Posts Tagged ‘i am a stand up comedian’

The following essay is re-published with the generous permission of the author/stand-up comedian Vince Martin. If you’d like to find out more about Vince Martin’s comedy, please visit his website at

I am a standup comedian. I get to say that now; I was always careful
to avoid that exact phrase (though it may have slipped out from time
to time). I have always preferred to say that “I do standup comedy.”
Why the change? 1) I’m getting paid now and 2) I’m completely

I am getting paid now, though perhaps only in a matter of speaking. I
make twenty-five dollars a set. It costs me ten dollars and three
hours to get there, round-trip. So I net fifteen dollars for six hours
of time. True, I can write off the travel expenses, but given that my
projected annual income for 2004 is approximately thirty-seven dollars
and twenty-three cents, I highly doubt I’ll be itemizing my taxes.

In the past, I refused to call myself a standup comedian until I was
paid. That’s just obnoxious. Just because I shoot hoops at the Y
doesn’t mean I can introduce myself as a “basketball player”. It’s
like all the “actors” you meet in New York City.

“What do you do?”
“I’m an actor.”
“Really? What have you been in?”
“I was an extra in an independent short film three years ago.”
“Oh, so you’re a waiter.”

If you ever meet a comic, and he tells you wonderful comedy is, and
how passionate he is, and how it’s his “destiny” and “purpose for
being,” punch him. Hard. Because he is an “open miker.” And open
mikers suck. But, Vince, weren’t you an open miker? Yes, perhaps, at
one point. I have certainly done open mikes. But I was never an “open
miker”. “Open mikers” do open mikes not for auditions or to try new
material, but simply because they can’t even perform for free. Think
about that. Spend three years developing a five-minute act, and it is
still so bad that everyone says, “I can’t listen to this guy for less
than five bucks and a drink.” Open mikers go to open mikes and do
their same boring act, on the off chance that, “Hey, maybe this joke
will work the 237th time I tell it.” And then they send tapes to
bookers, and stand in line for eight hours for “Last Comic Standing”
and the Aspen Comedy Festival. And any comic with any talent trying to
be found simply gets lost in the shuffle (and I’m referring to people
significantly further along the ladder than myself), or dies of
exposure on the sidewalk in front of Stand Up New York.

But because “open mikers” only do open mikes, they’re not exposed to
the business end of comedy. They only perform for their fellow open
mikers, and they get to harbor the dream that one day a booker will
just happen to walk into an open mike in a pizzeria in the East
Village (hey, it happens all the time) and say, “Hey, kid – you’re
going to be a star!”
Debating whether to keep ranting about this… Still debating… OK,
moving on…wait…moving on. Honest. Don’t go. Come back. Finish
reading. It gets better. I promise.

Where is this coming from? Well, I’ve spent four shows MCing at the
Comedy Cabana here in Myrtle Beach. I’ve done about thirty-five
minutes total, and about twenty-five minutes of material (in other
words, I haven’t repeated much). And I’ve struggled. I haven’t bombed,
and the club owner seems happy (road clubs don’t expect much from
emcees) but those who have seen me up north would be standing in the
back with me saying, “God, I thought you’d do better than that.” Me
too, mon frer. I’ve tried nearly every joke in my repertoire. Jokes
that kill in New York flop here. Jokes that kill on Monday night get
three chuckles on Tuesday. And then the fat drunk in the back who damn
near gave me a standing ovation on the way in tonight decides that
four minutes into my set is a good time to start arguing with his
girlfriend, out loud. (Honest. She left in tears five minutes into the
second act’s set. The fat drunk got out of his chair, nearly fell
over, and walked out of the club. I spent the entire taxi ride home
hoping to see his car embedded into a telephone pole.

It’s frustrating as hell. It’s frustrating when you know that a joke’s
funny, when you know that doing three minutes about your crazy
girlfriend and then saying, “I don’t really have a girlfriend,” has
gotten you applause breaks from twenty-person crowds, but gets six
people out of 140 to laugh hysterically, because the rest of the crowd
just doesn’t get it. You begin to question everything – your material,
your delivery, your stage presence, your clothes, the fact that you
haven’t shaved in two days (seriously), even the very existence of a
God (maybe that’s exaggerating a bit). You certainly begin to question
the intelligence of the average person. You question when when people
in this country became so sensitive that they moan at jokes which
offend imaginary people (my joke) and heroin users (the feature’s).
The business is a struggle, and that’s why open mikers maintain their
innocence, and why comics are often stereotyped (often correctly) as
bitter, insecure, and even angry. When you take a sixteen-hour round
trip, door to door, to Boston from New York to do eight minutes, and
the host grabs you on your way up and says, “You’re only doing five,”
it hurts. When you move to a new city, and leave messages on answering
machines and with managers about how you live here now and have a
decent act, and no one returns your calls, it’s annoying. When you
finally get the booker on the phone, and he says he hasn’t watched
your tape because he gets nearly a hundred calls a week from comedians
(those damn open mikers again), it’s frustrating. And when you finally
get your chance, and you’re dying to get on stage again, and just
roll, and you get sidetracked by things out of your control, like fat
drunks and stupid audiences and guest sets and broken air-conditioning
systems (the AC went out on Wednesday night; it was hysterical. 150
people packed into a small room in South Carolina in late June with no
A/C. It was 85 degrees in the room; everyone in the audience spent the
whole show fanning themselves with their menus. I put soaking wet,
cold towels up on the stage for the three comics to use, since we were
pouring sweat just standing in the back. I walked on stage, and said,
“Welcome to the Comedy Cabana. God, it’s freezing in here.” Audience
laughed; not sure about the owner. Anyway, again), it’s humbling.

That’s the best word to describe this business: humbling. Every time
you convince yourself that you’re going to make it, that you’re really
as good as that little part of your ego thinks you are, you get
knocked down a peg. And you smack yourself in the forehead, and think,
“Damn, I knew that was going to happen.” And you drive yourself back
to work, researching comedy clubs and bus schedules, and see that guy
you used to work with in New York, featuring at a club in North
Carolina, and you know that you’re better than him, on your worst day.
But you’ll just have have to wait.
There is some good news, though. I just saved a bunch of money on my
car insurance. (Oh, Jesus, you didn’t just do that joke. You worthless
hack.) And tomorrow, I’ve got two sets. Fifty bucks. And I can’t wait
because I know, that, finally, I’ll kill. Even better, there was a
time, less than two years ago, when I sent my friends and family a
mass email about a bringer show in New York City. And everyone
laughed, and made comments (myself included), and I tried to figure
out how the hell I was going to pull it off, and I don’t think anyone,
not even me, in my wildest dreams, ever believed that I would ever get
to write the following:

I am a standup comedian.

Vince Martin (

  1. North To Alaska – Box Car Willie
  2. Anchorage – Michelle Shocked
  3. Alaska & Me – John Denver
  4. From Alaska To L.A. – Wanda Jackson
  5. Stephanie Says – Velvet Underground
  6. When It’s Springtime In Alaska – Johnny Cash
  7. My Elusive Dreams – George Jones & Tammy Wynette
  8. Fairbanks, AK – Joe Walsh
  9. Far Alaska – Jethro Tull
  10. Home To Alaska – Lee Greenwood
  11. Murder Rap – Fat Joe
  12. Road To Alaska – Bee Gee’s
  13. The Prince William Sound – David Dondero
  14. Hard Hearted Hannah – Ella Fitzgerald
  15. I’ve Been Everywhere – Johnny Cash

    Alaska: The Place Where The Sun Don't Shine. Literally.

Dear Answer Man, what’s the story regarding the guy who stands on Second Street Southwest every day in his swim trunks and waves to passing cars?

Thousands of commuters see this jolly, half-nude fellow with the big belly every day, so I figured it’s about time to get the facts.

His name is Joseph Johnson; he’s 43, lives in the apartment building in front of which he stands in the 800 block of Second Street Southwest, and he waves “peace” to passers-by for at least a few hours a day. When I stopped to talk with him Sunday, he was in a very – well, peaceful – mood, drinking a diet cola and wearing his trademark swimsuit and nothing else.

Why does he stand in front of his apartment building and wave at people on one of the city’s busiest streets?

“I do it because it makes people feel good,” says Joseph. “I want them to feel happy. We’ve been through so much with the wars,” with the economy and so on, he says.

As I noticed while talking with him yesterday, a lot of people wave back. He must be onto something.

Rochester Post Bulletin – Rochester, MN – Monday, July 12, 2010

  1. As of right now, what has actually really changed since the bills were signed into law? Not a lot. Children and adults can’t get dropped from their health insurance because they got sick or had a pre-existing condition. And now college students who stay at home can stay on their parents insurance until age 26, which would cover most people through their masters depending upon what they majored in of course. I don’t care if you’re Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish or atheist: whatever moral compass steers your life cannot justify not helping someone who is sick. To blame someone for getting a disease is faulty thinking we abandoned thousands of years ago. And even if you ARE that asshole, no, the state doesn’t save money by not insuring smokers, alcoholics, the morbidly obese, etc. We all know they still go to the emergency room and then we have to foot the entire bill. This just spreads the responsibilty around a little bit more. That’s it!

    Reform happens when donut holes are closed. Period.

2. Next year, the only thing that changes is that all prescription drugs get a 50% discount if you’re on Medicare who are in the really big gap in Part D drug coverage. In other words, the majority of old people in the United States pay full price right now and have for some time for their price-inflated medication. The reason why is because the pharmaceutical industry manipulated the legislation by paying off Congress and the Senate via campaign donations and Capitol Hill Lobbyist. (This was all done under the W/GOP administration, for the record.) This undoes the sneaky & underhanded backdoor dealings that allowed drug companies to get rich by ripping off old people. Old people like your grandparents. So, yes, this does affect you, me and everybody else. Our grandparents deserve that half off discount, get over it.  

The only ones who don’t benefit are drug companies, not you.

 3. What happens in 2013, three from years now? Absolutely nothing! Over the next seven years, if the Republicans haven’t killed this off by then, Medicare will take SEVEN MORE YEARS to slowly, gradually close that donut hole. In other words, stop the drug companies from over charging senior citizens. Again, no legitimate school of philisophic thought can justify ripping off old folks. No debate, no question.

If you hate your elders so much you don't want to help pay your fair share to help them out, you're an asshole.

4. What happens in 2014, four years from now? If you don’t get health insurance, you have to pay a fine. Why? Because you’re being a dick and you should be punished, that’s why. By not opting in, the rest of us have to pay even more taxes than we already do. If you’re an employer who doesn’t offer health insurance for your workers, you pay a fine. Why? Same thing – you’re making it hard for the rest of us who are trying to make this problem better. It goes without saying that the state run buying pools or exchanges or whatever suck. The good news is members of Congress, the people who passed this in the first place, will have to use these. I’m going to take a wild guess that this sort of thing wouldn’t have happened if McCain hadn’t gotten elected.

Schadenfreude is a beautiful thing, my friend.

5. What happens in 2017, 7 years from now? Large employers, not just small business owners, have the ability to get in on competitive exchanges. In plain English, that means health insurance companies now have to be competitive. You know, capitalism. Remember that? Unfettered capitalism means prices go down via Adam’s Smith invisble hand as multiple companies compete for the consumer dollar. Before, these health care corporations had gentlemen’s agreements and price fixing and collusion and any other corruptive, illegal practice you can think of and 13 infuriatingly devious new ones you probably haven’t heard of yet. All this does is make a clear playing field so it’s fair again. Not letting people cheat is not socialism, it’s simply the right thing to do. And if you think cheating is ok because it’s profitable, you need to go back to Kindergarten.

Health Care Exchanges

Health care companies only make a profit if they deny you treatment you need. Screw them.

6. What happens in 2018, 8 years from now? The so-called Cadillac health benefit plans get taxed more. This is for folks with really sweet deals, usually union gigs. I’m in a union that opposed this and I agree with them. I don’t think anyone gets unecessary tests for fun. (And if hypochondriacs act like they’re at an all-you-can-eat-buffet, they should undoubtedly be punished.) A lot of union members gave up other benefits like wage increases because they wanted to keep their health care. Probably because they have a chronic, expensive conditon like asthma. The good news is it will only affect people who are definitely considered upper middle class so they can afford it and no one’s going to die over this tax. Again, all it’s doing is helping making everyone pay. Otherwise, health care companies would continue to operate their death panels with impunity and throw elaborate yacht parties for their henchmen.

I'm in a union and I still qualify for poor people insurance, so I don't feel too bad for my co-workers.

7. So what happens in 2020, ten years from now? The donut hole is closed for good. Again, assuming, the GOP hasn’t destroyed this: that’s a wet dream for the Tea Party libertarian set. This basically means drug companies got 7 years to prepare themselves for not being able to rip off old people quite as much as before. Granny and Gramps pay what they should for their meds and Big Pharma can’t bilk them OR the state OR drug stores. How is that so horrible? It’s not like any health companies is going to go out of business over this so the jobs are saved.

Nobody likes paying more taxes, especially a poor dude such as myself. If anybody has a better idea other than just opposing it, I'm all ears.

I challenge any and all conservatives, Republicans, GOP mouthpieces, rugged individualists or anyone else for that matter to refute any of the  7 claims I just made. I admit I haven’t read the whole bill front and back and I venture you haven’t either. But for this to count, you can’t just regurgitate something you heard on Fox News or talk radio. Or parrot a blog back at me, for that matter. I’m talking legitimate, creditable news services. If you have actual documented facts that are scientifically proven and statistically valid, in other words TRUTHS, I will happily take this post down and admit you are right and I am wrong. In the meantime, I’m going to assume I understand current health care legislation better than hysterical street protestors who need to settle down long enough to make their signs grammatically AND factually correct.

  1. All of their songs are about killing white people, politics, anti-Christianity and Satan. All of their lyrics. All of them! With metal, consistency is key my friends.
  2. The extreme metal band (I mean that in the best possible sense of the word) featured (or did feature at one time or another) members of Fear Factory, Static X AND the Dead Kennedy’s.
  3. Stage names include the following: Pinche Peach, Fantasma, El Cynico, Cristo De Pisto, El Sadistico and Marijuana Machete.
  4. The first album was largely banned from public sale because the cover art featured a shot of a hand holding up a real decapitated head. According to legend, the head in question was a victim of serial killer Adolpho de Jesus Constanzo. Costanzo’s crimes arguably make Richard Ramirez and Charles Manson seem like rank amateurs by comparison.  A movie about his cult starring Sean Astin came out 3 years ago.
  5. The gimmick: They perform under fake names because they are Mexican drug lords, hiding their identities behind masks because they are wanted by the Fed’s. Their lineup has changed over time and could be different at any point, much like the Residents.
  6. Song titles include the following: The Macarena (cover), El Patron, Demoniaco! and Machetazos!
  7. Album titles include the following: Spanglish 101, Mextremist and The Mexecutioner.

In case you need any further convincing, click here. Or here.

This makes Unsane album covers look practically tasteful by comparison.

6. New TV series about testing firearms starring Don Johnson, Cheech Marin & The Ghost Of Hunter S. Thompson

5. 1990’s-era Jean Claude Van Damme film, the one where JCVD pours oil down the throats of BP executives until their stomachs explode.

4. 1980’s-era Nintendo video game with “all your base are belong to us”-translated Engrish dialogue for the cut scenes. “Somebody set up us the bomb! You have no chance to survive make your time!”

3. Imaginary sex act made up by junior high virgins who’ve never even had a girlfriend yet.

2. Now defunct ZZ Top cover band from Macon, GA.

1. X-Men villain.

Photo courtesy of CBC News in Canada

“I think humor delineates who your friends really are. I worked on Little Noises (1992) with Rik Mayall, and he described to me a theory of humor. With pack animals, if there’s a sick one in the bunch, the others will growl at it and try to get rid of it. This translates to the comedian on-stage. There are two types of comedians. One who says, “Everybody laugh at that person,” and the braver comedian who makes them laugh or growl at himself. It brings people together. The audience laughs at this sick thing: they become a part of this clan or tribe. And that’s where you get your friends: you share a certain humor about the sick and the foolish.”

Photo Credit: CBS Late Show With David Letterman