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.


Blogger Michelle said...

i think asking people you respect for advice and not listening to it is a good strategy. what do they know, those with experience and a desire to help? fuck them. BE YOURSELF but listen to those who know better. you rule.

3:33 AM  
Blogger Dot Dwyer said...

Uh, I agree with Michelle. However, I didn't hear the "pain is leaving the body bit."

8:14 PM  

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