My First and Worst Year: Producing A Show
I get caught up in the gossip. Shitting on comedians that I barely know. I'm trying to stop that. Early on, I was one those guys that would say something negative because I was trying to start a dialogue and reinforce any negative feelings I had about someone. Usually based in nothing; maybe one lousy first impression or through the grapevine on Facebook. Unfortunately, talking shit is a major way to bond with other inexperienced comics. A lot of miserable, sarcastic, unmotivated, boring comics. Or 10+ year comics that bitch about how unfair everything is. They can't talk to you for 30 seconds without shitting on something.
Now I know that's not me. I never feel good about it and it never helps.
The comics I look up to are modest, rarely say anything bad about anyone because they're just focused. They don't feed the fire. I'd rant about something and they wouldn't have anything to add to it. Maybe something along the lines of,
"Yeah, that can happen," kind of response.
I'd see the look on their face. I'm the problem.
I was the same way in Junior High. Picking on the popular kids and being obnoxious because I was so desperate to be a part of their circle. Afraid to be myself. Afraid to put in that kind of work.
I'll be obsessed with some idiot for hours on a Facebook thread, so tempted to participate in the attack, but where is it going to get me? Fuck, I could've written something. I should be writing jokes now, but I think I know something about blogging and comedy! I feel like I'm just regurgitating boring opinions that have been voiced on hundreds of podcasts already, I'll try to pepper this section up! Check out this sweet ass pimp kitty vest!
I always want to prove myself to other comics. An audience of strangers is always amazing, but I do feel the pressure of an all-comic mic. It's way too important to me. I don't want to be written off, I know I can be funny. Maybe not the last 20 times you saw me, but I'll get there, don't write me off!
When I had a decent set in front of someone I respected, I felt like I could check that off. Okay, that person doesn't think I'm a piece of shit anymore. I proved myself. Getting closer to being an actual comic! Every good set is a stepping stone. My bad sets would just temporarily render me useless. Instead of doing my homework and adjusting, I would just write something new or beat a bad joke into the ground. Maybe it'll work the 27th time.
"The people that go to Burning Man only need these two words to communicate: Burning...man!"
*crickets slashing wrists*
I bombed in front of Sean Conroy and took it kind of hard. Intimidating dude, (like the Ron Perlman of improvisation) he was sitting in the front row at Echoes Under Sunset with his arms crossed, waiting for his set and just watching me hang myself. He'd probably seen a thousand variations of the heckler character I was doing. I picked on him in character, but he wouldn't roll with it. Why would he? It was more fun to watch me squirm.
Every time I asked him a question he would answer,
Which is sort of the "fuck you" version of "yes and," It's an improv thing.
I was berating the audience for being a bunch of hipsters. Yelling out,
"Well I got something for ALL OF YOU!"
Then I started handing out free coffee coupons from a local coffee shop. Sean politely declined.
I had my bombing routine where I would call up Claire afterwards and tell her I just ate shit. Or who I ate shit in front of. She would convince me that it was okay, everybody bombs, and remind me that I'd had good sets before. She would tell me that she loved me and make me feel better about what had happened. Oh, there is life after tomorrow, I forgot! Thanks, baby!
Claire understands the grind. She's a fan of a lot of the people I look up to and we listen to a lot of the same podcasts now. She got into Jen Kirkman and The Longshot Podcast early on and now she subscribes to more comedians than I do. We went to Power Violence and a number of shows at The Improv. Pete Holmes, Todd Glass, Ron Lynch, Eddie Pepitone, Maron, Sebastian, Ian Edwards, and Tig- we love Tig. She pushed me to go on the road. She encouraged me to stop using the train and take her car instead. She makes this all possible. It's unbelievable. She even made cookies when I produced my own show.
I'd done a couple of shows at The Lexington with Tony Bartolone where I did some character stuff. I played a wrestler, a heckler that takes on Mr. Goodnight and a squarish Steve Allen type talk show host. Anyway, the owner liked me enough and said if I ever wanted to use the space, hit him up.
Tony was nice enough to help me too, he ran sound for me. Uggh, I didn't even give him a fucking spot and he ran sound for me- that's how great a guy he is and how SELFISH I can be.
I think the best thing in comedy after doing standup is booking your own show. Reaching for the stars, pulling in friends, what a great position to be in! Compiling a fantasy list of mostly male comics and shooting them a message on Facebook.
So if you're a new comic wondering, how the hell do I get booked on a show?
Well, a moron like me could accidentally see you at an open mic and then end up liking you! And I'm the guy who did a shitty set before you, remember? You never know who could be running shows.
Most people got back to me pretty quick. Comedians love a full calendar.
I adored The Walsh Brothers. So original and twisted. They blew my mind at TigerLily and I finally met the guys through a mutual friend.
Brian Scolaro was someone I had talked to outside of The Comedy Store. He's one of the first comics to give me any kind of advice,
"Don't move To Long Beach."
I was a fanboy of Dean Delray. I heard Matty Goldberg on Danny Lobell's podcast and dug his book about his friendship with Angelo Bowers. Ron Babcock was one of the friendly guys on the scene, loved his standup. I'd worked on a webseries with Paul Danke. Just met a lot of the other comics at open mics. I worked with Jeanne Whitney at Arclight Hollywood and we started standup around the same time. I watched Timika Hall do her first set at Echoes Under Sunset and she was great! Ester Steinberg cracked me up at The Palace and then I wanted to book her after I saw this sketch. She just happened to be hanging out with Neel Nanda when I was booking him, so I got both of them right then and there.
Robert Vertrees was brand new like me, but I just dug his story.
I knew I'd never have to worry about Ken Garr.
Just read his awesome blog entry "One Year Later and Why I Should Quit"
I should've taken note and made my blog shorter! That dude is a complete professional and will never hesitate to give you his tour dates at the MGM in Las Vegas.
Jak Knight was edgy and exciting. Jon Durnell was the best thing about a bringer show I did at the Formosa. I didn't even know Lisa Landry, but Brian asked if she could be on. Same thing with Kevin James Moore, a buddy of Matty's.
Maagic Collins is one of the kindest souls I've ever met. I love his standup. He would show up to my afternoon Tribal mic on Saturdays. Very supportive guy.
I think I saw Rick Wood at Power Violence and he just blew me away.
Anyway, you get the fucking point, this was just an excuse to drop everyone's links. Jesus Christ.
One time I made the amateur mistake of messaging too many people at once and then having to tell one comic I'd put them on the next show. I got a lot of grief for that and I was pulling my hair out. I was getting a guilt trip from the disappointed comic and now I didn't want to book him at all. It was totally my fault, but I was just getting through the learning curve. Book carefully, and wait for your damn responses.
Another recurring thing that kept coming up is a comic wanting to bring a friend for a guest spot. It's a good rule of thumb to keep a spot open for a possible drop-in. Or just book less comics Marty. Aren't you glad you paid $200 for this helpful comedy workshop tip?
I was also planning on doing all these wacky sketches and transitions that had nothing to do with the stand-up comedy. I wanted to make it an event. I asked Chris Walsh if we could have an extended dialogue where the Walsh Brothers get in an argument with me and then pretend to shoot me from the audience...so now I'm suddenly on the level of The Walsh Brothers! Proposing bits. Chris was really nice about it and declined in the best way possible. He made me realize that I should only work on the hosting- not all this extra dressing. I'd be stressed out enough. Plus, The Walsh Brothers have their own thing going on and it's hilarious.
Claire helped me with some basic PR stuff; shooting out emails to various websites with LA calendars of events. Lot of people check online for free entertainment. I hit up LA Weekly early enough to get this delightful blip:
Did I pay anyone? I paid Dean Delray. I paid Brian Scolaro. It seems a little unfair now, I had The Walsh Brothers, Ron Babcock, Paul Danke, and Matty Goldberg, who all have a shitload of experience.
I got this dumb idea that I should write thank you notes to everyone else. Looking back, I gave comedians false hope of money in those envelopes, only to find a badly scrawled "thank you" with some shitty stick figure doodles. At least there were cookies at the gig.
Brian mentioned the 50 bucks onstage and I was really embarrassed. It exposed the inner-workings of my inexperience and that I was holding out on everyone else. I think I would do it differently now, but it was a free show.
Tony watched me have a mini-meltdown. I was stressing out because there was a band that was booked on a show immediately after and it was clear that I was going to run over their time. I thought if I gave up my own set and kept bringing the next comic up, we'd finish on time without cutting anyone's sets down.
Tony explained to me that I shouldn't of worried about that, that it was worse to bring the comics up cold. It's better to keep the audience warmed up, but I was hopping back on stage saying,
"Give it up for Ron Babcock, and now let's keep it moving- Matty Goldberg!"
I didn't get it. I thought running over my time would fuck things up and I'd never get to do a show again. I shouldn't of booked so many comics anyway- Paul Danke was going on dead last, and he'd been waiting around so long, I felt horrible. I should buy his album.
So don't sacrifice your time for the sake of the next show- be a good host, Wurst.
But that first show had a great turnout, especially for The Lexington. The comics were kind of impressed. That extra leg work paid off.
I remember I wanted to bring Dean Delray up to a Led Zeppelin song and I kept bothering Tony about it when the order changed. Then when the music came up, Dean was clearly stoked and that little moment meant a lot to me.
On his way out he yelled,
"Congratulations on your 1st year of stand up!"
Speaking of which, I asked Melina Paez if I could be in her "DropTheSoapTV" series, where comics do stand-up in her shower. It was a fun way to cap off my first year.
Okay, that was rather manic. Just a couple steps away from Denis Leary- uggh. Anyway, I STOPPED doing that. Here's a message to myself as I time-travel back to the shower,
Horrible jokes, asshole! Your taint is hilarious by the way.
I just want to thank the people that encouraged me or gave me useful information when I started bumbling my way through open mics that first year (July 2013-2014)
Brett Gilbert, Ric Rosario, Matty Goldberg, Tony Bartolone, Jason Van Glass, Ron Babcock, Dean Delray, Chris Walsh, Matt Walsh, Danny Lobell, Mollie Gross, Melina Paez, Brian Scolaro, Jamie Flam, Jeremiah Watkins, Mike Celestino, Justin Alexio, Neel Nanda, Mikey de Lara, Paul Danke, Ari Mannis, Lydia Robinson, Ryan Doolittle, Maagic Collins, Don Barris, Elissa Rosenthal, Rob Antus, K-von, Jarrett and Emily Galante, Christiane Georgi, Hiro Matsunaga, Greg James, Carly Craig, Matthew Hilton, Sally Mullins, Matt Sauter, Matt Gamarra, Donald McKinney, Ryan Kain, Jeremy Fultz, Del Weston, Derick Armijo, Alisha Morine, Nicole Malina, Devon Schwartz, Andy Salamone, Barbara Gray, Sean Conroy, Myles Weber, Ricky Winston, Frankie Ma, Rishi Arya, Brandon Birckz, Sean K., Mike Menendez, Jamar Neighbors, Mr. Goodnight, Erica Rhodes, Matt Champagne, David Gerhardt, The Martin Duprass, John Silver, Ryan Pfeiffer, Kevin Anderson, Whitney Melton, Kym Kral, Jared Levin, Kenneth Lion, Alex Croll, Adam Carr, Trevor James, Deon Williams, Amber Brashear, Pat Regan, Brad Silnutzer, Rob Weissman, Marty, Graham Curan, Eddie Pepitone, Quincy Johnson, Blythe Metz, Willie Dynamite, Freddy Morales, Marcela Perdomo, Nick Kaufman, Atelston Fitgerald Holder The 1st, Bruce Boiman, Tom Allen, Melissa Villasenor, Maria Bamford, Todd Glass, Lou Perez, Allison Anders, Jeremy Bassett, Tony Alfieri, Laura Niles, Tamoy Sherman, Chaliss Robinson, Eddie Whitehead Jr, Brent Weinbach, Jill Maragos, Jodi Miller, Luz Pazos, Brianna Murphy, Sasha Kapustina, Alain Villenueve, Brad James, Lauren Kiang, Yoav, Ken Garr, David Gregorian, Jordan Leer, Stefano Della Pietra, Down Under Comedy Club, Mike Garrison, Brad and Sara Harris, Thomas Hussey, Harold, Chino, Tiffany Gomes, Simon Gibson, Joe Wagner, Scott Luhrs, Jay Weingarten, Joe Kardon, Pedro Salinas, Willie Dynamite, Robert Vertrees, Amber Kenny, Karah Britton, Alison Tafel, David Hill, Andy Kosec, Micah Lile, Chris Putro, Kris Rubio, Jade Thom, Brodie Reed, Ryan Talmo, Kevin Lee, Kellie Ann, Jeanne Whitney, Jake Kroeger, Nikki Riordan, Tim Mars, Christian Chavez, Jake Adams, Louise Hung, Michael Donato, my Geffen peeps, all my Arclight friends, Stella friends, childhood friends and family that came out to support.
Or if you're just generally nice to me thanks. You gave me the strength to go out and bomb one more time.
Shout out to Mike Celestino's great documentary "That's Not Funny".
and finally To Claire:
For every time I called you up to moan out my discontent, only to be dissuaded from my stubborn misery because of your constant light, love, and gentle reasoning.
For those open mics you'll never be able to unsee.
I love you more than open mic comedians love pussy jokes.
And as you know, that's a hell of a lot.