What Went Wrong At The Hard Rock Cafe

Damn it. I really wanted to kill in my second performance at the Hard Rock Cafe. I didn’t.

Root Cause Analysis using The Five Why’s

how to be a comic - asking questions

The biggest problem in my set was that I included the Somalian bit, which had never hit before.

Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota, is famous for his Five Why’s problem solving technique. Simply put, it involves asking why five times in order to find the root cause – rather than the symptoms – of a problem. Let’s try it:

  1. Why did I include that Somalian bit if it hadn’t hit before?
  2. I thought I figured out a way to deliver it right. It’s another case of bad judgment when it comes to doing racist material. That’s been an Achilles heel of mine, but the problem is deeper than that. Why did I include it?
  3. The reason that I included it is because I didn’t have enough material for five minutes. Why didn’t I have enough new material?
  4. Because I didn’t take the time to craft the material itself. Why didn’t I spend the time?
  5. Pride, hubris, take your pick. Procrastination. Sheer laziness. Or maybe it’s because I thought I had gold when I really had Au-plated bronze.

You get the idea. I tried crafting an entirely new seven-minute set by going to just four (4) open mics. What the hell was I thinking?

Apologizing

sad kid apology sorry

I went home pissed that night. I called Quinn C. Martin the following day to apologize, but got his voicemail.

He called me back later that evening and I apologized again and he asked me why. I told him I fucked up my set.

Huh? Really?

confused baby kid

To my surprise, he told me that feedback from the crowd after the show was that they liked my set. Quinn wouldn’t lie to me; we’re honest as hell with each other. In fact, he cut me off in mid-lament, saying:

Dog, mans dem [people] are saying they liked you the best [after himself, of course; Quinn DESTROYED]. You’re on some Tiger Woods shit. Tiger Woods won a tournament by 15 holes and agonized over what he did on the sixth hole. You’re feeling exactly how you need to be feeling right now.

That made me feel better, but nothing changes what I know needs to happen.

Moving Forward

looking forward

Here are the lessons that I’ve learned:

  • Don’t spend 4 open mics trying out new material before having to go on such a big venue like this.
  • Don’t include extraneous words after a joke when it hits reflecting on the joke itself. There’s a difference between recognizing the audience is laughing and riding off that energy versus saying, ‘Oh, you thought that was funny? Cool!’
  • Check myself with the racist material.
  • If the crowd loves you, you can do no wrong. So save the potentially offensive material for the middle of the show when I’ve developed trust with the audience.
  • Keep writing and testing material at open mics. This is going to sound boastful, but I can write. I’m funny. The problem is, I need a killer ACT, not just killer material. Both go hand in hand. I don’t want to fall into the trap of being a funny, talented guy that gets outworked.
  • Moreover, keep honing your act at these open mics. The improv off that top is hitting 60-75% of the time now, which is something I’m really happy about.
  • I’ve got to go back and start being a student of stand-up comedy again. To that end, I went out to see Morgan Flood’s AltDot Comedy Lounge show at the Rivoli last night. Jeff Leeson MURDERED with 10 minutes of pure crowd work.
  • Having something to work towards is a HUGE motivator. I never would’ve worked on my material if I didn’t have a big show like that. My next crucial, must-kill event is the AltDot Coming Soon show on May 7 2012. I’ll be ready for it.

Laughs aren’t Enough

dissatisifed unhappy kid

After watching the video a few times, I realized that I did get laughs. But laughs aren’t enough. I’m in it to KILL. Anything less is completely unsatisfactory.

If the scale is:

  • Excellent
  • Very Good
  • Good
  • Fair or
  • Poor

…there’s no reason I should be happy with Good or Very Good. It’s either Excellent or Not Excellent.

My Mindset


I don’t care that I haven’t done 100 sets yet. I don’t care that people laughed. And it doesn’t even matter that people said they liked my set.

It’s not about them…it’s about me. It’s about me looking myself in the mirror and being able to say, ‘I am a Champion.’

Michael Jagdeo

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About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
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24 Responses to What Went Wrong At The Hard Rock Cafe

  1. I got a bit lost with the Basement bit – but I’m a Yank in Ireland, not your audience right there and then. I think the Somalian bit could kill, and as you say it’s all in the delivery. You’ll get there!

    • Hey HTBS!

      How are things?

      Yeah, I grew up for part of my childhood living in a basement.

      You liked the Somalian bit eh? Is it bad that I laughed my ass off when I wrote it!? I guess it is kind of bad.

      That said, what would be worse is to deny that I think that it’s funny. Not everything that I think is funny is going to work…and that’s ok.

      You can’t help how you feel right? Or can you? I dunno. Is it that I’m uncultured, or just am vocal about things that people aren’t ready to own up to? Or is it my job to make them feel comfortable so they can laugh at it?

      A great comedian friend of mine, Helder Brum, said that he believes comedy is like music, in that there are genres of comedy that some people like and some people don’t.

      The difference is, when you go to a comedy club, you get a mix of comedic styles. When you go to a concert, you see a rock concert or a rap concert.

      When people say they don’t like a comedian, it might be just that they don’t like a comedian’s style. We don’t begrudge country music fans for hating rap music.

      His point is that until you find your audience, sometimes your material will hit and sometimes it won’t. Nobody begrudges Chris Rock for talking about race or about Jeff Foxworthy for talking about rednecks because those things appeal to their audience.

      Whaddaya think?

      • It’s damned hard to make a starving emaciated person funny, but it’s do-able. I think more emphasis on certain words than you did this time – and if you’re going to rub your clearly not-starving belly, include the irony somehow. We might not all be famished, but a lot of us have a belly, a good way to include the audience?
        I’m sort of proud to be uncultured. I have nothing in common with someone who can read and understand Joyce’s Ulysses! Feic it, I like dirty jokes and bathroom humour. I like being immature, it makes life more fun.
        I think the only times I outright did not like a comic is when they went with cheap, easy, unoriginal stereotype jokes, or were too ‘posh’ (we get a lot of English comedy here), or if I just plain was in a bad mood at the time. Style be dammed, funny is funny. I’m not a redneck, but I know some; I’m not a black American, but I know some. The danger I see there is that there are just so many redneck/black jokes a person can make before it becomes stale, overdone, and copied.

        • It’s damned hard to make a starving emaciated person funny…

          LMAO. You’re right. Matengi is a pitiful character, in the root sense of the compound word meaning.

          if you’re going to rub your clearly not-starving belly, include the irony somehow.

          LMAO again. Spot on!

          When you say you like dirty jokes, I hear ya. When you say you don’t like comedians who go with cheap, unoriginal jokes, I hear ya twice. Some people might see an inherent contradiction there, but I don’t.

          Anyone can talk about sex. What makes things interesting is when a comedian takes a fresh perspective on things. That night, Quinn C. Martin KILLED with a joke about how he liked gothic girls because they were into everything. He said that this one girl made him cum on the table and she snorted it like a line of coke.

          Dirty? Absolutely. A fresh take? Double Absolutely. Most of all, it was impressive. For someone to take things to that length was amazing. The crowd was dying with laughter. I’ll post a video as soon as he does.

          I also hear you on the posh comedians that you have in the UK. I’ve always preferred acts that are casually funny, rather than seeing someone recite jokes in a super-polished manner. It’s that idea that the comedian is genuinely having a conversation with me that I like.

          Perhaps that polished approach comes from the classical approach that the English have towards the arts? Perhaps it comes from that reverence of Shakespeare. Then again, it was Shakespeare himself that called for realism on stage,

          Hamlet: Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you,
          trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it as many of your players
          do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the
          air too much with your hand thus, but use all gently; for in the
          very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion,
          you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it
          smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
          periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split
          the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of
          nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I would have such
          a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant — it out-Herods Herod.
          Pray you avoid it.
          First Player: I warrant your honour.
          Hamlet: Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your
          tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this
          special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For
          anything so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end both
          at the first and now, was and is, to hold as ’twere, the mirror up
          to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image,
          and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now
          this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful
          laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the
          which one must in your allowance o’erweigh a whole theatre of
          others. Oh, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others
          praise and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that neither having
          the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man,
          have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature’s
          journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated
          humanity so abominably.

          • Oh, see, now you’re way more posh than I, quoting Hamlet! I think what I dislike more about certain UK comedy is the assumption of class – whether real or imagined – that they sometimes use. Russel Brand used to be funny (and wow he’s a smart feicer), for instance. Russell Howard is a posh annoying horse-faced prick. Not even slightly funny… Maybe it is just what they have to do to get on mainstream telly?
            Yep, the Goth Girl joke is just about perfect – ticks all the boxes! Fair play to him.
            Looking forward to your next set!

  2. Pingback: Welcome | Diary of a Toronto Stand-Up Comedian

  3. CEO1PLUG says:

    I think its cool that you can view yourself. Great self awareness on your part. Keep up the good work.

    • Hey Friend!

      Thanks for that. Yes, I think my ability to reflect stems from my neurosis and the fact that I live in my head.

      I’m always asking how why when who, guessing at people’s intentions, wondering about the origins of my own intentions, wondering if I’m being truthful, etc.

      Know thyself, right?

      It’s funny because I read this comment on the Duncan Trussell podcast with Raghu Markhus on Monday, the day after my set, that asked, ‘What am I?’

      I’ve been thinking a lot about that question since the set. Not who, but what am I?

      I’m currently living that question right now, revelling in the wonder of it.

      Be a lamp for yourselves. Be your own refuge. Seek for no other. All things must pass. Strive on diligently. Don’t give up.” ― Siddhārtha Gautama

  4. Good set bro. Hope you have more and more opportunities to go on stage soon, you seem more and more comfortable. I was thoroughly impressed (I always wanted to say thoroughly)

    • Hey man,

      You know what’s funny? Your comment before about how I didn’t seem comfortable on stage stuck with me. I really wanted to take the stage as a bird to the air, as it were.

      And you’re spot on: I was more comfortable than before. I think because the writing, for the most part, got me laughs.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that I got laughs in a lot of the places I thought I would, and that allowed me to sit on my punchlines like a boxer sits on his punches.

      Really appreciate your help. How things on your end?

      Mj

  5. Steve Kasan says:

    The somalian bit can work with the right crowd. “Jogged over and won a medal” that to me is the line of the set. However, I got it. Perhaps the crowd was too sensitive for a series of jokes like that? Cannot help it.
    The McDonalds joke when you respond back to the cashier, try a Bernie Mac type of delivery. In my honest opinion his delivery when it comes to responding back is the best. Animated, direct, and distinctive. Then, what do I know :!

  6. Marcellino says:

    As a comedian, I find it offensive that you write “How to be a comedian” as one of your tabs. You can’t tell people how to be a comedian when you do not know how how to be one.

    • Hey Marcellino!

      I’m sorry that you find it offensive, but I’d ask you to take a moment before criticizing. If you notice the top right-hand corner of the blog, it reads,

      How to be a comedian, and, well, how not to be a comedian

      Second of all, you’re commenting on a post that reads, ‘What Went Wrong At The Hard Rock Cafe.’ I was hoping that the title might indicate to the reader that I am aware that there is work to be done when it comes to my act. I was hoping that people could learn how to be a comedian from looking at mistakes instead of just finding clips of successes online. I was hoping that a comedian would understand the trials and tribulations of starting out.

      I guess I was wrong. I wish you all the best, Marcellino! Let me know if you’re ever in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

      JagdeoComedy on Twitter

  7. JIM says:

    How did you get a spot at the Hard Rock? How many people are there to watch? How many people perform? Why do I feel embarrassed for you after watching that video?

    • Hey Jim!

      Thanks for commenting. I got a spot at the Hard Rock after doing a spot on RogersTV for Quinn C. Martin. He liked my set and he asked me to do his first show at the Hard Rock. After that show, he asked me to do another set at the Hard Rock (this one). Four people perform. The room’s packed (probably 60-80 people it’s hard to tell).

      I’m not sure why you feel embarrassed. Any suggestions on what I could do better?

      MJ

      • JIM says:

        Yeah, say something funny. I’ve never heard of RogersTV Quinn C. Martin. Why did this guy like your set so much when the crowd didn’t like it? And how did you get a spot on his RogersTV show which probably, 7 people watched?

        • Hey Jim,

          When I wrote my material for the RogersTV show, it appealed to him. You’d have to ask him why he liked it so much. It could be that it was actually funny, but that’s not an argument that is going to sit well with you.

          To get a spot on the RogersTV Toronto Talent show, simply call 416 446 6606 or email talentrogerstv.com and let them know what your talent is.

          Best of luck to you, Jim!

          MJ

          • JIM says:

            Is this performance of you on this RogersTV show on youtube or anything?

            • Hey Jim,

              Thanks for reminding me! I never did get a DVD of the performance, but that was my fault…it was on TV and since I don’t have TV I never recorded it. I got approached to do the TV show and everything I did until that point kind of fell by the wayside.

              Are you going to try and get on the show? It’s great exposure. Plus, Quinn is hosting a show called, ‘Stand Up With Quinn’ in the summer that I’ll also be doing.

              Glad to help out a friend!

              MJ

              • JIM says:

                I’m not really interested in doing the show yet, only because you don’t go on TV until you actually are good. So that’s why I’m really confused as to why you would go on the show. Sure it’s great exposure, but wouldn’t you want that exposure only when you have a good set?

                How long was the set and how/where did you meet this Quinn guy?

              • Hey Jim!

                Hope you had a great long weekend! I did. I did a set for Darren Uddenburg and Neil Griffin at Ellen’s Bar in Brampton, and thereafter they booked me to do their show which Mark Breslin from Yuk Yuk’s is now endorsing. 🙂

                I’m glad that you have such a mature outlook towards your comedy career. You’re right, you should only do TV when you have a solid set. I met Quinn C. Martin when I did the TV show, ‘Toronto’s Talent.’ He’s the host of the show. The set length was 5 minutes. He liked the material that I did and booked me on his Hard Rock show. I can’t imagine a better result!

                But wait…why would you even be interested in doing the show? I thought there were only seven people that watched it…I’m confused.

                Your friend,

                MJ

              • JIM says:

                So are you saying that this Quinn C Martin is being endorsed by Mark Breslin because of YOUR set?

                Yeah, only 7 people watch Rogers TV. Let’s be honest, it’s community TV. I don’t know 1 person who watches that channel 10

              • Hey Jim!

                No, Darren Uddenberg and Neil Griffin produce different shows from Quinn.

                Actually, 42,000 people watch Toronto’s Talent every week. But hey…you’re not interested anyways, right?

                JagdeoComedy

  8. Pingback: Stand-up Comedy at The Hard Rock Cafe: A Look Back | Diary of a Toronto Stand-Up Comedian

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