Archives for category: Stand up Comedy

It’s been pretty hectic this last week. Had quite a few gigs this week, and the big one is almost finished. Should be done this afternoon at the latest. Once it’s done and uploaded, I’ll be posting links so that you guys can all watch them and comment and hopefully get them into the finals.

I shot a comedy show, Humor for Heroes, last Monday and am in the process of finishing that up. Wednesday was Corridor, which I haven’t even touched yet, and last night (and tonight) I shot for Gy Odom and Curtis Hammill. And I’ll get to that after the other two gigs are done.

And next Friday I have another comedy gig to shoot at Hotties Bar and Grill in San Antonio. It’s a new venue for me, so I’ll have to leave early so I can figure out what I need to do to set up properly.

And right now, I’m looking into selling my Canon XL2 and getting a Canon T2i. There are a few reasons as to why I want to do this. One, it’s full 1080p HD video for less than $900. Even the cheapest 1080p pro camcorders start at $2500. And if I want to get that ‘film’ look that the DSLRs get, I have to buy an adapter and then buy lenses. So, I could get a good rig for about $1500 with DSLR, or I could get something equivalent using an HD camcorder for about $7500. Even if math isn’t your strong suit, it should be fairly evident which is a better deal.

Another thing to consider is the media. Right now, I’m shooting on tape. Which is okay, but for every minute of video I take, I have to spend a minute capturing it to the computer. So, if the gig is a 2 hr comedy show, I have 2 hrs of video I have to play onto the computer. THEN, I can start editing.

With DSLR, I just take the SDHC card and pop it into the computer and can begin editing in seconds. And, if I’m shooting something with multiple takes, I can review the clips and only put those clips onto the computer.

Even with the HVX200a, the P2 cards are expensive compared to the same size SD card. So what’s the point?

Size. My XL2 is arguably the best Standard Definition camera on the market. There aren’t many SD cameras out there that are better. When I show up to a shoot with my XL2 and people see me piecing it together, they are impressed. I never fail to get a compliment when I’m out (unless I’m doing the normal gigs, and people are used to it).

However, if I showed up with what amounts to a still camera, people aren’t as impressed. In their heads, it’s a still camera. It’s not a video camera. It’s not impressive. Yes, it’s nicer than their little point and shoot jobber, but it’s not an intimidating impressive machine. It’s something they think they can get off the shelf at BestBuy. Which technically they can.

So what’s next week? The normal gigs, editing these vids, and hopefully getting a new T2i…

Advertisements
Staged.

Is this thing on?

Last night was the weekly open mic at Corridor – my comedy home. Every week is fun, but last night was a bit different.

I started off my evening of comedy by heading over to Michael Nieto’s place. The one and only Wade Word was over and they were recording their podcast, “Before the Show” (caution, language). I was surprised to see Curtis Hammill there. So this particular episode of BTS could be quite interesting. I know I had a good time. We wrapped up and headed out to Corridor.

As always, the show started late.  There were quite a few people in the main room at J’s Bistro, but the lounge was strictly comics. There was a new guy, who slightly resembled a Zack Galifianakis. The people in the main room? His friends. The kicker? None of them wanted to pay the $5 to get in. At first. Then they all relented and got themselves inside. And of course, Galifianakis-man had to comment on that. He was the first guy up for the night.

This guy wasn't there.

I had asked my good friend, Nick Kukowski to come out and run the camera so that I could concentrate on comedy. Last week, I showed up without the camera and it was a great time. I wanted to keep that going, so I asked Nick to help out. The deal was I’d split the cash we made. Which was $14. Go us! But I must admit, it was nice to be able to just do what I do without having to stress about the camera. I didn’t realize how much of a toll that takes on the comic side of myself.

I got everything set up, and Nick rolled in. I showed him how I had things set up and chatted for a bit while we all waited for Galifianakis, Jr. to get his people inside. And then we started.

Oh, I should mention, the guy who runs the place, Nick Aluotto, has been choosing the host of the open mic a few minutes before the show starts. That was another thing we were waiting on. He picked Paul Roca, and once he got the list together, we got rolling.

And what a ride it was.

I didn’t stay in the lounge area often, I stayed in the main room and talked with the other comics. It’s refreshing to talk comedy and life while comedy and life is happening. While Galifianakis Jr. was on, Curtis walked up to me and voiced his concern, which was the same concern I had just had myself.

We were both concerned that when this guy was done on stage, all his friends would leave and we’d all be stuck doing comedy for each other. It’s fine, we’ve done that before, but it’s an odd thing. Comics don’t really do comedy when it’s just comics, they talk smack and just do a bunch of ‘inside’ jokes. So even if someone walks in, they don’t get the comedy. Fortunately, the friends stayed and the show rolled on.

Later on, Curtis and I would realize that since the guys were scraping up funds to see a show, they’d get the most of their money and stay the whole two and a half hours. That’s two bucks an hour. What a bargain.

If I may digress here, one thing I’ve noticed about stand up comics is that when someone first starts doing comedy, they bring friends. Sometimes it’s four or five friends, but many times it’s something like 8 to 10. Then for the second outing, there’s fewer friends, if it was 8 before, it’s 5 now. And this trend continues until the comic can’t even get the spouse to show. And as time goes on, you get a bunch of comics watching comedy with a bunch of comics. Especially in San Marcos where comedy takes a back seat to drinking and dancing. In Austin, it’s not a big deal, because there are plenty of people who wander in, or specifically look for comedy.

Perspective

Like these people, comedy isn't always straight up.

I wandered in and out of the room, and noticed that the crowd wasn’t shy – meaning a couple of people didn’t mind joining in the show, even though they weren’t invited. One guy in particular was constantly heckling. I’m not sure what his deal was, but he was the sort of heckler that thinks he’s adding to the performance. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.

I’m going to take a minute and break the illusion of comedy. The reason comedy works so well is because it’s well rehearsed. It’s rehearsed to be energetic and off-the-cuff. Bad comedy is bad not so much because of the material, but because the performance. Imagine if Louie CK just mumbled his jokes in a very sloppy way. Or if Brian Regan just sat in a chair relating his Pie Joke in a very A.D.D. manner? It wouldn’t play. The reason it’s funny is because it comes of as new. Fresh. As if the comic just thought it up on the way over. If you notice, comics will almost always say something happened recently. They saw something on the way in. They had something happen yesterday. Or last week. It’s always timely. That’s part of the illusion. I saw a comic last year, and saw him again recently. He has an airplane joke. It was the same both times. And both times it happened last week. To the uninitiated, it comes off as he just thought it up. To the comics, we know that it probably never happened. But the illusion is there.

This is part of the problem with the heckler. The heckler believes in the illusion, and that the comic really is living in the moment. Sadly, most comics aren’t that great on their feet and can’t really handle the immediacy of an idiot in the crowd. Even more sad is the fact that the comics that can, usually default to verbally abusing the heckler. It works, and most times shuts up the heckler, but not always.

Heckler UMP

Not your typical Heckler.

So this guy was talking all night. Adding little comments here and there. I can’t say how the other comics handled it, because I was in and out of the room. I know a couple comics addressed it and did their best to shut him up. I imagine others just ignored the guy. Either way, it’s not a fun experience for the comic, and truthfully, the audience tends to really frown on it too. Any heckler video you see on YouTube usually ends with the crowd cheering the comic, because they really can’t do anything to the heckler to make them stop. It’s up to the comic or the establishment.

Which brings me to another point. A lot of comics look forward to dealing with a heckler. When they know there’s a heckler in the audience, they start ignoring their material and start concentrating on that heckler. They want to get some practice in dealing with these guys. The truth is, as a comic, you’re going to see a heckler fairly often. More often than one would like usually. So when a comic does get the chance, the comic will take it.

It’s not always the case. It’s not always funny. And it’s not always the best thing for the night. The trick to dealing with a heckler is to walk that line between doing material, handling the heckler, and not offending the audience. It’s a tricky, fun walk to take. I’ve personally had two hecklers in my short time on stage. Once was from a drunk lady who had been a bit distracting and practically ruined David McQuary’s set that night. She was leaving when I got on stage and I sort of agged her on. She stayed and magic happened.

Last night was my second time handling a heckler. I don’t have video up yet, but I will, and I’ll post the link in the comments. Hopefully.

After the show, the heckler stuck around and then apologized to various people about what he did. He actually told me, “I’m funny, I’m actually funny!” which was really annoying, because this is our craft. Imagine if you’re a CPA and some guy comes in and starts manipulating your numbers and then says, “I’m good with numbers, I really am!” Yeah, not funny either way.

But we all encouraged him to show up next week and get on stage. I don’t know if he will, but if he does, I’ll put his video up just on principle.

Hey, thanks for reading folks – I really appreciate it.

I like helping people. There’s something inside of me that yearns to help people whenever I can. Even people who I don’t think deserve it – I help out to some degree. And I feel good about it. I have never regretted helping someone out. Even if it has put me at a disadvantage at the time, it usually comes back in multiples and is beneficial.

Sometimes people try to take advantage of this. And yes, I will help them to an extent – but a lot of times the help is, “What would you do if I wasn’t here?” (Thanks Steve Langevin!) Sometimes the best help you can give is self-worth and self-confidence. You know, “give a man a fish…”

The biggest problem I’ve ever faced is that people tend to mistake kindness for weakness, as if me being helpful is the same as me not having a spine. But I can usually solve this issue by showing the opposite. I can be helpful and unbending.

At the core of my being, my Christianity is that I believe in second chances, trusting others, being tolerant, and accepting people for who they are. All I can do as a servant of Christ is to show others what’s out there. All I can do is talk about God and Jesus. I can’t make them believe. I can’t make them convert. But I can be a friend and show them the wonderful things that happen when you put your faith in Jesus and let Him guide your life.

I don’t always make the right decisions, but if I ask for God’s help and listen, He tells me what to do. And yes, God talks to me. I think it’s different for everyone. I have a friend that got a message from God through someone who was but a chance encounter. I have gotten messages from God through the TV. I know it sounds odd, but it happened.

There was a point where I felt like I needed to give up comedy. I felt as though I was done with it. I prayed and asked for God’s guidance, and I got it. From various things on TV. One was from Desperate Housewives, another from Conan, and I can’t remember right now what the third one was -but the message from all three were ‘stand-up comedy.’ I took that to mean I should continue along this path.

I don’t know why I’m supposed to keep doing comedy. The only thing that I really can see is that I’m supposed to go into this thing and be the shining light. Comedy will always have the dark, dirty side, but I think I’ve inspired others to work on clean material. I know I’ve made an impression on a few people, so maybe I’ll continue to do that and help people see that Christianity isn’t that “Fire and Brimstone – You’re going to HELL!” that is so prevalent in our society. It’s about trusting in God when the odds are against you. It’s about doing the best you can and helping others when you’re not really in a position to help anyone – including yourself!

Maybe you’re not a Christian. Maybe you don’t believe in God. There’s nothing I can do or say to prove to you one way or the other. And truthfully, all I can do is relate my experiences. What those do for you is up to how you receive them. Sometimes a person isn’t ready to receive that message, but that message stays there, and will come back later when that person is ready. It’s sort of like that moment at the end of “The Sixth Sense,” where it’s revealed that Bruce Willis’ character was dead the whole time. What was perceived originally changes when new info is introduced.

Do me a favor – take a moment and look at your life. Maybe you’re really happy where you are. Maybe you’re battling depression for some unknown reason. Maybe things are fine, but you feel as though something is missing. Look around you – God is everywhere, and God loves you. God is love. God does not hate anyone. He does not hate “fags.” He doesn’t hate anyone. He loves us all and wants us to come to him and let him be the guide in our lives.

I think one of the biggest hurdles is that people think that God solves all the problems and when He doesn’t, they lose faith. That’s not how it works. You have to work at being a Christian. You have to have a dialog with God. You have to be willing to make those sacrifices He asks of you. I don’t think God makes people rich with money, but he makes them valuable as people.

At least that’s how I’ve seen it.

Sometimes I get asked, as a Christian, why God lets bad things happen to us. I can’t pretend to know the will of God, but based on some experiences in my life, I know that good always happens – especially after bad.

As an example, I usually relate the story of how I gave up just about everything – including the core of my being – to be in a relationship with someone. It ended horribly, but that experience taught me through the heartache that I can’t give up who I am to be with someone. I have to stay true to myself in order to make anything work. As a result, I’ve been married to my wife for 8 years. We are about to have our 4th kid, and the last 10 years have been some of the greatest moments in my life. And I have to thank that bad relationship for giving me all this goodness.

For the last year, I’ve been performing stand up comedy. I’ve met lots of people. Two of them have really been inspirations – not only to me, but to others as well.

Born with it
I first saw John Dittmar (warning – language) at an open mic. When I saw him, I thought to myself that I didn’t want to give sympathy laughs. In my mind, I didn’t think this kid would be funny, and I didn’t want to patronize him by giving soulless laughs just because he had Cerebral Palsy. As it turned out, I didn’t need to. He was hilarious and probably the best comic of the night.

He turns 21 soon, and I’ve gotten to be friends with him over this last year. He does a lot despite having this… this… thing. This past summer he taught at a sort of Tech Camp. He helped a bunch of 5th graders learn about math and computers and stuff. That’s not something a typical 20 year old guy would do. He tells me about this and it’s usually about how horrible those kids were – but I could hear in his voice how much he really enjoyed it.

He doesn’t know it, but he’s been an inspiration to me. And if he’s been an inspiration to me, there’s no telling who else has been positively affected by interacting with John. He’s genuine, and he tries to help out whenever he can. He gives. He gives of himself and he gives what he can. Sometimes it’s just a self-deprecating joke. Other times it’s offering his time or knowledge on something. I always look forward to spending time with him.

If John didn’t have cerebral palsy, I may never have met him. He probably wouldn’t have gotten into comedy. But most importantly, he probably wouldn’t have been as much of an inspiration to others. I know he’s touched my life, and I can only imagine the countless others that have been inspired by John and he has no clue!

Life Changer
I believe it was October when I first met Bobby Henline (warning – language). I didn’t know his story, but I definitely knew he wasn’t born a burn victim. Later on I found out that he was serving in Iraq when his Humvee hit an IED.

Over the last four years, Bobby’s life has been drastically changed (to say the least). Rather than wallowing in pity and grieving over what had happened (like I think I would do), he turned the tragedy into comedy. And that has been an inspiration to just about everyone who has met Bobby.  I know that he has inspired me to make the most of what I have.

Yes, Bobby’s last tour in Iraq really was a horrible thing, but there’s no way to measure how much good Bobby has been able to spread around the world. He regularly visits wounded soldiers, and recently did a comedy show called “Humor for Heroes” where the majority of the crowd were veterans.

Bobby could very well have let this turn him into a bitter, hateful man, but he chose to go a different route, and I know I’m better for having met the man.

If you get the chance to meet either of these guys, or would like to see their comedy – you should. I know Bobby is a regular at LOL in San Antonio, and John is doing what he can to perform while going to Texas State.

Life would definitely be better for both of them if things had turned out “normal,” but thanks to these events, I have come to know a couple of great guys. And I also know that these two guys have been able to inspire those around them. It would be easy to question God’s motives for both of these men’s lives, but in the end I feel the sacrifices made were worth what we’ve gained.

This past Monday was the 30th birthday of the guy who runs Corridor Comedy Club, Nick Aluotto.  I feel a certain loyalty to him and the club because it’s where I started. It’s also the place where I feel a part of the ‘family’ of San Marcos (and surrounding communities) comedians.

This past week was sort of rough for the two of us – due to some errors in communication, we ended up being really frustrated with each other. But I wanted to make a bit of a surprise for him this week. I couldn’t really throw a surprise party for him, so I did the next best thing.

The open mic is held every Wednesday in the lounge at J’s Bistro. Corridor has been around just over a year – a year and a month. Usually there’s a fair turnout of comics and audience. Last night, we had quite a few comics, and a pretty good audience. Thanks to the cooperation of both comics and audience, I was able to pull off a great practical joke – AND – keep him from knowing it was me (until another comic told him).

I was a bit worried at first. I was able to talk to all the comics no problem, and they were able to tell their friends too. That part was really easy. And all of them thought it was a great idea. Well, most. One guy thought it wasn’t a great idea, the other thought it would be a bad idea. The hard part was getting the people who were just there, just ‘true’ audience members. I couldn’t just walk over to those people and let them know what was going on. And I couldn’t figure out just how to get that info to them.

I thought I could get the host to say something if Nick was out of the room. I had it orchestrated. I told the host to announce it, and I got another comic, Anthony Torino, to take him into the bar and talk to him – distract him. And it was going great. Until the host slipped up and just introduced the next comic.

I wanted to just run up on stage real quick interrupt the set, and say what I wanted to say, but I refrained.

On try two, I was trying to keep Nick occupied, uh, not in a military style, but just keep him out of the lounge. It sort of worked, but then it didn’t. The host, Aaron McDavis, started telling the crowd the plan, but Nick wandered in. Harrison Drover saw this and tried to warn Aaron, but not in a cool, quick way. It was more like this – Harrison saw Nick coming in and then turned and whisper yelled at Aaron to STOP. Or QUIT. Or NO. or something. I was behind Nick, and this is what I saw –

Aaron was in the middle of the room, talking to the crowd. When Harrison told him to stop, he did. He did it with the look of a guy that just got caught taking money from the “help a cripple” jar. With a big “Uhhh” Aaron went back on stage. Nick was a little concerned, and asked what was going on… And everyone froze up and did a “Nothing” sort of answer. WORST. IMPROV. EVER!

Things went on, and thankfully Nick stepped out for a bit, and I was able to keep an eye out. Aaron was able to quickly tell the audience the plan and they were all on board. BOOM it was on! Fortunately, Aaron was able to do this one comic before Nick’s turn. Whew! Talk about close!

I suppose I should let you in on the prank. I had told everyone that when Nick starts his set, that give him no response. No laugh, no boo, nothing. Then, when he gets frustrated, we’d sing Happy Birthday.

We all clapped and cheered him getting on stage. Then for next three minutes, he told jokes. And no one made a sound. NOTHING. I knew people were really holding back, because I could see some people biting their hands and covering their mouths. At about 3 mins and 15 seconds, he asks what’s going on. Not frustration so much, but just enough to push it. So Aaron and I lead the singing, and everyone joins in.

The results were awesome. I was so happy that it all worked out. I was sweating it, because if anyone didn’t know, or someone broke the silence, it’d be over. The fallback was that we’d just sing happy birthday at some point.

I went on after Nick and therefore was able to avoid him for a few minutes. At some point, Nick came into the lounge and said something. I could tell he was happy. Apparently Ethan Moore had spilled the beans. Those around him at the time said he laughed so hard. I wished I could have seen that.

All in all, it came off great, everyone enjoyed it, and Nick ended up having a nice surprise.

On September 9th, 2009, I entered into the world of stand up comedy. And what a year it’s been.

I still remember that night. Mostly. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it. And I’ve stuck with it for the most part.

One thing that hasn’t really happened is a real gig doing comedy. I recently did a little 5 min. spot before Ron Shock a couple weeks ago, and that’s a pretty big thing, really. It was fun, and we all had a great time. I haven’t opened for anyone. I haven’t done any guest spots. I’m not really a ‘professional’ as of yet.

A lot has happened this past year. The comics I knew when I started this thing aren’t really around anymore. Several have moved to LA or New York. Some just disappeared. But there are new comics sprouting up every week. Some stick around, others just pop in once or twice and then disappear. It is what it is, and it feels good.

Corridor Comedy is what I consider my ‘home’ for comedy. It’s where I started, and even though it seems to change venues every few months, it’s still a great place. Mostly because of the people. I haven’t seen too many comic scenes other than Austin and San Antonio, but from what I have seen, what we have here in San Marcos is pretty cool. We up and coming comics really look out for each other. We help each other write, and for the most part we really get along as if we were a family.

What I find most interesting about comedy is that it’s just like any other aspect of life. It’s a group of people who have a similar interest and are completely different outside of that. There’s nothing magical about it – it’s just people hanging out like you’d find in any book club or sports bar. One common interest, but so different in outlooks and such.

I recently read an article about how back in the Vaudeville Days, the jokes were all the same – what changed was the delivery or how it was presented. Comedy has really changed, and the article talked about how stand up comedy polices itself. It’s really easy to steal people’s jokes – but the community itself will really let it be known that it’s not cool. Sometimes the subject gets a bit hairy – especially when you start dealing with certain premises. For instance, there are only so many “Shamu killed the trainer” jokes you can make before you tread on someone else’s material. And there are comics that seem to make it their duty to be the copyright cops to ensure no joke thievery occurs on their shift.

And for the most part, that’s fine. But if you’re that person, you better be sure you can back up your claim. Saying that a comic can’t go from being unfunny to funny in a few weeks doesn’t justify it. I’m sure if you look back over my videos, you’ll see that at one point, the jokes went from being okay to being funny. Nothing really changed – I just told the jokes better.

Advice is also something that is rather tricky. Even though I’ve only been doing stand up for a year now, I have been watching comedy for a long time – specifically stand up comedy. I remember growing up, there was a stand up comedy show at 6:30p and we’d make sure to finish dinner so we could watch it. So, even though I’m still getting my ‘comedy legs,’ it doesn’t mean I don’t know the potential of a joke. Occasionally I’ll feel the need to share some ideas with another comic about their work. Sometimes it’s just a simple “change this word” thing, or maybe something a little more like “tell it from this angle.” And usually when I do, I get a thank you from the comic and go on. Sometimes, it turns into something more. Occasionally, though, it’s looked down upon.

And to be honest, I do appreciate advice from other comics, but it’s always a little easier to take that advice when it’s from someone you respect and/or admire. It’s a little harder to take that advice when it’s from someone who’s just started getting into comedy.

Another thing I’ve noticed about comedy is that as I go on, I get less and less interested in new comics. It’s not that I don’t care, usually I am excited that someone new has joined the group, but sometimes it’s hard to really sit through their set. Not because it’s bad, but because I lose interest. Maybe that would be different if I wasn’t taping every time. In San Marcos, I usually make a point to talk to new guys. In Austin, however, the scene isn’t always so friendly.

So as I get into my second year of comedy, I think the only thing I really want to focus on is to start getting gigs for myself. An opening spot here, a guest spot there. Just try to get out there and get a solid 10-20 minutes worth of good material that someone’s willing to pay to see.

Here’s to the first year of comedy for myself, and here’s to the rest of the ride…