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!
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.
Stand up comedy is supposed to be a conversation between you and the audience. Sometimes, a conversation can go in an unexpected direction especially when that conversation is with me. Before a show, I throw together a set list, memorize, and rehearse at least once, but I also know that I don’t have to stick to it. New Years Eve Eve I did a show at City Streets and I started with the set list I picked out but the audience took me in a different direction and I went with it. This was admittedly a bit nerve-wracking but ultimately I’m glad I did it because I connected with this room full of people so much better than I would have otherwise. I do it for the laughs, not the blank stares so connecting with the audience is important. I went rogue like Jyn Erso and I don’t regret it and if you’re also a comic neither should you.
During my recent performance, I did a joke about creeps. I asked the ladies in the audience how many of them have had an experience with a creepy guy, you know the kind of guy that doesn’t know when to leave a woman alone. Nearly every woman in the audience clapped or raised her hand. If you’re looking for a percentage I would conservatively estimate 98% of the female audience members had an experience with a creeper. That’s just sad.
If you read the news today, it looks like practically every man in the media and the entertainment industry has been accused of sexual harassment. Now as comedians, we have a certain responsibility to make timely jokes about what’s in the news. However we also still have a responsibility to our audience, that being to make them laugh. So, fellow comics while I get that you may feel compelled to make jokes about how so many men are being accused of sexual harassment, let’s not forget that sexual harassment is not funny to people who have experienced it.
Think about my audience from a few weeks back. Nearly every one of the women in that audience experienced unwanted attention from a creepy guy. That’s pretty much the definition of sexual harassment. Now think about all of the #MeToo stories you’re reading in your social media news feeds from the female members of your social media circle. I have multiple #MeToo stories of my own. So, be mindful that there’s a pretty good chance that most of your female audience members aren’t going to think your timely joke about sexual harassment is funny. You’re also perpetuating the problem by making victims feel uncomfortable and, yes guys that’s why we don’t come forward right away if we ever come forward at all.
Women will continue to come forward. We all decided during one our super-secret underground meetings that we have all had enough. The women who came out against Harvey Weinstein, Lou C.K., Matt Lauer, and others have emboldened the rest of us to stop being nice about it when we’re harassed; you know much like a known sexual predator being elected president has emboldened all of you to openly harass women. If you’re feeling defensive, I’m probably talking to you. Continuing this behavior may result in direct harm to your testicles. You’ve been warned.