You Ain’t Gotta Be Famous Today

having fun on stage

Dear Diary,

One of the best reactions you can EVER get on stage is when an audience member repeats one of your phrases as they’re laughing at your joke. Case in point, listen closely at 1:01 when Chris Locke says, “she looks like she just had, like, a millions of…” You can hear a woman laughing and echoing along (joke starts at 0:31):

Beautiful, right? Well, last night, I went on stage for the second time in, oh, I dunno, A YEAR, and two audience members repeated a few of my phrases (0:54 and 1:20), which is awesome because it was legit like 1:20AM on a Thursday night!

It was easily one of the most enjoyable and successful performances I’ve ever had at an open mic, and it’s funny, because…check out the note I made to myself as I sat in the back, preparing to go up:

how to approach stand-up comedy

Last night I had FUUUN, maaannn. I wanna do that again, SOON. Even crazier is that those three sentences I used to coach/motivate myself blossomed from the intersection of four very disparate rivers.

Mark Forward’s Retirement

Mark Forward, when asked what the turning point in his career was, replied,

“I retired from a certain way of doing comedy. I reinvented what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do.” – Retirement is a joke to comedian Mark Forward

Seneca’s Query

My change in the way I approached comedy also related to Seneca’s fundamental question, “For what end do we toil?” I realized that my goal when performing stand-up was to put together a new five, seven, or ten-minute set, rather than trying new things, getting comfortable on stage, or taking risks, and fuck, even just having goddamn fun! I ain’t gotta be famous today, or tomorrow, or then next day. That shit’ll come.

MadVillainy

What did I mean when I said, “Madvillainy that shit?” Well, Madvillainy was a collabo between two of the heaviest underground hitters in hip-hop, MF DOOM and Madlib. They created an album called MadVillainy which, while unacceptable for radio airplay, received widespread critical acclaim. What a great notch on your bedpost, eh? Oh, you went platinum? Well the people that study music for a living said my shit was better than everyone else’s. Oops, I mean, I have outstripped myself.

Pressfield’s Hierarchical vs. Territorial Perspective

I realized that I was always judging my performances in relation to the people around me, which as Pressfield argues in his seminal work, The War of Art, is a sure-fire way to drive yourself batshit crazy (my words, not his). He contends that artists should strive to become a master of a domain, rather than rabidly focusing on beating everyone else, because the latter will never make you happy in the long run, and can’t be sustained over time. Michael Jackson was great, and so was Prince, and neither of their achievements diminished the other’s. There’s plenty of room for great comics, musicians, artists, software developers, etc.

Aiite, homie, thanks for the kind ear. Here’s some tracks to keep ya warm on this cold winter day…

And the sample…what a track!!!!!! Certified banger.

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Giving Joy a Big-Ass Bearhug (Oh yeah, and Achieving Goals. Yeahyeah…Goals)

how to achieve long-term goalsDear Diary,

A few months ago, I started really getting down on myself. This comedy shit – is it worth it? Can I really make it? But it’s going to take soooo loooonnnggg…

Thankfully, my perspective on life has been utterly capsized by the teachings of Seneca, one of the three kings of Stoicism and oh, by the way, just the wealthiest financier in Rome. Two thousand years ago, Seneca asked his pupil, Lucilius,

For what end should I toil?

When I become a world-touring stand-up, is that really going to make me happy? It’s my goal…it should, right? No, not necessarily. Why not? Quite simply, it all depends on how I get there.

Above all, my dear Lucilius, make this your business: learn how to feel joy. – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

I’ve had a lot to be happy about in the past few months. Just got married, killing it at work, writing 19+1 minutes a daybut I wasn’t experiencing the joy. As I told my wife at our reception, ‘The entire time I was walking down the aisle, I was thinking to myself, holy crap, I’m walking down the aisle beside chairs we spent hours thinking about where to place, in a ceremony we spent a year planning, on an aisle runner that…’

Accomplishments were coming and going, and on top of not feeling happy about them, they weren’t leaving me satisfied. OK, I made a few grand…how do I make more? And how do I make it quicker the next time? And this one was the woooorst one of them all – Oh no, look how much more money he’s making – fuuuuck!!! (We’ll look at that last one in a future post; it deserves its own hyperlink)…

The fool’s life is empty of gratitude and full of fears; its course lies wholly toward the future…for we are plunged by our blind desires into ventures which will harm us, but certainly will never satisfy us; for if we could be satisfied with anything, we should have been satisfied long ago; nor do we reflect how pleasant it is to demand nothing, how noble it is to be contented and not to be dependent upon Fortune. Therefore continually remind yourself, Lucilius, how many ambitions you have attained. When you see many ahead of you, think how many are behind! If you would thank the gods, and be grateful for your past life, you should contemplate how many men you have outstripped. But what have you to do with the others? You have outstripped yourself. – Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

You know when you read something so profound that you put down the book and shake your head in amazement and wonder? Now that’s joy!

These teachings upended my perspective on achievement. Now, when I laugh, I stop, and let my head fall back under the shower head of pure bliss. There’s a long way to go before I start criss-crossing the globe with nothing but a backpack and writing utensils, but I’ve never been so excited about the journey in my life.

The Paradox of the End Goal – Jason Selk

how to achieve long-term goals

Truth be told, Seneca’s teachings on achievement were shaded in by Jason Selk’s Executive Toughness, specifically, his idea of Process Goals. Who’s he? Oh, just the Director of Mental Discipline for the then World Series Champions, St. Louis Cardinals. How’s that for a cocktail party introduction?

Oh me? Oh, I-I teach world-class athletes to, uh, win World fucking Championships. You?

Oh wow, that does sound tough. I’m sorry? Oh yeah, sometimes the wheels on those shopping caaan get stuck. If-if you’ll excuse me…

I’m sure he’s a nice guy. But seriously, if you’re the dude collecting shopping carts from the Wal-Mart parking lot…I’ve heard of starting from the bottom but gyaaaaddaaaymn! Anyways, back to J-Selk.

“…the Paradox of the End goal. When we emphasize the end result [the goal] more than we pay attention to the means to achieve it, we come face to face with this paradox. For example, the baseball player standing at the plate thinking to himself, ‘I need to get a hit” is probably going to hear, ‘Strike Three!” on the other hand the player focused on the fundamentals of his performance (tracking the ball, executing a compact swing, following through) has a much greater likelihood of getting a hit.”

What a STUD! So, I quit my job at Wal-Mart, and started with four process goals:

  • Write & Practise comedy for 15 minutes per day, increasing by one minute every week (Product Goal: Become a world-touring stand-up comedian)
  • Exercise every other day (Product Goal: 160 lbs and Sexy)
  • Meditate for 16 minutes every day (Product Goal: Peaceful)
  • Complete XYZ I work (don’t wanna bore you with that one) (Product Goal: $)

As you know, Seinfeld motivated himself to write everyday by placing an X on his calendar after every writing session. The idea of keeping the chain of X’s going, day after day, provided the spark he needed to keep on keeping on (see Gamification). So, I downloaded the Seinfeld Calendar app and started tracking the completion of these process goals. Here’s how December looks thus far:

Personal Success Quadrant

So, as you can see, I’m a fat ass. A funny, money-making, no shopping cart pulling, very peaceful, but fat ass, all the same. They say you can only focus on three things…fuck! Ha! But just look at that. Look at how I perceive things. I’m killing it, and still beating myself up. Lol. Still gotta lot to learn…

But seriously, if I just get my eating in check, yo, I’ll fuck a motherfucker up. No, stop. I’ll do better than fuck a motherfucker up…I’ll have outstripped myself. Fuck those shopping carts. It’s Sunday, and I’ve been up since 7:30AM making sweet music on these black keys. I can’t sleep past 8am anymore. I’m having too much fun.

Here’s Carl Thomas singing Summer Rain.

Here’s me singing Summer Rain with my noise-cancelling headphones on…

C-C-C-C-C-Cuff yo chiiick…

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Rejecting Appreciation

Rejecting appreciation

This weekend, blogTO posted my list of the Top Up and Coming Comedians in Toronto.  When I found out it had reached over 600 Likes, you know what I said to myself?

“Yeah, that’s nice, but if it wasn’t for blogTO, that shit wouldn’t have gotten any likes.”

Ugh. Why can’t I pat myself on the back every now and then?  I mean, sure, blogTO has a huge following, but some of the likes must have had something to do with the list I spent 3 weeks agonizing over again and again, right!?!?  Shit, I must have changed the selection criteria four times, not to mention that I managed to put together a list that I am proud to stand behind (something I wasn’t sure was possible when I started it).

*Thinking*

Hey Mike, you know what? Continue reading

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Finding Comfort In The Pain Of Others

I did my second open mic in two weeks! Not bad for a guy who was without mic for a year.

I had some fun tonight, which is a big deal because that’s one of my goals. I’ve made the decision that I don’t want to be so wrapped up in having a good performance that I take things too seriously and fail to enjoy being a stand-up. Why pursue a passion if you do it in a way that sucks all of the fun out of the process?

Most of the time, I don’t enjoy open mics. Why was tonight different? I saw some legitimate pro’s have mediocre sets.

Let me explain.

I’ll Bomb If You Bomb

misery loves company comedians bomb on stage

When I got to the bar, I saw some comics doing well, and I thought,

comedian bombing on stage how to handle bombing

But then, guys started struggling (it gets tougher and tougher to do well past 11:30pm on a Thursday night) and – this is gonna sound weird – I almost felt liberated. “Worst case scenario is that I do as poorly as everyone else, so at least I won’t be the WORST person who went on stage today.”

That’s a fucked up way to look at things. Does that mean that I need others to perform poorly in order to be myself and have fun on stage? Huh.

Maybe that’s just where I am as a person. But it does show that my willingness to experiment on stage is tied in some way to the willingness of others to experiment and have fun.

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My First Open Mic In A Year

comedian bombinb on stage

As I went down the stairs into the subway, I called Quinn to tell him that I was heading to an open mic. Immediately, he exclaimed,

Jiggy!!! Back on the wagon!!!

It’s my sincere hope that you have a best friend that believes in you the way I know Quinn believes in me. I told him I’d call him when I got topside.

And, *exhale*, there I was, on my way to an open mic.

The Performance

As I walked to the bar, Quinn and I got to talking about bombing, and I asked him, “As a host, what’s your strategy on how to follow a comic that bombs?Continue reading

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