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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was super active on Twitter over the past couple weeks while I was in Los Angeles. In case you’re not following me there (and why aren’t you?) here are some of the highlights.
Aug 22: The first time I brush my teeth after flying, I seriously worry that baggage handlers stuck my toothbrush up their butts.
Aug 23: LA is Airport Expensive!
Aug 24: Thank you Harry Moroz for taking me to a Latino Juice Bar to tell jokes.
Aug 24: In Detroit the homeless people want you to give them money. In LA they want to tell you about their “aggressive folk punk” music.
Aug 24: Either I saw Jamie Foxx at a gas station or I’m a racist.
Aug 25: You can’t take pictures in the Scientologists Psychiatry Museum people people take things out of context.
Aug 25: It’s okay for a man to run wearing flip flops if he’s in a shower being chased by a man wearing a boner.
Aug 25: Everyone looks crazy if you watch them long enough.
Aug 27: For the first time twenty minutes was about twenty minutes. Thank you unpredictable traffic! (I got to lunch super early, but had time to check out a great toy store called Blast From the Past.)
Aug 28: Three Harold & Kumar movies, but only one Harold & Maude? Ruth Gordon could have saved Christmas.
Aug 28: Back stage with all the guests while my friend Laura giddily snaps pictures to capture my nerves.
Aug 28: Bang Bang went much better than last year.
Here’s the line up from the stage entrance in the green room.
Here’s a tweet from someone else:
Zach was surprisingly shy and nervous. The relationship he and Scott have on CBB, is pretty much how they were off mic. Eric Andre was super nice and charming. Really good guy.
Aug 29: Headed to
@meltdown_show in a little bit to close out the trip with a nerdy bang.
Aug 30: You will all know who the ridiculously funny
@mrseanpatton is within a year. You heard it here first.
Aug 30: This is the biggest plane I’ve ever been on. There are easily 15 seats! I’m not good at estimating numbers.
If you’re not following me on twitter, why not? Hope to see you there for more misadventures!
WordPress offers a lot of cool stats. Below is a chart of what countries the people live in who come to this site.
I assumed I would have the most readers in the US and then Canada. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the UK was a close third. I love Australia too. I really hope I can perform down there soon. I know all the lyrics to Who Can It Be Now so I’ll hit in just fine. France is fifth, eh? I wish it was broken down to see where on the site people from each country were looking. Surprisingly, close behind France was Brazil. I sort of thought it would have been New Zealand or another European country. So, this may be interesting only to me, but it was interesting nonetheless.
I’m at a pivotal point in the screenwriting process. I thought for my own piece of mind I’d share the journey it took to get here. I don’t know where this story will end. I certainly hope it has a happy ending. Let’s start from the beginning.
I’ve written a lot of screenplays. Most of them were through my twenties. I burned all my bridges in radio and television, moved back to Michigan and had the first “real” job of my life working in a Toys R Us. Over the next few years I went through my Kevin Smith phase. I first wrote my “Clerks” about a guy who was working in a big box toy store cleverly called We B Toys.
Next when I was in an unhappy relationship and feeling like I was hundreds of miles from where I wanted to be, I wrote my “Dogma” about a couple in an unhappy relationship who die and get stuck in Purgatory…which happens to be a small town in the middle of nowhere.
After that, the unhappy relationship ended so I wrote my “Chasing Amy” about a guy who ends his unhappy relationship and starts a non-romantic relationship. I guess it was also my “When Harry Met Sally”. The main character in that one was a struggling stand up comedian. At the time, I hadn’t stepped foot on the comedy stage yet, so it was just a way for me to get out the material I wrote without having to actually perform it. Coincidentally, the arc of that character kind of mirrored what I ended up doing creatively in real life years later.
So, after those first few attempts at screenwriting I started doing stand up and seemed to have a knack for it. Most of my creative juices flowed into that outlet. Friends asked me if I wanted to partner up with them on scripts, but for one reason or another it never really worked out.
Last year a fellow performer named Lesley Braden and I met with some other performers about starting a sketch comedy group. That didn’t work out, but Lesley and I found that we worked really well together. She pitched me her idea for the story we ended up writing and I loved it. It’s like what they say about love. You find it when you’re not looking for it. I wasn’t looking for the perfect screenwriting partner, I just happened upon her!
Next time, I’ll talk about the story.
My CD “Full Frontal Nerdity” is available in just about every online place where you can get sound things.
If you already have it, you can still help me out tremendously by leaving a review. When albums get reviewed, the digital distribution sites look at other things you liked and they know to recommend it to people with similar interests. So by writing a review, you’re helping me get in touch with people neither of us know. You’re becoming a Bobbitt Acolyte! Bobbolyte?
Here are some links to where you can find me online:
Navigate the treacherous AMAZON
Coddle the CDBABY
Jam some ITUNES
Explore the CD UNIVERSE
Get epic on RHAPSODY
I had a blast. Connxtions is one of those clubs that gets so much right. This may sound surprising to some of you, but there are a lot of clubs where the staff is just a sour group of gloomy Guses. I think everyone who works at Lansing Connxtions works there because they love their job. Most of that credit has to go to Tina who runs the place. She’s a really good boss. Having been a really good boss myself back when I was at Gamestop, you can tell when someone is leading well.
This is a gross example of why I can tell Tina is great, but it’s the best example. Someone from the audience threw up Saturday night. When that happens someone has to clean it. That person ended up being more focused on who did it so they could direct their anger that way and never said anything along the lines of, “I can’t believe Tina is making me clean up vomit. What a bitch.” They party hard in Lansing, but only after they’ve worked hard. It’s a really good staff.
Emceeing for me was Lansing’s own Ian “Mulva the Vulva” Mulvaney. Ian did a great job. He was really excited to do it. My ego was totally stroked because there were a handful of Lansing guys who really wanted to work with me, but Ian asked first. I performed with him a little while ago at a benefit show for a mutual friend who died. I don’t know what I did that made it so Ian really wanted to do a set together, but I appreciated it a lot. That’s so important too. Something you say to someone that may seem totally insignificant could hit them totally different. I’m glad I did or said something nice then because I had a really good time hanging out with Ian. Together we looked like Earl and Randy from My Name is Earl. I think we should go on the road doing dramatic readings of famous scenes from the show.
My feature was Danny Kallas from Chicago. I loved working with Danny. He and I had a similar sensibility that worked really well together. We both had that “I’m going to take a lot of shots at a lot of things…including myself….so don’t get uptight” thing going on. Danny and I have a mutual friend in one of his fellow Chicago comedy brothers from the Comedians You Should Know. Detroit really needs something like that. I think the closest we came was having the Live Rude Girls, but a certain shitty lady finds a way to drive a wedge into any communal endeavor. She tried to do the same thing years earlier with The Desperate Houseguys, so I know first hand. Detroit really needs a group of like minded performers to form something. The reason CYSK works well is because you know by going to one of there shows what kind of show you’re going to get regardless of which members are performing. First of all, they’re all among the best in Chicago, but secondly they all approach comedy with a like minded point of view. I feel like I’m not wording this very well. If I go to one of there shows, and I’ve worked with four or five of them, I know I’m going to see a pretty smart guy in his late twenties or early thirties doing incredibly well written and dark material that doesn’t pull any punches. I not going to see someone singing Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer or a juggler or a person wearing a thong on her face.
Here’s the other thing that makes CYSK successful. Even if one person isn’t on one of the shows, they all promote the shows as a unit. The CYSK twitter account was promoting Danny being in Lansing even though he was the only one from the group that was. They’re also all strong and working comics. CYSK has become a brand. If one of them opens a door I think it becomes easier for the rest of them to go through that door because CYSK means quality. I think the closest thing we had in Detroit was when three great comedians Adam Sokol, Nate Fridson and Matt McLowry started to do stuff together. If they branded that union more and brought in more people that would have gone well with that group like Brad Austin for example it could have been the Detroit version of CYSK.
Unfortunately, Chicago, unlike Detroit is a destination city for comedians. Detroit is a place where people start and then leave. Three quarters of the Detroit guys I mentioned in that last paragraph aren’t even here anymore.
I got way side tracked, but to sum up, last weekend I worked at a great place with some great people in front of five great audiences. Each audience was uniquely different. Saturday alone had the fairly full audience of people who seemed generally tired so you had to work really hard to keep them with you and it also had the super large rowdy crowd that you had to work just as hard to keep them, but in a completely different way. I had a blast!
Here’s an exclusive clip from the first show Saturday night that you can only see through OffTheMike! Here I encourage the burly men in the audience to take their sexy back.
Nine years ago today I had my graduation show at Joey’s Comedy Club. Since then I’ve done over 1480 shows.
Some comedians argue about the benefits of comedy classes. I like them, but with an asterisk.
I don’t believe you can teach someone to be funny. I think it’s like playing a musical instrument. You either have an ear for music or you don’t. It’s the same way with comedy. Either you have an ear for what a joke sounds like or you don’t. Yeah, like with music, you can teach the mechanics, but some people just are never going to get it. They don’t have that natural ability.
Believe me, I wanted to play bass so badly. Practically all my friends when I was a teenager and in my early twenties were great musicians. A lot of my friends to this day are still great musicians. I just don’t have a natural affinity towards music. I practiced and practiced my bass until I was passable in a punk band where I wrote most of the songs so I knew I didn’t throw anything out there that was beyond my ability. My first passion is music. If I could do that, I would. I hate that I can’t. I took guitar lessons and tried, but at the end of the day someone else with a natural ability was going to have a much easier time and go a lot further.
It’s the same way with comedy classes. Some people take the classes with no ability, but they want to be a comedian so bad. They’ll never really figure it out. Some people have that ability and just need little pushes in the right direction. Some people may be amazing writers and just want to conquer their fear of public speaking. For that matter, some people may have no interest in comedy at all and only want to conquer their fear of public speaking.
I believe comedy classes are a good thing…as long as their being taught by a comedian. There was, for a time, a stand up class being taught by a local actor. I guess that class was for students who wanted to learn how to act like a comedian.
Bill Bushart taught my class. Bill himself is a great comedian, but what makes him an even better teacher is his ability to almost immediately tap into a student’s sensibility and punch up the material in their voice. Bill is a master of tagging jokes and in my opinion the best teacher out there. I don’t know how things would’ve been different for me had he not been my instructor.
I’m glad I took comedy classes and started this pursuit of this craft. I’ve never worked hard for anything in my life before this. Everything I did, I did because it came easy to me. I’ve sacrificed more for comedy than anything else or anyone else in my life. I don’t know that I’ve made the right decisions always. At times I’m almost certain I’ve made the exact wrong decisions. Comedy has given to me and it’s taken from me. I’m so deep in it now that I don’t see a life without it. I love comedy like a junky loves their fix. At moments of lucidity I see comedy as the Symbiote that at first helped Peter Paker and then later tried to destroy him. But when I’m on stage, I’m high and I like it there.
Looking back, if I were to give anyone advice starting out, it would be to set boundaries. Look at the things that make you happy now and never let comedy step on those things or take those things away from you. When you sit down with a note book to write new bits, write yourself reminders about where you are and what’s important. My personal experience is it’s hard to balance the life of a comedian with the real world. I think the people who have are the people whose real world really started once they reached a certain level of success. I don’t know.
All I’ve learned in the past nine years is that I’ve amassed a lot of opinions about things and an ability to spew them without having any real knowledge of anything at all. And that’s what comedy is really…when you break it down. One person in the spotlight spreading their thoughts to a somewhat captive audience.
Well…this return to the website took a weird twist, eh? Welcome back.
I’m fascinated by all branches of performing arts. Stand up comedy and burlesque share a lot of the same roots in show business, both starting back in the vaudeville circuit nearly a century ago. A few years ago I did a Halloween show with my friends the Detroit Rockabilly band Graveside Manner. Also on the bill was the burlesque troupe Detroit Dizzy Dames led by the wonderful Lushes LaMoan. We became Facebook friends and I couldn’t help to notice how incredibly busy she constantly is.
For me, the hardest part about being a performer is figuring out how to juggle so many different schedules. We’re all essentially small business owners trying to sell a product, and that product is ourselves. Somehow Lushes manages to not only juggle the business of Lushes LaMoan, but is additionally teaching burlesque and serving as the Branch Director of the Detroit chapter of Dr. Sketchy which is an “anti-art school” featuring local models and burlesque performers, and she manages to juggle it all very well! She’s one of the hardest working performers in the city and has already made a name with herself with noteworthy accomplishments like being featured on the cover of the 2010 Metro Times Lust issue.
I think I may have figured out how she does it all when I had a chance to catch up with her at a recent Dr. Sketchy event at the Scarab Club downtown. She multi-tasks incredibly well! We talked while she arranged snacks for all the attendees, delegated chairs being set up for the artists, and fielded questions from a long line of people.
The first I remember meeting you was that Halloween show a few years back.
Yes. I started managing the Detroit Dizzy Dames when SPAG went on hiatus. It started with myself and a few of the girls not wanting to stop doing burlesque. We carried on what we do and did it a little differently. So we started the Detroit Dizzy Dames and that show was the Halloween Hootenanny and that was actually our very first gig.