “why the fu*k not me! fu*k this!” But last night I felt nothing but happiness for Mick. I am sure comedians around the city are happy for him to in the same way I am. So today, for all those who read this blog to read complaints or funny stories about the comedy world or the world in general – sorry. Today should be for struggling or up and coming comics what Barack Obama’s election was for black people: we never thought this day would come, but it has. Yes Mick Can.
Congratulations Mick – thanks for restoring some optimism in this business for up and coming comics. And if you are a friend or fan of mine – look up Mick on YouTube – you will enjoy him.
Of course if a year from now he has not gotten any paid spots at Gotham then I may be just a tad more cynical again.
Last night was another installment of my bi-monthly comedy show “Always Be Funny.” The West Village Edition on one Saturday a month has been consistently strong, even though it costs money, but the Free show on River Bar (located at 42nd and 10th in midtown) has been struggling for audience. It started out strongly, but with winter months and just general disdain fewer people have made the trek over to 10th Avenue (it might as well be west of the Mississippi). So last night was a pleasant surprise when I saw a decent group of people in the cozy Hells Kitchen bar. But looks can be deceiving.
When emcee Pat Breslin got on stage he may have felt like Bruce Willis in the 6th Sense because of the 12 non-comedian patrons, 10 continued their three respective conversations as loudly as possible. To be fair, they may felt like Malcolm X, i.e., “We didn’t land on Always Be Funny; Always Be Funny landed on us!”
But the show continued with Helen Hong doing strong crowd work to get them involved, included two condescending “stage manager,” who I think were just two lesbians who thought this tiny 10th Avenue bar was secluded enough to just have a quiet conversation about stage lighting and organic produce without being bothered by annoying mainstream heterosexuals.
Mick Diflo took the stage next and absolutely killed it. By killed I mean had all the comics laughing and people still largely ignoring the show. However, I think he did get the crowd’s attention when he began describing his bloody penile discharge. By this time the crowd was down to about 8, but a few patrons had come in and actually watched and started to appreciate the free entertainment, especially this older black couple who were enjoying the show so much and sitting at attention you’d think they were at a fancy bringer show at a soul sucking comedy club!
Jon Fisch took the stage next and started with a seemingly innocuous line. There was a small poster on stage for an upcoming Cancer benefit at River Bar and Jon Fisch said (paraphrasing), “Perhaps Cancer is not the best stage prop for a show.” To which a drunk woman (who is actually becoming our show’s first consistent patron) said, “Cancer is not funny!” and continued to berate Jon for most of his set.
After that I took the stage and did about 25 minutes of work on only 3 topics: the WNBA (16 minutes), relationships (5 minutes) and Obama (5 minutes). Women’s professional sports just baffle me in general, but i have devised a new video game – it’s called Conquer The Bad Sports. The first level will be men’s and women’s curling, but as you move up levels it just becomes women’s pro sports. First golf, then soccer and then the last level is the entire WNBA in one arena and you have to destroy them all to save the integrity of sports. Then, when you think the game is over, you have to face off against the game’s bosses – Serena and Venus Williams. And just when it looks like they are beating you – it is revealed that Venus is actually a man and she helps you defeat Serena. Next Play Station franchise – you are welcome.
So after my diatribe/set the show concluded with a solid set from Calvin Cato for the 3 people I had not exhausted with my comedic and legal destruction of the WNBA. I then went home to chug bleach. Hopefully our April Fools show does better at River or else I feel like it will be time to pull the plug on that location. At this point it basically feels like Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby.
But as if one bad crowd was not enough – this morning I attended a showing of Brooklyn’s Finest at the world famous Times Square AMC – with 25 screens and dozens of arrests each weekend. The movie was actually quite entertaining (think Training Day), but here were the real highlights:
The movie started 25 minutes late for no reason.
The amount of pre-show talk was at a level I have never heard before in my life.
The talk during the actual movie was surprisingly low, except for when there were breasts on screen (which is when I and twenty other gentlemen of color stood up and ran up and down the aisle screaming “Damn them titties look GOOD!”) and the young Latina sitting next to me who took a 6 minute phone call during the movie for what actually appeared to be a job interview or set up for a job interview.
The old white guy sitting behind me who just before the movie started said to himself, “I’m just glad this is not a midnight movie. This is not one I’d see then.” Racist? Maybe, maybe not. But 100% right.
Per information I have been told by someone who used to manage at that location, there was definitely at least one plain clothes police officer at the movie. That is a job I would love to have. Carry a gun, shoot people who start sh*t at movies, watch movies while working, get a sick pension and cheat on your spouse a ton (I worked at the DA’s office so I have worked with cops). Maybe it is time I pursued that.
The new trailer for Wall Street 2 is damn good.
The bottom line is if you find yourself on 42nd street on the west side of Manhattan there will be funny stuff happening. So catch a movie and come see us on April Fools’ Day at 830.
The toughest part of comedy is not in telling or writing jokes, at least for me. The toughest part I have is with the marketing/self-promotion/getting actual money for doing comedy. For example I am in the finals of a competition at Caroline’s where if I win I get a paid weekend opening for someone. If I finished second, third or fourth I get to go home and take out my unpaid frustration in a game of Wii Tennis.
I have also received my fair share of guest spots, which translated into layman’s terms is, “You are pretty funny, but we have no real incentive to pay you and you cannot afford to refuse an unpaid spot because you secretly believe that you will be discovered, or at least appreciated by management and/or talent scouts, who are unlikely to be watching you.” And that is true.
So the way to make money for an up and coming comic like myself is to take the show on the road. Unfortunately this is proving rather difficult. Here have been some of my favorite responses that I have received personally or through someone acting on my behalf:
“Please stop with the e-mails. We will contact YOU if we are interested.” – this was sent after an obnoxious series of two e-mails sent a week apart (one with clips and one following up a week later – how rude of me).
“What do you bring to our club and how will you increase business?”- hopefully jokes
“He should just buy a car and travel the country for two years stopping by clubs. Is he Jewish? No, then he’s fu-ked. He will probably have to get used to sucking men’s di-ks.” – yes this is an actual conversation that took place (mostly tongue-in-cheek, as opposed to cock-in-cheek), apparently Hollywood casting agents have now re-located to help run comedy clubs in the Midwest.
The best part is that two of these quotes came from what are known as “B clubs” meaning not the city’s primary venue for stand up comedy. That is not a knock on these places, but goes to show that some of these clubs seem to have a Napoleonic complex. And it introduces a Catch 22. I would love to tell clubs that cannot act or respond with some decency or respect to go fu-k themselves or threaten some sort of No Country For Old Men-style cross country trip, but they do have the power and they hold the keys to what I want – a chance to tell lots of people my jokes and to get paid for it.
I’d like to think that if I ever attained star status or mega star status that I would vilify the reputations of these clubs or simply buy them and bulldoze them, a la the trailer home of Jenny at the end of Forrest Gump, but that probably won’t happen for two reasons. I will be too busy counting Benjamins and the clubs will be too busy kissing my ass (hence the Catch 22 – I lash out now I never attain success. I attain success – reason for lashing out abates). But as someone who was able to maintain a healthy grudge against their high school basketball coach for over a decade (not to mention how long I will get material out of more recent slights) I think my friends can attest that if anyone can hold on to that morbid fantasy in spite of success it is me.
But in the meantime anyone know where I can get some cheap knee pads?