This Half-Assed Hustle (compiled truths and occasional fiction)
Driving up to Los Angeles with my Spotify playlist on shuffle. Some day I would like to be driving a car full of comics, singing along to Lady Marmalade as we drive 100 miles to our next gig.
I have to piss so bad. I gotta get out of this fucking car. Adjusting my seat to find any angle that gives my bladder even the slightest relief. You can't pull a Dumb and Dumber in your girlfriend's car, you're not pissing into that bottle.
Park at Amoeba Music and then walk over to Arclight Hollywood. I haven't seen a movie here in years, but I'll happily take a piss any chance I get. The dome is especially good for taking a dump- best bathroom in Hollywood. Its been 10 years since I quit and I still have a couple of friends that work here. Amazing.
Go through hundreds of "As Is" used DVDs, prices ranging from $1.99-7:99. I'm gradually buying back my old collection- this was my addiction for awhile. I've bought and sold and repurchased DVDs from this place dozens and dozens of times. Losing money every time. Like when I first moved to LA and didn't have a checking account, so I'd go to one of those Check Cashing places and they'd take a huge chunk. I've perfected so many ways of losing money. Some comedian said, "I'm the Michael Jordan of overdraft fees." I think most comedians could've written that.
Sign my name on the scrap of paper and throw it in the lunch pail. I see a comic that I want to say hi to, but I'm too worried he's going to think I'm kissing up to be on his show. Forced conversation might raise suspicions. He's kind of goofy like I am. In the end, I shy away. We give mutual nods of acknowledgement instead. I've made attempts in the past, but it never lasts past a couple of pleasantries. Goddammit, why do I act like it's a fucking audition, just relax.
The room is starting to fill up. People are smoking out back. I have a few exchanges with other male comics. Majority of comedians in Los Angeles are familiar with this dialogue:
"You going to the Store next?"
"Nah, I'm gonna bounce to Marty's or Pig N Whistle. You?"
"If I don't get up at the Store I'll go down to The Improv Space."
It's all hollow and predictable, but I say these things all the time. Where you coming from? Where you bouncing to next? Is that a good mic? How many minutes? You got anything coming up?
If I find out the person I'm talking to was booked on a cool show I'll get a little pissed off. It'll show on my face too, I'm an incredibly bad liar. It's completely insane, it doesn't even matter if I genuinely like the person, I'll still feel a flash of jealousy. It's involuntary at this point, I've programmed myself to be competitive against everyone because everyone is doing things that I'm not.
Then I remind myself that I'm not very good yet. I don't have to be everywhere, Jesus. Get good and then worry about that shit!
Awkward hug. Forgot that person's name.
One of two hosts calls out my name for the 20th spot. Shit. I probably can't do The Store and then bounce back and make it work, so I guess I'll just be here. Some of the other guys know how to flip-flop to multiple places, but I haven't figured it out yet. It's a little disheartening when 3/4 of the room clears out and there's less than ten people in the audience.
Still waiting around. They worked in some of the more established comics into the line up, which drags things out. Still burns my ass when someone drops in for five minutes and then they're gone in a flash. Must be nice.
I step outside and I have a conversation with Jeff for a bit. He talks my ear off about surface level comedy shit and keeps asking me questions. It's irritating because he immediately looks down at his phone when I start to answer and then he asks me again. It all feels out of obligation and reinforces my fear of losing my own personality someday; where I become an automatic networking robot of a comic that vomits out the same line of bullshit over and over. Never connecting with people, only advertising, advertising, posting, tweeting, and screaming at all the other comics, HEY- HERE"S WHAT I'M DOING- HERE I AM! PICTURE OF ME AT SHOW. PICTURE OF ME HAVING ACCOMPLISHED THIS THING. PICTURE OF ME POSING WITH BETTER COMIC THAT SHOULD HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME!
I'm on stage and only half way through a joke when the realization that I'm bombing stifles the little energy that I have. I feel myself trailing off and force myself to finish. It's painful. I even got a fake laugh, which is worse than silence because it probably came from another comic. I'm supposed to listen to this set on my phone later to find out where I went wrong. How about when I got on the stage?
I'm scrolling through other open mic options on The Comedy Bureau. I really just want to go home. I don't want to pay $5 for a mic I can't stand, or a 1-drink minimum when I don't want to drink. I mean, I could get a soda, but when I'm at a bar I just gravitate towards beer. Why do I keep going to these 3 minute mics and waste my time with tried and failed material? Where's the progress Wurst?
By the time I decide on one, it'll be too late for me to get there in time. I suppose I could pop into Tribal and see what's happening. A nostalgic stop that probably won't do much for my mood, but I already bombed once anyway.
The romantic side of me wants to spend the remainder of my monthly allowance on a Reuben sandwich at Canters. Write jokes with coffee and a sandwich. Then worry about money later. But would you really write anything?
I like to bottom out. When I have a little money, I quickly burn through it almost to get it over with, embracing the inevitable. Then I hit zero and it's a reset button. I get help from my Dad, or I occasionally land some random gig with filming or editing. The audiobooks were completely unrealistic; I basically donated a few hundred work hours and barely made anything. I'll work my ass off on projects that make little to no return. I go after the impossible each time. Acting, filming, now comedy and audiobooks, why does anyone continue to support me?
I have Claire on the phone. She says I'm not a piece of shit. I was trying to convince her otherwise, but she knows my self-esteem is just low, because I bombed and now I'm just trying to bear-hug all the negative things that I can. I am a good person. I'm just incredibly stupid.
She says I'm not stupid. She says that I'm kind and generous. I finally give in and tell her I love her. I tell her there's a chance I'm going to hit one more mic. She asks me to text her when I'm heading home.
Sitting in the car, thinking I should've signed up at Anchor Bar for a late spot. That would've been perfect. Just get the fuck out of LA, you're burned out on this side. Maybe I could visit an old friend while I'm up here. I could go back to Amoeba and get that Kung-Fu movie for four bucks. Go home and eat that can of black beans and not spend another dime. Do mics in Long Beach the next week without spending anything.
I could easily make it to Mel's or Big Wangs later. The list at Tribal could be a mile long- plus I think you're supposed to order a sandwich now. Their food is good but their service sucks.
Hit the library just before it closed. A little inspiration might help! Autobiographies from Sarah Silverman, David Spade, and Bernie Mac! Plus a book about Cult Films and Facts I Should Know- warm up the brain matter, possible premises. I love walking out with a shitload of books!
Who calls it a night when comedy is just starting? This guy!
Claire is still up and our fatty kitty Tune is sitting an inch from her face, her paws propped up on her favorite human's chest. She's in purr mode, but when I get close she briefly sniffs my face for identification. I check out.
Sometimes it's not the number of mics I hit. I hit a wall tonight and needed an out. I need to cut myself a break. So many people are working harder than me and I know it. What's it going to take man?