Dumping The Seven Year Itch For Good

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Before I entered the world of stand-up, I was already immersed into another form of entertainment that thankfully, I was able to view as a stepping stone and not let it define me.  Of course, I could only be talking about karaoke.

I ran shows at four different venues over several years.  There was a karaoke league that started a long, long time ago at a popular karaoke spot in Saskatoon.  One of the last things I did before getting into stand-up comedy was participating in another karaoke league.  I was in the leagues for the first couple of years, always dressing up, always pushing the boundaries of performance.

I won the karaoke league’s most entertaining performance award several years back.  In that same league, I cracked the top 5 in one week of the preliminaries.  For the first time in many, many leagues I cracked the top 5.  The best part was, I shared the fifth spot that night with a very good friend of mine.

there is a point I will get to, eventually, that does have to do with comedy…..so keep reading

The last night of that league several years back, after I won the award, I realized that I had nothing left to prove to myself.  That’s when I decided to get into stand-up.

Fast forward to last week.  It’s now several years later, and the karaoke league has morphed into this intimidating competition that everyone gets too worked up over.  They let it define them.

Last Tuesday I was part of 30 singers who were in the semi-finals.  The top ten singers from that night would make the finals two days later, with the top 3 finishers from each league night, meaning there were 20 singers in all for the finals.

For the semi-finals I relied on myself.  Nobody else was helping me with my performance, and it only took a near x-rated performance to beat out some of the best singers to make it to the finals.

I placed tenth.  I was the last finals spot from that night.

Then, the creative wheels really started to turn.  I figured if this was to be my last karaoke league performance ever, it was going to be one for the ages.  Nobody spent more time or money in getting ready for my song.

My only mistake was that I relied on other people to help me that night.

For the finals, I originally needed ten people to help me to take part in the performance.  Out of those, I could only find 5 that said they would help beforehand.  You know how many of those five showed up on time to help?  Just two.  One chickened out and the others were late, again.  Thankfully, I had a couple of people come up on stage when the song started to pitch in.

I’m not here to dump on the people who were late or too drunk/scared to help.  I’m trying to highlight a couple of lessons I learned that night from the finals, which made me realize that comedy is a better choice for me than a karaoke league.

First of all, relying on others to help me was a bit of a mistake on my part.  It was great to have the two people actually keep their word and help, because now I know I can trust them to have my back when it matters most.  But the preparation for the song all hinged upon others doing their part.  If I did my part well, others still had to do their part to make the song a team effort and an overall success.

That is why comedy is a better fit for me.  A karaoke league and the stand-up comedy scene have equal amounts of drama.  The difference is, with karaoke you see it all in front of you.  With comedy it’s all behind my back.

With comedy there is a sense of calm because I don’t have to worry about anybody else helping me to make it a success.  Sure, the audience plays the most important part in determining success or failure of a comedians set.  However, if you prepare properly and structure your material the right way, it will work because you are taking advantage of the psychological laugh triggers that make an audience react to a joke.

A karaoke song goes much quicker than material does, in the sense that one wrong slip and it sticks in your brain and doesn’t allow you the time to recover.  In comedy, if you slip up, you have the chance to not only own the mistake, but to correct it.  You don’t have a music track or lyrics to memorize.  There are no distractions for the audience on stage.  It’s just you and the microphone.  As a comedian you’re an army of one.  You have command of the room, and it’s your job to keep it throughout your set.

If you make a mistake the audience will be more forgiving if you try to fight through it, in part because there are no other distractions (ie: music or lyrics) for the audience to judge you by.

The other lesson I learned is one I figured out when I won the most entertaining performance award from the last league I was in several years ago.  I didn’t let it define me, because in part I had nothing left to prove to myself.  One friend of mine who is a couple years older than me, was distraught after their song.  They told me all they could hear was the places they went wrong in the song.  I wanted to give this person a smack and ask them why they are letting something like that define them, especially at our ages?

With the younger crowd, I get it because they are still figuring out who they are, trying to define themselves.  Many of them will mistakenly use the league to define themselves when it really should serve as a stepping stone on their journey in discovering who they really are.

I’ve never felt like I was really part of the karaoke “in” crowd, and the finals kinda proved that.  Of the 20 singers in the finals, I placed 20th, despite putting on the best “performance” of the night.  The semi-finals singers were rewarded for performances, and the finals singers were rewarded for their vocals.  In the end, how are you to know what the judges will value more?  It’s hard to say, so you do what you think is right and stick to it.

I went in thinking I would win.  After they went through the top 10 finishers, I kinda figured I would be down at the bottom of the list, which I was.  And, in true fashion, nobody was really paying attention to the awards ceremony at that point.  Then again, I got three gift cards from Starbucks, Amazon and Indigo so it wasn’t that bad of a haul.

Karaoke doesn’t define me.  Stand-up comedy doesn’t define me.  My good works define me.  Keeping my word, being a person of loyalty and honour define me.  My volunteering defines me.

The overall picture of my life defines me, not a singing competition.  And, if you get to be my age and you place all of your self-worth into something like that, it’s maybe time to take a look at yourself in the mirror and get a hobby or two and figure out who you want to be.  I went back into the league this time around as a one time thing, just to show people that sometimes you need to break the shackles off and just not give a shit and just do it.

Why didn’t placing 20/20 bother me for the finals?  It’s like my comedy coach said….”you’re mofo (abbreviated version) Trevor Dean, dude.  You’re going places.”

Whether it’s karaoke or comedy, when I try to seek out help it usually falls upon deaf ears or bites me in the ass at the end.  I guess I’m meant to trudge through this comedy thing without much help, aside from my coach.  That’s okay.

So, yeah.  Basically it’s like 2:33 a.m. and I want to finish this blog post with a clever last line, but eating $20 bucks worth of BK kinda clouded up my thought process.  Maybe I should just take a dump and go to bed.

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