Friday night I hosted at Leatherhead Pub and it was as always a great show. The crowd was lively, the comics were funny, my friends came out, and it was awesome. I even discovered a new beer. People, if you have the opportunity to come out to one of these shows, do it!
So not too long ago I lost (hopefully temporarily) my room and comedy home, Take 5 Gourmet in Robbinsville, NJ. Not long after that, I found out that I got rejected from a comedy festival I registered for. I was pissed because it was something I really wanted. I was bummed out, but I did what I always do when I experience adversity: I made a joke out of it. And yes, I will be debuting it and posting the video shortly and yes, dammit it’s funny.
Now I say all that to say this: Yes, I absolutely thought about quitting comedy and just accepting my life as a desk pilot in Corporate America…for exactly three seconds until I remembered that I am my father’s child and a stubborn, obstinate bitch and I swear I heard his voice calling to me from the Ether and telling me that if I give up he’s going to jam his foot up my ass. And yes, anyone who knew my father would tell you that is absolutely something he would say.
I remembered that a dear comedy friend had contacted me about doing a show in South Jersey the weekend the festival was supposed to be and I let him know that I couldn’t commit to it. I messaged him and let him know that if he still needed someone I’d be glad to come out. It was a shot in the dark but I took it anyway because you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I needed to prove to myself that I could stand back up after getting knocked on my ass. I was fortunate enough to hear back from him and that he had a spot for me.
So my comedy life handed me a couple comedy lemons and I turned them into comedy lemonade. Now all I need is to find some comedy vodka.
I got some sad news the other day. The place where I fell in love with comedy is closed for the time being. I’m not sure if this is forever, but I am sure that I’m pretty bummed out. The owners are the nicest people and they gave us a home. I met a lot of my comedy friends there and they have been absolutely amazing. I posted about it in Facebook and their support has been overwhelming and I am truly humbled. I may not have a platform, but what I do have is an amazing family of choice. My actual family has also been supportive. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I can honestly say that I’ve chosen my tribe wisely and I’m thankful to all of you. Rest assured, you haven’t heard the last from this sarcastic little ray of sunshine. To all my haters, stay tuned. There’s more to come. Lumos!
I know I’ve explained why I do comedy here before, but I had a conversation last week with a friend that made me think of deeper things that ultimately motivated me to walk this path.
One of my comedy idols was Robin Williams. He sadly succumbed to his inner demons and left this world. He was a light in my life and when he died I felt that light go out. This was a man who dedicated his life to making others laugh and feel happy. Why? Because he knew better than any of us realized what it’s like to be unhappy and he didn’t want anyone else to feel that way.
Before everybody worries about me, no I don’t suffer from depression. I know people who do and I do my best to be the best possible ally for them. The stigma around mental health in this country is completely absurd and so harmful and I look forward to helping to destroy it. However alas and as usual I digress.
Albus Dumbledore, regardless of whether your Dumbledore is Richard Harris or Michael Gambon, was admittedly a problematic character for a number of reasons, however the man was not without his wisdom. He once said that, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
I’m sure a lot of people agree that these are some pretty dark times. This has reaffirmed my decision to finally use my sarcasm powers for good. See, not everyone can remember to turn on the light for themselves, so as a comic I can do that. In fact, I actively choose to do just that. I choose to do comedy so that I can be a light in someone’s darkness. So um… Lumos!
When I was five years old, my dad sat me down in front of the TV and introduced me to a little-known film called Star Wars. I won’t bore you with the details since I already did here, but he started a love affair with a franchise that has lasted for the past thirty years and will continue to last and he also introduced me to my childhood hero, Carrie Fisher.
She was my favorite childhood princess and is now my favorite general. She bravely shared her struggles with addiction and mental illness and shared a candid picture of her experience filming the original Star Wars film. She was brilliant, funny, honest, and brave. I grew up idolizing her. The Gryffindor in me recognized the Gryffindor in her. It was like a namaste moment only with house alignment. It was Gryffmaste!
But alas and as usual I digress. A few weeks ago, I received the biggest compliment on my comedy from a teacher from my grade school days. She said that my humor reminded her of Carrie Fisher. I wasn’t crying. The room was dusty and someone was chopping onions. She was a huge fan of body glitter and now to honor her, I wear some form of glitter for every show. As she has passed the torch of the Star Wars franchise to a new generation, I now see it as my duty to pass her memory on to a new generation also known as my niece and nephew. I’ll apologize to my sister now.
So a lot of my friends work in the creative fields. I have friends who are graphic designers, artists, sculptors, etc and they are outstanding and talented professionals. I often see them post on social media about people approaching them to work on a project for them and then uttering the phrase “I can’t pay you, but it’ll be such great exposure.” My reaction to this can be best described by Kristin Wiig’s facial expression below:
I’m a professional stand-up comic which makes me a performance artist and I’m really just dumbfounded at this. Exposure? Exposure to what exactly? An asshat that doesn’t want to pay a creative PROFESSIONAL for their work, that’s what. See last time I checked, you can’t pay your bills with “exposure.” I’m also fairly certain that you can’t eat exposure either. Most people wouldn’t dream of treating other professionals that way. You wouldn’t walk into an accountant’s office and ask them to do your taxes for exposure, so why would you ever think it’s okay to do that to someone who works in a creative field? And just to add insult to injury most of these people then get offended when the creative professionals tell them that they can’t do work unpaid. It’s like they clutch their pearls and say “How dare you! I’m trying to do you a favor and you’re throwing it back in my face!” Right because the professional who wants to be compensated for their time and energy is totally the bad guy in this equation. Give me a break!
I think the factors at play here are:
- The ridiculous and antiquated perception that creative work like art and music is not actual work.
- The fact that most creative fields are extremely competitive and difficult to get into.
Let me go ahead and address those here and now:
- Using my stand up comedy as an example: For every minute of material I do at a show, an hour of WORK goes into it. How? Let me break it down for you. There’s:
- The time I spent writing the joke
- The time I spent refining the joke
- The time I spent rehearsing the joke
- The time I spent at an open mic testing the joke in front of a live audience
- The time I spent further refining the joke
- The time I spent talking to the booker to get an opportunity to tell my joke at their show
- The time I spent promoting the show
- The time I spent coming up with a set list for the show
- The time I spent memorizing and rehearsing that set list
- The time I spent traveling to and from the show (not to mention the gas)
- The time I spent actually doing the show
- The time I spent editing video from the show
- The time I spent uploading the video to my YouTube channel
- The time I spent sharing the video on my social media platforms in an effort to book more shows
So when you ask a creative to do a project for you, you’re asking them for their TIME and TIME IS MONEY and what we do is ACTUAL work. So when you ask a creative for their time but don’t offer them any actual compensation, don’t be surprised if you get this as a response:
2. Yes, the creative fields are extremely competitive. Yes, there are more comics than stages, more filmmakers than studios willing to pay them, more graphic designers than organizations that need them, etc. Yes, exposure is a great thing to creative professionals, but let’s go back to the fact that they are creative PROFESSIONALS and PROFESSIONALS GET PAID. Art, music, comedy, and entertainment are all businesses. You know what moves through businesses? MONEY! Honestly, if you’re using the fact that a business is cutthroat competitive to get out of paying someone to do their work, you’re just taking advantage of someone who’s in a tough position. That’s a d*ck move so I’ll just leave this here for you to refer back to:
Now let’s talk attitude: If you went to an accountant to get your taxes done and offered him exposure in return, they’d probably tell you to come back when you can pay. You’re not entitled. If you can’t pay to have your taxes done by a professional, you ain’t getting your taxes done by a professional. You wouldn’t take that as a personal affront. Likewise if you can’t pay for a special effects sculptor to work on your film, you don’t get to make your film. Why is your reaction to this any different from your reaction to the accountant? Seriously, not cool. Maybe if you hustle and grind the way creative professionals do every day and perhaps get a Kickstarter going, you can make enough money to pay the creative professionals you’re trying get to work for free.
Every comedian I know does jokes about their family. However not very many do jokes about their family in front of their family. Kurt, Mr. Miyagi himself does jokes about his wife and daughter with them in the crowd and I’ve been present for many a joke from Dawn or Katelyn at Kurt’s expense.
I have had the pleasure of making jokes about my mom in front of her. She was amused, but not nearly as amused as my aunt was. Last week, I did a joke about my phone conversations with my sister since she had the kids and they’re very different. She said that the act out I did sounded like a transcript of an actual conversation, that is when my niece doesn’t jack the phone because she wants to talk to Aunt Lynne.
Some comics think “Oh crap my family’s here. There goes half my act.” I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not one of them. They’ve seen me in states much worse than standing on a stage with a mic so I’m pretty sure they can hang. Besides it’s a lot more fun to do the jokes they inspire when they’re there to appreciate them.
I’ve been told by other comics that a groan is as good as a laugh, but this seems to be a subject of debate in the stand-up community. Some say that a groan is as good as a laugh because you’re getting a reaction. Others feel that audiences don’t come out to shows to groan, they come out to laugh. I can honestly go either way on this one, so I’m going to let this one be a debate for the ages. If you have an opinion, feel free to share it. In the meantime I’ll keep writing the jokes and bringing the laughs.
A friend of mine and I were having a conversation about dirty humor and whether or not a dirty joke could still be tasteful. My opinion on the matter is that it’s easy to use bathroom humor and while a little bathroom humor never hurt anybody, it’s also an indication of a certain lack of creativity and refinement of craft on the part of the comic.
Bathroom humor is easy. Doing it tastefully? That’s a challenge. Part of the fun of the joke writing process for me is to make a clean (well relatively anyway) joke out of dirty subject matter.
Not only do I think it can be done, but I think it must be done. Comedy is a craft and it needs to be kept sharp. Your comedy needs a challenge just like a blade needs a whetstone, so stay sharp friends.
So a friend of mine who’s also a comic got trolled recently. Apparently someone dedicated the time and energy into making a Facebook page dedicated to their hatred of him. My first thought was, why? I mean all the pressing issues life has to offer and you choose to go after a stand-up comedian that you’ve probably saw exactly once in your life? Seriously?
My second thought was raucous laughter because see the thing about stand-up comics is a) that they make jokes for a living and b) that they also hang out with other stand-up comics who also make jokes for a living. Given that tidbit of knowledge why would anyone ever think that trolling a stand-up comedian would end in anything other than their complete humiliation? I mean, duh! Right?
Now that’s not to say we comics are mean-spirited folk, far from it. We are however a community. That means we have no problem coming to the aid of one of our own when the situation calls for it. That’s why it’s not really a good idea for trolls to come for one of us. You know, so maybe follow Wil Wheaton’s rule and don’t be a dick.