The Lost Art Of Quitting

Posted: January 18, 2017 in Be-Bop, Uncategorized

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Since I last wrote my “Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, and fuck you, I’m out!” post last August, I’ve ended up doing stand up comedy again a handful of times for a variety of very good reasons that aren’t entirely just excuses.

  1. I was offered a substantial sum last fall to go to a complete stranger’s house on his birthday that I lived 2 blocks from at the time and then proceed to roast him in front of his friends and family.
  2. Purely on last minute impulse, I cashed in my airline miles and jetted down to Rochester, MN this summer to attend the last open mic before the closing of Goonie’s, the club I started at. I was asked by my old boss the GM to fill in as warmup  for a last minute cancellation before a roast of the very funny man who took over the open mic after I moved to Anchorage, Mr. John Russell.
  3. I just filled in this weekend for the hilarious comic Kyle Farrell for 3 shows with comedians Uncle Griff, Rudy Ascott & Chris Coleman. We all road tripped to support Kass Smiley’s new album release before she permanently relocates to the L48.

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(Coat check: Seward, AK)

It was so much fun and I did surprisingly well at both 4 Royle Parkers & Maverick Saloon in Soldotna as well as The Pit in Seward. I really needed this weekend both psychologically and emotionally, as it reminded me of everything I forget about that is so cool, fun and awesome about touring. Going to a new town where you don’t know anybody, getting free food & drinks, driving a relatively new rental car, staying in strange beds you don’t have to clean up, being viewed as exotic & exciting & mysterious by the local flirts, unique diners, weird but cool bars, gas station munchies, fighting over the radio, killing time writing set lists at sports bars, applause breaks, everything. All of the crazy, I miss it dearly.

I didn’t even really mind that there was no non-smoking section anywhere, that one of the shows almost got pre-empted due to poor planning by “DJ Hankerchief’s Neon Dance Party,” some sketchy hanger-on’s, etc. It all makes me think of an interview with the late great Mitch Hedberg. I’m paraphrasing here but his response was something along the lines of, “You should be grateful as an entertainer that you get to live your life in a hotel room. It is a privilege. It is an adventure. You are lucky in a way that most of us are not. This is fun and you should be grateful for this opportunity while you still have it.” Sadly, in his case, eventually at the end it just wasn’t enough.

Please note: Hedberg & I are both comics born in Saint Paul, MN but I am in no way shape or form comparing myself to Mitch, truly one of the greatest one-liner-writers that has ever walked this earth. 

A few people have asked me today if I’m second-guessing my self-imposed “retirement.” I will diplomatically answer by saying I really don’t know either way. I wonder about this the same way I wonder about moving back to MN. When I go home to visit, everyone makes time to visit with me and we go out to these great restaurants. But back when I lived there, I never saw a lot of those people, because I’m kinda anti-social & busy but also because my presence wasn’t a rare novelty treat back then. I’m sure there’s nostalgia about my home state glossing over unpleasant parts of my past there. By that same token, would I eventually just go back to hating everything in comedy again like I used to?

All I know for sure right now is that I didn’t realize how much I really miss my stand up comedy buddies. The bonding & commiserating you get with comedians in cars on the highway is real.  There is no substitute for that. It’s like a private club where civilians are not allowed. Stand up comedians do not judge you. Of course we are still competitive & jealous & rip on each other mercilessly. That never goes away. All comics really care about is whether or not you’re still funny.  I’m happy to report that apparently I still am. Cheers!

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Warning: Do not under any circumstances let this man use your hotel room sink.


  1. Hyping Gigs Kills Friendships: To achieve anything in comedy I have to do gigs all the time. Other than a lack of funds, another thing gets in the way – real life. To this day, I still vaguely wish I could do nothing but perform seven days a week, thus obscuring my lack of people skills, but I have other projects and *drumroll please* friends. Friends that I would like to see more than once a year. Imagine what that is like for a second, civilians. Not to mention, I am a performer who is an acquired taste at best. I purposely chose to create comedy shows that do not shy away from divisive subject matter like politics & religion and IT IS SO HARD getting butts in the seats as it is. No matter how many days I spend tacking up fliers/plugging the gig online/paying Facebook with my own money to plug the gig online, average attendance remains around 50 people per gig, maybe, on a good night.
  2. Are there not enough middle-class, straight white males complaining already?
  3. I saw the work of my peers and acknowledged my weaknesses: Do I continue to delude myself that I may be capable of something I am not? Comedy is a constant reminder of my limitations. Am I any good? This requires some honest reflection. There is nothing more painful than being honest with you. In fact, it is the ultimate kick in the teeth for your self-esteem. However, I know based on seeing videos of myself, the shows I was getting booked on and the responses I was getting from folks after shows, whether I was improving or not. The answer is a resounding no. If I have indeed been spinning my wheels for years and years and still do not seem be where I wanted to be, maybe it is time to take a sabbatical. My inferiority complex is more vibrant now than it was back when I started: I still do not think I am 100% ready for the road. I find myself on shows and look around a green room of professional comedians, people who really know what they are doing, and wonder how I have pulled off this charade for so long.
  4. I was starting to go crazier than I already was in the first place: Is comedy killing me? Some comedians are just Iggy Pop-esque fun addicts. Most humans are. We all naturally want to have as much fun as we can all the time. Comedy is fun, but the buzz I get on stage fades. Conveniently, more alcohol is widely available, depending on the venue. In addition, the diet of your garden-variety amateur night host is probably one of the worst of any profession aside from touring funk band. Am I putting myself in jeopardy by continuing to be around the booze and awful foods? Seeing fellow comics almost die around me because of years of unhealthy living is enough to convince me of the need for change. Open microphones are monstrous creatures that feed on hope, happiness and souls. (Remember The Nothing storm monster from the 1984 film “The NeverEnding Story.”) On any night I could, I would go to an open microphone and sit at a darkened table, working on my material I could barely read by candlelight before going up. The tragic paradox here is everyone else does the exact same friggin’ thing. I was typically prepping jokes for an audience of other comics who were not going to laugh at them even if they had listened to them. Because, hey, they did not write them so how funny could they really be? After all, I did not laugh at his or her jokes either as I was pacing around in the back trying to memorize my set. Just like everybody else does. Rinse and repeat.
  5. I Never Had Self-Delusions Of Grandeur: I have no desire to be famous and am therefore less inclined to work like a desperate hooker stuck on the track during a rainstorm. However, the seven billion other acts all have their eye on fame. I do not really want to be a comic, you just are whether you want to be or not. It is like an undetectable birth defect you tragically do not identify until it is too late. I was out of college, one Foreign Language credit short of a worthless double BA in Journalism and Political Science with a lifetime of loving stand up. I was convinced now was my time to share my voice with the world. Cut to “my first of many mistakes.” Many comics claim to want to share their beliefs. They are full of crap. They just want to be famous like everybody else; the only difference is they need it more. I thought I wanted to live on forever in the public’s collective memory, silencing my fears of mediocrity and dying un-remembered. In hindsight, I realize I just wanted validation from my peers, which is much more rewarding to get from family and friends. I hate myself. I was devoting my free time to writing jokes & performing. The only way to beat everybody is to do an insane amount of stage time. I needed to put my civilian friends on the back burner. I convinced myself I should do comedy at the expense of everything else. My dream of getting regular stage time eventually became largely a disappointment. Earlier this summer, I realized I was just going to have to half-ass try forever or cut my losses. 8-22-15 10 PM AST, I opted for the latter.

If I was getting into stand-up comedy to become famous, I never should have started in the first place. Hundreds of thousands of people get into stand-up comedy every year. Out of all of those people, only a very small percentage of them are even truly funny. A smaller percentage of those people can make a living off stand-up comedy. In addition, an even smaller percentage of those people become famous. Talent alone is not enough. Comedy is not a meritocracy. I would have to get lucky and catch a break. Be at the right place at the right time. (Alaska is not that place. Never was. Not now, not ever.) Even that is not enough. Your stand-up comedy is a business and I have to treat it as such. It takes time, a lot of time. Combine all of those elements and I still will probably not become famous in even the loosest possible sense of the word.

  1. It Is A Self-Destructive Pastime: Until I write ‘comedian’ on my passport and tax return, it remains just a hobby. It is an expensive one too. Getting to gigs is not cheap, and if you are like me & lack the depth perception necessary to drive, it rules out many opportunities. If I was getting into stand-up comedy because I needed a hobby, I need to stop right now. I need to find a hobby that is more fulfilling. I may suck at graphic design or video editing or whatever, but at least I will be having fun. It is a given that you will suck at stand-up. There will be times when nobody will laugh at anything or just dead silence, even when you are the headliner. (Exhibit A is embedded into the beginning of this post.) Other times, people will boo and tell you not to quit your day job. One out of five times that I go on stage, I maybe do consistently well. Bosses would fire workers for succeeding 20-30% of the time in any other industry. (The notable exception here is meteorology.) I have found other ways I would rather spend my time and I was never that great of a comic in the first place. Moreover, after 7 years, I have only reached the ranks of a mediocre local hobbyist. That is probably enough time to spend on that. It is hard to be funny when I am angry and I find myself getting angrier and angrier. Anger is not something I am trying to cultivate further in my life right now any more than it already is. Therefore, I decided to let comedy go.
  2. I Finally Admitted You Have To Accept Your Place In The Economy: I can get laughs, I am adequately skilled at my particular brand of book-smart comedy but it is a niche genre. I have a style that will not earn me money outside of gas and Taco Bell. Are my priorities in the right order? Many people, comics included, will tell you the most important thing in the world to them is their family. Unfortunately, comedy is not very kind to your real-life family. Comedy is predominantly a waiting game. Maybe it is time to take that night class and bump up the contributions to my Roth IRA. Otherwise, I am going to have to figure out how to put the important things first and make all my decisions with the number 1 most important thing in mind: I will never make money at this. After seven years in comedy, I thought at least it was time to break even. There are several mandatory requirements: a half hour of original quality material (which I possibly have), a car (which I lack the vision to operate), self-promotion (which I loathe with the passion of a thousand suns), work ethic (which I sort of have) and luck (which I never had & never will have). Even if I had all those things, I probably would not know what to do with them without a decent writing partner. As the fellow retired comedian Evan Jacobs once put it, “the best-case scenario is suicide.” I spent years uncomfortably marketing myself like a brand of toothpaste for corporate gigs. I did comedy out of a compulsion. It is a calling, much like preachers and traveling salesman. You do it because you cannot imagine life without it. Even if you kill it every night for a week, a working comedian cannot be truly happy. With the amount of work going into being a professional, I lack the time & motivation to maintain close relationships and have a non-dysfunctional family. Let’s face it, am I really going to skip out on a headlining set that might get my writing packet seen by Conan’s staff to see my hypothetical adopted kid’s baseball game? My hypothetical adopted kid is not putting organic, free trade, small batch bacon in the fridge. The only thing to bring lasting happiness is validation, but comedy in general is ultimately a forgettable art form; as disposable as an old newspaper. Once I have left the stage, people are already laughing at the next person. There is no money in comedy. I will perform free for most of my career; there is very little difference between bringers & charity benefits. When I actually start to understand who I am and how to be funny on stage, I will still make very little money.

I have worked my way up to guest spot and hosting. It took me a long time to get to this spot as it is. It may take another three to have the connections to become an in-demand feature middle act. I am stillunable to quit my day job because a feature spots does not cover your bills, let alone unexpected road expenses. Your neglected, long-suffering spouse makes the house payment while you make fun of them on stage. Years later, I will hypothetically have finally reached headliner status and I can finally quit my day job and focus solely on comedy. I still will not make a living wage, especially with credit card debt incurred during the lean years. In that decade I spent pursuing my comedy dream, I could have become a genuine success at my day job. I could have invested my extra money into savings. I could have been able to afford to fix what is wrong with my house. Comedy costs entirely more money that it needs to. At its best, open microphones (aka comedy gym) are shows where anyone can perform & the only place to try out new material. You hate to go sometimes but you have to; there is no way around it. They often do not comp or discount food/drink, not to mention the travel costs and the price of…ummm…substances necessary to gain courage before performing and afterwards to washing away the hurt from said performance. Multiply that dollar amount by four times a week for close to a decade and I theoretically could have afforded to go back to college. I need to stop wasting my time. The host will usually only give you five minutes of stage time. It is insanely difficult to make people consistently laugh in that little amount of time. So now my fellow comics carpool an hour to an amateur night, be on stage for maybe 3 minutes and someone boos. The same thing happens the next two weeks in a row. We have just wasted time, money and gas. It is not worth it because it’s an insane business model. 

  1. The Magic Is Gone: When I first started, I had a much-romanticized vision of stand-up’s capabilities and possibilities. I saw it as an opportunity for the ultimate expression of an individual artistic vision. Andy Kaufman, Lenny Bruce & Bill Hicks will remain my biggest heroes. Three very different methods of making people laugh that equally inspired me to give it a whirl. What I failed to factor into the equation was that most of the time I was sharing my precious creative vision with violent drunks, psychopathic cokehead club owners and over-worked servers who could not physically give less of a fuck about the three dead white guys I mentioned earlier in this paragraph. As a former drummer, journalist and record label owner, I have a long rich history of quitting things, so stand-up is just another disappointment to add to my ongoing list.
  2. I Forgot Why I Got Up Here In The First Place: Most comics do not even begin to break out of their shell and slide into their true voice until about seven to ten years into doing stand-up. Maybe it is time to consider another career path. Comedy is for the long haul. Most of us will never make it. Hell, I have been at it for over 7 years straight and I am not an inch closer to where I wanted to end up. I lack the patience & attention span necessary for the work I still have ahead of me. I need to stop wasting people’s time. After going to all of these sketchy bars all over Minnesota & Alaska and having bad set after bad set, on more than one occasion I subconsciously decided mid-set I was not even going to try to improve. I would be on stage and just get angry with hecklers, say whatever is on my mind sans punch line and in general put out a terrible, wretched hack product i.e. the aforementioned Exhibit A. All of this because why? It is all because I was too mentally exhausted to care about putting some genuine effort into getting better. In these instances, I chose the coward’s route and wasted the audience’s time. They came to laugh and now instead they are in a crappy mood. Other comedians have been waiting back stage and I took away from their time. The host has wasted his time trying to get the crowd back. That is when you know that you need to do yourself and everyone else a favor and quit.
  3. I Am Not Having Fun Anymore: I got to the point that no matter what I tried, no matter what shows I did, no matter how great the crowd response, I still just did not feel it anymore. Well then, my friend, it is time to hang up your spurs. Back in the day, running into miserable road comics that sound like I do right now made me want to scream at them “THEN FUCKING QUIT ALREADY!” If all I am doing is going through the motions and the passion has died, it is time to send this sexless standup comedy marriage out to the glue factory.
  4. It’s Never Enough: No matter how well I performed, it was never as it could have been. It is the definition of irony. I performed to gain authenticity and thus self-confidence. However, if I already had positive self-worth, I would not need the applause so I would not need stage time in the first place. It is a vicious cycle. Now take this puzzling contradiction and factor in how much you start to hate your own jokes. Even my funniest jokes are not hilarious anymore once I have told them what sometimes feels like eleven hundred billion times. By the way, it is worth noting that nobody usually laughs when coming up with his or her jokes; I very well may have permanently lost the ability to surprise myself. Moreover, at its core, the true essence of quality joke telling is tricking the audience.

Without the constant pressure of trying to fill my need for validation, I have actually never been…more miserable. I should at least not want to eat a shotgun shell. I do not need to worry about comedy anymore. I could go be the 36-year-old person who goes back to school. Nevertheless, the truth is…it never goes away. I will always want immediate feedback. I am not planning to kill myself anytime soon but I do still truly, deeply care about stand-up comedy. I acknowledge that I remain marginally competent at other creative art forms like DJ-ing, writing blogs no one reads, etc. The whole time in the back of my head, all I think of is that I would rather be telling & writing jokes. It is not as good, it is not as satisfying. I will never stop wondering if this is what I was born to do. It is akin to a horrible ex-girlfriend I was miserable with that I know is no longer worth the effort. I am smart enough to stay away but no one else feels the same. I am still not even sure I can say I “quit” something you cannot be fired from. It just sounds better than “stopped volunteering.”


1. Twin Towers 2 (No Fly Zone) Mixtape – Specifically the song “She Be Putting On”. It’s a terrible song in its own right, certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for a 1st single. To be fair, the weakest verse award goes to Slim Dunkin. (Side note: Slim Dunkin was shot to death while making a music video at a recording studio. Presumably that clip didn’t make the final cut.) 

  
2. The 2014 mixtape “I Can’t Rap Vol. 1” – arguably the most honest mixtape title of all time, one has to admire the sheer balls of assuming ahead of time that Volume 2 would even be necessary.

  
3. Dietary Preference Or Just A Picky Eater? As part of the grieving process in the aftermath of his brother’s suicide, Mr. Flame announced he had become “85% vegan.” With all due respect to his detox regimen, holding a press conference to announce your new wishy-washy diet choice is the most annoying American eating fad since Pescatarianism became mainstream respectable.

  
4. The So-Called “Flocka” Factor – it’s one thing to adapt your stage name from the signature punchline catchphrase of Fozzie Bear, the official patron saint of Hack Stand Up Comic Flop Sweat. It’s another thing entirely to run a campaign using 3 names. Mentioning the middle name never works. Initials, sure, that’s fine. Worked for Dubya. Plus, he holds the rare distinction of Waka F. Flame sounding just as insane and ridiculous and Muppet-esque as spelling it out.

  
5. Candidacy Announcement Planning Committee – where to start? A. Don’t declare your intent to run on 4-20. That’s Adolf Hitler’s birthday and the Columbine Massacre anniversary. B. Don’t make it an web exclusive video on rollingstone.com – you’re a rapper, not Keith Richards. C. Don’t immediately appeal to the lunatic Tea Bagger fringe base & the Koch Bros. You gotta ease into pandering towards powerful special interest lobbying groups like People Against Pets In Restaurants or Americans Against Americans With Big Ass Feet That Take Up The Whole Goddamn Sidewalk. D. Stick to the issues you know i.e. marijuana legalization. You are living proof it’s impossible to overdose on weed. Otherwise you would have died long before Slim Dunkin even ate his first donut, let alone picked up a microphone. 

  


http://www.alaskapublic.org/2013/05/23/former-alaska-hearing-officer-charged-with-stealing-cocaine/

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All-Female Rock Tribute Bands

Posted: April 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

Semi-Decent Names Already Taken

AC-DShe
Misstallica
Bitchfits
Lez Zeppelin
The Iron Maidens
Slaywhore
Malice Cooper
Mistress Of Reality (Black Sabbath reference, FYI)
Ladysmith
Cheap Chick
Vag Halen
Judas Priestess
The Ramonas
PRISS
Hell’s Belles (AC-DC reference, duh)
AC/DDC

Worst Of The Worst
ThundHERStruck
Aerochix (Too minivan-ish)
Allison Chains (assumably not to be confused with the porn star)
The She-Tles (methinks it sounds too much like the Shitty Beatles)
Ziggy Starlet and the Spiders from Venus (Male Cover Bands Are From Mars)
Iron Madame (So, like the audio equivalent of a medieval torture device popular during the Inquisition?)
Judith Priest (Too nursing home-esque)
Queen Diamond (Not an democratically-elected position)
The Minks (RIYL The Kinks, making P.E.T.A. upset, early period John Waters)
KISSES (Knights In Satan’s Service Entrepreneurial Society)
Fem Zeppelin (Try again.)
Hammer Of The Broads (One of those cases where it’s their word, it’s only ok if they call each other that; it’s empowering if they own it, I guess.)
Ladies Zeppelin (Ladies Room Zeppellin suck, or so I’ve heard)
Moby Chick (Whenever possible, avoid names referencing a 17-minute Herman Melville drum solo)
Zepparella (Is Jane Fonda attached to the project?)
Zeppelina (All Lazy Don Bluth References Go To Hell)
The Die Die My Darlings (I just made this one up right now, but I’m betting it’s being formed the instant I hit the Publish button.)
The MissFits (Can the logo please be Danzig getting punched in the face?)
Ms. Fits (Danzig apparently got divorced)
The Nuns (Ohhh…The Monks…yeah, I get it now…)
Queens Of Queen (Drag Queen Monarchies in England never have any real political power, it’s still just a ceremonial title.)
The Femones (Pheremones…better yet Ferremonies)
The Hormones (You’re not even trying at this point, are you?)
The Romanes (Those who misspell lettuce varieties are…ummm…doomed to repeat it?)
Tap This (Why not make original parodies of Weird Al Yankovic tunes? The mind reels…)
TurbonegrA (This Just In: Racism Lite doesn’t make you “provocative,” just kinda sad.)
Girls Girls Girls (Was Strip Club already copyrighted?)

The Van Halen One I Secretly Wish I Had Thought Of First
She-Ruption (They were into squirting before it was cool.)

Just Found 2 Other Total Randos, As The Kids Say Nowadays
Harptallica (The topper – from Lousiana)
Holy Divah! (What exactly the exclamation point indicate? Oh! Calcutta! The Informant! Etc!)

I’ve got to go find me some hot chick musicians that know how to half-decently play mid-period Tom Waits ballads before somebody else beats me to the punch.


Poetry

“I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
unintelligible,
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
under
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.”

Marianne Moore (November 15, 1887 – February 5, 1972 / Kirkwood, Missouri)

Quote  —  Posted: August 24, 2012 in Uncategorized
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  1. Joke workshops
  2. Craigslist free stuff section – Buy one-get one free coupons – I posted that I was giving away 10 x single tickets to the first people to email with the subject header “standup.” I found it was a good way to do outreach to people who might not otherwise see live performance. When I corresponded about the tickets, I invited people to email after the show and share feedback; I got some nice feedback. Moreover, at the venue, after the show you can try to sweet talk them so they feel a personal connection and come back again in subsequent weeks.
  3. You could also go to workplaces in your area and offer blocks of tickets for groups of five or more. Office buildings, school staff rooms, swimming pool staff, restaurant staff, etc.
  4. At each event, maybe mention a password that will give a $2 discount for subsequent weeks
  5. Have a punch card, “attend 3 nights, get the 4th free.”
  6. After work summer barbeque
  7. Maybe each week’s ticket/hand stamp is an entry into a larger drawing for the end of the summer.
  8. You could have a lot of fun with gag prizes each week. Do one for the biggest group, or the person who came from the furthest distance. Do some trivia.
  9. Make it more of a “league” by doing challenges each week. Maybe one week is the all sports joke week, and the next is that every comedian has to use the prop of the emcee’s choice in his/her act (ooh prop comedy, edgy), and then the next week is all impersonations…you get the drift. People could vote at the end of the night and whoever gets the most votes wins. You could do it nightly or cumulatively.
  10. Collaborate with local businesses to do tradeoffs of services. Raffles in between comedians, free breadsticks at the pizza place down the block with your comedy ticket/stub/hand stamp, the works. The other places probably feel the economic pinch just like you.
  11. A free first drink would get me to show up.
  12. Text all of your friends.

*Please Note: these are all answers I originally found on the website ask.metafilter when I typed in “ideas on promoting standup comedy shows.” These are just the highlights I found the most useful.*Image