Alfred Lord Tennyson once wrote “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” Well this may be true in love, but in comedy, my saying would be, “‘Tis better to have never been offered a gig, than told about it in what sounds like an offer and then told that it was not an offer, but just a check of availability.” Not as poetic, so let me explain.
Over the last couple of weeks I have received two pieces of unsolicited information that I would prefer to have never received. The first was from a comedian that I see occasionally at open mics. The exchange was as follows:
Comedian: Whoa dude you got fat.
Me: Yeah, I’ve been eating like shit for a while.
Comedian: No, but seriously!
Me: Well, I did not think it was that bad, but thanks.
Now there are a few problems with this. For one, the dude is right. Over the last couple of years performing on the road I feel like my physique has gone from Will Smith to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Two, I am a man so I could not get too defensive. And three, when a comedian (not a profession known for its athletic physique and my critic was no exception) criticizes your fitness it feels like (as my friend Mick Diflo would joke) like a suicide prevention hotline operator has just told you that you are making good points. So I did what any man with immense reserves of rage would do – I left the show, lifted weights for a while, declaring when I hit my target weight I am going to immediately jump off the scale, find the comic and punch him in the face.
But this was just a personal example, only tangentially related to comedy, of someone offering unsolicited information that did not feel good. In that case I did what I normally do with bad feelings – I let them stew inside and hope that they become triggers for positive results. My second example, however, is a much more annoying example of unsolicited information because I have no outlet to turn the frustration into something positive. Other than this blog.
A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from someone producing a web/TV comedy thing – basically comedians performing 7 minutes in a theater that will then be taped and dispersed in some on-line or syndicated format. Most importantly it paid $1000. The email provided all this information, other comedians that had done it and asked me if I was available one of the two filming days. I was excited, mainly because it paid $1000. A friend of mine who had done the show verified that it was a great opportunity, so I happily replied that I was available and would be happy to do it.
Then I got a phone call.
The phone call consisted of being told that they were just starting to compile their list of comedians, but they were glad I was available. They also told me that they had just finished the “C’s” and once they got through the “Z’s” I would be informed if I was selected.
Now comedy finds many ways to make you feel bad. Contests, bringer shows, grueling auditions, auditions where the fix is already in, open casting calls where the fix is in, out of shape comedians calling you fat, etc. The list goes on and on. But in all examples, except the last one – you at least have to make the first step. Even if you are baited or tricked or manipulated into joining a show or an audition for a contest with rosier-than-reality promises, you still have to make the first step, like the old Apex Tech commercials used to say.
But this was the first time a comedic entity had come for me to get me interested in something AND THEN told me, “nope, not yet.” I now felt for the dogs I used to walk when I was in middle school and I would wave the leash at them to see their joyful reactions and then tell them, “Ok, after I finish watching this Darkwing Duck episode – haha!” Why give me all the details and ask me if I am available on certain dates, as if I, God forbid, matter in the equation, only to then tell me – “OK you are in our top 5000, we will let you know when we have made our decision”?
Perhaps there wasn’t enough anger among comedians that week and the booker/producer just wanted to give me more fuel, but here is a novel idea. If you are booking a show – come up with your list of comedians, then call them. It removes annoyance and disappointment from the equation. The unselected comedians (most likely including me) will never have been given false hope and the selected comedians will only have happiness without any anxiety. It is as if the producer wanted to perform an Inception on me – plant a happy thought in the recess of his mind that we can then crush with newer and more relevant information.
So Tennyson may have been right about love, but he didn’t know sh*t about stand up.
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