Monday, September 17, 2007

Returning Home- The Improv Pt 3

On Friday, I'm recovered from a weird event in Las Vegas. The A/C went out in my rat room. Two of my chinchillas didn't make it, and one of my rats wasn't looking good. He finally died in the morning. Mike was a wreck, and the guy helping him wasn't much better. I was the one who was cool about it, because I get that the A/C was not anyone's fault, and the animals just didn't make it. When I finally got home, I found out my favorite girl survived, so I'm relieved, but that's another story, and the sadness I feel is huge, but there's no blame to be had anywhere, so life is life. The hubby was a wreck and expected me to be, but I've been through this for years, so I guess I'm just trained more in how to deal with it.

Anyways... that done. It's Friday and I meet my friend Gulden for lunch at a Greek restaurant in Larchmont off of Beverly. I needed the boost. She's awesome and beautiful, had just met with her pal Marc whom I know casually from another board. We're having comedy chat and we're talking about life, and it's good. I got the boost I needed, and she got some she needed. I headed out to the Improv.

I didn't know Richard Villa before the show. I had to go early because I need the space. I had to get my bearings again. I haven't played that stage since 1998. Seriously. It's been that long. I was last at the Santa Monica Improv and it's not there anymore. Eddie the bartender is still there. He didn't remember me and that's okay. I didn't really drink at all so I usually sat in the restaurant, and wrote there back then. I did recognize the waiter who was there, and he saw me and recognized me and forgot my name but quoted a line I use so I know we knew each other and that was good. But Eddie and I had a great talk.

We talked about the changes in comedy in the last five years. Clubs have stopped working the way they did when I was in LA. It used to be a packed room, and lots of people. Now it's hit or miss, and very few nights of steady headliners. In fact, there are shows which are "bringers" now. That is NEVER something you'd see at the Improv in the 90's. No one was ever told, you can play here if you bring 5 guests. NOW it's expected. We talked about comedians we both knew, and where they are now. It's either road, ships, or college. Even Charles Fleischer, my absolute favorite comedy hero... hands down the smartest guy on stage you've ever seen.... is no longer closing on Fridays and Saturdays. Not at all. The people who have taken over booking decided he's too "old and smart". Are you kidding me????

I used to go to the Improv, then to the Comedy Store JUST to catch both of Charles Fleischer's sets. Not stalker like, just because he was someone to learn comedy from. He knew how to turn a single idea into a forty minute set unlike anyone else I've ever seen in my life. If anything, he was more than brilliant..he was inimitable. And, he's a genius. Absolutely, one hundred percent, timeless, genius. How could anyone NOT close a show with Charles Fleischer? This makes no sense to me. Lenny Clarke and Steve Sweeney are Boston, and Charles Fleischer and Paul Mooney are Los Angeles. Yet, where are they? Not here.

In fact, the comics here are just young, new, and the acts are not timeless. The material is no different than the frat boy stuff at an open mike kegger. It's the material of a generation of kids who don't write, and don't have anything to say. It's the material of "shock jock" and quick fame via the internet. If you say the right, shocking thing, then someone out there will post it online, and make it a clip on YouTube-mentality. That's the saddest part of stand-up. It's not about the writing, it's about the viral ability. It's changed from writers becoming story tellers-- which it's been since Ovid and Euripides, to Woody Guthrie to Will Geer, to Phyllis Diller and Moms Mabely, to well... Charles Fleischer, and now.... it's just guys drinking beer on stage and making wise cracks about butt and vagina cracks. Not exactly life changing stuff. Not exactly timeless. Not exactly material that will last through out their lives.

So I meet with Richard who tells me my ten minutes is now cut to 5 because Chris Rock is going to do a guest spot. Okay. I can deal with that. I'm going to go up late, okay. Then he changes that to first. I can do that. No big deal. I take time and read the audience, and figure out my set. I do material I wrote back in 1997. I use that because in 1997 it worked. When you write material that's timeless, it doesn't matter what year you do it... it can translate. I did it in front of Martin Moreno's room in Long Beach back then...when I was token white chick and it was just a riot... I had a 20 minute set and I had five cholos just up on their feet laughing beer out of their noses. So I figured.. I'd do some of that set because five rather large cholos walked in and reminded me of those guys. I was right to pick that set.

Richard had a packed house. The room was so full, and happy. He had some low energy to start, and wasn't really feeling it. But I figured, I'd turn it up for him. I was feeling my best, and hadn't really been part of that room at all, so they had no idea. He didn't know anything about me and barely introduced me at all. So-- I gave him and them... a taste of Gimp-energy. The room lit up, and I was on. People were fired up and suddenly energy was all over the place. I had laughs where I wanted them.

With only five minutes I cut a LOT of the set down. At 4:57, I said goodnight, and handed the mike back to Richard. I never ONCE need the light because I am one of those few people who does exactly the time I'm told I have. ALL of my sets are designed to be in 30 second intervals. I know where it ends and starts. You could see Richard's face-- he was floored- expecting a favor for a friend, and not expecting the comedian. Well, that changed. Afterwards, he told me that he had other rooms and asked when I was going to be in town again. So I guess that means I "passed" the audition..and better than that. I AM BACK. And what's better-- I feel better about being on stage than I have in years.

Last week, I was thinking I was yesterday's news, and this week-- at the Improv, in front of a full house-- I rocked the room. It was a blast. I had fun, the room had fun, and I was asked back. It doesn't get better on a Friday night. What's more.. younger comics came up after and talked to me about starting their careers...just like the old days. Richard gave me a few videos for the Benefit. Chris Rock never did show for the second set. Not even a drop in. I figured he was still doing the hour at the laugh factory.

Saturday, I drove home... triumphant. Relaxed. ready to hit it on Tuesday and Wednesday. And yet... still irked by the unprofessionalism on Thursday. At least now, I know for sure, I'm ready to hit it in Boston. Finally. Now to work on the material!!

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