Wednesday, June 18, 2014

My Best Work

Tuesday June 17th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

   Despite all the enormous obstacles I have had to overcome in my life – especially of late – it is without an ounce of doubt that I am doing by far the best work I have ever done on every level of endeavor. I may not be doing it on a mass stage, but those who are seeing it are getting my best.

   My last engagement at Zanies Comedy Club in St. Charles, IL was in front of small audiences due to a holiday weekend, but those who showed up got some powerhouse shows. I am firing on all cylinders, but I feel like the car I’m driving isn’t on any race track. It’s out on a desert road.

   While it’s satisfying to know I have paid my dues and developed a world class comedy act, it’s also frustrating as hell that nobody is seeing it. The best ‘me’ has been sacrificed to small crowds all over North America, and those people wouldn’t remember my name if they were under oath.

   At least pro athletes have statistics to fall back on. Many of them have their picture on a sports card of some sort, or are in a team yearbook somewhere. There is evidence that they existed, and played professional sports. They have something to show for it, and can prove it to their kids.

   For most comedians, the only thing we get to be remembered by is an occasional television set that only runs for a few minutes max and is on late at night when most people watching are snot flying drunk or in the heat of passion. Athletes are usually revered, while comedians are judged.

   Most live audiences have a collective attitude of “Make me laugh, asshole.” I personally get off on doing exactly that, and pounding them into submission until they can’t laugh any more. I love it when people come up to me and tell me they thought they were going to choke to death during the show, and how they had a hard time breathing. It sounds sick, but that’s a giant compliment.

   This doesn’t happen every night mind you, but at this stage in my development it happens quite a bit. I know what I’m doing up there, even though nobody seems to care except me. Bookers are clueless as a rule, and that’s just how it is. One would think they’d know what funny is, but that’s the biggest joke of all. Most of them are just in it for money, and could just as easily sell shoes.

   I’ll never forget sitting at a comedy club with John Yoder of Funny Business Agency in Grand Rapids, MI in 1990 when I had a morning radio job in Lansing, and was house emcee. There was a comedian on stage just KILLING, and John leaned over to me and asked “Is this guy funny?”

   I knew right there that both comedy and I were doomed. This was a guy that was supposedly in the driver’s seat and booked comedy rooms all over the Midwest, and he had no clue as to what’s funny or why an audience liked it. And he’s certainly not alone. Incompetence runs rampant, and it’s getting worse. Unfortunately what’s funny is always subjective, so it’s not about to change. 

   And therein lies my biggest problem. Funny is not the top requirement for a comedian, as crazy as that sounds. It’s all a comedian thinks about, but it’s not what bookers prioritize as they have never been on stage and have no idea what to look for. It took me a long time to figure it out, but it’s something every young comedian needs to learn quickly. Funny alone is not the main goal.

   I may have made some star studded stupid mistakes business wise, but even my detractors will admit that I’m a super solid act – even if they can’t figure out why. After fighting through all the insanity, I’m now doing the best shows I ever have – just in time to get a day job. Ain’t life fun?

Stand up comedy can  be a lonely undertaking - especially when nobody show up to see it.

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