Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of criticism about my act from commenters…and I love it. Honestly, The insights that I get from you guys help me SO MUCH! This post outlines how I’m taking your advice to heart.
The other day, after an open mic, my boy Quinn C. Martin and I were sitting down having Whoppers. I got two of them, because right before we walked in he said, ‘Yo dawg, I got this…’
[Racists are probably saying, ‘I’m surprised it wasn’t KFC.’ No, you idiots. Whoppers are on sale on Wednesday. Tuesday is KFC day. Manchu Wok when we’re in the food court.]
I told him why I got two Whoppers, and we just started going back and forth, exchanging stories about eating when you’re poor. Of course, we ended up dying from laughter and he said, ‘One day, you’re going to tell jokes on stage the way you’re telling them right now.’
But What If They Don’t Get It?
I told him that one of my concerns has been that people won’t understand what I’m talking about. I grew up in a less than affluent place, and most of the crowds are not where I’m from. But he reminded me about something THAT I WROTE for blogTO when reviewing Jerry Seinfeld’s upcoming performance:
When I was in grade seven, I picked up a copy of Jerry Seinfeld’s Sein Language and found it hilarious. He talked about driving (I couldn’t drive), relationships (I’d never had a girlfriend), and planes (I’d never even been on a plane). That’s the power of The Seinfeld: he brought me, a West Indian kid from Malvern, into his world. Top three greatest comedians ever? Yup.
Over Whoppers (goddamn that ketchup and mayonnaise and onions and lettuce and real beef is a heavenly combination, isn’t it?) Quinn said, ‘You felt exactly what Seinfeld was saying, even though you’d never grown up in New York. He brought you into HIS world. That’s what you gotta do.’
Not Rambling, But Investigating
The other interesting thing is that he was laughing at things that were not jokes but simply minutiae that a neurotic like me never forgets. I was just letting my instinct take the wheel, going where it wanted to, not where I wanted to go. I often censor my rambling because I get scared that it’s not leading anywhere.
And, to a certain extent, when you have tried and tested material, it’s better to stick to the script. However, my material is getting laughs…it’s not KILLING. In fact, I find people laugh the most when I get away from what I’ve written.
In the moment, I filed his comment away. But yesterday, I remembered how much he was laughing when I was truly being myself. So, instead of trying to craft a bit using the premise-punchline-tag-surprise tag structure that I’ve learned, I just let my mind rant…after all, people think I’m funny when I’m with them…so maybe I should just try to be that person on stage. Here’s the rant that came out.
- You know, there are a lot of black stereotypes out there. You’ve heard them all, they’re womanizers, they say Hastalavista when the baby’s born, it’s all been done.
- And having grown up in Scarborough in Malvern, I acted just as black as they did. I know how they think because I think THE SAME WAY.
- But sometimes black people who don’t know me get confused and sometimes even angry because I know what they’re thinking before they think it.
Manchu Wok Story
How to order Manchu Wok
- The other day, there was this black guy from New York visiting Toronto. He was gonna do some shows out here or whatever, and this white guy was going to give a tour of the city.
- Now, I follow this white guy on twitter, and he tweets, ‘I’m at the mall with [name of the black guy].’
- And I’m thinking, huh? A guy comes from New York and you want to take him to the mall at 11am? What’s wrong with you
- So I send the guy from New York a message on Facebook saying, as a joke, ‘Hey man, make sure that guy shows you a good time instead of taking you to the food court to get some manchu wok.’
- He responds not a second later saying…’Are you following me?!’
- See? That’s how much I know black people. I knew EXACTLY what he was doing in the mall at 11am cuz I do the saaaamme thing.
- I get the lo mein with the chicken wings and the sweet and sour pork. I argue with them when they try and fuck around and put three chicken wings instead of four
- nah doh worry it doesn’t have to close
- just just give it to me
- Let me see how black you guys are…When you’re at manchu wok, do you get the food for here or to go?
- Nah, it’s always to go. Those containers with the three compartments hold way more food than that plate. So you get the food to go, and you confuse the hell out of the chinese server lady because you sit down at the grey food court table right in front of the manchu wok and start taking out the fork and the knife and the manchu wok hot sauce packets, (start tearing them open, side to side, then squeeze out the rest)
- The old chinese lady is just standing there confused behind the counter, ‘I thought he wanted to go (chinese accent)’
- Bitch you don’t understand how this works!
- By the way, I’ve been taking the bus recently because of gas prices…do chinese people know about shampoo? Because their heads smell like sweat and manchurian chicken.
- You save some lo mein and a chicken wing for when you get home.
- Man…you guys ever come home from a long day at the call centre, it’s like 12:37 in the morning, and the entire bus ride home you’re dreaming about that manchu wok at home. You can taste it. The chicken wing won’t be crispy anymore but fuck it, you don’t even taste food at dem times…you just want to swallow greasy chicken…know what I mean. And you get mad because you have to piss when you get home and you just want to eat, but you’re like nah, let me savour this food. So you take your piss and you look in the fridge…
Lesson Learned (Quinn said this tag)
- and it’s not there.
- It might be your mom, your dad, your sister, a thief…you don’t know!
- You’ll wake your mom up at 12:49am… ‘Mom what the heck!?’ What, son? ‘My dinner what the hell!’ What dinner?
- And she’s the one that ate it…I know it…because I could see the smile on her face, greasy sheets.
- But that was my fault… You can’t just put that big-ass styrofoam container in the fridge…
- So what do you do? Anyone?
- Next time, you put wrap that lo mein and that lonely chicken wing in tin foil…you might be thinking, ‘lo mein in tin foil? why not tupperware?’ naaah TIN FOIL BREDREN! And put it UNDER the lettuce and onions and tomatoes in the crisper at the bottom of the fridge.
- Then next time, you’re eating your midnight snack and your family is like, ‘Where’d you get that from? Don’t worry, mom…just watch your show…’
- You know what, the other day I noticed that I eat way too fast…and I think I know why…it’s because there was never enough food at home…if you didn’t eat fast, that shit was gone. Like when there was a big bag of chips…I’ve never ENJOYED a big bag of chips…I black out when I eat chips….one moment I’m at the grocery store the next moment I’m creeping in the house hoping that nobody sees…You guys ever do that?
- The other day, at around 2am, there’s this place in malvern called markham station, open 24/7 with the best chicken wings in Toronto for the price. So I got hungry, and walked to the restaurant instead of driving because I didn’t want the car motor to wake up my sister.
- So I get home, and Even though I trying to walk in quietly the paper bag with food makes this cshshshsh sound. And my sister, like a cat, I can her here get out of bed and it’s almost 3am, and she’s like, what are you doing? And I go…oh, just got bagels from the gas station for breakfast…
- And I creeped upstairs, wedged a chair against the door, and ate my heart out…napkins fuckin everywhere.
There were leftovers too, you know. You know what I did with them? I said fuck it, can’t leave them in the fridge. So I just kept them in the bedroom with me and had them for breakfast. I heard people trying to get in the bedroom door but the chair that I wedged kept them out.
I remember a quote that said, ‘Struggles don’t hurt you…they reveal you.’ My goal is to be natural on stage, and I’ve realized looking at comedy through the lens of too much structure may have been impeding that journey.
More than a few critics of mine on this blog have pointed out that I seem fake when I’m angry on stage, and sometimes they’re right, other times not. But I do recognize that if I write a punchline that requires anger, unless I’m talking about something that’s absolutely true (i.e. a personal story), it’s probably going to come off forced. I can’t have it both ways. I can’t be myself and then play a character of myself, if that makes any sense.
A New Way Of Looking At Stage Time
Nicholas Reynoldson, a hilarious comedian who’s got his character NAILED, came up to me after a show and said, ‘Hey man, I loved that bit you did about [xyz]. You’re writing’s solid, all you need is more stage time.’
I used to think that the only reason to go to an open mic was to try out new material. Now I know that material is only part (not even half) the battle. I want an act that will KILL everytime I go on stage, no matter who’s in the crowd.
I’m a writer, the material will come. It comes all the time. I’m not worried about the ideas:
…and there’s another 100 voice notes in my iPhone I haven’t fully transcribed.
It’s like I have a very good guitar, but I’m stuck in Toronto and John Mayer’s in California. The guitar is great, but I need to get it in the hands of a KILLER.
I also need to write for me, rather than just writing to get a laugh. One of the ways I’m going to do this is talking about more personal stories/experiences.
Thanks for sticking with a Jigga,
Oh, and here’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in a minute! Documentary fans will love this one…