Unsolicited Information – Comedy Gripe of The Week

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.

Huh?

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”?

This is comedy in a nutshell.

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.

We need to make him believe that he is going to get money and a possible TV credit and only then will we give him the relevant information. If we have planted the happy thought deeply enough in his brain, the new information will drive him crazy.

So Tennyson may have been right about love, but he didn’t know sh*t about stand up.

NEXT BLOG – “Movie of the Week – THOR”  Check in Friday for it.

9 COMMENTS
  • Nick Cobb
    Reply

    As I am one of those “C’s” that wasn’t contacted at all, I want to thank you for doing to me exactly what you’re complaining others have done to you. That is, getting me excitedly looking at my phone for a missed call before immediately squashing my hopes.

    Next time you wish to ruin my mid-morning (I wake up late) 5-hour energy drink break, please take a moment and imagine the very real possibility that there are other comics out there that (a) have a last name starting with A, B or C and (b) didn’t even make the list to check availability.

    How does it feel wearing blinders?

  • Bob Hellener
    Reply

    Our sources verify that you in fact have gained a tremendous amount of weight. Therefore, don’t you think it is deceptive to have these pictures of yourself looking all fit and trim and buff on your website? It’s kind of the same as women who misrepresent themselves by posting 20 year old head shots.

    Furthermore, your diatribe about being potentially videotaped for the show truly shows that you are far more naïve than your eight years of experience would suggest. As you stated yourself, the producers of the show have a list of comedians whom they are interested in. They did the preliminary groundwork to see who is available on those dates, as not necessarily everybody would be. Once they had those names, then most likely they will review all of the videos and see which comics they want to choose.

    Although you will probably have a hard time grasping this, this prevents the producers of the show from having to sit through a bunch of videotapes of comedians who would not be available anyhow. The phone call you received was probably not just a courtesy to let you know that you’re still in the running, but also a personal touch to help gauge your personality, your willingness to cooperate, and a number of intangible factors that would make a comedian easier to work with.

    It’s easy to see things only from your perspective, but you have to put yourself in the mind of the producers of such shows. Comedians are among the flakiest people on earth, and they’re very, very difficult to deal with.

    More than likely, by posting your disparaging blog entry about the experience, if they read your blog, more than likely you will be deleted from consideration. I can’t honestly say that I would blame them.

    Incidentally, if I have used any words here that you aren’t aware of, it doesn’t mean I have to use a thesaurus to find them – it just means I have a larger vocabulary than yours. People who fit that category do exist, much to your chagrin. As much as possible, I’ve tried to use the eighth-grade reading, writing and comprehension level here, which you seem to the most comfortable with.

    1. J-L Cauvin
      Reply

      1) You know nothing about comedy. That is obvious. You seem to know only what I tell you and then launch your own unfounded opinions from there. Everytime you start to try and educate me on comedy you use the word “probably” because you “probably” have no idea what you are talking about.

      2) “all fit and trim and buff” – gee thanks – did know you could get that from photos of me on stage, but it is good to know when you are not stalking me on my blog you are hate-masturbating to my photos. And let’s not have accusations of misrpresentation from an anonymous coward. And “our sources?” So wait, you are working with more than one person and are still this stupid? And by “sources” do you mean my words and photos? Because you would not have to go beyond that to learn this information.

      3) It took you over two weeks to make a comeback on a throwaway line about you using a thesaurus. So congratulations, you can add slow to your already stellar attributes of unfunny and stupid.

  • Brian McGuinness
    Reply

    Hate-masturbating. HA!

  • Ryan Conner
    Reply

    J-L, if you want to find out who Bob is, just find out who the only person in the world is who knows how to type an umlaut.

  • Janelle Winston
    Reply

    Oh, I get it. Bob is actually a 12 year old girl. “That microphone makes you look fat.” Spoken like a true prepubescent hormonal little girl. Poor Bobbi, you should attempt to get a life or at the very least a job! I cannot believe that you would even admit to consulting independent sources on a grown man’s weight. So sad! LOSER!

  • Bob Hellener
    Reply

    It’s quite interesting, isn’t it, how on the one hand you accuse me of being anonymous, yet on the other you claim to know everything about me. Well, for what it’s worth, I am not being anonymous – I’m using my real name.

    If it takes two weeks for me to make a comeback, that is because I am gainfully employed, not sleeping until the afternoon then and sitting behind my computer waiting to pounce the moment somebody posts something.

    You’re right, how could I know as much as you about comedy? After all, as a previous post on your other blog entry stated, you’ve parlayed one paltry television appearance into exactly nothing. By your own admission you have failed miserably at comedy, and are ready to give it up. What you don’t realize is that anyone who is considering hiring you for a day job who reads your blog will never hire you, so you lose at comedy, and you will lose in your job search as well. You claim to be an attorney, yet you write like an eighth-grade thug.

    You despise the social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and so forth that have made other comedians successful (maybe because they’re funny, and they don’t double the length of their setups by repeating everything twice), yet it seems that your entire day is composed of watching other entertainers and athletes, and spending literally thousands of hours posting to your obscure blog which is read by dozens. You’re right, you really know this business inside and out. If ever I run into a beginning comedian that wants to know how to be successful, by all means, I’ll send them your way so that you may place them with your expertise and savvy about the comedy business.

    1. J-L Cauvin
      Reply

      Yes I have been on television.
      Yes I am more educated than you.
      Yes I am smarter than you.
      Yes I know the comedy business better than you.
      Yes you read my blog.

      No I have never heard of you.
      No, no one I know has ever heard of you.
      No, I do no read or watch anything you do except when you write on my website.

      You win “Bob.” You have a day job and you spend your free time obsessing over an unknown comedian. If you ever want to meet for a beer or want to do a set on my show in Brooklyn it would be a real honor for me.

  • Alexis Guerreros
    Reply

    I am way too engaged by this back and forth. If Bob really is you, JL, then you my friend are a genius. I keep coming back to see if this guy will post. Don’t you have this guys email (required at time of comment). Either put him on blast so we can all email him or, my favorite suggestion, you guys start a podcast. I’d love to listen to this shit.

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