Monday, September 18, 2006

Big Funny Sunday

Hmmm... I found myself strangely motivated for no apparent reason this week. During the BCF final, I realized, "damn... I could really do it." I could totally see myself there in the final. It's a strange thing, comedy, but for me, it is a great feeling when I m just starving, dying to mount a stage, and believe me, it isn't always like that.

The crowd was so terrific for the final, I was drooling. After the show, I was hit with an awareness that I need to get better, mostly get more consistent. Another Achilles heel of mine seems to be letting the audience dictate my energy level and commitment to the set. This certainly is not unique to me, but it's a problem for a lot of comics and I am no exception.

As I watched the tape of my BCF preliminary set, I could clearly see where I threw in the towel. About 4 minutes into it, I knew it was over, there was nothing I was going to do to resurrect this crowd. They started flat, were flat for the first comic, flat when I started and would stay that way. This is often something you have no control over. I felt I executed my jokes just as effectively as the previous two nights when I killed, but I should have known the status quo wasn't going to cut it in that situation. I need to come up with something that fits within my stage persona that I can use to ignite a lethargic audience. I can't bank on having a good opener or on being in a showcase with a sparkplug like Dan Hirshon or someone playing right in front of me.

I felt renewed yesterday, however. Ideas were flowing. I even picked p and started laying out my old one-man show "Allergic to Life". This damn thing will basically write itself if I can get off my ass. I have performed most of it in one form or another over the years, I just need to glue it together.

When I got out of work, I headed down to the Comedy Studio to see if I could get a set in. As it turned out, I had forgotten that they were having auditions for Comedy Central, the final showcase of this year's Boston Comedy Festival, so it would be impossible to get on. As I looked at the lineup, I saw a lot of good comics on there, but had to wonder why I wasn't in the lineup.

Is it laziness? My four months off? Am I not pro-active enough and I wait to be invited instead of letting people know I am ready and really want it? I don't know, but I am going to ask the people that have the experience and do know. The funny thing was how virtually every comic was surprised when I wished them luck and headed out the door to catch a set at another club. To a man, they assumed I was on the roster, which kinda made me feel good.

For a moment, I toyed with the idea f going home and playing an internet poker tournament, shutting my brain off, but I hinched myself up and headed south to Dorchester, The Emerald Isle. A couple of local comics have a show down there called "Big Funny Sunday", Chris and Corey, both good guys. Since the Isle is often ONLY comics, and no real audience, I never go there unless I am buffing up an ancient bit that they haven;t heard, or trying brandy-new stuff that I wrote like, that day. I had three new bits, so I thought it was worth a shot.

I got there and there were about six patrons, 4 black women and two white chicks, and of course, the comics strewn about the place. The cool thing was that for a minute audience, they were really into the show, except for "Joyce", one of the white women. She was making her first (and last) appearance at Big Funny Sunday. Poor Joyce was one of these people I can never figure. Why would you go to a comedy show with the determination to remain miserable, cross your arms in the front row and grimace for two hours?

Chris and Corey were kind enough to work me in fairly early. It's hard to explain, but the greatest feeling I ever had on stage was during this set I did at a dump in Somerville. Nobody was listening before I got up, the place was a nut bin, people playing keno and yelling numbers, a real horror-show. I absolutely blew the roof off, I just winged it, took some chances and used the bassist material I had, roughed it up and ran with it. Killing that crowd was more satisfying than killing in front of 600 willing patrons.

It was kind of like that last night. I always figure, if I can make comics laugh, anyone will laugh at this stuff, and all my new crap worked to perfection. I was so glad I went down there, and shocker... some guy from Providence that books shows was there and asked for my card.

Earlier in the evening, I was chatting with a veteran comic, a guy I not only think is hilarious, but for whom I have respect. I said, "Ya know... I've got to either stop doing comedy, or start doing comedy."

He said, "I know what you mean, brotha."

Here's hoping I can at last abandon singing the "half-assed blues" and start kicking some ass.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Boulger Rocks BCF FInal, is denied re-entry to Theater

In what has to perceived as an homage to honor the 2nd anniversary of Rodney Dangerfield's death, Dan Boulger was denied re-entry into the very theater in which he won 2006's Boston Comedy Festival Final.

The show was dynamite. Ryan Hamilton came out of the shoot firing darts, it was jokejokejokejoke, and they were all damn good. This guy is terrific. He won the 2005 Sierra Mist "Next Great Comic" and was tearing up this year's BCF, and tonight was no different. Shane Mauss was second, and had a solid set. I have performed with and watched Shane for a couple of years now, and this guy is one of my favorite performers. With his boy-next-door looks, you never expect the next things that comes out his mouth, the guy is a riot. Early BCF favorite Daryl Lenox was third, and had a great set with more serious topics than his earlier counterparts. Great stuff, but to this point, it looked like Hamilton's night. I sat there thinking it was going to take a Herculean...well, Hercules wasn't really that funny... a Carlinian effort to take this away from Hamilton.

Boulger shuffled onto the stage wearing a red hoodie and sneakers, just being Dan Boulger. For a second, I felt like my father as I wondered why the kid couldn't dress up for the biggest night of his life... "dress up and what? be someone else, maybe?" the other voice in my head replied.

I laughed and said, "^&#$% Boulger, a red hoodie" and my friend Dot, who actually predicted he would win said, "that's how he dresses" and all of a sudden I realized that a 20 year old kid, doing comedy for 2 years, had captured what I had mumbled a million times and never grasped... be yourself.

Dan was up there just being himself... and he f***ing destroyed. He looked like he hadn't a care in the world, almost like he had something better to do, but he was supposed to be here for now, so he'd take care of this and go do whatever later.

Boulger mixed brilliant observations and some of the best-written jokes in town with periodic profanity, seemingly always timed just right. The kid looks so innocent, it's hard to imagine what he could say that would be offensive, nothing comes to mind. His pacing was fantastic, he was never in a rush, he could wait until the crowd was ready to get blindsided all over again.

Comedy legend Norm Crosby took the stage to announce the winner. When Dan Boulger emerged to take the crown, BCF grandmaster Jim McCue asked him if he would like to say a few words. In a moment of humility and right in step with Dan's character, he used his time to thank the people that have given him stage time by name. This kid is a peach.

After the contest final, "Lewis Black and Friends" had another show, the final piece of the BCF puzzle for 2006. Dan milled around Remington's (sight of the after party, which would really kick into gear when the Lewis Black show ended) for a while and decided to go back to the Theater to catch the end of the Lewis Black show. He asked him if I felt like going. I said sure, and fellow BCF contestant Rob O'Reilly came along.

We entered the back stage door and were greeted by a cute Asian chick working the door behind a glass booth. Rob confidently signed in, but I think Dan and I looked like we didn;t know what we were doing. She asked, "Um... are you guys supposed to be here?"

Rob was full of confidence, "This is Dan Boulger, he just WON the festival, this is the guy."

Girl: Oh the earlier show... yeah, are you supposed to be here now though?

Rob: No, you don;t understand, this is the guy, he's a superstar, he won the festival, he won the thing.

At this point, Dan is getting a tad uncomfortable, though I must admit, I was enjoying watching O'Reilly's astonishment and attempts to work this chick into letting us in.

Dan: No, no it's okay, let's go.

Moments later, one of those guys came up with brilliant idea of trying the front door.

"Of course!" I thought, "why didn't I think of that in the first place. Why talk to some intern at a desk when you go right in, these folks are sure to recognize the guy who just blew the roof off the place 30 minutes earlier."

Door guy: Can I help you?

Rob: Yeah, this is Dan Boulger, he just won the comedy festival, and we'd like to come in.

Door guy: Yes, congratulations, very funny... didn't actually see your set, but I heard it was quite good...

Dan: Yeah, I mean, we could stand in the back upstairs, that would be fine.

Door guy: I'll check for you, sir.

(Door guy confers with a couple of women that look like they are in charge.)

Door guy: I'm sorry sir, the ticket office is closed.

Dan: We could stand in the back?

Door guy: Sorry sir, it's a bar code issue.

We all said "no problem" and took off, but I have to wonder...what the fuck is a "bar code issue"???

The guy was really nice and I don't think anyone is to blame, but you have to admit, that's irony bordering on idiocy. I have to imagine Jim McCue's head would explode were he aware of this situation. I know people have to do their jobs, but sometimes, you have to use common sense, no?

A kid is jazzed up after the night if his life. He doesn't know what to do with himself, so he goes where he's comfortable, the nearest comedy show. He figures he can get in, because 30 minutes ago, he WAS the show, tragically, he hadn't counted encountering the ever-difficult "bar code issue".

All in all, the BCF was great this year, the best I've seen. I thought the final lineup was a powerhouse, 1-8, and I actually agreed with most of the judges decisions.

I was much impressed that they had the gumption to give the title to an unknown 20 year-old kid from Dorchester. It would have been so easy to call Ryan Hamilton's name. After all, he was fantastic, he was clean, and he took the bullet (came out first), but they somehow looked past all that and saw fit to recognize a twelve-year-old lookin', hoodie-wearing genius.

Congrats, Dan. You deserve it.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Well, I got booted tonight, but there was no injustice in it.

I drew the 2nd slot. The crowd was kinda lame and didn't get cranked up in any capacity until around the 5th comic. I thought I hit my jokes, but I just didn't get the reaction I'd hoped for.

The guys who won- Dan Boulger, a terrific young Boston comic and Vargas Mason, a black guy from Denver were really deserving. I thought the judges nailed it. Boulger really turned the room around and the other guy capitalized on the crowd, riding the wave. He was different, sort of theatrical in a way, but damn funny.

Dan Hirshon really should get some credit for waking up an otherwise lethargic audience. His performance, in part, made Boulger's masterpiece of a set possible.

The best comment I heard all week was from a female friend of mine, and 15+ year Boston comedy veteran. Summing up Boulger's confidence and command of the stage, she said, "He may look about 12, but on that stage he's six foot seven with a giant cock... and he knows it."

As brilliant as Boulger is, I'm not sure he's ever written anything that good.

In the late preliminary, local cat and buddy MYQ Kaplan won, along with Al Jackson. I was confused about where he is from. He mentioned he was "from" here and commented on exit signs for Dorchester, then said something about moving to NYC from L.A... but he was very good, and I had him picked along with MYQ.

Boston Comedy Festival, Prelim 7

Tonight's my night, kids. I think it's a pretty strong lineup, but I feel good about going out and knocking 'em dead. That's all I can do. I have no expectations except that I am going to destroy.

Lest I sound too cocky, I am my most brutal critic, so it refreshing that I feel this good about my comedy.

After taking what seems like forever off from comedy, I have really enjoyed coming back. My first time back was a ten minute spot with buddy Tim McIntire as Tingle's theater, which was great because I love McIntire and I love that theater. Monday's audition for the Carnival Comedy Challenge went waaaay better than I could have hoped as I free-wheeled, threw some off-the-cuff stuff out there adding jokes I wrote moments before the set and it all came off without a hitch. I even made the judges crack up, which is a little like eliciting a modicum of sympathy out of Donald Rumsfeld.

Last night, I took third in the Carnival Comedy Challenge Finals, which is ironic, because I REALLY REALLY wanted third. First prize was a gig in the next year on a Carnival Cruise, but I have already done private gigs on board, and was better compensated (by far), plus the restrictions on material are aplenty, and they ask a lot of you, while flying you in one day and out the next. Second prize was two weeks of gigs at a huge comedy club- in Birmingham, Alabama.

Third place however, gets you 8 dates on a tour with Heffron, a big booker with about 60 clubs called the Comedy Zone (I believe) across the country. They most likely make you part of a showcase that is touring, which is perfect for me. I love the idea of being part of a comedy group, much less pressure than when I am closing a show. I feel like it's all up to me. My best sets have been as part of a showcase or featuring (25 minute set) before a headliner I know is damn good and is going to kill.

So tonight, I am relaxed, ready to rock. I haven't even decided on a set yet, but I am leaning toward adding this little bit I just wrote (and tested out last night to a surprisingly good reaction.) I'm going to play it a bit by ear, but have a general idea of what I'm going to do.

Wish me luck, and maybe I'll see some of you there.

Comedy Connection, Fanieul Hall, 7 PM.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Telltale Signs

You know you've been dating/with someone for waaaay toooo long when the smallest things they habitually do begin to drive you insane. I haven't "dated" anyone since Member's Only jackets were in style, but I have been experiencing this very same sensation with my roommate.

Instead of writing a nice essay about flying down to Greeneville, NC to surprise my old high school buddy for his 40th birthday, I sit here with my head about to explode.

Maybe I am just too old to have a roommate, maybe it is time for me to find a way to keep the job I love which pays modestly and get my own place somehow. Maybe the answer is suburbs, or additional jobs, or selling crack. I dunno, but anything has got to be better than this.

When things get to a point where you can't even discuss the simplest of issues without wanting to punch a guy in the neck, maybe parting ways is the best choice for all concerned.

I think I started writing this blog tonight so I could rant about Tom's antics tonight, lay it out and character assassinate, make myself feel better for nine seconds, but I have somehow calmed down just enough to realize how pointless and silly that is and what a colossal waste of time that would be.

Perhaps I should put that angst and energy into finding a place to live that won't lead me to serving 15-to-life in the state pen.

In closing... if you hear of a cheap one bedroom apartment in the area, in the name of all that's holy, let me know about it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Help Nazanin

As any of you who read this, um, EVER, know- I am not real preachy and have resisted promoting any causes via the blog. However, one came to my attention recently that I feel would be reprehensive not to mention.

I recall as a little kid watching beauty pageants and even as a young kid thinking, "wow, these girls bring absolutely zilch to the table, it's a good thing they're real pretty."

As I got older, virtually every comedy sketch I ever saw about beauty pageants mocked the contestants as petty, selfish, brain-dead twits, each of them finishing a vapid speech with a pledge to use their new position of power to promote "World Peace". I'm sure none of us can forget the significance of Anita Bryant's participation during the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Today, I eat crow: I sat drinking a cappucino (that is so pretentious, I really wish it had just been a coffee, alas, I must tell the truth) and I read the front page of the Epoch Times. Some guy had been cruising the internet looking for Miss Canada 2003 Nazanin Afshin-Jam's homepage and stumbled instead on the story of a young Iranian girl named Nazanin who had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Instead of brushing off the coincidence, Afshin-Jam, an Iranian-born Canadian, investigated the situation. No stranger to political persecution herself, Afshin-Jam's father was detained and tortured prior to the family's escape from Iran during revolution. The beauty queen had made a personal crusade out of trying to save this girl. Her efforts secured a World-recognized humanitarian award, but more importantly, because of the public outcry and attention afforded this girl, much of which came directly from Afshin-Jam's efforts, she received a new trial.

The trial took place yesterday and was continued to a later date.

The then 17 year-old girl had been out walking with her fifteen year old niece when three men attempted to assault and rape them. Nazanin stabbed one of the men in the hand, but the attackers didn't give up so easily. The teenager was forced to defend herself and her young cousin, and stabbed one of the men fatally. When the police arrived, she ran to them, surrendering the knife and admitting fully to what she had done.

Unfortunately, Nazanin was immediately convicted and murder and given the maximum sentence- death by hanging in a speedy trial.

Along with a new trial, the girl now has one of the best attorneys in Iran with regard to defending and promoting women's rights. In yesterday's trial, the courageous teen, now 18 years old answered every question asked, then looked the judge directly in the eye and said, "We were yelling, yelling for help, but no one came. I had to protect my honor, what would you do?"

What the judge did not respond and elected to continue the trial to a later date.

I don't pretend to be worldly or grasp worldwide cultures, but one thing that confuses me about this particular culture is the contradiction between the admirable moral code surrounding sexual practices accompanied with a complete disregard for women, castigated even when trying to protect their own chastity, let alone their very lives.

If you would like to know more about this case as it progresses, or sign a petition to the U.N. Secretary General, or donate $$ to this cause, you can find what you're looking for at:

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