Saturday, October 29, 2005

I think I might Actually be a Comedian

I think I might actually be a comedian.

How do I know this? Is it because I got into the Aspen or Montreal Comedy Festivals, or got a gig on HBO? Maybe I got a great headlining gig at some conference or convention I've been trying to work?

No, no and no.

I've been told by people that I respect, people that are comedy, for years that it is never about those things and most comics will never get them, and getting them won't make you happy anyway.

Comedy is, for those who love it, an obsession, a burning desire, a need to be on stage, to tell your stories, "bits" jokes, a need to be the center of attention even when you are terrified of being the center of attention. Love of comedy supersedes a desire for a winning lottery ticket, a Mercedes, or the perfect hummer. If any that makes sense to, you might just be a comic.

It's that drive that compels you to write and perform on stage in spite of butterflies, limited opportunity and common sense.

I started doing comedy since 1998. I performed about once a month for a year and quit for four years until I was asked to perform at a convention I had spoken at (but never done comedy at.)

It was a terrible idea, and I said "no". But, I was eased toward doing it by people that could see it something I could do and something that would be good for me to do. So I said "yes" and spent four months getting in shape, getting on stage three or four times a week. I was somehow able to pull it off, performing for over an hour, something that is absurd, should never be done and I wouldn't do again with the limited experience I had...but it worked, it came naturally. They invited me back the following year (last year.)

I spent that year in between performing, writing and getting better, and the conference went even better than the year before. None of that made me a comedian. That was cool, but I never really felt committed to comedy. To me, comedy was like a cute girl I knew I should like more, but for some reason just couldn't get excited about enough to marry. It didn't matter that everyone else thought we were a great couple, I didn't feel it in my heart.

I remember seeing an outright look of horror and bewilderment on EJ Murphy's face last year when I answered a question with, "yeah, I don't know if I'll be doing comedy next year."

He looked at me as if to say, "Good God man, snap out of it, you're talking nonsense!"

As was so often said about Drew Bledsoe during his days as a Patriot, I was missing the "fire in the belly", the compulsion, the utter need to perform that all great, and even good comedians require.

Yesterday, that all changed, or maybe it started changing along the way and I only became aware of it yesterday. A pretty amusing thought came to me surrounding one of my blackout episodes as a teenager, and I realized it would fit perfectly on the end of a bit I was already doing. The premise was clear enough and I knew there was a damn good joke in there somewhere, but it just wouldn't write itself. I know and respect someone (can't recall who) that gets quite irritated at the "jokes write themselves" philosophy, but they sort of do with me. Things just come to me, and they are funny.

I tried to write the joke and couldn't, so I called a comedy pal. Not home.

Called a civilian friend and told them the story, hoping the joke would pop out at me, show itself, which it did to a degree, but still- not really a joke as much as an amusing anecdote.

Called another comedy pal, and she answers, and pointed something out to me about my joke that I hadn't noticed.

I called another my roommate and said, "whadaya think of this?"

The first comedy pal calls back and I run it by her. The joke is still choppy and doesn't really work.

I stop thinking about it and it pops into my head in a different form... better. I think I might have a joke.

As I was driving down to Harvard Sq ( a terrible idea to begin with at 6:15 on a Friday night, take the train, ya lazy bastard) and a song popped on 93.7 FM, an entire bit unfolded during the song. I was playing with the idea in my head, steering the wheel with my knee and writing in my battered comedy mini-notebook which I always keep in my back pocket. as i searched fruitlessly for a parking space, cursing myself for the decision to drive instead of taking the train like a sensible person, I worked and re-worked the bit in my head, feeling I had discovered another nice addition to a piece of comedy that I know already works.

Forgetting I was on my way to meet a cute, sweet girl to catch a flick, I skipped ahead in my mind to the next time I could possibly get on stage to try this material out.

Sunday night.


Even though it was just two days away, it felt like a year.

I met the woman in front of the Harvard Sq Theater just in time for the movie, pushing jokes and stage time out of my head and trying to focus on things at hand. She looked cute as hell, I love her short choppy brunette hair and she has a great smile. We saw a great movie "Good Night, and Good Luck" (which I had already seen).

During the film, I noticed that practically every character in every scene was smoking like a chimney. A thought came, "these people are smoking so much, I feel like I have a spot on MY lung."

"That's a joke," I thought as I struggled to get my comedy notebook out of my corduroys.

Now if only a few more people will see this movie so I can use it.

At the end of the move, my friend mentioned that she was pretty beat, but would be game for a cup or coffee or something as long as it wasn't too late a night. There was no hesitation on my part.

"Why don't we call it a night if you're beat and we can pick up where we left off next time?"

"You don't mind?"

I didn't. I was already doing the math in my head.

If I can get to the Comedy Studio by 9:15, here's a slight chance I can get a 5-7 minute set and try this stuff out. I walked my friend to her car, trying out the material, casting aside caution and throwing material at her involving blackouts and teen angst at not getting laid. Sure, I wanted to impress her, but this was comedy after all, it was more important than someone's opinion of me.

I was aching to see if it was as good as I'd hoped it was, and Sunday was too long to wait to find out. I got to the Studio about 9:15, but I could see there was no extra time. I stayed and enjoyed the rest of the show, chomping at the bit for my shot. I wanted to weep openly that I had to work my "day job" when Rick (club manager) asked if I could help out tonight (Saturday) and work the door, knowing I could get stage time if I did.

There is an old religous (or spiritual) saying: Your life is God's gift to you. What ypou make of it is your gift to God.

Maybe the premise is God's gift, or my muse's gift, or whatever makes sense to you's gift to me, and the joke I write is my gift to my muse.

I swear, I don't come up with most of this stuff, it happens in my life, or in my head, and I just jot it down. But there is something magical about the process, the craft of comedy... of taking a funny premise and turning it into gold. There's just nothing quite like it.

My old friend Penny is coming for a visit tomorrow all the way from Vegasbabyvegas. The host of Sunday night's show was kind enough to squeeze me in for a short set.

Whether there's 12 people there or a hundred, I can't wait to hit the stage.


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