Category Archives: More Misadventures!
My misadventures in the world of comedy.
I’m getting ready to record my third comedy CD and I’m super excited! This one is going to be recorded on June 6th at 8pm at Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Ferndale. Here’s the poster.
This new CD is going to be called “nowadays” and I’m really proud of the material. It’s a lot more personal than stuff I’ve written in the past. Since recording the second one, I got to work with Marc Maron a few times as well as Louis CK. You can’t share a stage with heavy hitters like that and not come out a better comedian. Here’s the pitch for “nowadays“….which I totally know doesn’t sound that funny on paper…I start looking inside my brain and talk about how and why I react to obstacles and the things that cause me stress and anxiety in my life. Don’t worry…there are still poop jokes. Oh…this is the rough version of what the cover for that CD will look like.
My last CD “Full Frontal Nerdity” is good. I think I developed more as a joke writer, but there isn’t really a definitive thru-line to the material. My favorite track on it is “Titty Bars” which to this day may be the most personal thing I ever wrote. It’s a surreal bit about how I’m afraid of topless bars because I’m worried something bad will happen to me if I go…meanwhile a whole slew of great things happen, but all I do is focus on the negative. Yep, that’s how my broken brain works.
My first CD “Mikey Pooh” is an okay first effort. I have a hard time listening to it, but a Gamestop manager recently told me that it was his favorite of mine because he could tell I was still managing a Gamestop myself at the time. What I do like about this album is that it has a beginning, middle and an end. It follows me through a fictional day and ends with callbacks to earlier bits. I think maybe the best stand up special ever is Eddie Murphy “Delirious” because when he hits that last joke you know it’s his last joke. So often when you watch stand up, it’s joke one, joke two, joke three, goodnight. Where did that come from?
“nowadays” will hopefully capture the best elements of my first two CDs. I feel like the writing is stronger and more personal than ever, but there’s also a real thru-line. The material goes in a logical flow and everything does wrap up at the end. In fact, I’ve written so much material for this album that I’ve been putting some newer bits on the back burner because they just didn’t fit the story I wanted to tell this time. The first two CDs were pretty much everything I had at the time.
I’ll have information really soon about how you can pre-order “nowadays”.
Thank you so much!
Maybe it’s nerves or the adrenaline rush of doing what we’ve waited all day long to do, but many comedians tend to talk a bit too fast on stage. Comedian and owner of the Komedy Korner, Leo DuFour once suggested when I got off stage that I slow down and enjoy my time like I would a delicious meal. Maybe that was a health tip and I’m forgetting that I was scarfing down a Poutine platter at the time….it was Canada after all. Let me find another example.
One of my best friends asked me after a show why I don’t speak on stage like I speak normally off stage. He was right. I didn’t believe in my material at the time so on stage I would yell and ram my jokes down the throats of the audience as quickly as I could.
We need to remember that we’re performing for people who more often than not are in various stages of inebriation. Maybe they’re stone cold sober, but there’s room noise around them so it’s hard to stay focused on you. When we speak slower there’s less of a gap for the audience to hurdle to catch up with you.
Dave Landau is both one of my funniest friends and funniest comedians from Michigan. He speaks on stage about a half a beat slower than he does in real life. I’d argue that in addition to being a great writer, another reason he’s so good at the craft is because he has a slow, clear delivery. His jokes are punchy and his timing is impeccable.
There’s also an added sense of confidence when you speak slower. Rushing reeks of desperation. Very early on in my comedy career Steve Brewer said, “What you say isn’t as important as how you say it.” To a degree I believe that’s true. Delivering “edgy” material confidently tends to make that material hit harder. If you show the audience that you’re not sure of what you’re saying, they won’t be sure either.
If I can’t understand you, I can’t laugh at your jokes. If you tend to be a person who doesn’t enunciate well, slowing down may compensate for that. I have a friend who I understand without any problem off stage. When he gets on stage, I have a hard time deciphering a good chunk of what he’s saying. Here’s the one thing I learned from broadcasting school 22 year ago. Are you ready for this? This is eight grand of wisdom I’m going to impart on you for free. W. That’s is. W. Double You is a word that just about everyone mumbles their way through. Most people say dubyou or dub-o-you. There’s an L in the word. They stressed saying W correctly in broadcasting school because this side of the Mississippi and the Canadian border, all radio and television stations start with the letter. When I’m nervous before a show or feel like I’m just wrestling with my own tongue I’ll repeat W over and over again making sure I hit each sound of the letter. Dub-bul-you. I find myself speaking clearer when I’m on stage. You can paypal me four grand if you want to. In all fairness I also learned how to edit audio tape with a razor blade and tape on a reel to reel when I was at broadcasting school too.
I love metal. The best metal bands are the ones who didn’t just play million mile an hour blast beats, but varied their tempo. Dave Lombardo from Slayer blew away headbangers in the late 80s with his double bass fill near the end of the song Angel of Death. It’s only because the rest of the song wasn’t all double bass that makes that one of the most monumental moments in Slayer history. Since then, a lot of drummers have entire albums worth of double bass, but it’s not as impressive because that’s all it is. If you start at as fast as humanly possible, where can you go from there? It’s the same with speaking. If you’re speaking as fast as you can, how can you speed up for impact to stress a point or feeling? You can’t. Speaking slower gives you a wider range of things you can do with your voice to make your delivery stronger.
In two weeks I’ll have been doing comedy for ten years. I learn something new all the time…and I’m always trying new things. In the past month or so I’ve tried slowing down even more on stage. I’m speaking slower than I normally speak. Honestly, I think it’s helping. I am noticing that I’m speeding up during the beats where I’m not as confident in the material. That’s making me take a second look at that material to see if I’m not confident in it because it’s not ready yet. By slowing down a half a beat more than I’m comfortable it’s allowing me to be hyper aware of things like this.
I don’t have a good short set. For the past few years I’m always most comfortable doing a 35-50 minute set. Even as my material changes, 35-50 minutes just seems right. Having a strong short game is just as crucial in comedy as having a long game. Arguably a short game is even more important. No one does 35-50 minutes on Conan. My short set stinks because I try to cram ten minutes worth of material into a five minute set. My challenge to myself is to practice what I preach and do five minutes of material slowly and confidently in a five minute set.
Remember in the fable about the tortoise and the hare…it’s the tortoise who wins. Oh…oops….spoiler alert! In closing, a visual pun on tortoise and hare…er…hair.
I had a great time in Chattanooga, Tennessee this past weekend and I love that club.
The Vaudeville Cafe is beautiful and the audiences were smart. But that’s not the main reason I loved the club. At the end of the weekend, the owner, Chris Hampton, came up to pay the performers. The other guy was asking if the shows were fine or if they were too dirty or anything. Chris responded with, “I don’t care about clean or dirty. All I care about is funny.” I think a choir of angels sing every time a comedian hears a club owner say those words.
There is another place for comedy in Chattanooga. I don’t know anything about that place first hand, but from what I hear, it caters more to the more redneck kind of crowd. Not judging. That’s just their clientele. When the Vaudeville Cafe isn’t hosting live stand up, they’re home to amazing dinner theatre and murder mysteries. Their customers are more cultured or worldly. That’s what Chris wants from his comedians…..funny and smart.
I’m writing this for two reasons. The first, because after a rough couple nights of comedy where I wasn’t a good match, I was so grateful to be some place where the people “got it” and this is my way of saying thank you. Secondly, because I hope someone googles “Chattanooga” and “comedy” and stumbles across this. In my opinion the Vaudeville Cafe is the only smart choice for comedy in Chattanooga. I hope it continues for a long, long time because I can’t wait to go back!
For the past few months I’ve been tooling around with this idea to try to add it to the act, but this morning when I sat down with it, I realized it would just end up being the kind of thing I’m about to complain about.
Religion is a touchy subject, but I want to get this off my chest. I’m tired of the high and mighty pompous attitude of Atheist comics.
What I do or don’t believe when it comes to the existence of a higher power is my business and completely incidental.
My experience has been when you encounter a die hard Christian who finds out you don’t believe in what they believe, they’ll pray for you. Thanks! You’ll talk to your poss and put in a good word for me anyway? Thanks bud!
When you encounter a die hard Athiest who finds out you don’t believe in what they believe, they act like you’re the silliest bastard they’ve ever met. ”You believe in God? What? Do you believe in flying mongoose farts and fairy dust too?”
No. No I don’t. It turns out that no one believes in that.
Atheists love ruining things. They’re like a person who goes to see a magic show and is quick to tell you how the tricks are done. ”He didn’t really saw her in half, what’s under the box.”
Thanks. I was enjoying myself for a moment.
They act like they’re movie spoilers and they revel in it. ”Rosebud is a sled. Verbal Kint is Keyser Soze. Bruce Willis is dead the whole time.”
But they’re not spoilers. They’re speculators. They don’t know how this ends anymore than anyone else. They’re more like the people on Ain’t It Cool message boards who feel the need to tell the world that the next GI Joe movie is going to suck. Yeah. Probably. You don’t know that. Okay. Most likely you’re right, but you don’t know for sure. We could all be surprised.
The only Atheist I’d put any stock in would be an Atheist ghost floating around, rattling chains and telling us in an ethereal voice, “There is no God. The human body is just a machine fueled by energy and I, and all ghosts, are that energy in a new form that science hasn’t figured out yet.”
Atheists remind me of the kid in elementary school who first found out about Santa and instead of sitting on it and letting all the other kids in class enjoy Christmas for another year, had to come to school and ruin it for everyone.
I firmly believe that anything should be open for comedians to talk about as long as it’s funny. I find when comedians talk about being an Atheist it comes off as preachy and condescending. I’d love for someone to tackle the subject in a funny way. I can’t think of an exception where those bits don’t end up following the formula of, “You believe in God? Do you believe in this ridiculously poetic bit of absurdist wordplay poetry that I put together too?” If there’s an exception to this, or if someone knows of a really great bit on this subject, please point me towards it. I love discovering comedy done well.
I could see it being argued that they feel they’re doing a service because religion is corrupt. Yeah, a lot of organized religion is pretty corrupt. Religious people do awful things sometimes. That’s because they’re people and people do awful things sometimes. But there’s a difference between attacking religion and attacking faith. What good comes from trying to shatter people’s faith?
And yes, I’m totally generalizing here. Some Atheists are fine and let people have their thing. Some Christians are awful and when they find out you don’t believe in what they believe they tell you you’re going to go to a place you don’t believe in in the first place.
Everyone should be allowed to have their thing even if their thing ends up being nothing.
Want to find out how you can get a physical copy of my most recent CD “Full Frontal Nerdity” for only five bucks? That’s half the price that you can download it for digitally!
Either shoot me a message on Facebook, E-mail or Twitter with your address and send $5 via Paypal and I’ll shoot you out a copy…..plus…..for as long as there is ink in my Sharpie, I’ll even sign and/or doodle on them for you!
Links to my Facebook and Twitter are on the right side of this screen and you can shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com.
Last week I was at one of my favorite clubs, The Comedy Club on State in Madison, Wisconsin. I absolutely love this place. Gus and Mary who own it are two of the nicest people I’ve ever had the good fortune of meeting. Their daughters Eve and Anna are beautiful inside and out. Joe, the room manager runs are super tight ship and is an hell of a guy too. The waitstaff is stunning. The bartenders all handsome. Both on the surface and beneath it, everything about this place is fantastic.
Originally I was supposed to be doing this week as a split week where I would headline Thursday and then Eddie Brill who used to book Letterman would come in on Friday and Saturday. Eddie got into a little trouble earlier this year for being misquoted or having his words taken out of context about female comics. So he canceled the gig. Instead I was working with Ian Edwards.
I Googled Ian months ago and saw that he was a staple at the Laugh Factory in LA. Part of me had a feeling that I was going to wish I could time travel because we’d be friends months after I got back from LA myself. Still though, appearance wise, Ian reminded me of the intense Erik King who played the ill fated Sgt. Doakes on Dexter. Maybe it would be a nightmare. Couldn’t have been more wrong. Ian is hilarious and brilliant both onstage and off. He’s that thoughtful kind of comedian who I love listening to talk about the craft and psychology of comedy. If you look at his IMDB page you’ll see too that he’s written for some very high profile shows and that’s evident in his word choice on stage. It’s preposterous how deliberate he is! It also made me giggle a little every time he’d say “preposterous” on stage. That’s a word I associate with my dad and comedian Don Reese. Ian is about as far opposite on the other end of that spectrum as you could be….then again, maybe not. I’m building to something. Trust me.
At the risk of being one of those comedians who says the stereotypical, “normally I headline”, I have to say, normally I headline. Funny Business has been fantastic to me. Eric Yoder knows what I do and I trust him with booking me accordingly. Sometimes it’s nice to test the water so I go into clubs in the middle spot. The Comedy Club on State and Dr. Grin’s are the exceptions. I prefer to middle at both of those places because they have the budget and taste to bring in the bigger name people I’d like to work with. Last year at those two clubs respectfully, I opened for Marc Maron and Carl LaBove.
I always have a blast when I’m at both clubs. This time was no exception. In addition to having Ian on one side of me I had my old friend Saurin Choksi on the other. I’ve known Choksi since he started comedy in Detroit. I’ve known him since he was just the one named Choksi, sort of like the Cher of comedy! I was a fan of his even back in his open mic days. He’s instantly likable and spoke with the same reference for pop culture that I have. He’s since moved to Chicago and has gotten even better than he was before. I let him crash in my hotel room and had a great time catching up. I really hope I’m presented with an opportunity to bring him along on a gig again soon. He’s silly and dark and what we do works well together.
Okay, let’s get to the lessons learned part of this.
I was sick most of the week with either this cold or flu that’s going around. I was taking Dayquil during the day and Nyquil at night. I didn’t feel 100% on stage any of the shows. Thursday and Friday felt like 70% at best. Saturday I maybe got up into the high 80s. Still though, people were entertained. They said so afterwards. They’d buy a CD or pick up a sticker and tell me something they enjoyed. Without fail, I apologized and told them I wasn’t feeling my best.
Saturday night, walking back to the hotel the final time Ian mentioned this. He pointed out that when people quote something specific that you did that they enjoyed, that means their sincere and not just people polite as they walk past. To apologize in response demeans their take on the show. I need to learn to be more gracious and take compliments better.
That’s something I thought about for days after. This is what I equate it to. I love Star Wars. Anyone who knows me knows that. I love Han Solo. Harrison Ford always criticizes that role saying it wasn’t that strongly written of a character. It bugs me. It bugs me like fingers down a chalk board. Aside from the iconic Harrison Ford roles I grew up with, I think subconsciously it’s made me not want to really support other things that he’s done because I think deep down when he knocks Han Solo I feel like he’s knocking me and my taste. Jeremy Bulloch on the other hand who played Boba Fett has totally embraced the role and the fact that people love it. Obviously that part is much, much, much smaller than Han Solo. Maybe it’s Bulloch’s promotion that’s helped make that small role something loved by so many. I need to be less Han Solo and more Boba Fett in the future.
I’ve been putting off this last part until the end because I didn’t really know how I wanted to approach it. Being in Madison was hard on a personal level. It’s a city where I shared a lot of memories with someone who’s not part of my life any more. Most of those memories were great. I felt, and feel while writing about it, pangs of sadness when I’d walk past her favorite store or restaurants where we ate. Madison this time was a city filled with ghosts. It was the corner where we fought when I was so positive I was right and now a year and a half later I realize I wasn’t. She wasn’t able to always go on the road with me. Near the end, there were only a couple places she liked to go. Madison was one of them. I took traveling for granted. I was quick to judge and criticize. I’m glad I had this trip alone with my memories. It let me purge some of them. Hopefully next time I can start to build new ones.
With all of that being said, Gus and Mary who own the club felt the heaviness that I felt. Physically and emotionally I changed. Last time I was there I was about 80 pounds lighter. The depression of this past year still weighs on me literally. In the green room I opened up to Gus a little early in the week. Before he left on Saturday he came in to tell me this. He said that it takes rough waters to make a great captain.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot. At first I felt like I wasn’t a great captain when the waters first got rough. While that may be true, a great captain can’t look back at the water behind him. He needs to look forward. I don’t know that I’ve ever been a great captain. I’m going to try to be now though. I’ve gone back to the gym. I’ve stopped the comfort eating. I’m going to get through this storm that I’ve been circling the ship in for months and months. My crew has stood by me and it would be unfair to them and to me to not change course.
Thank you Madison, Wisconsin. I’ll see you next time.
Today won’t be the day everything changes. Real life isn’t like that. Real life is a mountain climb. Today I take another step towards the top of the mountain that has no peak.
I’m going to be a guest on a live WTF. If you’re not in the comedy world, you probably don’t know what that means. Having Marc Maron invite you on his show is the modern day alternative comedy equivalent of having Johnny Carson inviting you to sit on the couch. If you’re not in the comedy world, that analogy probably didn’t help either. Being on WTF is a big deal. He has more listeners to his podcast than many television shows have viewers. This is my first big credit.
The business of comedy is largely based on credits. That’s why when you go to a comedy club sometimes the comedian is still hyped by their appearance on some TV show 25 years ago. Four minutes on Conan O’Brien is a world of difference to club bookers. Sometimes it’s just as hard to get in the doors of a club in Peoria as it is to get a nationally televised set on a late night talk show.
Podcasting is the future. It’s new media. It’s creator controlled. There aren’t suits and advertisers running the game. Podcasting is pure. WTF is one of, if not the number one comedy podcast on iTunes. I estimate that a quarter of a million people will hear it. Hear me.
Unlike a spot on a late night talk show, I don’t expect anything to change. When it was announced I’d be on the show, a club I’d been trying to get back into do a feature spot contacted me to headline, but I mostly chalk that up to coincidence.
Before being on WTF I worked hard writing, performing, trying to make new opportunities. After being on WTF I’m still going to work hard writing, performing and trying to create new opportunities. But now I will do it feeling validated and confident because Marc invited me to sit on the couch.
Two weeks ago I was at Skyline in Appleton, Wisconsin. I absolutely love this club. Todd Glass talks a lot about what makes a club good is when they pay attention to the details. Cliff at the Skyline is so hyper aware of the details. It was a really fun week.
Lewis Black loves the club so much that while he was in town for a theatre show, he stopped by the club and made a video introduction for the show telling the audience, in his Lewis Black way, to be quiet and respectful of the show. It works. Those audiences are amazing. They’re smart, quiet and buy a lot of merch! I completely sold out of all the CDs I brought with me.
This past week I had one of the most fun experiences a comedian can have. I hit the road with one of my closest friends. My buddy Steve Lind and I went to Rochester, Minnesota together to perform at Goonie’s. Again, another great club! Mark that runs it maintains that fine balance of being laid back, but also running a super tight ship at the same time. He’s a great guy. The audiences were smart, quiet….but didn’t buy as much merch….step it up, Rochester!
Here’s the greatest part of performing with a friend….getting to riff back and forth both off stage and on. Steve would foreshadow my jokes and I’d call back to his and I think the audience knew they were getting to watch two friends having fun. They seemed to enjoy being part of that. And we enjoyed them too!
We also went to the Spam Museum together. Just me and Steve…the audience wasn’t invited….although that would’ve been fun if we invited everyone to meet us there! Were I alone on the road, I would’ve gone out to maybe go to the movies, but chances are I would’ve stayed in the hotel the entire time. Having a friend there means taking adventures. Adventures mean better opportunities to riff on the city with the audience. Hm, maybe I’ll see if I can write an article comparing Spam and Comedy like I did last week with Houdini and Comedy.
What I’m saying in a long winded way is that I had a blast! This weekend I’m working with Scott Gillespie at Wisecrackers in Merrilville, Indiana. I did a bit of research on him. Maybe “a bit of research” sounds bigger or more ominous than it should. I Googled Scott and I think this is going to be a fun time. He seems to be following the same path that I am in being a midwest guy who is trying to spend as much time in LA as possible while maintaining roots here. We seem to like a lot of the same guys too. I think this is going to be another great weekend. If you’re in the area, swing by. And thanks to everyone from the past two weeks!
This past weekend I was at the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase with my friend Nate Fridson. I’ve only seen Nate once since he moved to New York about a year or so ago. He churned out a ton of new material. It was really nice watching him. I was nervous going into the weekend since it had been a good month since I did more than 15 minutes of time in one set. Maybe stand up is like riding a bike. I haven’t ridden a bike in years and I’m worried how my first attempt would be.
The shows ended up going pretty well. With the exception of about four or five minutes on being an uncle, I’m not doing any material from my CD that I released just about a year ago. I have a pretty good track record at the Showcase so I took advantage of that trust to try out some new pieces. Most of them worked.
This week marks the start of two months of road work. The boredom I feel from doing the same jokes over and over again tends to go away when I’m in new cities. I know everything will be brand new to them. This week I’ll be at the Skyline Comedy Cafe in Appleton, Wisconsin. It’s a great club and I’m really looking forward to it.
Earlier in the week I did a live episode of WTF with Marc Maron. That was pretty awesome. I know Marc has his reputation, but he’s been super cool to me. I was nervous for the interview, but it went fairly well. We dug a little more into my personal life than I would have wanted, but that’s the nature of the show. After that I went over to the UCB Theatre and did a set on Comedy Bang Bang. Zach Galifianakis closed that show. Backstage he seemed like a genuinely good guy. That made me happy. Eric Andre was there too. He was just super nice and charming. It really does seem like the only dicks you encounter in this business are the people at the bottom who are bitter being stuck there. The higher up you go, the nicer people seem to be.
I closed out my LA trip with a set on The Meltdown and Meltdown Comics. That show was simply amazing. It’s a small room, packed full of comedy super fans. The line up is always great. I was so honored that my Jonah Ray let me be part of it. Through my years I’ve met a lot of people who I don’t get to see nearly as much as I’d like. Jonah is one of those guys. He’s another guy who in addition to being a really good comedian, is also a hell of a nice person.
Sean Patton from New Orleans closed the Meltdown show and was simply amazing. I worked with Sean here in Michigan and thought he was great. Earlier this week though, that greatness was on a whole new level. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, another super awesome person too. Hopefully Sean and I will be able to do some shows together in 2013. He’s going to be on Maron’s television show for IFC next year. I have a feeling that’s about the time that he’s going to blow up and become a household name at least with comedy nerds.
From start to finish, last week was a blast! Enjoy some clips from Nate, Jonah and Sean.