Neighbours With The Jeffersons!

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It’s safe to say this summer has been without question, the absolute worst of my life.  No doubt about it.  From family strife, some people walking out of my life, some throwing me under the bus and receiving anonymous threatening comments to my blog, it’s been shit.  Oh yeah, can’t forget about somebody to be the main reason I got canned at my job without cause.  Good times!

There was only one good thing that happened this summer.  That’s all.  Just one thing.  It wasn’t comedy related, and it isn’t about somebody you would know.  So……

Now that we are into September, thoughts turn towards fall and with it for many of us, it means a sense of renewal.  Whether it be from hockey starting, school in full swing, or the leaves falling from the trees it’s about change.  That change can be good or bad, depending on your level of maturity.  So, with this summer being a gong show, how do I create this sense of renewal or change as we roll into the fall?

I always try to be different, to separate myself from the others so it would seem that I have some value as a comedian that the others can’t offer.  For the first 4.5+ years I went into the weekly open mics with new material all the time.  A good chunk of my sets were never the same because I found myself creating more material in six months than some guys write in a year or two.  I have at least a couple pages per month of new material because of my comedy coaching.  Yes, it’s the “c” word again.  I was expending all this energy trying to write new material every week and having slight success at best, when something a couple months ago started gnawing away at me.

I can’t remember how it happened, but during a YouTube search I found an old video of Johnny Carson’s from his character Carnac The Magnificent.  The premise is pretty straightforward.  Carnac is a psychic and his material is in the form of a Jeopardy question.

A question (that he has not seen) will be in a sealed envelope.  He hold this envelope to his head trying to “divine” the answer.   He knows the answer beforehand (as part of the setup to the joke) and rips open the envelope to reveal the question.  Some of the jokes are topical, some are word play and some are just downright funny or bizarre.  But because he has not seen the question beforehand, his reactions are genuine and add to the character.

The more of these videos I watched, the more that I started to pick up on a pattern of how they are written.  In essence, the jokes are written in reverse, meaning the punchline is created and you build the setup around the punchline.  I wanted to give this a try, but wasn’t sure it was legal, given the Carnac character was created by Carson and was probably copyrighted.  So I asked my coach in Los Angeles (when in doubt, consult the expert who makes $250,000 a year doing comedy full time, runs his own school and wrote a hit movie).  He mentioned that I could follow everything the same that Carson did, but if I changed the name of the character, then it becomes a parody and thus escapes the copyright laws or having to write to the Carson estate for permission to use his said likeness.

My coach suggested that Carnac had a son out of wedlock, and that is how Carnac the Mediocre was born.

I got a friend from church to put together a costume that resembled what the original Carnac wore.  Then I started getting to work on the material.  It was surprisingly easier than I thought.  I came up with over 50 pieces of material in two weeks.  I then sorted them into specific categories, such as three way buildups, pairs, one liners and miscellaneous.  Then from each of those categories I would pick a couple from each to mix it up and keep the routine fresh.

The problem now became where do I do this at?  I wanted to make it a specialty thing, not doing it every week to keep it fresh.  The open mic nights aren’t the best audience to do it for, so I had a tough time figuring out who would take a chance on it, until I remembered the professional comedy club wanted me to send them material to do another guest spot in Saskatoon.  Perfect.

A ten minute conversation later, and Carnac had a place, the costume and the material.  Now all I had to do was take those fifty jokes and whittle it down to ten for a seven minute set.  Yup, ten jokes in seven minutes.  That meant doing five seconds for the answer, five seconds for the question and about fifteen seconds or so for the laughs.  At least that’s how it played out in my head….

The video is posted on the brand new Carnac the Mediocre Facebook fan page.  It went alright for the first time.  I’m pretty proud of how it went because of a couple reasons.  First, a couple of the local comics came out to support me.  The headliner and opener for that night were sincerely appreciative of the job that I did in warming the crowd up.  They didn’t bash me on stage.  They were professionals in every sense of the word.  Finally, I had a good friend who came to watch for the first time in a couple of years, and I received something that I have longed to hear from my friends for years.  I was told that I did a good job, when I knew that I did a good job.

Not only that, but at the end of the night a booker approached me who was in the audience.  This person puts on fundraisers and mentioned they might be interested in securing the services of my Carnac character for future shows they put on.  The MC for the night at the comedy club was a local radio personality.  Now he follows me on Twitter, and I get some free advertising that way.

It only took almost five years and two months of it to prepare and create Carnac, but things seem to be finally moving in the right direction.  I have the largest presence on social media of any local comedian (2 facebook fan pages, 2 twitter accounts and this blog), my comedy coach in Los Angeles who will be booking gigs for me next summer in L.A., an agency in Calgary that will represent my interests in the pro comedy clubs and this new contact for fundraising gigs.

All the shit and abuse, all the threats, talking behind my back, people walking away, getting ripped by other comics and hosts, my critics, my family not believing in me….it’s finally coming full circle.  Some of you wanted me to quit, but that’s when I dug my heels in and made you look foolish.  I knew this day would come by faith.  I didn’t know when or how, but I knew it would be here.  Some of you treat me like I am a failure and a mistake, but in the end, the joke is on you.

For each one of you who feels like they have been marginalized at one time or another, have been screwed over, thrown under the bus, shit on, used, disrespected and had nobody believe in you, I am continuing my comedy journey in part because of you.  I feel that I represent “the little guy” syndrome I’m sure each one of us has, to varying degrees.  My wins are your wins.  Some of you have told me that I inspire you with my ability to continue despite all the negativity and people trying to beat me down and cause me to quit.  That means a lot to me, and I take the responsibility of representing you seriously.

My name is Trevor Dean, professional comedian, creator of Saskatchewan’s only comedy blog and creator of Carnac The Mediocre.

Yes, just like George & Louise I am finally moving on up.  The best part is, this journey is only just getting started.

1 Comment

  1. Vern
    Sep 19, 2016

    This was by far my favorite blog!
    It’s nice to see you look forward to your future! The past is a often painful lesson, but a clear reminder of “you don’t live there anymore”
    May the next chapter be filled with the things you were “looking for!”

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