In my last post, I qualified to do a stand-up comedy spot on Late Night with Matty D, a TV show on Rogers. I did the taping on Monday and had an absolute blast! But it wasn’t easy.
Rise and…Still Sick
In the morning, I woke up and breathed in…a little. You know that feeling when you can’t draw in a full breathe without your throat foreshadowing a cough? Yeah, that’s how I woke up. (Note: After a visit to the doctor today, it turns out that I have bronchitis and/or whooping cough. I’m on codeine, anti-biotics, and two puffers right now.)
Now, if it was any other job, I would’ve cancelled, called in sick, you name it. But this isn’t just some career – this is what I love. The thought of cancelling crossed my mind, and I immediately dismissed the idea as ridiculous. I would’ve coughed my way through the entire performance if necessary. I think you can tell how much you love something by what you sacrifice for it. The question is: does what you love, love you back? I’ll leave that one alone for now.
Trying To Look Good
I would’ve gotten a haircut on the weekend, but was so out of it that I didn’t do much but stay at home. So, I would have to get the cut today.
Problem is, I had a business lunch (paying the bills-related) which lasted until 1:30pm. Given that it would take me a little while to get downtown, that left me two hours to practice my set and get groomed up.
After visiting three closed barber shops, I was out of time. I’d have to shave myself. Crap. This is TV and I won’t even be able to, ‘Hold a fresh’ (have a new haircut, in hood-speak)…
Practising My Set
Given that I was under the weather, I hadn’t hit the stage since the Hard Rock performance the Sunday prior. What if I forgot my material? I only had four minutes to play with…ah crap. The doubts started settling in.
But then I reminded myself, ‘You’re a funny guy, Mike. See all those times that you made people laugh around you? You did that naturally. Just be.’ That helped a lot. Knowing that I was bringing proven material to the table also helped boost my confidence.
I think that kind of realistic self-talk is important. When my mind is on auto-pilot, it often sends me on trips that are hurtful in nature. Tony Robbins had a great analogy for this:
Imagine that you missed a party and someone was showing you the pictures. What if they showed you the pictures of the 5 people that were bored the entire night…what would you think about the party? You’d think it sucked. Now what if they showed you pictures of the 30 people that had a great time? You’d think the exact opposite. Bear in mind that we sometimes end up only looking at the bad pictures and ignore the good ones when reflecting on our past.
This exercise would prove useful right before my set…
Enjoying The Ride
During the subway ride downtown, I visualized the entire performance, from Matty D calling my name to getting my first laugh. I imagined myself relishing the moments where there was no laughter, knowing that something magical was about to happen.
Then, instead of taking the bus to to the venue, I opted to walk. I went to the first conference for the Association of Positive Psychology on the weekend and learned something interesting from Dr. Jamie Gruman, an old professor of mine from U of T.
He talked to me about biophilia, a school of thought that delves into the relationship between nature and human beings. He told me about a study that showed that people scored higher on IQ tests in the forest than they did in the classroom. Crazy, eh?! There’s a great insight there for creative minds: if you’re stuck, get your ass outside and find a tree.
All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. – [Johnny] Blaise [Ain't A Damn Thing Change] Pascal
So, I decided to take the beaten, but wooded, downtown path to the Garrison (1179 Dundas W). I enjoyed the sound of the wind through the trees, the birds, and most of all, the alone time. I enjoy being alone just as much as I do being with friends, sometimes moreso. Much has been written about the power of healthy relationships in life, but I think there’s a lot to be said about having a healthy relationship with nature, too.
I Have Guests!
For the first time ever, I had friends in the audience. My ego was on a trip, because I got to greet the other comedians in front of them, to which my ego said, ‘See friends? See how I said hi to that guy? Yeah, I’m the shiznat.’ My ego’s an idiot. It reminded me of something I heard at the Positive Psychology Conference:
Ninety-nine percent of what you do is for your self, which is a problem, because there is no self. (See Anatta)
Then my ego said, ‘Hey…what if you don’t do well…how are you going to be able to look them in the eyes?’ I even imagined them consoling me after, telling me that the crowd was dead, that they thought it was funny, etc.
That’s when my practise of realistic self-talk chimed in. ‘You’re a funny guy, Mike. See all those times that you made the people around you laugh? You did that naturally. Just be.’
How To Follow A Killer
I found out that I was going on after Mike Rita, an experienced Toronto comic. He killed, but it was the way in which he killed which made me nervous. Mike spoke at an almost frantic pace, getting one big laugh after another. I thought to myself, ‘Shit, I’m going to come out and start with a completely different style…I wonder if it will work? They seem to like a faster style.‘
It was at that point that I remembered my mentor Quinn C. Martin telling me about his experience working with Dave Merheje.
|Dave Merheje||Quinn C. Martin|
You see, Dave’s a fireball ranter, while Quinn is an energetic but methodical comic. In fact, back in the day, Quinn and Dave would compete to see who would do better on stage. Quinn told me that in order to follow Dave, he would have to reorient the crowd to his style and pace of comedy by slowly taking the mic and even letting a bit of silence linger in the air before starting his set.
So, after once again reminding myself that I had strong material and that I was able to make people laugh, I decided to calmly take the stage, walk slowly to the mic, and just take my time in the beginning. This wasn’t the time to change my act. This wasn’t the time to rethink my delivery. This was the time to do what I loved to do, the way I loved to do it.
I heard Matty D say my name, and as the Production Manager opened the curtain, my mind went blank. I think I gave a thumbs up.
What an amazing crowd. They were giving out applause breaks like candy on Halloween. I made it a point to interact with Matty, which I thought would help me seem more vulnerable (in the open and natural sense of the word) to the crowd. I also selfishly thought that the more interaction with Matty, the longer they would air my clip on TV…I’m a sly devil, I know.
One of the big things on my mind is amassing a collection of video clips in front of big name venues (TV, Hard Rock, Yuk Yuk’s, Absolute, etc.) with me killing. In the YouTube age, you don’t need a lot of clips like those to appear like one of the best up and coming comedians in the game.
That said, I’ve realized that it would be a huge problem if I got popular before I got great, and so my goal has become that much more important: do well eight out of ten times I hit the stage and have people repeat my bits to me after the show (which to me, shows engagement).
Specifically, what I want to work on next is my ability to improvise at length, both with the crowd and with what previous comedians have talked about. It takes a lot of balls to be able to riff with the crowd and improvise because you never really know how it’s going to go. I know that if I can get good at improvising, I’ll be able to turn seven minutes of killer material into ten-fifteen minute sets. Perhaps I’ll look into signing up for a Second City improv class, which I’ve heard solid reviews about over the past few months.
Life Is Good
Are things perfect? Nope. My money situation could be better. Weight loss could be faster. But I’m not stressing about those issues, because they are being remedied as we speak.
To be honest, ever since I started doing comedy in October 2011, my life has done a complete 180. I’m single, down 23 pounds and working out everyday, have a best friend, my mental health has never been better, and most importantly, I’m doing what I love.
What’s interesting is that things keep getting better. I’m reconnecting with people from my past that I was once very close with. I had an amazing time talking to my old U of T prof Dr Gruman this past weekend. An old boss of mind is keeping me in the money. Even elementary school friends are popping their heads back up.
Why’s all of this happening?
First of all, I think that there’s a certain magic created by doing what you love in life. I also think that as my spiritual practice is slowly removing my ego brick by brick, I’m interacting with people in a more heartfelt and vulnerable way. Whereas before I spent a lot of time trying to maintain a positive image of myself, now I’m just letting myself be.
That said, my ego isn’t done yet. Everytime I roll up to a parking lot, I turn up this song, hoping that people will hear it and look at me. Why do I do that? Do I think that some girl will go,
Wow, hear that song? Who’s playing it? That brown guy? Damn, that song is so good I’m going to approach him and request that we engage in sexual relations some time in the future immediate
PS – After watching the video, I still don’t understand why popping bottles is cool. I mean, I get it: you have enough money to reserve and table and pay two-three times market price for alchohol on the highest shelf, and the guy with the most money is supposed to be the one who possesses the most prowess (see Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption). The guy with the most animal furs gets the best women in the tribe, etc. But when I was growing up, guys used to brag about how they got clothes for cheap. ‘Yo dawg, how much was that? This? Yo, twenty bucks man. Twenty bucks? Yeah man, I talked to the owner and got a crazy deal…I’ll take you there next time, man.’ Like that’s how we used to brag…the coolest guy was the guy that paid the least and the sucker the one who paid the most. I used to browse department stores, get an idea of what I wanted to buy, and then head over to discount stores like Winners and Target to try and find the same thing for cheap. I had friends that popped bottles…Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum…in the backseat of my dad’s Cutlass Ciera in the parking lot outside of the club. We used to pick the clubs that had three dollar drinks and no cover charge, not where we thought the girls would be. Article from mi heart mi ah talk, Rasta…