This summer I decided to finally take the plunge and try a bunch of new things. In addition to the workshop with Norman Taylor, I did scene study with Lee Brock at Barrow Group, and I took a stand-up comedy class with Jim Mendrinos at Gotham Comedy Club. I don’t know when he’ll be teaching this again as he is working on his TV show but if you’re interested, I highly recommend him. He’s very smart and works with each student individually based on where they are, not just putting things out in a blanketed way for the whole class. Also, you work each class.
I didn’t want to keep doing the same stuff over and expect different results while at the same time double down on what I think are my strengths. I wanted to struggle and learn again. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.
I don’t think it would be honest or fair of me at this point to say I’m a comedian. That’s a few hundred sets away. There is certainly a lot of cross over from acting and doing solo performance. But there is an equal amount of unlearning things. And I need to do a solo performance to stand up translation of ideas. Instead of going 3 or 4 places, I have to think about how to get to the joke in 10 seconds.
I was getting burned out on solo performance. So much work building up to a production and then it dies. It really until that point that enough audiences have seen the stuff that I’d know what the heck it was.
A bad audience was a long punishment for me. A great audience was heaven. But the more I do it, the less they want you to talk to them.
Then there was the explaining. “What’s you show about?” And I’d tell them. Until I was blue in the face. I was all but doing the whole thing for some people. I finally got to a place where I wouldn’t do that with people. If people seemed genuinely interested at the start, then I’d continue. If not, I’d change the subject to spare them the awkwardness. Then you have to keep track of who was interested and who wouldn’t find it to their liking. So I would err on the side of caution and not tell most people about what I was doing.
The great thing about stand up is that everyone and I mean EVERYONE has a relationship to it. Once people get beyond the initial weirdness of my saying that I’m doing stand up, they start telling me about their favorite comedians. Instead of telling them what my show is about and doing some explanation dance, I get asked who my favorite comedians are. I suppose that’s their way of figuring out if I would be their kind of comedian. (I like George Carlin and Marc Maron.)
One of the tough things starting out on top of getting material and used to being up there without a shield, is doing open mics. It’s a lot like performing for the bad audiences I’d work doing solo performances. You’re in a room, usually a basement because for some reason a lot of comedy in New York is done in basements, with a bunch of other guys (save for 2 women) who are either waiting to go up and do their dick jokes or figuring out why their dick jokes didn’t work.
You hear lots of advice of what to do and what not to do. I think the best advice is that you have to bomb 100 times before you’ve earned your stripes. Then it doesn’t matter to you so much. Also, you’ve probably figured out what you want to say by that point.
I think I successfully wrote this post without one laugh in it. I’ll count this towards my 100.