TV Made Me Do It!

As you can probably tell, I’ve been away for awhile on this blog.  This is (mostly) because I was being filmed for a television show that airs in Canada called TV Made Me Do It!, where I chronicled my path to wanting to be a comedian.  I was discovered by Proper Television through the Internet on Myspace.  They read one of my blog entries from one of my older blogs entitled:  Laughter is a Great Medicine.  I believe I transferred it here as well, but I’d rather just link to the original post.  When I was diagnosed with brain cancer, there was very little to laugh at.  I used comedy, mainly the show Seinfeld, to lift my spirits and go through my treatments for the cancer.  After I was cured of cancer, I was lucky enough to benefit from the Make-A-Wish foundation and got to meet my idol, Jerry Seinfeld.  It was an unbelieveable experience and it was all the hope I needed after he told me the material I’d been working on was funny and that with hard work an perseverence, I would make it some day.

It seemed like this opportunity to be part of a television show was coming out of left field because I had made no effort whatsoever to be on television yet.  I did do a small segment on a local show about comedy, but that was it.  But I do have a great story to tell.  It’s the kind of story that people see and it inspires them.  Beating brain cancer and laughing all the way through it is something that many people admire.  Most times I tell that story to people, they have tears in their eyes and I feel a connection that is unbelieveable.  This is my gift to the world.

Filming the show was great because I got to go to NYC and get coached by a professional comedian.  Cory Kahaney.  She was on Last Comic Standing in the first season.  I took two separate trips to NY and I also went to a comedy class taught by Jim David.  They were both very insightful and told me I have excellent material and I  just need to find a way to organize it appropriately and I will be able to get on late night television in the near future.  That was very encouraging.  I truly feel grateful for that experience. The second time I was there, I got to perform at Comix comedy club.  Very nice comedy club.  I also performed at Comedy Cabana in Myrtle Beach before I flew to NY.  I went on in MB for over ten minutes and kind of stuttered at the end, but I was still getting laughs even though I wasn’t doing preplanned material.  After Cory watched my performance at Comedy Cabana, she gave me tons of pointers about how to polish my jokes and how to arrange them appropriately.  I was stunned at the difference in NYC when I went on for five minutes in front of about 70 people.

The filming crew was amazing.  They were so nice and so accomodating.  They were really into my story and they drove me around NYC to all the Seinfeld locations where we filmed.  We went to Monk’s Coffee Shop and Times Square and we even stood near the Letterman studios.  We did a lot of filming.  We filmed in Myrtle Beach all day one day, then all day in NYC, then I went back home.  The next time, we filmed for one day all the way through until about 7:30 PM.  They had a surprise waiting for me at the end of my performance.  There is this orgaization called Comedy Cures that performs for sick children and adults.  The woman who runs the organization, Saranne Rothberg, thought it was so inspiring what I am doing that she made mean ambassador in the organization and she wants me to perform for them in the future.  I am exalted at this opportunity because I will be doing what Seinfeld did for me.  I will be using the healing power of laughter to help those in need.  Saranne was diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 90s and used comedy to cure herself completely, which is more than I can say for myself.  I still underwent radiation treatment, so she truly is a testament to laughter curing those who are truly sick.

I am eternally grateful to the three people who filmed me and I just want to say thank you again to Samara, Jeff, and Rich.  Never did I think I would be performing in NYC and getting private comedy lessons at this point in my life and not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be on a television show like that.  But I do have a great story to tell, a story that only continues to get better.  I need to build my resume if I’m going to have a True Hollywood Story done about me. :)

All in all, I would say the experience was a positive one.   I got more confirmation and validation on my type of humor and performance style.  I have tons of room to improve and I am glad that I got some schooling from A-list comedians, two people that are established in the business, and are extremely talented.  Things are looking up for me right now and only good can come of this new publicity.

Edit:  In a couple of weeks, I will be receiving my tapes from my performances so I can finally have some material on my myspace page, professional quality!

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Full Frontal Comedy

When it comes to embracing my passion, it is a no-brainer for me. Comedy is my bread and butter. I am looking for new and exciting places to perform and get this off the ground floor. It is going to take a massive commitment from me to pour all my heart into it, but I know it will be worth it in the long run. If I can successfully accomplish this goal of making a living from telling jokes and just clowning around onstage, I believe it will allow me to do so much more in addition. I need to do this. This is not just a want, but it is a must. There is no other reason to live as far as I am concerned. If I do not go after this goal whole-heartedly, then I have failed my reason for existence.

I do my own thing up there on the stage and I am outside what anyone would expect. I am still working to perfect my craft and be able to go for more than 20 minutes at a time. One liners are hard to memorize. But I find it is easier to put them into little stories or relatable categories and just flow from there. I take Jerry Seinfeld’s advice to leave the audience gasping for breath…because of the laughter, or maybe the laughing gas. I truly feel more alive when I do that than any other time and time seems to stand still. Writing a joke and performing it is one of my greatest joys and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I believe you know it when you have found your passion. For me, it is unquestionable.

I study comedians religiously and I know what works and what doesn’t. I know the whole format. I understand what audiences are looking for. I can market myself to a certain crowd, one who has intelligence, humor, and a bit of sarcasm left in them. I know the value of laughter. It is worth more than any money I will ever make. But it would certainly be great to do what I love and make enough money to go around. I am setting this intention in stone, putting it on my wall or on my laptop’s screensaver and reviewing how I can get closer to it every day. My mission is now in motion.

I put this on hold for awhile as I dealt with a health problem I was having as a result of the brain tumor I suffered with five years ago. But I learned something in this experience. I can’t let anything hold me back. I can’t let anything, no matter how debilitating, obstruct my dreams. I have a unique story to tell, one from the eyes of a survivor, and one that bears repeating. And it is always better to tell a story with humor and possibly some exaggerations, purely for comic effect. Whether it be a white lie about my lactose intolerant milkman, or a funny story about how my Amish friend never calls me anymore, it is a fun ride worth enduring. And I invite you to take your passion into full gear this week as well. What other reason do you have for getting out of bed every morning? To get the daily news?

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Winner of Comedy Contest

Well, I guess I showed them last night. I put down a very powerful set and I beat the other ten comics who made it to the final round. It was probably my best set to date. I went on third, and I think that helped me a lot because I hate to wait when doing my set. I have it all ready to go, and then they want me to wait. My prizes were numerous, which is amazing. I got like six or seven $25 gift certificates to various restaurants and nightclubs, and a bottle of wine (kind of ironic, seeing how I do not drink). What was funny about this is that I was the youngest competitor there (at 21) and had only been to a comedy club once for the preliminary round. But I threw down my material, which had been four years in the making, no lie. Writing jokes takes a tremendous amount of time and it’s amazing how much effort went into this win, but the effort was well-worth it. I also get to emcee there for a week, which means I will have to clear my work schedule for that. I need to pursue my dream, not get caught up in the supermarket way of life.

I am so glad I won, but even if I didn’t win, I would still be grateful for the opportunity and the experience. I think it is so great that places like the Comedy Cabana allow young comics to express themselves in front of a live audience. I mean, it’s kind of funny how they only gave us from five to seven minutes because that is all I had anyway. I probably went less than that, but I had over 25 jokes, and around 20 or so good laughs, and three or four applauses, loud applauses. Maybe more, it was all a blur up there onstage. Then when you get offstage, you have some idea on how it went, but you’re not completely sure. I remember I got so many really good laughs, the audience loved me. So I almost knew for sure, judging by the audience response on the other people, that I had to be the winner. If I wasn’t, it wouldn’t be my fault, but the judges just did not like my style.

I saw a few other comics who I did enjoy that night and I thought they were very good. They just did not have the volume of laughs per minute I did. A lot of them told stories and one guy even announced his canidacy for the president. I feel like one of them would have won if I hadn’t showed up. It was weird how I found out about this competition. I kind of was online somewhere, and just happened to hear about it from some message board, and immediately went to the Comedy Cabana Myspace page., where I asked when and where I could sign up and then on May 21, I did well enough to make it to the final round, and then finally won the final round.

So where do I go from here? I believe this is some sort of turning point in my life, where I know now that I am at least a good comedian, who is good enough to beat some of the comedians who have been performing for more than ten years. If that does not say something about my material, my timing, and my delivery, nothing does. And it wasn’t so much about winning or losing. I just wanted to do the best job I could, and I did. I did something many comedians dream of, and now I know I need to start entering more and more comedy competitions, performing everywhere I can, at anytime that’s possible. Experience is the best teacher, and I do not want to be the one who’s cutting class. And it wasn’t just my material that people laughed at. I paced back and forth, up and down the stage, and then when I did my joke about how sometimes I wander around aimlessly, I got the biggest applause of the night. And I hadn’t even reached the punchline yet. “But the worst part about that is finding your way back.” So I really had the audience on my side by that point, and i finished with a bang.

The emcee really liked me and told me that I was even funnier than last time, which he said was really “fucking” funny. So, I guess I will have to update my Myspace page to include: “Winner of Comedy Cabana’s Open Mic Comedy Competition.” At least now I have something to put on my resume. Once again, the only negative that came from the club was the smoke. No one in my immediate family has somoked since I was alive, so I guess I am just not used to smoke, and I hate the smell. I may have to start performing wearing a gas mask. I am tired of getting bloodshot eyes every time I perform. What I may have to do is go to a place in the club that is non-smoking before I go on, and then perform, then go outside for awhile. We’ll see.

Anyway, I really enjloyed myself last night and look forward to more good times in the comedy world. Thank you, Comedy Cabana. I know you never saw me coming. Thank you.

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Back to Basics

I haven’t really been working on my comedy very much lately.  I don’t know what it is, but it’s just that I feel like I have some sort of block in my head when it comes to thinking up funny stuff all the time.  I have come up with a few jokes, but they haven’t been that spectacular, but I thought one of them was pretty good, I guess:  “Whenever someone sees a baby, they like to talk to it with some crazy high pitched voice, ‘Oh, did you have a good nap?’  I’m not like that.  I just talk to it.  ‘When are you gonna get a job?'”  I guess it’s a little misleading, but whatever.  I’m not here to impress anyone, just to get all these thoughts out.  I also came up with another joke yesterday, but I’m sure it won’t strike a chord with many audiences, as most people don’t know what an astral projection is.  But here it goes anyway:  “I used to have a job on the astral plane.  It was a bitch to get there.  The traffic…”

These are jokes in their rawest form.  I actually thought of a joke in a dream.  I don’t know if i wrote about it yet, as I don’t even read my own blog.  No, I haven’t, I’m pretty sure.  It goes something like this.  “I had a dream that I thought of a really funny joke.  Here’s how it went.  ‘Sometimes I like to wander around aimlessly for days, even months.  One time I ended up in Montana and I didn’t know how to get home.  So I called 911.  She asked me ‘Where are you?’  I said, ‘I don’t know.”  Well, it was funny in my dream.”  It went something to that effect.  But I’m working on another joke of some sort about work and how when it’s check day, you have like this feeling that if you don’t get your check that moment that it’s suddenly going to disappear into thin air.  It’s like you walk into work and you ask if you can have your check and they say, “Wait a minute.”  So you do, but while you’re waiting, you’re thinking, “This is taking too long.  I need my check now.”  And you keep waiting, but you start getting more nervous.  And then they finally start looking for it, but they can’t seem to find it right away, so youget more and more nervous.  “Maybe it’s not in there.  Maybe those bastards forgot to mail my check.”  And eventually they find it and everything’s okay.  Except your state of mind.

Maybe something like that, but I can’t be sure.  I write all of these ideas on scraps of paper while I either work or just sit around.  I catalogue them in my word processor in a category called New Jokes Excellent.  Then I color code them for how good I think they are, but I feel like whenever I come up with a new joke, I usually think that it’s really good right away, but then my liking for it fades over time.  I have trouble organizing them or making a set list.  I don’t know what it is, but I feel like organization is not one of my strong points, but that’s kind of good for the ADD age.  People will forget what you were talking about a minute ago anyway, so what’s the point in going into any type of story?  I like to create jokes that exist in time and space and expand, like the universe.  I don’t tell long jokes because I feel like they kind of have too many filler words and filler jokes to get to the last joke.  Besides, I’m not that good at act-outs.  I’m better at explaining things through my descriptive nature.  Although detail isn’t wnat people always want, I feel like I can use words and gestures to completely explain my state of being.

But I feel like I am in the minority when it comes to fear of public speaking.  It doesn’t really trouble me too much.  I know there is no real danger, especially if I’m in a crowd of people I’ve never met before.  They’re not going to ever see me again, for the most part, so if I totally piss them off, no big deal ,right?  But coming up with a logical sequence of jokes has been a real challenge for me.  The problem is that if I have some sort of sequence where joeks that follow one another are like each other, I can sort of remember them better.  but if I just have these absract thoughts coming one after another, it becomes increasing harder to remember which jokes goes where, which will ultimately add to significantly more rehearsal time.

People have compared me to Steven Wright and Jerry Seinfeld, but I don’t really think I fall into those categories.  I certainly think a lot like Wright and have some other thoughts sort of  like Jerry, but I am my own unique entity.  I have separate and distinct thought patterns from them.  I don’t really think on the same wavelength as them, but my styles are similar in some way.

The biggest thing I want to preach in comedy is honesty.  I will only tell jokes that I honestly think are funny to both me and a supposed audience.  Sure, the audience in my imagination is usually much more open than the one I will naturally come in contact with.  They also tend to alugh a bit more, but there’s no denying their existence, eventually.  I really wish I could do stand-up in the morning though because I feel I’m at my best for on-the-fly jokes, as I can naturally bring a progression of thoughts much better.  I just don’t know any comedy club that would have a sufficient audience at that hour.

Comedy is really an exercise is self-exploration.  All the jokes I tell come from deep inside of me.  I don’t know where they come from exactly, but the factory that makes them can sometimes be defective, but I have ways to rectify the problem.  But the neurons in my brain that work so hard to connect seemingly unrelated objects into pure hilarity sure deserve some credit.  The rest of the credit is due to external things and just general observations.  I’ve been working really hard at what I do and performing, even to a small group of ten to fifteen people is a joy.  I sometimes even perform for my family.

I know I’m funny.  All my friends in college would tell other people my jokes when i wasn’t around, and they’d tell me about it.  And I’m pretty protective of my jokes, so I asked them, “Did you use a works cited page linked to me?”  I would have friends who would use my catchphrases and other things.  One of the saying I would often use is, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”  Another one was “deliciously” describing things like “deliciously evil, decliciously absurd, etc.”  But it was the spirit of everything.  I always had something to say and for the most part it was funny.  I would often make up things on the spot, as I pretty much felt that it was my duty to do so.

But now I feel like it’s too limited just to be funny.  I also want to be intelligent.  I’ve decided to go back to college on a semi-regular basis.  Possibly three to four classes and working towards a degree.  I probably think the degree with be in mathematics, but it doesn’t really matter to me.  As long as I have a degree, I guess.  Then I may go for a masters in communication.  I don’t know.  It all depends what happens with this whole comedy thing.  I will always love comedy and I will always write comedy, not to mention, I will always write, period.  So no matter what I end up doing, be it comedy or writing, or some crazy math job, I’m always going to work on my passion, whether or not it generates income for me.  Generating income from my passion would be nice, as I will be in total control of my life, unlike working for an evil bovine master.  So with all respect, it would ba amazing to be able to leverage my ability to make people laught, but I’m not all about that.  Part of me is that.  But the rest of me wants to stimulate the mind and I do that in my comedy, but I feel like I have more to give as well, so bear withme if this blog isn’t always funny or always making you laugh because I feel that just making people laugh will make you become one of those one-dimensional people.  Until next time, peace.

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Memory In Comedy

I am amazed at all the news storeis that pass on a typical day.  I’ma also amazed at all the experiences I have and how many of them aren’t remembered.  Sure, a select few are remembered as the “significant” ones, but for the most part, many of my experiences are not remembered.  I can remember some of my most cherished memories with the most accurate detail you could imagine, but some things that just don’t seem to matter, like when my friends ask me, “What did you do today?”  I usually can’t remember that.  I think the problem is that my short term memory is very lousy, but my long-term memory is pretty awesome.  So if you were to ask me what I did yesterday five years from now, I would be able to tell you in great detail what I did yesterday.

So how does memory relate to comedy?  Sure, there area obvious things, like remembering your lines or omitting certain words, but there is so much more memory applied to comedy.  Memory is a very important part of comedy.  You have to be able to visualize what you are talking about.  Once you do that, you have to remember what kind of mood you were in when you first thought of the joke.  And you have to apply it. You have to really think the way you tell the joke.  You can’t tell a joke and be thinking about if you left your stove running.  You have to remember the creative process that led to that joke, which will make it seem more spontaneous than if you just rehearse a bunch of words.  Sure, you still get the gist of it that way, but it’s not as authentic to the way you first came up with it.

For example, I did a joke once about how I had a dream that I worked at my job and I went to my boss and said, “I worked nine hours last night in my dream.  Don’t you think I should get paid for that?”  And he was like, “No, unless you want to be paid in dream dollars.”  And I was pissed off.  “You’ve taken my life, my freedom, and now you want to take my dreams too?  For no pay?  Fuck this, I quit.”  I remember when thnking up that joke, I put a lot of emotion into it.  I was really mad about how I had a dream about working.  I want my dreams to be pleasureable, not about work.

The only real reason I’m working at a supermarket is because I want to do research of a script I’m working on about working in supermarkets and how irritating that can be.  Like I want to get the real feel of the place.  So I’m carrying around this little notebook that fits in my pocket.  Every time something funny or something that kind of pissed me off happens, I write it down and i later look back on it and see if it strikes an emotional chord with me.  It can either be funny, frustrating, or just plain awful.  But if it does strike that kind of chord with me, it has a good chance of striking the same chord with the audience.

Emotion is a key component to memory.  If something makes you really mad or really happy, you’ll be sure to remember those incidents more than the things that mkae you indifferent or mundane.  If something makes you laugh really hard or makes you so mad you can’t think straight, you’ll tend to put that in the emotional part of your brain, which make you remember it more.

Another way I try to remember jokes is through intense visualization.  Like if I have a joke about, say juicers, which I do, I visualize this scene in which I’m frustrated as hell because every apple I put intot he juicer either gets stuck or only produces a small amount of juice.  Then there’s the pulp flying everywhere and the machine is so loud I feel like I’m at a concert near the speaker.  And then I finally put fifty apples in the damn juicer to get five ounces and it tastes terrible.  That’s the whole visualization, and it only takes about five seconds to go through all that, but it helps me with the order of the sentences of the joke and the ideas flowing correctly.  And finally, it leads to the findal conclusion.  All that work and it tastes awful.

Lsstly, I’m sure we’re all familliar with mnemonics.  These are basic memory aids, such as PEMDAS for order of operations, or the “Please excuse my dear aunt Sally.”  Whatever.  I’m sure some conedians have a long list of words or letters to help them memorize their jokes, but I find if you do it that way, you may come off as amateurish because it’s jsut kind of disorganized or too organized, whatever it is.

If you’re that afraid you’ll forget the lines, put a piece of paper in your pocket.  Write some emergency jokes on it, or just put some emergency jokes in the back of your mind.  Jokes that you know will kill.  Jokes that you know are great.  Jokes that you wouldn’t normally use in that environment.  The audience loves surprise.  And if you ever find yourself where you can’t remember things, just pull the paper out and do some stuff from there.  That’s what I’ve done sometimes and it worked out pretty good.

I never go up there with a set list, though.  Here’s why.  If I ever forget material, there will be this awkward pause.  And during that awkward pause, I’ve got to go in my pocket, then look down a list to figure out where I left off and that takes even more time.  Just a couple of jokes handy could allow for a great turnaround.  But affter that, it should get you back on track.  If not, just get off the stage.  You’ve told a couple of your best jokes already.

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