How to make sure you don’t get booked for comedy

When I started comedy, it was typical of most comics. I had a friend or two tell me I was funny, got talked into it and tried it out. I was awful. I mean awful. Not the worst, as I quickly found out, but pretty bad. The thing that made me better is that I realized it. I recorded almost every set, constantly rewrote jokes or scrapped bad ones altogether. Even with this self-awareness, I found myself after a couple of good nights thinking I was way better than I actually was. This is natural and easily the worst thing about comedy. It’s accessible to anyone, at least at a base level, who is willing to talk into a microphone. Want to be in a band? You at least have to invest in $500 or more in equipment and get with a few others and practice. Want to act? You have to audition. Want to tell jokes? You have to find an open mic and write your name down. It encourages a lot of no talent losers and frankly, out and out psychopaths.

I was pretty cocky the first time I got into a comedy contest. I had killer sets and got to the finals. I was sure I had a chance to win, but the crowd was sold out, markedly older and I drew the dreaded first spot. I bombed. I should have known, the host, a touring comic with over a decade of experience was struggling. The crowd was there for one comic only, but I did no favors to myself and left the stage like I got my ass kicked. I worked hard, cleaned up my set and wrote more jokes. The next year, I won the same contest. After I won, a local guy who had been performing less than a few months was black out drunk and trying to fight the staff of the Funny Bone. His white trash mom was screaming, “I know a lawyer! I’m going to sue your asses!” Yes, that sounds like a solid case. “As you can see clearly, the Laffometer had the highest reading for my client.” Even though he apologized a week later, he was done. He never did stand-up again, at least not in this city.

Having done stand-up for over a decade and having both success and failure, I can say it’s mostly my fault (or to my credit) for everything, good or bad. I got to work with a popular hypnotist named J Medicine Hat several times. One thing I noticed was that he was pissed off and critical of himself after every show, even if it went well. I have noticed this in successful comics. Most garbage comics are the exact opposite. They never learn, they just genuflect and blame the crowd, the venue or some bizarre apparition no one can see but them.

I will say, the reciprocation of booking is terrible, worse than it ever has been. Comedy cliques are definitely a thing and it’s tied as much to social media as real life. I’ve worked people and noticed they keep booking their friends over and over…which is their option if they want to do that. All these can be discouraging, but I would suggest to any comic who feels “disrespected” I would run down this list for you. 1) Why don’t you start your own show? 2) Are you funny? I mean like go into a cold room outside your comfort zone and make people laugh? Do you record your sets so you can actually hear laughter or the absence thereof? 3) Do you actually ask to be on shows? If so, can you ask for feedback if they don’t use you and not lose your mind about what you hear? If no to any of the above questions, then work on your act (or yourself) before you go on conspiracy rants about all the people out to get you. Or get help. From the comics I’ve met, that covers a pretty big chunk.

No one books a comic who is a problem. If you get black out drunk, are continually late, talk shit about the venue or other performers, fight the crowd, or refuse to promote the show (I could do a book on that), the person or business booking the room has no use for you. There’s someone else who won’t do that and is just as funny or at least is close enough and won’t cause the booker an ulcer. A wise man or rapper or someone once said, “Check yo self before you wreck you self.” Of course, the people that need to read this won’t or will get mad and personalize it, so I may as well piss into the wind, but oh well.

Alcohol + youth x men = this

I was reminded of a few stories recently from a group text. When I was in college, I lived with 33 other guys in a fraternity house. You can imagine what the result was. Here are a few highlights.

One of my brothers had a final, which was still not a good enough reason for two rather sauced up brothers for him not to have beer with them. So, they decided to grab him sometime around 3-6 am, give or take, and handcuff him to a toilet, cover him in shaving cream and aftershave, then turn all the showers on hot. I found him about 8 am. He said, “I’m not even angry anymore, I just want out.” The keys were found, but he was late for his final. He walked into class, still covered in men’s hygiene products and sweaty. His professor looked up, “Want to take the final tomorrow?” “Yes.” He walked out. I think he passed.

One time I had, um, fallen asleep and awoke to a shop vac turned on full blast and afixed to my groin. In the struggle that ensued, I lost my undergarments but broke free. I grabbed a handful of darts off the door and took out the lead antagonist with a fastball dart that embedded into his hamstring. He tumbled down the stairs and we called it even.

Multiple times people got “pennied” or “coined” into their rooms. That’s where you stack coins into someone’s door so that when they try to open them, the coins create a wedge that prevents the door from being opened. One time an incident like this led to an axe being used to chop a hole into said door, but I really wasn’t too close. When someone is angry and swinging like Paul Bunyan, you go party elsewhere.

The worst was a markering. One young man decided to drink copious amounts of whiskey and filled the stereotype to a tee. He was obnoxious and berating everyone, but made one fatal flaw – he passed out first and with his shoes on. “Die with your boots on” is one of favorite Iron Maiden songs, but anyone with shoes on was open game. He was decorated with a Magnum 44 sharpie that had a tip thicker than my index finger. Every part of his body was markered up, and I mean every part. Scrotum, teeth (not in that order) and inside his ears. Around 6 am I heard a guttural scream, “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU ALL!” I jumped up and locked my door and heard doors being kicked and punched. Then it was quiet. The ink was so thick, he drove 2 hours to his parents’ house. I later found gasoline was required to remove it all. Best part is we were watching the video tape of the crime from the night before on the house television when he returned eight hours later. He was glowing pink from the gas on his skin and still very angry, even more so when he saw what we were doing. He said nothing, but ripped the tape out and stomped it into pieces and went to his room. Just another Sunday.

Adult nightmares

When I was a kid, I had a very vivid nightmare where one of those dream people you’ve never seen before, but know very well in your dream, was trying to suffocate me. It was bizarre and I still remember almost every detail. My nightmares are a little different now.

The other night I awoke in a huff – in my dream our Disney+ account was locked and the only way to unlock it was to watch every single show once to prove it was ours. My daughter was yelling for her favorite movie while I was drudging through Disney’s toddler cartoons. It was the worst nightmare I’ve ever had. I have time…maybe…for three shows a week in a good week and here I was plugging through Puppy Dog Pals season two in my dream. Next thing, I will have a nightmare where my dryer makes the clothes dirty again or I have to hand mop the floor nightly. Give me the suffocation guy, please.

Disney Plus first impression

We got Disney, for the kids, of course, so I thought it was important to leave a customer review, since you may be considering it as a Christmas gift for your kids or yourself or your cat or whatever.

PRICE – Amazing deal. It is less than ten bucks a month, so if you rent a movie online, it’s usually $3 at a minimum. I’m not a math professor, but that’s good deal. BUT CHRIS I ALREADY OWN EVERY DISNEY MOVIE. Best part, you don’t have to get off your ass and put the DVD in! Worth every penny. 5/5

SELECTION – Dozens of Marvel movies, plus about every Pixar film and literally hundreads of Disney movies, from the the animated classics (Lion King, Snow White, etc.) to live action (Willow, all the corny ones you didn’t know Disney made), plus Star Wars (you take the good, you take the bad). Pretty solid…although the original programming right now is…the Mandalorian. It’s great, but they are releasing one episode a week like it’s 2003 over here. GIVE ME ALL DA EPISODES NAH. RIGHT NAH. 4.5/5

AVATAR PICTURES – No Captain America avatar? I had to go with Hulk like some kind of monster?! Clearly the folks at Disney are working for Hydra. 1/5 stars.

EASE OF USE – It’s broken down by categories, but PG film Wall-E doesn’t show up on my daughter’s profile. That’s annoying, but they quickly fixed the sound issue from day one I had where everything was a few seconds off and just as important, they were able to add the “resume watching” feature. The first few days you had to start from the beginning which you don’t realize is annoying until your life keeps interrupting a movie you’re trying to watch on your cell phone. 3.5/5

FEEDING THE BEAST – Disney is going to own us in ten years or less if Facebook doesn’t first. Giving them more money probably not ideal, but it may be worth it. Both of them are watching me type this right now. 3/5

LETTING ME WATCH STUFF (CAPTAIN AMERICA MOVIES) ON MY PHONE WITH SUBTITLES WHILE MY DAUGHTER WATCHES THE GOOD DINOSAUR FOR THE 800TH TIME – 5/5

KEEPING MY KIDS ENTERTAINED SO I CAN GET STUFF DONE – Can you feed them also? Change diapers? 4/5

In summation, I really like it and great job to me for cutting cable so I can subscribe to a bunch of crap that is pretty much saving me no money now. 2/5 to myself for being dumb, 4.5/5 to Disney Plus.

“I’ll bet having kids has helped your comedy!”

I get that question ALL THE TIME. The answer is yes…but I have no time to write anything down. ‘Member in school they always talked about time management? I was the best at it. In college, I was the weirdo that was hammering out work the same afternoon to get it done. I never all night crammed one time in four years because I took meticulous notes and figured if I didn’t know it from working at it, I wasn’t going to be tired and not know it. This isn’t bragging; it’s just to tell you having kids takes whatever time management ability you have, laughs at it, gives it a swirlie and stuffs it in a locker.

What has happened that is funny? My daughter talks about poop and pee and vaginas all day, every day. She sings songs about robots being eaten by tigers that she makes up. She changes reality to win arguments and when she dresses herself, it’s seat belt worthy. My son isn’t overly verbal yet, but he farts like a 45 year old truck driver, dances like he’s on the Grind (obviously my dance show knowledge is limited to 90’s MTV) and growls and grunts like a cave creature. “Oh I bet you just pound out the jokes, then!” THERE’S NO TIME. I have a roast/debate show tomorrow and I wrote on a plane, on my lunch break one day last week (haven’t had a lunch since) and while running at 6 am. This isn’t to generate sympathy, it’s just me saying if one more person says it to me, you’re going to hear a pop and a hiss, then see my brain oozing out of my ears. The next time I hear it, I’m going to say, “Great call! Now go babysit my kids so I can bring you all this low hanging fruit.”

Comedy and crap weather are like PB&J

When I was younger and more ambitious, I did a ton of road work for comedy. In 2009, between work and comedy, I put over 40,000 miles on my car. I wouldn’t recommend it. One big irony of doing road work is that more people attend comedy shows in horrible weather, so the amount of gigs is larger by far in the winter than the summer, which is fun when you’re in towns with no cell service.

For those that don’t know, when you start traveling there are two types of shows. Showcases for other comics that pay like $14 because there’s 8 comics booked in a larger city or the town of 5,000 where there’s a feature (you) and headliner (a really angry person making more than you) and an emcee (a local guy reading internet jokes off a piece of paper, but he knows the owner). The latter was my wheelhouse for years.

I drove with a friend in six inches of snow to a gig. We had to print Mapquest directions because the GPS was so antiquated. As we saw the exit approach, I depressed the brakes…and slid about 400 yards on the highway in Michigan. I came to a stop and realized we hadn’t seen a car in 45 minutes, so I just backed up and went down the exit. I bet turnout will be great tonight! Another time I agreed to do shows in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the week after Christmas. There was well over a foot of snow when I pulled into Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. There was so much snow, in fact, when I stopped, I got stuck and had to put a towel under my tire, so I decided not to stop. I just went slow and planned ahead for intersections and lights. The show was at a Casino, so I thought it would be fancy, until I walked in and it was in a cafeteria with no stage or lights. I just had a microphone and was talking to 12 people in a cafeteria like a maniac. If I had been there the next week, I would’ve seen Bubba Sparxx. Oh damn the fates!

Driving lengthwise across the UP in Michigan the next day was an experience. I had another casino gig in Milwaukee, so I took the world’s most depressing drive. At this point, the snow was up to 16″ in some spots and the road was so covered, only the middle of the two lane highway was clear. You would think driving down the middle of a highway was bad, but I saw one car on average every 20 minutes, so I had a harrowing 34 seconds every 20 minutes where I had to pass someone just as shocked as me to see another living person. I saw at least 15 closed gas stations, so if the zombie virus outbreak happens, stay the hell out of the Upper Peninsula, unless you need lumber and nothing else. I made it to the gig, though and bombed in front of less than ten people for two shows. The two shows were so poorly attended, I began to miss the cafeteria and the drive of depression. Ah, show business.