Staring Down The Barrel Of The Comedy Gun

I know it’s 3:38 a.m. as I write this, but I can’t get to sleep, even though I started a great job yesterday with wonderful people.  It is possible that the spinning wheels on my stand-up comedy journey may have spun themselves out after only five months.  Now before you go and say not to be down on myself and stuff, I need you to understand where I am coming from.

Forget that for a moment, let’s start with Dez Reed.  He puts people on stage to give them a chance to succeed, and he said if you are showing progress that he “will give you a very long leash.”  The comedy world for the most part in Saskatoon has been accepting of others trying their wares and giving helpful advice and encouragement.  Dez wants to put asses in the seats, but also to find people who have the ability to get a favorable reaction from an audience.  We’ve been at Beily’s a lot over the past few months, and with all the Facebook friends each of us has, word gets around about the shows, and this brings back into the fold the comics who have either moved to Saskatoon or are taking up comedy again after a bit of an absence.

Well, last night at Beily’s there were three new comics to the stage.  One moved here from Regina and is a great performer, one was completely new doing it for the first time, and the final newbie was a comic who is good that took stand-up comedy back up after an absence of a few years.  With the exception of the new guy, these other two nailed their sets last night.  They did a fantastic job, in spite of a crowd that wasn’t the best.  The night dragged on a bit too long, and I think that played into it, not to mention the fact that there were three obnoxious, fucking drunk asshole kids that were right in front that made the night about as much fun as pulling teeth.  The performers who did well were the ones who have had the experience onstage to know how to deal with those drunks, and they were also very confident on stage, quick witted and they seemed to play to the crowd, which again, was on the younger side.

If these couple of newer guys get into the competition next week, I AM SERIOUSLY SCREWED.

Like, we are talking 1980s “miracle on ice” screwed.  Like Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson screwed, where the underdogs faced an almost hopeless and the near-impossible task of prevailing.

Let me first start off by saying that I am getting more comfortable onstage, but I am not at the point where I look confident on stage.  I looked at my pictures and it makes me uncomfortable to look at them.  I can’t watch the DVD of my first three shows from this year, even though my performances grew.  I’m not sure if I would let anyone watch the DVD.  Don’t get me wrong, it was very nice that the video guy made one up for me, even if it was meant to be a tool used to critique and help me, but I don’t feel like I’ve earned the right to have one yet, regardless of why it was made.  I haven’t taken the disc out of it’s sleeve yet.  I don’t know where it is exactly in my house, and I think that might not be a bad thing for the time being.

With the first couple of shows in January, Dez had mentioned that I was growing and getting better.  While this may be true, based on the comics who are coming back into the fray (two new guys from last night), the leash Dez gives me to improve might be a long one, but from what I see mine is getting shorter by the day.

I’ve always been hard on myself.  At first it was part of my self-deprecating ways which got me sympathy in the beginning, but that was short lived because after that my friends gave me kicks in the ass to smarten up and not be such a sniveling ass, which I am thankful for.  Now however, at this stage of my life I’m almost 40, I’ve made lots of mistakes and had my share of successes too.  I am now able to view my life with clarity and call things for what they are.  Sure, comedy is a completely different ballgame.  But look at it from my point of view for a minute.

I’m trying something brand new outside of what I know, or of what my friends know of.  It’s a difficult thing to stand in front of a bunch of strangers and have the ability (not sure if I’d call it confidence….maybe a warped view of your reality) to write material that will produce a positive reaction from the audience.  Sure, it’s been a few months, sure I have had to share the stage with guys who have been on the comedy scene for a year, two years or 20 years.  All of the guys who have at least a year under their belts are very good.  At first I didn’t care that I wasn’t getting the same reactions they get from an audience because it was unrealistic for me to expect that, given I was so new to the genre.  But when you get up onstage week after week after week, and your reactions don’t get any better, while everyone around you is, well, it’s not the best feeling.

You guys can keep update on where the locations for the competition are for next week from my FB pages.  It would mean a lot to get your support, considering the fact these places aren’t charging cover for the events.

Plus, a major part of it goes back to what we were told last night.  A comic can’t go onstage wanting to be funny or of trying to get a laugh, because that approach won’t work.  You need to go onstage with the mindset that you will tell a story.  That makes sense.  You tell a story well, set it up properly, time it right, then the laughs which are the byproduct of said story, will come.  The ability to tell a story well comes from confidence.  Being able to stand in front of an audience and know you can get them to laugh, regardless of the type of audience you’re in front of, that’s a great ability to possess.  I don’t have that.

I think it comes from the fact that the Beily’s crowd is usually a bit younger.  Sure, I write for my friends I suppose, but lately I’ve tried to tailor the material towards the younger crowd but it doesn’t seem to be working like it should.  I get some of my friends to come watch, but they usually number anywhere from one to six on a given night.  Would I benefit more if more of my friends and people I knew showed up to watch the shows?  Possibly.  Laughter is contagious and if I have a large contingent of supporters there, if they laugh it sometimes rubs off on the people sitting next to them, causing a chain reaction.  But usually I am in front of the same age demographic week after week.  No family support.  No support from a g/f or loved one.  I’m pretty much on an island when I get up there.  Sheesh………..4:23 a.m. now…….I need to get some sleep at some point  FML

I guess what I am saying is that my perception of how I’m progressing is distorted because of these newer guys who are coming back into it.  My friends and other comics might say I’m getting better, but it’s hard to have those voices resonate in your head when week after week your performance is drowned out by everyone else’s.

I don’t want to quit.  I really don’t.  My dad runs his own sales agency.  The first several years were very lean for our family and I’m sure he never thought about quitting, because it wasn’t in his vocabulary.  He taught me to not be a quitter and finish what you start.  My family doesn’t ask about my stand-up, and I certainly don’t want to quit just to have them say I told you so.  I know I can do this, and be successful at it.  Again, I don’t want to be the greatest, just be successful on my own terms, and that means to get the kind of reactions that the other guys get.  I’m not even going for the consistency of the positive reactions of the other guys, I would just settle for one moment in time, just that one joke of the whole performance where I get that reaction.  I’ve never received it yet, and it won’t help my confidence trying to get better when there are so many guys who are more deserving of stage time than I am.

So, this is why Thursday night is so critical, not only for my stand-up, but personally as well.  I’m trying the best I can, but it’s been very slow going at this point.  I need a sign that I’m going in the right direction, because again, audiences don’t lie, and how am I supposed to feel confident about going onstage when there are several comics who get the top reactions, then there is me the new guy who barely gets any.  Crackers is huge for me.  I have gone there for many years, so I am very comfortable there.  It’s because of this, that I have been able over the last few days to write material for the venue, material that is passionate, fun and allows a bit of my personality to shine through.

dammit i’m getting a headache….I NEED SLLLLLEEEEEEEP

Thursday’s performance will be the last one before the competition next Monday.  It’s going to be the night that I finally throw everything out the window and give the type of performance I know I am capable of giving…one with passion and energy.  If you are confident and convincing in selling the material, you could go on a rant and not tell a single joke, yet if delivered properly, it will get the desired result.

It’s been almost five months.  This competition will be a clear indicator of whether or not this comedy thing with me goes forward or into the tank once and for all.  Ideally I would like the performance at Crackers to be the catalyst for the type of shows I do during the competition.  I want to take the momentum I hope to create from Thursday and carry it forward to the competition.  If Thursday doesn’t go as planned, the next week will be very difficult and intimidating.  I walked into Crackers on a Thursday a few weeks back just to get an idea of the crowd, and I felt uneasy about it.  It wasn’t the regular karaoke crowd.  I wasn’t confident in my ability to win them over then, and after last night, I’m still having my doubts.  Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see Crackers packed for the performance, but that would just add to my uncertainty and worry.  Sure, if it goes over well, it’s an amazing experience.  But if it doesn’t go well, it’s just like Monday nights, and I’m not sure I could ask my friends to support me any more than they have if I can’t even use the home field advantage (Crackers) to my benefit.

So, I have a final thing to say.  I ask you to come out Thursday night.  It’s only a half hour out of your Thursday, from 8:45 to 9:15 (Junior Kush gets the first 15 minutes, I get the end).  I need your help.  Don’t think you will do me any favours by blowing sunshine up my ass and laughing at my material just because you think it’s what I want.  Sure, I want the laughs but if you don’t think it’s funny, you’re wasting your time in being there.  Come down, keep an open mind, but most of all, be honest in your assessment of what’s funny.  Don’t just laugh because I said it.  Don’t just be there to laugh to make me feel better about things.  Be there as part of a comedy audience to be entertained.

It’s close to 5:00 a.m. now, and 7:00 a.m. does come early.  Maybe this throbbing headache from a lack of sleep will go away by the time I get up for work in a few hours.

What I’m doing isn’t easy.  Sure it’s been fun, up until last night, because the reality of the numbers game came into view last night.  I just need a sign, nothing big, but just something……to tell me I’m on the right track, that I deserve and have earned the right to share the stage with the big boys, if you know what I mean?  I always said I wasn’t the greatest, and I’m okay with that.  What made me proud is that I wasn’t as bad as people thought I was.  Well, I am not that bad as people think, but when there are several comics onstage during the night, and your performance is the one consistently that doesn’t get much of a response, I would be lying to say it doesn’t weigh on you at some point.

I don’t know what else to say outside of the fact that with the comedy, it was something I was proud of and could hang my hat on.  Thursday is huge, as it will be a barometer for how the upcoming competition will go.  I know Junior Kush will kill it opening for me.  I would like to think that with the “home field advantage” of Crackers, I should at the very least get a similar response to my set, because I will have that comfort level and let my personality shine thru the performance.   Not to get bigger laughs mind you, I’m not there to upstage Junior but to share the stage with him.  I just want to be considered an equal, able to stand on my own two feet and produce a performance that is comparable or one that clearly shows my growth not only in my performance, but growth in the reactions I get from it as well.

If I can’t even do that when I try to stack the cards in my favour, then maybe it’s time to cut my losses or suspend the comedy thing for an indefinite period.

 

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