Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Okay, so I am really struggling to come up with my set for the Boston Comedy Festival, which starts next weekend. My preliminary round is two weeks from Thursday. Like usual, I have put it off and put it off.

I honestly don't know what to put in. I tried writing down my favorite punch lines, narrowing it to 20 or so... but the main problem is that I am not a jokey-joke type of guy. Most of my "bits" are 4-8 minutes long, and the entire set in the first round is only 6 minutes long. Meaning I have to either re-write jokes, take segments and try to put stuff together that doesn't need much in the way of segues, or just go with one bit that I believe in and let the ships fall where they may.

If I did one bit, I would certainly stand out, as the object in contests generally seems to be how many punch lines you can jam into the set. This would give the audience an opportunity to get to know me better than if I am set-up/punchling them to death. the drawback is that if they aren't buying the bit full-on, I'm screwed. It'll be too late to shift gears at that point.

If I edit jokes and patch them together, there's a chance it won't be smooth, especially since I don't have enough time to work new joke combinations etc out in front of audiences to really be comfortable.

I talked to some guys with a lotta time in this game and got two different perspectives. One guy with about 25 years in told me to cut, cut and re-cut and jam as many punch lines in as I can. He is also a veteran of the contest and a finalist in the past.

Another guy that used to run and judge these contests told me to be myself and pick my best bit and go with it. If it's funny, I'll do fine. He also told me not to worry about tailoring to a prticular type of judge, because you can't possibly know what you'll get, though I was told the judges in last year's contest were very experienced.

I'm hogtied. I can't wait for my friend Dot to get back from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in today. She is a comedy veteran, but perhaps more importantly, she "gets" my brand of comedy, so her advice is likely to be on point. I also asked my friend Mike Sweeney to help me out and go over my material, suggesting what he thinks would work best. he has been around a good while, but again- he gets me, so he's a good guy to ask for help.

One thing he does that helps is tell me my own jokes, slashing everything that isn't absolutely neccesary. It is painful sometimes for me to kill my own darlings. But he retells a joke after hearing it once or twice and generally only remembers the key points.

So I trimmed and trimmed and came up with about 18 minutes worth of material that I need to pare down to 6 minutes. There are some lines I just HAVE to get in there. My favorite new joke is out... it's just too long to get the punch lines, which come in a flurry, but take too long to reach.

I'll just leave you with this punchline: "...apparently Rick Springfield is a, ah...real piece of shit."

I am also excited about a relatively new bit I am doing called, "Pain is weakness leaving the body"... but Sweeney shot it down. I'll have to consult with Dot and hope she co-signs my love of the joke. I primarily love the joke because it is short, fits in anywhere and I can do it basically in its entirety without too much slashery. Obviously, it's my set and I can do what I want, but why bother consulting people you respect and not listen to them?

Sweeney had a good point... who am I?

I'm FROM here, so embrace that. I don't want to do all local humor, which is an express ticket to abig audience response, followed immediately by a quick exit from the contest, but a little identification with my roots is a good thing.

This leads me to want to put in "Massachusetts Drivers" which I can keep fairly short and has one terrific punch line... but only one great punch line, and it also has a really specific local reference. Also jamming me up is the absolute requirement to use my joke about red lights, because it is the first thing people and fellow comics say to me when they recall a set I did.

A dilemma... a huge part of my identity is being a recovered alkie/comedian, so do I really want to invest 1/3 of my set on traffic material? Especially when that material takes longer to unfold and has more punch lines throughout any given bit.

Well, I'll tell ya, I felt a little sketchy before I wrote this blog, but now I feel much...awfuller... even though it isn't a word, it's still how I feel.

Strangely though, I have a feeling that I will rifle off a few prayers of desperation, ask for help, and talk to my wonderful friends, show up, and everything will work out just fine.

That's the thing about comedy, ultimately, it's just you up there, all alone, but not really. When I think that way, I usually panic and don;t so nearly as well as when i just accept that I am just a guy with a sense of humor. I have never written a thing. I just roam around the world and things are funny to me, and usually amuse other people as well. When I look at it as my job to just show up and be myself, and let the comedy flow through my personality, it seems to go exceedingly well. When I overmanage, overrehearse, try to control the outcome... well things don't often go to swimmingly.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I hate judging contests

Okay, so last Saturday I was asked to judge in the "South Shore Comedy Riot" in Marshfield at a place called Courtney's. I had the night free and it was fifty bucks so I figured, "ah, what the hell, I have nothing else to do."

The contest is for comedians with less than three years experience. There are three "heats" or preliminaries or whatever you want to call them. This was the last of the three, with the night's winner taking home (I think $100) and the second place finisher advancing to the finals to be held next Saturday night at the same location. The winners of the first two heats were two of my favorite local comics: Shane Mauss and Orlando Baxter, who are both original, likable and kick ass. Apparently, there were some crazy ties in the previous heats, so there were already 8 people qualified for the final, including two "wild cards"... which go to the performers that scored the highest while finishing out of the top two places in their heats.

Each comic was judged on three fronts, 1) audience response 2) writing & originality 3) performance (that was my category)

Well, it was a wild night in Marshfield. We wound up with a four-way tie for first, all with 25 points. the best part of it for me was that I was able to hear two guys with a lot of years in the business critiquing performers. I got a good understanding that no matter how funny it is, a hacky bit (something that has been done to death) is going to cost you in a contest like this no matter how much people laugh at it.

Though, it does call into question how Tom Cotter won last year's Boston Comedy Festival with a joke about the likelihood of a seat on a plane left in the "recline position" causing a plane wreck, and referring to euphemisms being silly and citing calling homeless guys "urban outdoorsman" (which I have heard a number of times) as a potential example. Don't get me wrong- he killed, and I thought he deserved to win as much as anyone, but in my mind his victory was based on performance and crowd response, not originality in material, as he was arguably the least original of all eight finalists.

Anyway- Saturday... I knew several of the performers, so I was immediately uncomfortable. I did my best to disregard my personal feelings about them and judged as fairly as possible. One of the things I hated was judging strictly on the performance category. The guy I thought was best didn't have the best stage presence or command of the audience, nor did he look like a pro in any capacity. He had this nervous twitch which I found incredibly distracting and drove me nuts. he also had waaaay too much material about beating off. I know the kid is 21 or something, but the for the love of... talk about something else. Aside from that, he was incredibly original and outright hilarious. I told him afterward that he did great and he might want to consider reducing the spooge jokes to half of his set or less.

I sat there thinking, "who am I to determine which of these people gets a shot at 10 grand next week? Who am I to say who is funny and who isn't?"

Some of the choices were easy. I am a nicky nice guy, but cripes, some people just need to be told to stop. Stop performing, stop writing jokes, just stop it, in the name of your dignity, in the name of comedy, in the name of all that is still holy in this world, get off...get off the stage.

One guy, seemingly quite a nice chap trotted out horrid impression after horrid impression. If the lines weren't so hacky and the impressions so done-to-death-by-way-of-torture I wouldn't have known who the fuck he was impersonating half the time.

I was sure he had gone way over his time limit and was shocked to find that he came in under 6 minutes. It felt like half an hour. I sat there after the first minute and half wincing at my velcro watch (cuz I'm that classy) and by the end of the set, felt as though I had been robbed of 8 minutes of life that I could never get back.

The field was evenly split between people that clearly "get it" and folks that don't. Maybe they will, I don't know. I can only hope these guys have people that care about them enough to tell them the truth. One kid kept shifting from robbing Rodney Dangerfield to cribbing Johnny Carson. He couldn;t wuite decide which of them he wanted spinning is his grave. I couldn't quite bring myself to give him the boot him in the ass he so desperately needed.

I think my greatest resentment was the lack of forsight that if you have a lot of comics, and only three judges and ten possible points... you're going to have a lot of ties. I can only hope they go to 100 point system or something for the final. I have already decided judging just isn't for me. I was meant to be on the stage, not dissecting other people's performances.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Vanquishing the "bad set" Comedy Demons

Did a short set at The Vault last night. The Boston Comedy Festival is just around the corner. I was fairly surprised I was invited to it, and fairly terrified when I drew "The Vault" for my preliminary (which is on Thursday, Sept. 15th, so you better show up!)

Dick Doherty's Beantown Comedy Vault, better known by local comics as "The Vault", has been around for years. I used to refer to it as "The Morgue", because it seemed like a place that a lot of damn good jokes have gone to die. To say my memories of The Vault are less than good would be an epic understatement.

I last performed at The Vault circa 1999, and truthfully, that show was one of the reasons I stopped doing comedy. Any comic reading this now is likely to be disgusted and chanting "pansy" or worse in their head, but it was not so much a nightmare as a seven hour root canal. It was near the end of my first year in comedy. I hadn't been working at all on new material and was doing basically the same 5 or 6 minute set I had been doing for the last year. It was what is called a "bringer show". This is a show where each performer is required to bring paying customers in exchange for stage time. Generally, these shows are overbooked because the point of this type of show is to maximize the audience. Also, the only comics that do these shows are brand new comics, as no one that's been around a while A) is willing to do a show where they are required to bring friends B) has any friends left that haven't already seen their lame-ass five minute set twelve friggin' times.

So yeah, by design, these shows are awful.

The show I was on had... ready? THIRTY-ONE comics on it. That's a lot of bad comedy. The show lasted about three and a half hours. About a third of the way into the show, the host started thanking the audience for "hanging in there" and promised they'd all get to see their friend perform soon. Wow... talk about creating an ambiance of hilarity!

A couple of the comics were veterans that had stopped in to get a set in, and these guys were hysterical- but got zilch from the crowd. This sent me into panic. "Holy crap," I thought, "that guy was awesome, and they hated him... they're going to throw me to the lions."

Midnight came and went and I did my pathetic set. I faintly recall grousing on stage at the jokes they didn't laugh at, which was all of them. I left the place wondering what the hell I was doing in comedy. I clearly wasn't working at it, wasn't getting better, but was actually worsening. It dawned on me that I was doing this just for the ego boost of having a few people pat me on the back and tell me how funny I was, and that had stopped. Boston legendary comic and all-around good guy DJ Hazard says (and actually Tony V says this all the time, too) "Have fun...if you're not having fun, get out" I'm paraphrasing people, but that's the gist of it.

Well, it wasn't fun, and I wasn't working at it. If anything, I owe The Vault. That night made me see the simple truth- I wasn't cut out for comedy. Comedy is a craft, an art that like anything else, needs to be practiced, honed, lived, and I wasn't living it, I was hanging around the fringe trying to syphon energy from people that poured their souls into this thing.

So I left. I stopped doing comedy and it was a good thing for me and the comedy scene that I did. A few years later, I was asked to perform at a convention. I had given a lot of recovery talks filled with humor, and somebody heard that I had once done stand up, so they asked me if I would do a show at the convention. Naturally I said, "NO!"

"I'm not a comedian," I said telling the truth for a change.

Unfortunately, I have this dude that I refer to as a "spiritual advisor" and he suggested that stand up was sort of in line with the one man show I was talking about writing and still haven't written) and should I maybe pray about it.

Fuck no, I shouldn't pray about it. When I ernestly pray, things NEVER go the way I think they should go, I always end up taking risks, endangering my ego and growing up, which really sucks.

...but I did pray about it, called the board memeber up and said a grudging, "yes."

Like so many "yes"es, that yes changed my life. I procrastinated for a few months, writing nothing. I presented myself before the board and asked them to hire a "real comedian, a headliner" and just let me host, but the budget was shot and they had no funding for it. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to fail ultimately. That 3 or 4 hundred people were going to see me die on stage and go tell two friends, and they'd tell two friends, and so on, and so on and so on... the end result of course being that everyone on the planet that mattered would realize what a douchebag I was.

But that didn't happen. I put off preparing as long as I could, but when I asked God to guide me and showed up, I seemed to get through things. My first time back on stage in four years was terrifying. I got a spot at The Lizard Lounge, a show that was really cool but is now defunct as its founder moved to Washington DC. The crowd was small but attentive and the other comics on the show were very good that night.

I had written some stuff I thought was pretty good, but when I got up there, I went totally blank for what was probably ten or fifteen seconds, but felt like an hour. Memories of The Vault began to creep into my mind, doubts flooded, my ego began to chant, "you can't do it, give it up, quit."

I stopped, taking just one more second, and said a simple prayer. I started on whatever piece of material popped into my head, whatever I could recall of what I had written and just ran with it. I wonder how many people that night said a prayer, then told a joke about premature ejaculation... probably only five or six at the most.

After my set, a guy named Dan Sally who is now one of my favorite local comics came over to me and told me I did a good job. Focusing on the negative, I said, "...but I choked."

Dan said, "yeah, we all choke sometimes... but you came back strong."

"Really?" I thought, but said nothing but "thanks."

They had a tradition of giving the comic with best new material a gift certificate for $20 to the restaurant upstairs at the end of the show. When my name was called, I thought it was some kind of prank, but it was my first awareness that I could really do this if I just got out of the way, and stopped thinking so damn much about what everyone else thought of me and could just be myself on stage, I could really do it.

A few months later, I performed in front of those several hundred folks, and they were the kindest, most generous audience I had had up to that point. I was doing a lot of recovery material, stuff I couldn't do in clubs, so about 70% of the material I did was for the very first time in front of a live audience. I can't stress enough how much a terrible idea this is- but it worked. I didn't think I had ennough material, so just brought everything in the bag and unloaded. 70 minutes later, the show was over and people were asking me where I performed in Boston.

"Nowhere, I thought, this show was it, I'm done."

But I wasn't done yet. I stuck with it, took it seriously and embraced comedy. Through little effort and much luck, I got several show offers at conferences and conventions, including one opportunity to cruise the Caribbean for free in exchange for a performance.

I started to enjoy it in spite of myself. If I wasn't having fun, I tried to remember that I was providing a service and to do my job, trust that the Big Guy knows what He's doing and just show up as best I could. A year later, I was invited back to the same convention, and this time, there were more people attending. The crown was great.

I killed.

On the day I got accepted to the Boston Comedy Festival, I cringed when I saw my preliminary was at The Vault. The same voices chanted in my head, "what were you thinking?" "you can't do this!", "look at how talented these other people are", and my favorite, "CLEARLY, they've made a terrible mistake..." Guilt washed in over the terrific local comedians that weren't invited, including some of my absolute favorites.

I didn't want to show up for the preliminary with my last memory of The Vault, my only memory of The Vault, so I stopped in on a Saturday night and did a short set. It was okay, at least better than my previous experience by a longshot. Plus, I needed to get a feel for the room, its nooks and crannies, the sound, remembering to involve the people in the back with eye contact, and looking almost straight down to catch the people in the front row as well. I ran into Greg Howell, who books Thursday nights now at The Vault. It is a showcase, meaning many comics (19 last night). I asked him when I could get on and he gave me a date, August 25th.

As I sat where all the comics sit, literally in the "vault", I realized it felt like a different room now. The place was absolutely packed. As the show progressed, the crowd showed itself to be what I call "joke-to-joke". Meaning; they laughed, and laughed heartily, but judged each comic on a joke to joke basis, and didn't chuckle much during set up lines, even when they were reasonably funny. It was a good crowd, but crowds like that are hard to get on a roll. I sensed they wouldn't be into my thing of marinating with a thought and letting them get to know me, so I shortened the set ups and kind of charged to the punch lines. Most crowds want to get to know you, but it felt like these guys were more into material, and hey, with 19 comics doing short, tight sets, they might have a point.

It now dawns on me that I might just have a chance of becoming a comedian, slowly but surely. The old me would have plunged ahead with my plan of attack and blamed the crowd for being lousy, but my ears must have accidentally been open or something when DJ, Tony V or Tim McIntyre were talking about what it really means to be a comic, about not blaming crowds, but adjusting to them- they paid to see YOU, be grateful they don';t have much sense.

I had a sudden appreciation for the job Greg Howell has done turning this room into an actual good venue. A comic named Owen was upstairs chomping at the bit- wishing he was on the bill that night, genuinely excited about the packed house downstairs. I liked the way Greg gives a new guy a genuine "good set" and a look in the eyes so you can tell he means it, how he stays on comics to keep to time (okay, by "stays on" I mean "threatens"...he's sort of like the Mike Ditka of The Vault...but you know what- if I'm not mistaken, Ditka won a championship.)

Why did it take me until now to realize that there never really was anything wrong with The Vault, but that most of the difficulty rested with my work ethic and attitude?

Man, I can't wait to hit the stage at the Vault on September 15th. You know, from what I hear... it's a pretty good room.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Peasants in the Pit

Okay...so I have been woefully inadequate with regard to any kind of consistency in writing this blog. I really should either write it daily (or as close to daily as I can muster0 or NOT do it at all.

I wanted to write about a great experience I had last Saturday night. I was working, taking care of my autistic charge, and headed down to Harvard Square with said chap, and several friends in tow. After hitting Pizzaria Uno for dinner, we headed over to the "Pit" to hear this band "the Peasants" play.

For those not of Cambridge or those who may be unfamiliar with Harvard Square... there are several locations in Harvard Sq where musicians play guitars (or boxes or pieces of wood with a few strings on them) people paint, sing, juggle etc. The mpost coveted locale being "The Pit", a large circular area right next to one of the subway (hereby know as the "T") exits. It has a good sized circumference where folks can get a good view of whatever may be going on in the Pit.

The regular act in the Pit on Saturday nights for the summer has been the Peasants, a local rock band fronted by guitarist/singer Pete Cassani. Anybody sitting down for even a few minutes can see that this guy can play the hell out of his guitar, can play anything and play it to perfection.

In case you ain't from 'round these parts, The Peasants have been playing for about fifteen years, starting out as the Velcro Peasants and changing their name to simply The Peasants after a suit was filed by the folks at Velcro

Backed by a helluva drummer named "Dave" and a solid bass player, Pete answers requests for Hendrix, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and ACDC. Last week, we were in for a special treat as Ray Neades, lead singer for the ACDC cover band and beefy portion of "Beefy DC" stopped by. It is a real mind blower to hear 120 lb Bon Scott's voice coming out of Neade's burly frame, but that's what you got. If you close your eyes, you can scarcely tell the difference.

Cassani is a purist, enjoying every song he plays as though it were his first time, but he is clearly a master at what he does.

Along with the incessant cries for "Aerosmith" and other popular commercial bands, you'll hear the occasional shout for a Peasant's classic like "Bobby's Down South", "Fratboy" or "Girlfriend" from some of the faithful fans that show up week after week to see the Peasants grace the Pit. As you listen, you'll wonder why in the world these guys are here, playing for tips in Harvard Square, selling a few cds and T-shirts, instead of touring clubs. They've done all that, playing throughout the U.S. and Europe, and still do, but as you soak up the show, you sense that there isn't anywhere these guys would rather be. The cover of the Peasant's first cd "Out in the Street" features a photo of Cassani playing his guitar on a sidewalk and being asked to move along by a motorcycle cop.

What most touched me about the show, though, wasn't the terrific music. I was taken by the motly crew tht assembles to dance, sing and mime spastic gyrations around the band. Cassani treats these guys as if they are part of the show, probably because they are.

A guy named Johnny, dressed in sweatpants and several shirts danced the night away, firing front kicks in the air and leaping about, occasionally stopping to throw hand on hip, a la Mick Jagger, to the point where the crowd chanted "Mick...Mick" now and again.

"Tommy" is a guy somehwere between 40 and 90. His weathered but kind face sports a perma-smile that betrays many difficult years. Tommy "runs security" and regularly "works the bucket" for the Peasants, encouraging onlookers to "put two bucks in their pocket, and throw the rest in the bucket". During songs with a political tilt (Cassani is a devout peacelover) Tommy generally dons an army helmet with a giant peace sign painted on it , spending the rest of his time egging on cd sales. Call me a synic, but what most impressed me was that Pete trusted this guy with the cash.

Already astonished by Tommy's energy level in his never-ending sales pitch, my jaw dropped when he took the center of the pit and did some sort of a frenetic dance number, legs pumping like pistons in 90 degree heat.

Surveying the Pit, I saw many down-on-their-luck sorts, one of whom had actually ridden his bike down from Maine. Pete kept exchanging barbs with the Mainer, requesting that he ride home, but all was said through a genuine smile. You could see that Cassani wouldn't have it any other way, he actually liked these people.

"You can't buy this," he quipped in between songs.

During a break, Johnny came and sat next to me. He had a big smile on his face and I found myself wondering when he had smiled last.

"You know, Pete is really cool, he talks to me."

I found myself welling up a bit at the genuine demeanor and clarity of the man.

"A lot of people look away, and can't even say hello. You know...because of my alcoholism and homelessness. If I don't drink, I just start shaking."

"Pete comes out and says hello and listens, and we have a really good time."

I told Johnny I used to drink a lot, too, but I hadn't had a drink since 1996.

God works through people in ways of which they are often unaware. I wonder if Pete and the Peasants know what they really bring to Harvard Square on Saturday nights. Sure, they play great music, get people tapping their toes. They joke and laugh and shake hands. But more importantly, they give a few homeless guys a reason to smile, a chance to be just like everybody else standing around the Pit. For a few hours on a Saturday night, they give guys like Johnny and Tommy a chance to feel like human beings, an opportunity to feel wanted and liked, and a part of.

Geez... I just wanted to hear some good rock and roll. I came away feeling happy and sad and like I needed to do something. Sunday afternoon my thoughts wandered to Johnny had he had anything to eat today? Was he shaking even now? Would he ever know sobriety, freedom and happiness?

I remembered days when I wanted to drink like crazy and the only thing I could do to stay out of my head was buy lunchmeat, make sandwiches and hand them out to homeless guys with a cold Coke. Sometimes they would look at me in disbelief that anyone on the planet could care enough to do this for them and I would realize that I didn't have it quite as bad as I thought

Sometimes things get so good that you forget. Truly great artists make you remember, make you feel emotions you weren't expecting to feel, maybe even emotions you don't want to feel. I've had a nice nap, but thanks for the wake up call, Pete.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Struggling Along

Okay... so I lambasted my pal Eric for slacking on his blog (Murky Words) after I read it and enjoyed it and he took a foew days off. Now I feel his pain; struggling with avoidance, distraction and the like. My difficulties range from having good ideas and being too lazy to write them out to having no ideas or motivation.

A guy from my old writer's group (I say "old" even though we still meet (sort of) because there is damn little "writing" going on in the group), Richard- a British chap who really motivated us when he was here until he got sick of the bludgeoning winters and moved to North Carolina, Richard, yeah that guy... He got his first novel published. It's coming out shortly and I can't wait to read it.

He wrote this great fictional book about a cult in Florida and created a website and a religion to go with it. It was so convincing, people were actually buying that the site was real, it was really well done. It was interesting waiting for him to bring new chapters of the book in each week. We would get pissed when characters died, befell hard times or got the shaft. It was even more intriguing than just reading a book, primarily because we really felt part of the story, like we had some hand in guiding the flow, some investment in the characters and a limited amount of power (but more so than in any book off a bookstore shelf) in determining the character's fates.

I remember the irritation when two characters wound up together in a re-write. I felt betrayed. I so wanted one of them to get iced in the closing scene to add drama. But, all in all, it was a terrific read.

I hope to write on this blog at least five days per week, a clip I haven't come close to meeting. I hope to do better in the future.

When good old Richard's book comes out, I will read it and write a review on here.

This is the website for the book:


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Socks and Sandals

At the risk of serious repercussions, I'm going to write the tale of living with my roommate, Tom. Tom let me know that he would be irritated if I used any instances or occurances in the apartment as fodder for my blog if they involved him. So, with respect to my roommate Tom's wishes, I will refer to my roomate as Salvador, to protect Tom's privacy. All the events in this blog will be attibuted to my fictitious roomie, Sal, and any similarity to Tom and the ridiculous shit he pulls around the house is purely coincidental, and in no way reflects on Tom, my actual roommate.

First, are there even two "M's" in roommate. It doesn't look quite right, but roomate looks really odd... ironically roomie appears normal, yet makes me sound like I'm a sophomore at the kind of college that would accept a candidate such as myself.

The thing is this...I genuinely like Tom, er... "Sal". The guy is a good guy, I mean that. But we posess opposite personalities. Further, he is so nice, and so gullible that it actually whets my appetite for being a tool. I often intend to be a nice guy, but the opportunities for victimizing him are so abundant and sometime appear in such rapid succession that I am like an alkie that wants to stay sober in his heart, but lives in a tent in the middle of a brewery and works as a bartender at the local topless pub.

We have many differences which challenge me. I like to clean stuff up, clear it out, get rid of it if it's not being used. Sal likes to collect everything. The less intrinsic value it has, the better. If there is not one chance in a thousand that something will ever be of any use whatsoever, Sal wants to keep it, preferrably someplace in the open, like a coffee table in a common area or the kitchen counter. That saves misusing the kitchen counter for silly activities like cutting up fruit or veggies. If there is a space open which is big enough to place a cereal bowl, something has gone terribly awry.

That space should be filled with...something, anything. An empty yogurt container, receipts from Burger King. Yeah...receipts from a movie last september or a trip to a McDonald's in 2003 are not uncommon. I could almost understand this, but the guy has never balanced his checkbook in his life and guesses at how much $$ he has in his account.

(Editor's note: after eading this blog, Tom sent me an Im which said, "fu... movie receipts are potentially valuable")

Okay... I can try my best to mind my own business and ignore things that don't affect me. But sometimes, he goes over the line and brings entire neighborhoods down with him. Last weekend
Sal, (who sometimes calls himself Tom) was headed out the door on a beautiful, sunny 87 degree day... wearing black dress socks inside his Birkenstocks.

Pull your shorts up to your ribcage, don't wash a dish for a month, leave laundry all over the front room- no problem, and feel free to leave trash on the kitchen floor a foot from the trash can, if you're game- forget to pay the electric bill if you get the chance, but for the love of God, some things are blasphemous beyond where even Christ Himself can forgive.

I begged Tom (who earlier in this blog was identified as "Sal" for some reason) not to leave the house like that. At first I was gentle, "dude... do you really want to wear black dress socks pulled up to your knees with shorts?"

I wasnt sure whether I had a sober blackout and wound up in Sarasota or there was an influx of German tourists in the apartment.

Salvator-Tommy snubs me and parades out into the street.

Moments later, I get a call from our neighbor, Mrs. Scarpelli. Apparently, a realtor had spied Tom cruising the neighborhood like an aimless Octoberfest seeker and the poor woman's property value had dropped $9,000 in half an hour.

Next I heard an irritating, scrapescrapescrape on the pavement in front of the house. Elderly houligans had somehow gotten the idea that it was okay to play shuffleboard right in the middle of the road.

"This has to stop," I thought.

When Tommy/Sal got home, I pleaded with him to lose the socks. I tried to be helpful, forwarding him a page so he could see the harsh reality of what he was doing to himself, but my sincere attempts to save this dude fell on deaf ears.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Singin' the Liquid Blues

Well, last night's show in portland was less than I hoped it would be. It went okay, but not great. The crowd was like some of the crowds I've run into up there; nice, willing to laugh, but judging you bit by bit, joke by joke. I never felt like I had 'em in my p[ocket and coyuld do what i wanted.

When I occasionally riffed, it was spotty. once they kind of went with me, a couple times they left me at the altar.

The show started with a magician, which is always interesting, but not really.

The first couple comics did pretty well and got the crowd going a bit, but they were still guarded. this guy from Portland really kicked ass and cranked 'em up, then a guy i brought that has been absolutely tearing it up around boston took the stage and got zero love from the audience. you could tell about two minutes into it that they weren't gonna play along. I thought he was staying true to his act that kills around here, but any hint of mean and these guys turned on you.

He did a joke with a comment about a kid with a disability and some lady comes up after his set in a totally supportive manner as if instructing him and says, "you just can't say those things". The only thing that was missing was the "young man" at the end accompanied by a wagging finger. I actually got groans on a joke I've been doing almost two years that has never once gotten a groan, it's not a groan bit... nuns wouldn't even groan at this joke.

After the show. I felt bad for inviting my friend up, but he seemed to take in in stride, "a show's a show". This kid might actually have a chance in comedy.

I'm not totally bummed about my outing, but I just don't feel like I brought it home like I have the last few times I closed shows up there. the room was dead by the time I got up and I just couldn't seem to resuscitate it. I got some laughs, did okay, but didn't come away feeling that great.

On a positive note, I got hired for a gig next January that is exactly the kind of gigs I am looking for, doing comedy at an audience of sobah folks... should be a blast. I mean, I like all audiences, but these are suauly fun because they get what i'm talking about on a different level and I can also mix it up and use some material I can't use in clubs because people wouldn't know what the hell I was talking about.

On another note... my friend Dot emailed me after my last post with a subject line that read PLEASE!!!!

I thought she needed help or something, so I read it immediately. The purpose of the email to PLEASE stop playing on-line poker, "it's draining all your creative energy".

Of course, she is right. next I got a call from my friend who also frequently doubles as my spiritual advisor. "Hey...I just read your blog. Stop writing about poker."

Point taken.

There are plenty of other areas of unmanagability in my life I can focus on.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Getting Started

ok... so a number of potential blog topics ran through my head, and I am beginning to believe this isn;t gonna to be as difficult as I convinced myself it would be... primarily derailing me from any potential commitment to working at anything on any kind of regular basis.

People often ask me where I get material from, how often I write, how I work at it. The shameful answer is that I rarely "work" at it, that most of my "bits" just come to me, and then I might put a little effort in to sharpen them up and tuurn them into comedy.

In thinking about the upcoming Boston Comedy Festival, (http://bostoncomedyfestival.com) I spent some time reviewing my material, plucking out my best punch lines and trying to figure out how to get the most out of six minutes.

It is daunting.

I realized I was going to have to work my ass off... re-write a lot of jokes and change them, condense them re-learn them...argh!!!

This sounds frightenly like...gulp... WORK!

My comedy isn't really designed for contests, for 6 minute sets and for jokey-joke type punchy-punch lines. I have to find a way to craft my material to fit the setup without changing the part of the comedy that makes it mine.

Truth be told, I am lucky to be in the thing, and I am smart enough to know that. Many fine comedians didn't get in, many of whom have more experience and better networking than I have, since I have zero networking right now.

Terrified by the task ahead, I decided to lay out the set I will be performing as the feature at a club called "Liquid Blue" in Portland, ME this Saturday night and focus on that show, which seemed much less intimidating. As I pondered which material to use, I would up with about 45 minutes of material for a 25 minute slot. The process of weeding down the bits to something managble always seems to bring me to a point where nothing is funny, nothing ever was funny, and why am I in comedy anyway?

Fortunately, I have phenomenal avoidance skills, and I hid out in on-line poker tournements for several hours, seqyestered from the danger of productivity. The notion that I am one day into my blogging career and already slacking brought me out of my poker-stupor and into a state of mind closest to the first few moments of consciousness after a bout with thorazine...but here I am, typing away.

Dammit... it feels like time to go review that set list for Saturday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Maiden Voyage

Okay, this is my first ever blog post. I've been meaning to do this for a while, but finally got motivated by my friend Greg starting a blog for our old writing group. I say "old" even though we still meet in some capacity because there is unofrtunately very little writing getting done.

To his credit, Greg-o recently finished his first novel and is working on the second draft. I have all but.... no I have actually abandoned all writing except for writing new comedy bits, and that is sporadic. The bits seem to really write themselves more than I make a concerted effort to produce material. My fiction-writing is non-existent as are my efforts to complete that one-man show I thought was a terrific idea some time starting in what now feels like the late 70's.

Another fairly productive member of our group is Eric, who is reasonably consistent at least with writing on his own Blog, "Murky Words" which is not only amusing, but has a fantastic title.

My friend Dot has been pulgging away at her blog in spite of performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the entire month. I figured, hey, I have no excuse for not at least giving it a shot.

I will make an attempt to write a blog with more substance tomorrow than comments about thinking about writing blogs and who may or may not be actively writing on their blogs currently.



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