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’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.
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.
There seems to be a stigma about female stand-up comedians and women in comedy in general. Apparently there are some people who seem to think that women can’t be funny. To them I say SAY WHAT?!
Uhhh Gilda Radner, Bea Arthur, Jan Hooks, Paula Poundstone, Lisa Lampanelli, Tammy Pescatelli, Maria Bamford, Madeline Kahn, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Ellen DeGeneres, Kate McKinnon, Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jane Krakowski, Jane Curtin, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Janeane Garofalo, Laura Kightlinger, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Cheri Oteri, Betty freakin’ White, and that’s just off the to top of my head.
It’s 2017. Women can be funny. What am I doing outside the kitchen? Being funnier than you. Come at me.
Every comedian at one point or another will deal with criticism whether it’s from other comedians, audience members, or even armchair psychiatrists trying to analyze them, diagnose, and “fix” them. What a lot of people don’t really understand is that comedians are also critics. John Cleese once said that the very nature of humor is critical. If we’re making you laugh, odds are we’re doing it by criticizing, commenting on, or poking fun at something. We may even be doing it by criticizing ourselves.
I’ve seen loads of comics comment on screwing up their own jokes during a set. That’s what we refer to as a moment call. I open nearly every set criticizing the fact that I’m short and I look like I’m twelve, but I’m not sure if I can call that a moment call since it’s a permanent condition with me. Nevertheless it’s the most obvious thing about me and I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t call attention to it. Besides, if I don’t someone else probably will and there’s 50/50 odds that the person will be a heckler. If I call it out from the beginning, I’ve successfully stolen my thunder and now they have less ammunition to derail my set.
Whether your laughing at a pithy observation of everyday life, some relevant social commentary, or yet another one of my short jokes you’re laughing at criticism and that’s completely okay. After all, it is funny.
I’ve been asked how I come up with and write my jokes. The truth is, it’s really hard to explain this process without sounding like I’m being a smartass. Some of my jokes just come to me as I go about my day. That’s why the notebook in the featured image above looks like it’s seen a war. I never know when a joke is going to come to me, so my notebook is with me at all times.
Then there are the jokes that took a bit of work. For example, after sitting in a business meeting I thought to myself there’s a joke here, yet try as I might the joke didn’t come. So I brainstormed and wrote down reasons why people don’t really like going to business meetings and from that list, the joke was born.
Some of the jokes that have come easy to me only appeared that way. Sometimes it took a bit of trial and error and some were more error. There’s a lot of crossing out and scribbling in my notebook from jokes I started writing before deciding to take them in a completely different direction.
There are a few that pages where jokes may appear unfinished, but they’re not. While writing the beginning of the joke I may have stopped to Google something, gotten sidetracked, got distracted by a shiny object, or I may have been drunk while writing and fallen asleep. However, I always go back and finish it. I just do so on a different page.
Some comics will tell you that you need to follow a formula to write your jokes.
Premise + Act-out + punchline = joke
I tried following that formula and I just felt like it didn’t work for me. My writing felt forced like I was trying to be funny instead of just being funny. There’s a passage in the Tao Te Ching that tells us the more we sharpen a knife the duller it will become. We get so caught up in the rat race we call life that we forget how to just be. The same applied to me with my joke writing. I got so caught up in a formula that my writing came across as hackneyed and contrived, so I tossed the formula and just allowed myself to be funny. I’m not knocking the formula. If you use it and it works for you, great! The point is to find what works for you and keep writing.
Even people who have been doing stand-up comedy for decades still get nervous and jittery before a show. It’s normal and by no means unexpected. It doesn’t mean you’re not funny or that you should give up the mic for good. It’s completely okay. However, it can be a road block to you performing at the top of your comedic game, so it’s important that you learn to manage your pre-show nervousness.
I’m by no means claiming to be any kind of expert what with the fact that I’m a comedy toddler. I have certain things that I do that help me and if telling people about them helps one person, I’ll be happy just like if I go up and I make one person laugh I’m happy.
- Breathe. I know it sounds ridiculous to the point of being annoying but it actually does help. Close your eyes and take a few long, slow, and deep breaths in for your nose and out through your mouth. People tend to breathe in short, shallow breaths so breathing this way will get more oxygen to your brain and that can help you feel more relaxed and think more clearly.
- Prepare. I come up with my set list at least five days before a show. Why so far in advance? To give me time to memorize it so that I can go up without notes. I prefer to go up without notes because it looks more professional. It’s also more comfortable for me because I can connect with the audience better because I’m making eye contact with them instead of a notebook sitting on a table or stool behind me.
- Rehearse. This makes performing less intimidating for me. That big scary thing you want to do isn’t so big or scary if you’ve done it before, so I rehearse my set at least once if not twice. There was a time when I was rehearsing up to five times, but I started to sound robotic in my delivery. There’s a balance and you need to find what works for you. I’ve found my first rehearsal is always a hot mess, so it feels good to get all that out before you actually take the stage.
- Hydrate. Yeah this is pretty common-sense-y, but when your mind is traveling in several different directions at one time it’s easy to forget the simple things. If you’re dehydrated you’re not going to feel your best and if you don’t feel your best you’re not going to perform your best.
- Eat something. A lot of people have issues with their stomachs when they get nervous. I know someone who absolutely refuses to eat before he’s finished performing. This isn’t a good idea. The last thing you want to do is have your blood sugar crash and end up either puking or passing out in the middle of your set. If you don’t want to eat a big meal, that’s fine but eat something even if it’s something small and light.
- Remember that the audience is rooting for you. Nobody comes out to a comedy show determined not to laugh. Most people don’t like to see others fail. When your mind races and you imagine every possible way you could fail, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of that. The audience wants to see you succeed and they want to laugh. Don’t forget that.