You Should Buy Low & Never, Ever Sell

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A few weeks ago I was having lunch with several people.  I was seated near one corner of the table and there was only one person in my direct vicinity that I knew.  You would think this is a great opportunity to get to know new people?

Not quite.  For well over an hour I sat there, oblivious to everyone in my corner as they engaged in the stereotypical male behaviour of talking about what they are, not about who they are.  What a treat to listen to so much fluff.  Work, work, work, work, work, work, work is all that you could hear.  What is your job, do you like it, do you travel for work, how long have you been at the company for, what are your long term prospects like?  I seriously could have brought a spray can of Febreeze because the air was so thick with platitudes.

First of all, with all due respect to people reading this, if all you can do is talk about your job, or if all you are able to do is ask endless questions about another persons job in order to get to know them, let’s just say you need to expand your horizons about as much as Justin Trudeau needs to head to the unemployment line after the election in October.  The fact you like to converse means little.  It is by the quality of your conversations that you are measured, at least in my eyes.

I had one question directed at me during this period of time, and it only required a one or two word answer.  Then everyone talked about their plans for the rest of the day, not realizing there is a human being sitting beside them that is capable of talking.  So I looked at them and said “ya, I might go and head out to the open mic after all later this evening.’  Of course, these people gave me this blank look like a) they were surprised I exist and b) they had no idea what I was talking about.  I then said “yeah, I do stand-up comedy.”  When it was met with a positive reaction, I replied with “I was wondering when you were going to include me in the conversation.”  I then spent the next 30 – 45 minutes talking about comedy and finding out about who was sitting across from or beside me.  What they did mattered little, since I had heard enough of it leading up to that point.  We had a good conversation about family, volunteering, the geo-political climate and a bit about the other person’s career.

Notice what I did?  I am a professional comedian.  We are professional communicators.  I simply shifted the focus and wanted to know about who these people were.  Their occupations mean little in the end.  Think about it.  If you lose your job tomorrow, do you know who you are and what value you have, when you suddenly have no job to attend to?

In case you haven’t paid attention to notice, I am not my career, meaning it doesn’t define me whether I have a job or am unemployed, as I have been for over six months now.  You don’t know the whole story.  you take bits and pieces and use that to belittle me to fit your narrative.  I’m sorry, but failing in your 20s with unemployment, shit employers and being lonely is not the same as dealing with this garbage in your mid 40s.  It just isn’t.  I know this because I live it and it’s been a part of me for the majority of my adult life.

For some reason guys think it’s necessary to talk to me like I’m a fucking idiot that isn’t capable of basic comprehension.  Excuse me, jackass.  I don’t need you to tell me how to behave or act on a job.  The only things I need to do when I get a job again is listen to the advice I was given by two women at my church.  One woman gave me tips on what to say during the interview and the other one told me ‘Trevor, if you follow these two basic principles when you are working again, you cannot fail.  You will see promotion and increase.”

Unless I’m completely retarded and clueless, wouldn’t you rather be talked to in that manner than told by some dude that you’re a failure and a lousy employee, but by the way, I believe in you and you can succeed?  Go blow it out your ass.

I know it’s a stretch for people to empower me, but I will give you some incentive.  This is what I have done in my life, besides suffering from chronic unemployment.  Are you ready?

stand-up comedian, news reporter, radio show host, volunteer and unofficial supervisor at the Friendship Inn, Elections Canada supervisor, adult literacy tutor, sat on the board of directors for said literacy organization, one of the first tutors to be nominated for the adult tutor award, gardener, blogger, public speaker, former constituency president of Saskatoon-Meewasin for the SK Party and rewarded by customers (when I had a job) for going above and beyond in providing outstanding service

Don’t worry though.  I don’t expect you to remember any of that, because it might mean you need to admit you were as ignorant ass to begin with, insensitive, or a bit of both.

Do you know what I have also learned?  People very rarely will engage you on topics they have no clue about, outside of asking your typical questions.  Of course, this relates to my stand-up career.

I get little recognition that I’m still at it after this long, despite of everything I’ve been put through and tested with.  When I get asked about it, which is rare (because I almost always have to bring it up), I get asked things like “how is the comedy going” or “do you have any upcoming shows?”  To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never been engaged on a level that might assume people actually can get out of their own heads for a moment and learn about something new.

But if you don’t know any other comedians and you aren’t that familiar with stand-up comedy as an art form, then what do you ask?  The guys at lunch asked questions about work because regardless of the job, it’s easy to come up with questions to ask when getting to know someone.

Maybe, you should realize that a comedian, and I just don’t mean an open mic comedian goofing around.  I mean a comedian that is getting paid, in front of an audience that bought tickets, okay?  There are a multitude of things that a comedian must be aware of and try to control at all times.  Your job is a walk in the park compared to what a comedian has to deal with.  Since I have studied comedy the most of any local comic, I have a very good understanding of what goes through their heads, if they take comedy seriously to begin with.

  • what should I wear?
  • have I rehearsed my set enough?  Do I know it inside and out?  (remember…it isn’t like a sermon or a political speech where you have notes to read from)
  • if it’s a corporate gig, are there content restrictions?
  • how much time do I have?
  • are there any birthdays, anniversaries or special occasions to make note of?
  • is my opening short, sweet and to the point to get the show off the ground?
  • is there anything worth talking about that happened up to that point with the crowd or another comic?
  • if you get a heckler, how do you deal with it?  are they drunk?  are they angry?  why are they speaking?  will you engage them or shut them down?  do you have to be a jerk about it or can you do it quickly and nicely?  do you have to get security involved?  is the heckler bothering the people around them?
  • how was your day?  are you able to put your personal life (problems) aside and focus on the task at hand?
  • what happens if you get no laughs for one joke?  how about two?  three?  do you have a contingency plan?
  • how do I get introduced?
  • is my timing right?
  • where are the laughs coming from?  what type of laughs are you getting?  (in most clubs you have a spotlight right in your face, making it tough to see anything.  People look like shadows so you really have to play to the laughs and pay attention to them since you have no visual reference points to tell you how the show is going)
  • did somebody take offence to what I said?  do I spend time trying to win them back or keep moving forward?

See what I mean?  When you, as an audience member decide to pay to watch a comedy show, you arrive at that show with some basic expectations that aren’t out of line, because if anything they are to be assumed.  It should be assumed that you are watching professionals from the way they conduct themselves and deliver their material.  They should give you reasons to show that they belong on a professional stage, and make you feel good about spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on stand-up comedy.

Anytime you are in a situation where you walk into a room blind, in the sense that you don’t know anything about your audience, add in the stress of the world and throw in alcohol for good measure.  Now you have lots to be mindful of.  Also, you don’t want to be combative if it isn’t necessary and try to insight a riot.  After all, you are hoping the booker of the room will hire you again.

When I talk to others about my comedy, I don’t belittle them or treat them like pieces of garbage because I am the comedy expert and they aren’t.  That isn’t how I roll.  I have spent most of my adult life being torn down, so why would I ever want to impart that upon somebody else, although there are some that deserve to be humbled?

None of you come to my shows much these days.  In the last couple months I can say someone showed up twice.  That is all.  Outside of that, in the last few years it’s been maybe a couple times I had somebody come out to support me.  I say this because some of you maybe cannot comprehend why I talk with such pride about it, when I mostly do open mics for free.  Then again, you don’t know my story.  You don’t know the garbage I’ve been through that keeps me motivated to keep going.

I don’t seem to have many cheerleaders in my corner either.  My family doesn’t give a shit.  They think I just embarrass myself and never bring it up.  I am single with no kids, so I have nobody close to me that can lift me up for encouragement.  When I get home, it’s just me and my four walls.  The loneliness is crushing.  It’s crushing spiritually, emotionally and physically as well.  But why would that impact you with your career and ability to pay your bills and live a decent life?

I’m thinking the only way I will ever get any respect, admiration or something along those lines, would be for some of you to actually attend a show.  I may make it look easy on stage, but that’s because I have done it long enough, I’m able to block everything else out of my mind and go on stage to do my job.

GASP!!!!!!  You have the ability to leave your personal shit at home where it belongs, and when it’s time to interact with others you do your job to the best of your ability?  That sounds like traits successful on a real job, doesn’t it?

I’ve said my piece.  If what I said bothers you, then maybe it’s incumbent upon you to re-read what I wrote and see if it can help progress your relationship with me in a positive light.  You also forget that I’ve been doing this for 7.5 years and instead of staying silent, I will tell people how I feel and about the struggles I’m facing, regardless of your response to it.

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