Thursday, November 12, 2009

commenting on chemicals of comedy

There was a very cool long post here.. about the differences of comic timing that is based on food, liquids, and any substance we put in our bodies before a show that will directly relate to our memories, timing, and even energy.

Water- No affect on timing, probably helps memory, definitely helps you pee faster, or sooner, and then... keeps you hydrated so you sweat like meatloaf. And if you are biting it on stage, you can always say, "gee I forgot to hit the head" which is also a funny line and truth.

Milk, Juice, or other benign beverage, (not soda)- Okay, you're putting some sort of incremental mineral, or vitamin in your system which may or may not affect your synapses. You may feel fuller, and sated. Digestion will put your body in a restful state, unless your lactose intolerant, then the IBS fairy lands squarely upon you and you'll be squeezing that charmin in no time. You'll add liquids which keep you quenched, but you may find that some of these have sugars that slow down your response time. Sugar is great in chocolate, and bad in comedy. Unless it's pie. Then it's great.

Coffee, Tea, and Me. I mean, Yeah, you know what I'm saying. Coffee is a natural way of dehydrating you. If you've been hard pressed to use the lavatory, wolf down at least 6 ounces of coffee or tea, which stimulates the prostate in men and the bowel in women. It's nature's Drano. It also takes all the spongy cells filled with body-helping water and makes them like grapes turning to raisins. More caffeiene, more inner rainsins. If you have something salty with that caffeine, your body not only decides to squish those cells into pressed raisins, but then with salt, the water that manages to set out of those cells is now running in and out of veins and muscles. So you get bloated. Coffee- dehydrates you and makes you swell. Lovely. Bad for the blood pressure, bad for the stress of your heart, and really bad for trying to fit a ring onto your hand.

Thin women tell me- I'm going to hit the gym right before working out so I'll be skinnier on stage. They're not really understanding the chemicals of muscle. When we work out, our muscles absorb as much water from our system as they can so they can heal better, and quicker. As a result, there is a bit of swelling, and they tend to weigh MORE after a work out than they do at any other time. If you want to look thinner after a work out- then hit the gym a full day before you're needed on stage. Otherwise, wear baggy clothes.

Beer on stage- everyone drinks beer on stage, right? That does wonders for comic timing and great audience interaction. Well, not really. What it does is puts you in a state of not clearly knowing what your words are, and when they have arrived to teh mic. It also makes it look like you're afraid of the audience. Very few people pull off drinking on stage as something cool, or part of the act. One person, Steve Seagren, aka CopScotch, has alcoholism as part of his act, so having the prop of the liquid works very well for him. A friend puts tap water in a beer bottle when he does shows in front of college kids- it makes him look like "one of them" but then he is very sober and his act is just filled with great timing.

Drinking as habit, drugs before a show. You may think you have it covered, and that no one can tell the difference but I can list at least 80 comics from about 300 that are not rehired for gigs because of this. It starts with a "can I bring a beer on stage?" and the whole act is completed, as written, without much ado. Then they'll have a beer before the act, the one during. Then two before, two during and one after. Then the progression goes crazy and it seems to start the Wednesday before, and end six weeks into the future. People who use this as their way to perform don't have very long careers. They offer to do gigs for free-- and people know they get what they paid for. The bad part is, generally there is a measure of good comedy in these guys- but they don't have enough confidence.

The best chemicals you can put into your show- endorphins and adrenaline. Laughter kicks in both for me.. and excitement begets excitement. Keeping your ears alert, and pushing for material that spawns better laughs, always works to bring out the chemicals of laughter and comedy.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The NASTY Biz of Show

I left Los Angeles and the comedy scene there after years of trying to figure out why that people who had talent were overlooked more and more for people who would rather sell your baby, steal your car, and ensure your future love life was ruined by STD's. (other than babies)I figured out like most do that people who are screwing over others are likely to get what they want because they are screwing people over. No one likes that unless they are involved with the person in a really kinky way.

There were rare exceptions. If you ever see K-Von, you'd see a kid who shows up at every single open mike possible, and gets to all his gigs on time or early. He's not the funniest guy ever, but he does write his own material, and his delivery is on target. He is an example of great marketing, and smart booking. He is now touring with Jamie Kennedy and I see his future as upwards. Same with Martin Moreno. He started as an open miker, did all the rooms he could even starting his own shows. He still runs open mic rooms, and opens for his friend Gabriel Inglesias. It's a great story, and it should be.

But, then there are 50 or 60 people for every K-Von and Martin who are just snakes, out for their own gain, and couldn't care less who was harmed on their way up to whatever it is they consider "fame and fortune". There was a woman I worked with on many occasions, giving her gigs that paid great, and inviting her to work with me at other gigs that were not paying well, but had potential for a lot of future work. She was okay funny- not outstanding- doing a lot of "boyfriend" material that many women do, (just as many men do married men stuff). But she didn't do comedy because she liked making people laugh and feel great- she did comedy because she "Wanted a TV show". That kind of bothered me.

There's an ulterior motive in many of those on stages, and it's the idea that fame is more important than the audience. They sound like they're reading scripted monologues, don't interact with the audience and worse- they consistently lie about their experience, and skill level, getting jobs that should go to those who really have the chops and stage time. They'll join in conversations just to hear about some gig where an agent may be- and then manipulate stage time sometimes bumping those who the gig is really geared towards. This woman proved to be exactly this type of "comic", and when I clued into her game, I was happy to drop her off my list of folks I'd support, or assist.

Los Angeles is filled with these types of performers. They will show up and shmooze, but only talk to people with whom they assume they'll get work from. Sadly, the people who hire like to be sucked up to, and many of them buy into the constant faux praise, and unending "I" conversations. The thing is, it's not just Los Angeles. It seems that small fish in smaller ponds play that, and just as much creep out those of us who work hard to be funny for the right reasons. They're a nightmare for other performers because they attempt to represent those of us who aren't trying to be anything but funny and audience friendly. Comedy should take the pain of life away, not create more of it.

In Vegas, it isn't much different. The pond is pretty small, and the guppies are plenty. There are a few gold fish, who work pretty hard to put on great shows and do so without the drama and antics of those who just want to manipulate casinos into hiring them whether they have the skills or talent to put on a great show or not. Then their are the leeches. Leeches are what ruin show business for those of us who just want to do a great thing for the audience- and nothing more.

Cris Angel is a great example of a monster leech. He came to town, under the guise of 'helping out' local acts, and bringing something new to the stages. But he's done a lot of damage, making people less interested in seeing the kind of show he claims he wants to do. There's another comedian who has had his own showroom in at least six hotels that I can think of, hires new comics to open for him, then uses their material after he moves on to the next hotel or new opener. He's done this for 20 years, and no one except club owners seem to want to know him. He brings in a lot of crowds, but mostly, they're just there for a cheap show, and free drinks. He doesn't know that, but the rest of the city does.

One of the Angel Fish is Cashetta. ( Cashetta came to town and within a few short months landed a great gig in a great room- and shared her luck by putting together a show that allows other local performers to unwind and give a great act- in the After The Show program. *11pm Monday Nights, Harmon Theater, and yes I play there.* Short Bus Comics ( is another show that does a lot for local acts. There isn't pay yet in this, but the word is out that the acts are better quality than many of the expensive shows in town and that it's nurturing to its performers. (Saturday nights, Greek Isles, 8 and 10 pm).

But there are leeches who attempt to break into these shows, and do nothing but talk about themselves, lie about their credentials, waste the audience time with really awful, hack, dried up material- and then bad mouth those very shows that offered them time in the first place. There are four or so really terrible open mic guys who basically can't tell a joke to save their lives, and they go to every open mic known- just causing cesspool like stench when they are up there. These same people are given shots at the other shows- and then when they tank- they spend time on Craigslist, or using Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace dissing the very show that had they only worked enough to be good- could have nurtured their careers.

The most recent incident I can think of- there is a guy who is claiming to be an "actor and comedian" because he attended an adult ed. acting class, and showed up at some open mics. He started to come to a show in town fairly regularly, then proceeded to say he was a member of the group he was hanging out with. Not a big deal as the producer gave him coaching on his performance, and he at least pretended to take the direction. No sooner had he made one show, he took over the NAME of the production and then booked himself in another venue- claiming he was a member of that company. So the posters and promos were about that title. The show tanked, and people left it thinking, "Why would I see X, when this is such a bad show?" He kept doing it until someone in the production company caught on and let the producer know.

Then, when he realized he wasn't going to ever be part of the regular show, he started posting things on line about the rest of the company and started pimping up this other room he started up on his own. The problem was, he hired some of the worst acts, and still used the production company's name. If that wasn't bad enough, he would send emails to all the cast, letting them know of when HE was running HIS show, and selling it as a Networking opportunity. He borrowed the mailing list of the company- and then had balls to tell people that the show HE was running was the same night as the original company's show. So people got very confused, went to his event, and left, PISSED that they saw crap, had to pay for it, and oh yeah. where were the regulars from the company he took the name of? Oh yeah- they were performing at their weekly gig.

This town is REALLY small. It's Las Vegas- Sin City, but it's also made of four primary communities- Henderson, Summerlin, North Las Vegas, and "Strip". If you work with someone in one,you learn about those opportunities, and the town gets VERY small VERY fast. I think I've worked with nearly every other headliner at one point or another, had six stages to play on strip and off, and oh yeah, after 27 years of doing comedy- I kind of know a lot of the names of those who also did road gigs. There are some comedy clubs that opened and claimed they'd be a place for pros who locally worked here, but when the pros figured it was just a scam they re-focused their attention on open mic people, and started classes- getting more money from people than they did in ticket sales. Pros get it, and avoid it. Newbies think it's a real club, so they hang there.

Another club that did pretty well at first, moved to a couple of other hotels, finally settling in mid strip. They stopped paying acts after a few newbies said, "Hey, we'll work for free". That split the management of the club up and now there are two versions, the Downtown and Strip. The pros go to the Downtown one. Yet, one room opened up claiming they'd support local acts- hired many pros- and then didn't pay- the women. Men had no problem. They lost credit pretty quickly. This town is small. You can't screw one person and expect it not to be known by the other 50 who do pretty well here.

Yet, the open mic guys who start their own rooms- and do so by lies and stealing - somehow think they're immune to it. It isn't so. If you screw people over, you will be found out pretty fast. This is a VERY small community for performers. In LA, you wouldn't last ten minutes because people who are smarter and have done it longer are better at it. But here in Vegas, you last a few weeks- then either press, other comics, or worse- your own people, figure you out. You're done. That's the end of your reputation. If you come to comedy as an actor, and think you're going to act your way into a regular gig- you're fooling yourself. No one buys it. It's been done way too many times by way better talented people.

Those of us with integrity, talent, and perseverance will somehow prevail, despite the nasty snakes and leeches. (Yes I like animals, cut that out.) We may not all be rich, or we may not all have TV shows, but we have the knowledge that when the stage is empty for the night- the audience is leaving happy. And a happy audience is the best payment ever. (sort of, but you know what I mean.) If you're in it for any other reason, I feel very sorry for you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Writer's Block? PHOOOEY!

I'm one of those people that looks at everything and thinks, "what's funny in this?", which is great in traffic jams and annoying during the honeymoon. But it's true. I was at a grocery store today. It should have taken all of 20 minutes to get the four items I needed, (the four food groups for married women- chocolate, maxi pads, alli, and kitty litter). (single women have chocolate, beer, maxipads and kitty litter- they never eat.)

As I type, I'm looking at my new, slick Windows alphabeta, and know that in a week I'll hate it. But I'm staring at it using the fine eye glasses I purchased at aisle 4, for $7.99, replacing the pair from the 99c Store, that was .25 less strength. I had to buy glasses for the fifth time this year. I had an eye exam and the doctor said, "your eyes have some constricted veins, but mostly, look terrific". I went from having 20-16 vision, (better than a bird), to 30-70. Not really bad enough to pay $350 for fancy-shmancy eye goggles, (nose goggles seem odd, huh?), but great for the 99c Store models. The grocery store carries eye glasses. That amused me for about ten minutes. I decided to see what other "What doesn't belong here" items I could discover.

The store is called Gelzers or some such. I think it's a mock of the word Geezers, because mostly old hippies shop here. There is a tye-dye aisle, and four rows of "youth serums". The first thing you see as you enter is a produce section, featuring the fine Vegas treat- Melons. Every one in Vegas talks about melons. Next to these were gourds. Gourds and Melons. How can this be any more Vegas? Right next to these were the "Phillipino foods". So they were telling all who enter, "We cater to those who go to karaoke and deal cards at casinos". I dig that. Dragonfruit, kiwi and lime. What drinks could be made from these? I'll tell you- they had the liquor section directly next to the fruit. What does that say about Vegas? ALL you need is in those areas, apparently. I don't even drink, but I had to check it out.

The alcohol started with wines of multiple varieties. Cue, "What doesn't belong here" music. There were garlic wines, coffee wines, pear wines, (pair wines?), and True Blood, which is a Comic-con staple. I'm looking at Ice Wine, and realize, my nose is bleeding. But this is the hippy store- so like this guy like came out and said, like "groovy" and handed me his tye-dye hankerchief. "Hand Your Chief" as he said. Then this gypsy-esque Stevie Nicks woman said, "Wow, that's a vision you're having". I said, "It's the coffee- not any caffeine in tofu-ee." Yes, the coffee shop had tofu coffee. What-the-F?

The section next to the drunk tank is the cheese spread. (get it, spread? get it? ahem.) I love goat cheese. Not Feta, not Brie- real squishy, gushy, white sloppy goat cheese, and they had all the varieties I could ever imagine, including Coffee, and Garlic. And of course, this Boston born and bred comedian had to check out the crabs and sea food section. It had a section of Kermit legs, a bit of Sea Bass, and a lot of crab-in-a-bag. I guess hippies dig these things, too. The deli was all Boar's Head. It as RenFaire fare right in front of me. And, right in the middle of the meat piles were two ROUND melons. Yep, Wubbies in the Deli Aisle. (For those who need to use wikipedia to find out what a Wubby means- I feel for you.)

Most grocer's carry a sizable number of cereals. There were almost no varieties here. But, if you are into shredded wheat? You found paydirt. That's what it tastes like. This must be a hippy thing. But they had Australian, British, German, American, and even Canadian shredded wheat. It was sort of weird seeing the Indian one- with a cow on the box. That's not how I worship my idols, but I guess Wheaties is our version of that art. I'm all over the Cream of Wheat. All over it like some people like fudge sauce on ice cream. I could eat it at every meal. That or raviolis. They carry an abundance of both.

Then came the "What is THAT here for?" moment again. Do you know how many razors there are for just armpits? JUST armpits? I didn't realize it either. Then there were the foot scraping tools. I guess there was a guy who saw his cheese grater on the kitchen table, started rubbing his foot with it, and then patented it to make a gazillion dollars. This gem was in no less than 3/4 of the entire cosmetics aisle. There were sixteen different models of it. Of course I bought one. It's now part of the over 45 food groups. I'm over 45. Yikes. Shh. don't tell anyone.

It doesn't matter how healthy a hippy store is supposed to be. There is always an ice cream aisle. Not just a hoodsie/napolitano one, but a huge pile of stuff that fell off the Mr. Whippee Truck. There were Tofu-creams, (ick), Tandoori Creams, (come on?), and stuff that doesn't appear to be edible, and yet somehow sells like crazy in a box. I couldn't even try to make this up, but there was one item shaped like an animal organ, and it had a kid's face on it. Yeah, not even remotely edible. On the outside. I'm sure it sold like hotcakes flavored ice cream.

I arrived at the check out line with my boxes of fruit, piles of melons, and waddles of wheats. How could any one ever run out of material, really? All it took was my 20-minute turned 97 minute tour of hippy-ville to get another 10 minute set together. It's always where you live. It's around you. It's part of you. It's the stupid things that life is made up of- and unless you are avoiding it- you got lots to talk about.

Hmm, pig ear cream! Love that store!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Topics, Hacks, and Parallel Thoughts

We just had our first anniversary of the Short Bus Comics show, and there are always photos going up on the image site, as well as the Short Bus site. The show has a stable of some pretty funny people, and many of us play other gigs, too. In a town like Vegas, everyone gets to meet everyone and you get to know the open mikers as well as the headliners who visit smaller venues to try out material.

The biggest issue anyone in comedy ever seems to struggle with is: What do I talk about? For some this question is based on the concept that there are too many topics. But there are others who simply can't figure out the right stream of thought that works with not only who they are, but their voice, their look, their attitude, and their audience. The fact is, if you can talk to anyone about something with passion it will be a great topic for you.

The second issue is "Is this Hack?" which should be asked immediately after that question of topic. Why? If you've heard it a million times before, "MJ and kids" "priests and kids" "airplane food" etc etc etc.. then so has each member of your audience and every comic on the stage before and after you. You can probably sit in a circle with 10 comedians and you can each come up with 50 premises that end in the phrase "Michael Jackson". You can probably name at least 10 comedians who don't write their own material, but instead recite jokes that come from books that are older than Vaudeville. For them Abe Lincoln is topical.

Hack material is the stuff that everyone knows the punchlines to and those who aren't comedians generally repeat in office parties. It's that stuff that we get sent via the never-ending chain of email humor. Some comedians do nothing but hack material, but do it in such a way that the humor is the spoof of the hackiness of it all. It doesn't mean that the comedian is bad, but it does mean that the material isn't the best. Why use hack material if there are so many topics to play upon? Why repeat street jokes if there are new events every day in the paper? Why think that no one in the audience has heard that one about customer service and computers? Everyone has. Move on to something that's smart, wise, and YOU.

This brings up the third point. Parallel thought is a paralyzing tool for comedians afraid to do material that someone else may be doing. New comics and those who haven't had a lot of stage time, (not always the same thing), seem to be so afraid of talking about something that another comedian talks about that s/he'll stop using really good writing. That's just silly.

In Las Vegas, for instance, we have a few dozen casinos, a few million tourists, and a majority of the locals have had run-ins with both. To not speak of tourists, casinos, gambling, or anything else related to Sin City means avoiding a treasure trove of stories and jokes. Yet, I've been to stages where new comics are so afraid they've "taken someone else's joke" that they don't even try the material that's unique to them. My view of the tourist is entirely different from that of someone who works dealing cards, or serving food. Another person's view may be different from mine when I spend time in a wheelchair or when I try to park in the few disabled spots. Perspective changes the topics from one person to the next. You can run on the same track, and never step on another foot.

Parallel thought is also what gets experienced comics irked at new comics. The idea that a comedian who has five years stage time is supposed to be the ONLY person talking about Topic X, (let's say Billy Mays), is just silly. Other people share experiences, and other people share memories. If a room of comics all did a punchline on Billy Mays Oxy-products, chances are it will be a different one for each person. To get pissed off at a new comic's use of "oxy-moron", is unrealistic and frankly, idiotic. It's like expecting no one else on stage to talk about relationships, illnesses, politicians, news stories, eating habits, travel, and the thousands of other shared experiences we have every day. Human conditions are not owned by any one comedian. Sorry.

One of the best run and most successful tour shows at the moment is Kiki Melendez' Hot Tamales tour. She has gathered a group of primarily Latina comedians, added a few others and each voice is completely her own, (and his own for the case of the token male who may grace the stage). Some women talk about parenting, others about dating, others about careers, and still others- well- Jessica Kirson- about idiots in general. (I love JK.) If the comics on the tour were given a restriction, "You can't talk about X because Ms. Thang over there talks about X" then the show would be really dull. Kiki's life has entirely different experiences than Amy Anderson's life, and even if they both speak of womanly worlds- the world is from their own perspectives.

But, there are those who don't want to write on topics that inspire any passion. There are those who think that telling one of those jokes from the store bought joke books is a great way to be a comic. There are those who will go to youtube or other sites and learn a comedian's act line for line. These are the people who irk not only seasoned pros, but newbies, too. Comedy works when it is true to the person doing the talking. Bad comedians are those who take the talent of timing, and use it in refining another person's words. The audience may laugh, but no other comic will respect you, and worse, club owners will look at you as a hack.

If you find yourself stuck and unable to think of topics that are true to you, take a voice recorder, (use your phone, or computer if you want), and just talk about your day, your family, your job, your school, or anything that inspires you to just babble. Maybe you're pissed off at driving in rush hour. Maybe you are dating way too many nuts. Maybe your pets cost more than your car. Do you really spend that much time looking at the food in your house and then going to the drive-thru? Everyone has something that is funny if it's not forced. Forcing funny is never funny. Knowing topics can help create great routines, and knowing the difference between hack and good writing is the difference between comedy and wasting time on stage. Parallel thought is forgivable, but line-for-line, word-for-word theft is just not, no matter how long you've been on stage or who you are. If you can't write, you can't do comedy. Try political speech writing? Wait, that's comedy.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Kill or Be Killed

Last week I had the best show in YEARS- the crowd was hot, the material flowed, and man when the crowd is with you- nothing compares. The giggles were humongously flowing in between the big laughs, and its like a potion. You just want more and you just try to give more. I did my 10 and left- and felt like I gave a group of people who arrived some happy times for a little while. Just made me happy to make people happy.

That's what's known as Killing. "I killed!" "I slayed em" "I destroyed em" very violent. Really just about the energy of the people around you. It helps when the audience moves right up front, and there are not empty spots in the back.

The farther back an audience is from the stage the less likely you're going to have a kick ass show. The reason is simple- laughter is the contagious effect of people finding humor together. They become bonded, common shared experiences- and it's a type of feeling that only the people in the front car of the rollercoaster share. It's the type of feeling that only people who have had the same bad service at the same table every week know about. It's the idea that those who sit nearby are getting things the same way you do.

Last week, we had a few solid groups of people who were there to have a great time. They came in with the idea, "We are going to laugh!" And they were on our side from the first moment the emcee hit the stage. That was Great Element Number 1. The second great element was the dispersing of energy from the performers. Some were HIGH energy, others were low energy, but great at delivery. Still others played with the audience. Have a mixed batch gives the audience the feeling of "What's happening next?" Letting them anticipate is half the fun in comedy. It helps that they also were willing to look at the comedians as human beings and not a tv show.. they were interacting with us, and just giving us so much to work with. The comedians on the bill all got along really well, so we supported each other just as much. That makes for a GREAT show. I wish every show could work as that one did because it was not only a joy performing, but it was a joy watching the others on the bill.

Flash to this week. We have a different set of people in the crowd. The audiences is from a mixed background, and they were seated in pockets through out the theater. I couldn't quite grasp where one group was, but there were obvious empty seats in sections between each group. One group was the young, fired up college crowd. Another was the seniors out on their first date in ten years. Yet another was a bunch of cops, now retired, with their ladies, taking them to a free show in Vegas. Then there were the friends of comics. Okay, what is it about comics and friends of comics that means "Sit as far back as possible"? It's not a cool habit, and it makes it hard for the show to work right when the only laughs are snickers from people in back.

The psychology of an audience works best when the "friends and family" are in front- they know the acts, and pass along the giggles to those who think they are on the inside of the joke. People want to feel included and special. It is NEVER the audience at fault when the entire show is just being viewed as a so-so event. It's a combination. It's the mix of comedians- high energy comics up front, then a "thinker" then a high energy, then a "Regular guy" then a high energy. If you balance the line-up the crowd is happier.

I emceed this evening. Usually when I emcee- I get to see the line up ahead of time and suggest changes. I didn't get to see it this time- and the show was filled with a middle section of low energy people. The problem as an emcee is working the audience back into a state of "what's going to happen next?" You don't do 10 minutes, but you may end up having to play with the people in the crowd, a bit, and then nurture their energy up again. That left me with three large slow spots of trying to get energy back up. That isn't a great job for an emcee- but I've done it in the worst case scenarios, and it's been an education by fire for the last 20 or so years in learning what paces the crowd. I start my show as an emcee doing "feeler" material. I play four or five different one liners and see what is getting a response. At this point, I find where the crowd wants to hear their punchlines and can make the rest of the monologue flow accordingly.

This was a strange night in that one minute the crowd was eager for silly regional laughs, but then got bored by them in moments, then liked the doofy-hubby material, and laughed at this the longest so it became my call back. With four hours of material to use, I had hoped that something in the repertoire would have pulled them in. Unfortunately- I got a lot of blank stares- one woman who got confused as to why I was disabled, another who was asking about my marriages, and one guy who came up before the show- amped and ready, and then sat in the front row appearing deeply forlorn.

One minute they applaud the local material, the next they couldn't care if I had talked about a casino or a shoe horn. I finally made a off-hand reference to a quirky physical condition, got at least a snicker, and then offered awards. Awards were the only things that seemed to keep people interested. That's what I worked with between the sets that had slow to no laughs. It was torture not knowing what to make people giggle with- and more of a torture that when they laughed at one thing, they had no interest in the same material just seconds later. I don't think I ever figured out what was the primary laughter trigger, which has not happened in this many years of emcee work.

The last two acts are high energy. One is a prop comic who gets laughs because he basically keeps it to potty humor but the mouth has been washed out with soap. He says "booty", and "pooper" along with "piss" and "Whiz". Not dirty, but the entendres are there. His props are unmistakably R-rated, and his patter is PG. The crowd loved him- and then after three minutes, they treated him like a one trick pony and were just mildly amused. He really IS funny. But, he wasn't feeling it, and the crowd picked up on it.

Then came the last comic. It used to be that we would call the last comedian of the night the "headliner" and instead of 6 to 10 he'd get 10-15 minutes. It's standard that no comic on our show carry paper with him on stage. Well, he brings out a notebook every show. It's part of his act, but it also distracts from his material. The man comes out in a rather ornate costume and then compares his Alien life to those of the planet Earth. It works in a crowd that is younger, hipper, and into Science fiction, or at least knows what Science Fiction is. This audience was between the ages of 40 and 80, and got the 1950 jokes, but not much else. It was painful because he also did what I had been doing- learning who the audience was and what they liked. The problem was- they were tired of it by then. And, while every other comic was a few minutes, closed and were done, he went on for a much longer time. The audience was long over before he was. Usually he kills, tonight he kind of wounded.

As a comedian it's clearly established, it is NEVER the audience's fault when the room is dead. It can be the layout of the seating. It can be the price of the tickets. It can be the lack of service. It can be the time of night. But, it's never the audience who wants to be there who is at fault when a comedy show isn't working. When every single comment is fighting for laughs and using every direction that is available, it could be a multiple set of reasons. There isn't a "bad audience" there is a bad understanding of that particular audience when the entire show fails.

There haven't been very many nights where I've had few laughs. Usually the room is in tears, and I'm happy about it. I hear "oh man", or "Yeah!" or "exactly" but I usually don't hear, "What does that mean?" Most clubs, you get to see a show in the room, and see how they set things up. You get an idea of the people who purchased tickets and those who are regulars. In a new room, you don't have that luxury. It's hit or miss. Last week, we had a spectacular hit. This week we were as close to a full miss as you can get without playing disco music in a metal bar. Once you know and love your audience, they know and love you.

There were nights at the Comedy Store when I'd see friends who killed for months on end have a night filled with people who just didn't care. I was in a room when Chris Rock was the only act in front of 4 people. He made 2 of us laugh hysterically, and the other 2 were confused. I've been on the bill when Rosanne (Barr) did a drop in set at the Improv and no one had the time of day for her, and the next night she wiped the floor with the tears of laughter. Dennis Blair got more laughs than Carlin on I don't know HOW many nights, yet Carlin got the HBO specials.

It's up to us, as performers, to learn about the demographics in venues, and how to best perform for them. Last week, the crowd was younger, hipper, Latino, and we expected the same this week. But, the casino didn't offer us those same people. It offered us the people who bought time shares. It offered people who were retired. It offered us people who were on buses, visiting a show room. In most circumstances it would have worked just dandy. But, in a new venue, with a new show- it became just a learning experience. We figured out that the energy needs to be tourist oriented, and not too heady. We learned that the audience needs to be seated properly. We learned that the awards didn't really matter. And, we learned who needs to put some energy into their acts. It wasn't much of a failure after all.

No go forth and multi-giggle.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Vegas Shuts Down, I Don't

Short bit today- I'm doing a section of Short Bus Comics called Fuck Censorship. It's an homage to Carlin, Bruce, and the Chitlin' Circuit, as well as to ALL women comedians who just talk about men, weight, and kids- because that's what they're told they know about. I talk about racism, sexism, politics, and the fact that I H-A-T-E the whole Political Correct Bullshit that seems to give people excuse to tell other people what to say, think or do. It's complete and utter censorship. I hate it. I'll do a show about it. So there.

Tonight is my second run of the Fuck Censorship material. In my pajamas, with pigtails, carrying a fashion doll, whose name rhymes with Carby, I start to sputter all the nasty things little girls who are good do not say. Love this show. Love writing this show. Love working on this show.

Yet, in Vegas- also known as Sin City- where BIGGER shows are shutting down left and right because the ticket prices scare away the people attempting to vacation, where the shows close because they hire 300 union employees to do jobs that 10 non-union people could do. The shows close down because for some stupid reason, the backers don't plan on recessions, depressions, and oh yeah, corporate bankruptcy? Bad business men, bad. (yes, men) It's SIN CITY, and I still get people saying, "I don't know why she has to use THAT language."

THAT language is the point of the show. The idea is other people's sensibility doesn't always jibe with the politics, the climate, the response, the reactive method of putting out words. In fact, comedy is always and will always be about saying the things that people dare not say- yet think.

And, starting Sunday, a free show happens at Bonkerz at Palace Station. No one knows how long it will last- months or years- but starting Sunday at 8pm, there is a standing invitation to paid comics to do short sets at the club. Well... I know of several comics here who are NOT able to keep their sets short- and I'm guessing they'll burn out. BUT, those of us who have done this for years and years and did I mention years? We'll do okay. I don't know if Fuck Censorship stuff will fly there- it's not the demographic. But I'll still do something fun and easy and freeing.

That's what comedy is- letting go, laughing and turning off the "what the other guy says I should say" for a while.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wisdom from Wendy

Wendy Liebman gave me permission to post her thoughts on comedy - and I'm adding them here on the blog(s), and to the website. Wendy can be found at her website, and facebook, and I'm sure at your local airport hailing the next taxi.

What I've Learned Doing Stand-up Comedy

©2009 Wendy Liebman. All rights reserved

Figure out your hair and wear what you want.

Timing is everything. Time is everything else.

Dreams really can come true.

Envisioning the future helps create it.

Prepare, show up, do your best, and learn for next time.

Pray that no one throws anything at your head.

Life is what’s right in front of you. Try to live in the moment.

Get to know the people who are closest. Respect everybody else. Don’t forget the back.

Trust your instincts.

Never attack the weak.

You are equal to everyone. You are idiosyncratic and unique.

Hear what your hecklers and critics have to say.

Transform negativity into healthy competition.

People communicate through speech and sounds, movement and silence.

Be really specific.

Know what you want.

Choose words carefully.

Deliberate (think) and be deliberate (speak and do).

This is not a dress rehearsal, but you are a work in progress.

Some of the best moments can’t be planned. There is always a bit of luck and magic involved.

Know when to be serious.

Don’t take the obvious for granted. Remember to breathe and stand up.

Artistic license is freedom either to tell the truth or to use your imagination, and to not have to say which is which.

Sometimes you’re great. Sometimes you suck. Most of the time you’re fine.

Persistence, patience, and listening are the keys.

Laugh at yourself while keeping your dignity.

Remember that dying is inevitable – hopefully it won’t be tonight. When it happens, it probably won’t be your fault. And it might not be the last time.

Hope that everyone dies laughing.

Editing V. Censorship..the differences

I posted a similar blog to the Godless Grief myspace page, and to the blogspot page, but I didn't post to the comedy blogs yet, and I think it needs to be said- a huge chasm exists between self-editing for the sake of the audience and self-censorship for a demanding person or persons. Let me explain.

I did a show a few weeks back in the daytime, where my audience was predominately in their early to late 80's, (no exaggeration), and it wasn't quite yet noon. I had a show written out, and I looked at the audience and figured out- many comments I would make would simply fall flat for being too demographically slanted to another audience, and more so, too unrelated to the previous shows that happened for this organization. There was a section that I would normally use but a recent guest talked about a similar topic and since I am very aware of that person's take on the subject- I didn't want to beat that horse with a Steven Seagal bluntness that would again, fall flat.

Therefore, I decided to use the ideas that I often play to people here in Vegas- and on stages around the country- that stereotypes are the only time people who censor themselves seem to tell the truth. That's an underlying theme for much of my work, and the point I kept making is, "Not that I would censor myself, like I would normally talk about..." then I would go ahead and relay the topic, "But I can't do that here." Okay.. a lot of the crowd got that, laughed, emailed, and even said they hadn't heard it put that way before. Then there was the ONE person- and there always is at least one- who was so rapt in the phrase, "I would normally talk about.." that he missed the idea that I had, in fact, exactly talked about, xyz.

He came up to me and said, "I kept wishing you would just say whatever it was you were going to say.." In fact, I had. I had talked about racism. I had talked about sex. I had talked about porn. I had talked about censorship. All the things I said, "I would normally talk about.." I actually DID talk about. This guy never once figured that out. Instead, he spent a full 15 minutes AFTER the event to tell me his take on the issues with comedy, trying to explain to me what is funny, and oh, by the way, actually ended up censoring me by not letting me respond in any way other than nodding at his comments. My guess is that wasn't his intent, and yet that was his action.

Every comedian who works more than 5 years- is aware of trying to GET to know the audience you play for before a show. Well, this particular event, I was not only not given that time- but, I was taken aside by at least 3 people prior to entering the performance space just so I could hear a rant, a monologue, or an "explanation" about those particular people's point of views. In fact, they were letting me know exactly who this audience was- they were people who really each had their own reason to present words, and each wanted individualized and PERSONAL attention. I knew from the moment I walked in- there were going to be people who hated me, and others who were right there, by my side, getting all that I was saying.

The ones who didn't get me were very vocal afterwords. Again, we had the self-appointed comedy critic who gave me an unending statement worded sixty-five-hundred ways about "but I just wanted to hear a comedian say..". Then, there was the "huff" fellow. He was in a huff from the minute he walked into the building, needed a target to spew his angst of the day on- never even taking into account he was actually being the kind of person he claims he is against- he wanted me to NOT say something EVER again. The something was a comment, a basic throw-away that every comic uses- the guy walked into a room as the sound of a toilet flushed a full 20 minutes after the event started, and YES I made a comment to him about it.

I saw one person who looked up at me as if I stabbed to pope in the eye with a fork- and realized, that guy is a boil in this organization and he's always ready to pop off. I nodded in her direction, and she was laughing, but I could see her avoid eye contact with that other guy. So, not three seconds after the house lights are up - he is demanding that I "NEVER EVER talk to ANYONE in the audience like that again." I asked him what he meant- he huffed a bit more, ranting about "You insulted me, you are rude, I was done with you from that minute on." Okay what did I say, then he came out with, "You should NEVER discuss anyone's penis in public I don't care WHO you are." Okay.. so I tried hard not to laugh at the huff-man's point, but I get he was hurt that he was singled out, and I apologized for THAT, but man, to tell someone to never rag on an audience member- at a meeting of Free Thinkers? Uhm. no. Not going to happen. He can remain out of my demographic, thanks. I was later told he is a hair-trigger kind of guy and some days he's a gem and others he's a spoiled egg. Guess which one he was that day? He gave me material!

So, the final censorship. When someone says, "I thought you were very funny, and I liked what you said about the religions but don't ever pick on the Jews. It's just not true." I had to have her repeat herself. First, she was interrupting the comedy critic, but to actually say to someone, "yes, you can say what you want, but not about MY people", is just twisted. That is censorship in it's basic form. It's telling someone- You can have opinions as long as they're completely in line with mine. Again, Free thinking organization. Again, I was pointing out the stupidity of stereotypes- and yet... the lady was there as long as comedy critic.

Fortunately, a man in his 80's came up and saved me from the "Editing Committee". His name is Del and he calls himself the oldest living male feminist. I just enjoyed chatting with him and he GOT everything I was talking about. In fact, the majority of the people who went apparently liked me enough to ask me to return, and I have dozens of letters from the audience members who didn't feel I missed a mark, or those who said I made them laugh about the silliness of people. I had edited my show for THESE people, and that worked out just fine.

There is a substantial difference between those who want to laugh and those who want to dictate what others should be laughing at to begin with. There's a distinct difference between those who listen to comedians and those who go to watch a ballet. In a ballet, you wouldn't hear of someone sitting by the stage, and taking a dancer aside to tell him how he needed to demi-plie in a way that didn't show his jock strap. But, in comedy, this is kind of a job hazard.

Someone will come up and tell you a joke and follow it with, "oh and you can use it if you want". Others will come up to you and let you know how THEY would tell your jokes. But, when you turn around asking if they are comedians, "Oh no, I could never do that." So don't tell me how to do it. I ask advice from people I've seen on stage and who have seen my show- they have work experience in my field. I would never think to go to a nursing station and tell an RN "Yeah you should probably use a 3mm needle and then wrap surgical stockings on anyone who says they're republican." Why? What would I do that for? It makes no sense. Yet, it's exactly the thinking people have when they try to "help" a comedian. In fact, they're censoring. Telling someone what to say and how to say it is the ultimate form of censorship when its relative to the whole "free speech" thing.

A comedian knows what is working by hearing laughs. It's the principle. It's the payoff. It's the interest, too. When my porn stuff wasn't working, I moved on to the other stuff. The TV stuff worked just fine. The show was okay- not my worst, not my best, but for a day show- it's one of the better ones- despite the self appointed editors.

I'm editing a new show.. about people who censor comedians. It's called "fuck censorship".

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Classes, Competitions and Contests

The C words of comedy-- Classes, Competitions and Contests- they're supposed to bring you fame and fortune far sooner than if you had years of stage time, but is that the case? If you go to a comedy club and see "As Seen on Last Comic Standing" you may find yourself watching the middle act, not the headliner. Seems as if the reality of being a comedian who can handle all audiences is an issue for those who shortcut. It's not like karaoke, ala American Idol, where you can practice in front of your bathroom mirror and grandparents. A good comic knows that the audience on Wednesday may rock, and one on Friday may look at you as if you had a penis growing out of your forehead.

The Hollywood dream of comedians finding a producer in the audience worshiping every word, and begging her to write the next major sitcom, is a rare and more often unrealized one. Yet, if you go to the clubs in Los Angeles you'll find a lot of very pretty people ACTING like comedians. Some hire writers. Others creatively borrow from other real writers, and discover that dialing it in isn't working. When they wake up and see that their not getting movie role offers, the clubs have suffered the consequences. No one wants to see unfunny comedy. The glut of comedians in the 80's produced hundreds of dead clubs.

So comics avoided the clubs that seemed to put more prettier-than-life people on mics. They searched for other ways to get noticed. One started a show called "Last Comic Standing" which was supposed to be Real World meets Survivor meets American Idol. Comedians were going to out-funny each other, and get network notice. Well, it sort of backfired when the reality HIT the reality TV circuit- and it was discovered that the networks were pushing judges to select the pretty-made-for-tv-actor-comics over those who had the chops, and the skills, to keep an audience laughing. The show failed comedians the way the comedy clubs in LA were failing- not dealing with the idea that people wanted to laugh with a comedy writer/performer, rather than see an idealized version of what a comedian should be. That fails both the comedian and the audience- and yet thrives because pretty people who fail make great TV.

There is a comedy class in nearly every major city in the United States. Do comedy classes help people? Yes. You will get personalized guidance, and you will get tips on how to handle stage situations from those who have been through the trenches. People who fail at classes are those who assume that material will suddenly appear out of nowhere, who don't put the writing first, and those who assume that fame is part of the comedy equation. It's not. The three parts of comedy are Performance, Writing, Audience Reaction. If you can't ace all three, you will never be a comedian. The classes help in getting people past obstacles involving all three. But, they only work if the performer is willing to put effort into it. The comedian will save months of stage time if s/he immerses into the process rather than just does the class, and nothing else. You have to perform, you have to be on stage, you have to write. And you have to fail.

This is the competition corner of the blog- Competition is great for those who are better performers under pressure. For those who pepper themselves with the tiniest bit of self doubt- you are not someone who will do well in a competitive environment. It only takes one moment of "I wonder if that's working?" to fall flat on your face. If you feel doubt, the audience and judges feel it, too. And, even if you win a competition, you still have to be consistent to get gigs. Some people are great competitors but don't bring the funny EVERY time on stage. To succeed you need that edge- the bookers will see if you aren't getting a response, and you can't rely on one competition to make your career. Yet, that seems to be the option for those who really aren't ready to be career comedians.

The short cuts only work if you have the chops to begin with and certainly only work with those who are going to be putting out the effort well after those experiences end. There are pretty people in comedy. There are mediocre stars. There are those who have taken the shorter routes, but still managed to keep their career going. Dedication to yourself, your idea of funny, and writing will get you farther. The ability for those to appreciate your efforts ensure your comedic future. Quitting doesn't do anything to improve your chances of being the next big star. And, sometimes a shear comprehension of bombing well does.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What an Emcee Can do to Suck the Room Dry

The community in comedy is small. Someone you work with at a coffee house open mic this week may be the big star on some sitcom next week. Case in point, Jim Carrey was working at Thrifty Drug Store in Los Angeles WHILE he was on In Living Color because he had been burned by the Hollywood Promise before and wanted to ensure Janey, his daughter, and his wife Melissa, (this was a while ago...wayyyy before Holly and McCarthy), had food on the table and a place to live. Melissa was waitressing, and I remember meeting the little kid -with her dad a few times in front of the Comedy Store.

The place has an open area, where there's an outdoor bar, and on any day you'd find Eddie Griffin chatting with Bruce Baum chatting with Emo chatting with just a newbie from Boston hoping to make it big on the stage someday. The place kept everyone on one level- a casual, real, warm, we do this too place. No one was a star, yet everyone was there, and it was time when John Pinnette was just as new as anyone else, even though he was a star in his New England home. We all were. All the people who worked that club during the late 80's had a modicum of success. We had road gigs and college gigs and late night bar gigs under our belts.

And, we each had stories. We had stories about the worst emcees who had ever walked onto a stage, taken the air right out of the room, and still work in the clubs we left behind us. We had stories about the people who like to use the word "comedy" to describe what they provide, despite the truth- the long winded, uninteresting, street-joke spewing, ego stroking nonsense that never amounts to anything other noise. It was a relief to see that the most seasoned and the newest members of the club each shared one common bond- Bad Emcees ruin shows, and they are our common enemy.

The MC is the Master of Ceremonies. Some are expected to monitor the time of comics, some are supposed to ensure that the club is in communication with the comedian. Some are supposed to set up lights, run sound, and even ensure there are comped drinks to VIPs.

The nightmare emcee doesn't understand the role first of all. S/he has an idea that the show is secondary to their needs. An emcee isn't supposed to take a show and turn it into "Love the Emcee, screw our guests this evening."

S/he isn't supposed to do twenty minutes, then give the comedians on the bill less time than a commercial break so he can continue his next twenty minutes. Then, s/he closes the show with his "real set" which ends up being another 30 minutes of ranting, without any obvious signs of humor in any of it.

The Producer Emcee usually is someone who has a bit more stage experience, but I've been in shows when the Producer Emcee is someone who hasn't even done comedy before but thought his friends thought he was funny, so he figured he would talk a restaurant into letting him host a show. The ego is enormous and the talent is just dismal. If s/he gets that the audience isn't giving a great response s/he will keep his intros short, and let the comics do their jobs. However, the bad emcee will suck the room dry from all laughs, be obviously uncomfortable with material or public speaking, and use stage time to humiliate and annoy audiences and comics alike. They are poison.

There is a road gig I took with three other people who happen to be from Boston. The guy emceeing kept trying to imitate JFK, and expected us to prattle on about being Democrats and eating Clam Chowder. That was his perception of Boston. None of us had the plan of playing to his whims. The guy showed another aspect of crappy emcees. He had no idea of the comics he was introducing, put assumptions in his intros, and just sounded like an idiot. He used his scintilating understanding of the English language to see how many cuss words he could fit into one intro. Pleasant. He also hit on every single female in the audience, so many left by the time the headliner made it to the stage.

Emcees who heckle are fairly common, whether we want them to or not. They'll scream out punchlines, make wisecracks about waitresses, or worse, they'll simply be just as obnoxious as the most ardent loud mouth. The excuse is usually, "I thought you could take it!" Or they'll sit in another part of the room, with a friend, or a member of the staff, ignore what's going on stage-wise, and talk sport scores, sex acts, and manners of cleaning bodily fluids from the floor of the club.

The ones who drink nonstop, during a show, and then show their inability to handle liquor as the night progresses are embarrassing to themselves and the club. They certainly aren't funnier, and often they just come across as frat boys pretending to be comics. If they're so stoned they forget to speak words, have drunk friends in the audience, and only talk to them, or if they are dogging the bartender for not providing enough liquor they're space wasters, and should be replaced. (That is, unless of course, the club caters to stoned, drunk frat boys who can't speak words, mostly books paranoid schizophrenic comics, hires only waiters who are selling drugs, and runs between the hours of 3 and 5 in the morning. THEN it's cool.)

When an emcee has solid material, it's a joy. You are part of a show that is warmed up by someone who has comedy chops. The audience can tell, and the rest of the line- up knows, the show will work out great. If a comic has a bad set, a good emcee usually can rewarm a room. If there are problems with an unruly crowd, a great emcee knows how to shut down the worst and call security on the seriously vile. And, a great emcee will make a cursory attempt at learning about your previous work and material so as not to do similar stuff, or not to trample on your act by introing with your punchlines.

But there are times when the emcee thinks it would be okay to use YOUR material to introduce you. That's bad. Nothing is worse than hearing the crowd zone out during the second tellling of your tale.

There are times when Crappy Emcee will use your material after you have left the club- and do it badly. That's not only bad for you, but bad for any other comic who has to work with you later, and didn't know the lines were lifted. Not good.

There are times when an emcee uses a microphone badly- getting it wet with beer, or sucking on it, or another nasty trick that not only causes tech issues, but health issues. One woman in some state, we'll call Texas, thought it was funny to wipe her running nose on the mic. Ugh.

There are times when an emcee will prattle on about how badly he is doing- so much so that it's not funny, and begins to sound like a forced group therapy session. The audience doesn't want a life story they want to laugh. They're trying to get their own lives out of their head for a while- and laugh. That's why we do this, not to work out what our bosses said to us that day that made us really sad. (Well, unless there's a lot of material know...use it.)

And, a really bad emcee will con a club into thinking he has years of experience and is a funny person, when really his ego trip is just wasting everyone's time. If the guy claims he has a radio show, but it turns out to be a podcast, and the podcast is produced via his cell phone- run. This is not the person you want. And, if he says he's really funny, make sure you get written proof of this from legitimate press, comments on his online videos, and something other than a business card to prove his experience. Again, the comedy community is very small. We all know what happens in one town soon gets talked about in the next. Maybe not always by the most famous comic on the tour, but a bad emcee will be the reason other comics won't do a club date again.

To all who are great emcees- we talk about that too. You are what makes a show worthwhile for many comedians. Thanks to the good emcees good rooms exist. You are the heroes of the club, and all of us- comics, audiences, bookers, and club owners know it. Thank you.

A Comic Walks into An Atheist Convention

On February 22, 2009, the Atheists United hosts their monthly get-together at 11am, at the Center for Inquiry. Comedian and author, Cathe B. Jones is the featured entertainer, providing comedy relief, and discussing her books, Godless Grief, and My Doctor Is Killing Me. The event is free, and the day show also serves as a luncheon. Cathe's humor is described as vibrantly witty, thought provoking, and emphatically not politically correct, taking on the topics of atheism, racism, and political satire.

Led by indomitable Bobbie Kirkhart, the Atheists United (a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization) has a three-fold mission:

* To promote atheism through education and outreach;
* To promote the First Amendment and the separation of government and religion;
* To create and support a vibrant atheist community.
AU has a full schedule of events, often inviting vibrant speakers, and highly evolved discussions. The meeting on February 22nd is held at Center for Inquiry-West, 4773 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angles CA. This general meeting is Free and open to the public, and begins at 11am.

Kirkhart is currently the president AU, but also led organizations including Atheist Alliance International, Secular Coalition for America, and serves as board member to Humanist Studies and Darwin Day Celebrations. Her first article published nationally was "I Protest: A Santa Claus God", and was written by a woman who was devoutly protestant. Later, she learned through the efforts of her work as social worker, that her world wasn't created by any religion or gods, and since 1983, she has been a member of AU. As public speaker, author, and leader she continues to inspire atheists here and abroad with her wit, fiery sense of purpose, and ability to reach even the most ardent of the religious right.

Cathe B. Jones has performed stand-up comedy in three countries, since 1981. She has three shows in Las Vegas, performing several times a week. As an Atheist Author, Cathe works to inspire other atheists to proactively promote the idea that kindness and free thought should be practiced in all aspects of life. As a writer, her themes are action-based and humanitarian based, serving advocacy pieces. Godless Grief is the first book written about loss for and from the atheist perspective. My Doctor Is Killing Me is a patient advocacy hand book for those who have not been heard by the medical community. Her husband, Mike Jones, is the music director for Penn & Teller, and they reside in Las Vegas with their pets and pianos.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Test Run at Fitz Room- ROCKED!

Tanyalee Davis, personal hero, awesome gal, and all around kick-ass comedian and I had a show at the Fitzgerald Casino ("Fitz of Laughter") room run by Kevin Burke, Roland Witt, and John Bentham. Kelly Hunt, and up and coming impressionist comic, whom I met through the Short Bus Comics show, served as the opener- and she also, rocked.

We were test-running the room for a show we're putting up starting in February. Kevin Burke, aka Defending the Caveman -Vegas, has worked 7 nights a week since he's lived here, and finally had an idea- he should, could, and may be able to have a night off if he found competent comedians who could take the show over for him. His Caveman show runs at the Excalibur, recently moved from The Goldent Nugget. After his grunting walk-through the world of a couple-psyche, he trapsed over to the Fitgerald Casino, to pick up on the stage that certainly gives a great space for comedy. He's helped build an audience, and certainly, John and Roland are capable stage managers and room managers.

I've known Kevin for a lot of years. For a majority of the time, we never even met in person- it was through our comedy that we're friends. I got to meet a few dozen great funny folk through an online newsgroup, Alt.comedy.standup. Some of us were seasoned pros, others were newbies, and still others were fans who always wanted to be comedians, but were afraid to try. Some of my Space and Facebook friendships are through that very source. It's been a great way to network for jobs- Steve Marmel, the Nickelodeon Darling, was a regular in one of my rooms in Orange County, for instance. I did a regular stint in a club in Sacramento, and San Francisco through another comic. We shared war stories, Tribble Run stories, and of course... Vegas stories.

So, years later, Kevin and I are both in the same town, and we're hanging out a bit more. Friends do that. We have him over for dinner, and superbowl, and that stuff. But we haven't worked together at all. He called me and said, "I need, I think, to have a break, do you want to book the room on Sunday nights so you can bring your crazies to the stage?" My crazies are the Short Bus Comics, and friends in town- and of course, YES. I would.

Kelly Hunt and I have been planning out ideas to bring another "Women in Comedy" show to the area. It was perfect timing. Tanyalee Davis is in town, Kelly and I are prepped from the months of working Short Bus, and it would be a great run to try for the first time whilst Kevin enjoyed a show, for one of the the first times since he's been here, that was on his day off. We could do a one-night of the Women show, and if it worked out, and they liked us enough, we could start February, a new weekly show.

We got to the venue, and Roland was generous, offering us his skills as a warm-up. He did fine, and Kelly took to the floor. She's got a few bugs to work out, but they're minor, and her set was ably done- lots of laughs, and the audience got her impressions. I went up next, and the crowd- unsure as to what to make of the ADHD style seemed to really appreciate the energy, and laughed lots. Lots. Lots and lots. Too much! I went over time! I never go over time! But it was happening! They were a great group- laughing in spots I had hoped were funny, and laughing at the riffing. Loved those people. I intro'd Tanyalee for the first time since I think- the show we did at the Greek Isles. I honestly don't remember if that was it, or if it was another show. Regardless... she gave me what to say, I said it.

The crowd adored her. She'd already done a few nights in the room, and the club BUILT her a stage. Whilst Kelly and I worked around it, the audience wasn't quite sure what to make of it. We gave no hints. She took to the stage and the crowd went nuts. She did her set wonderfully- with the facial expressions only Tanyalee can do. She used the word "Midget" and one lady just about fell out of her chair. Fellow comedians Greg Stevens and his friend, Chris "CJ" Jones, (yeah, I thought it was funny too), were laughing so hard, they bounced out of their seats a few times.

Afterwards, we went to the doorway, so she could sell some DVD's, and we could hear what the crowds were saying. It was a hit. We did a great job, and the room was happy. The opener was happy. Everyone seemed delighted, so we're definitely going to have a lot of fun with the new room. I still haven't emailed Kevin yet to see how his day off went... I'm guessing great.

More to come!

Friday, January 9, 2009

2009 Las Vegas Comedy News....

For all who are contacting me regarding jobs in Las Vegas- if you live here now, please PM me as there is a new club opening up at the Palace Station. The chain, Bonkerz is working to hire local comics, not just the east coast/LA bunch, and they've invited us to the grand opening on Jan. 14th. If you are in Las Vegas, and want to be included on the guest list, please PM me with your name.

I am NOT booking this club, and I am NOT managing this club. It's just a way to support and assist the local LIVE COMEDY COMMUNITY. If you are going to the opening, the owners and booking agents WILL be there, and will take DVD's and promo materials from comics. You can also leave your promotional materials with the club during nights it's open and the right people will see you.

For the locals who were there when it was Laff Trax, LA Comedy Cabaret, et al- I don't know if the stage is different or if the club will be in a different room. The issues with the stage primarily was the height. You tower over the audience, and it's also not wheelchair accessible, but the techs are good about helping people get up there. The station casinos generally have good sound people.

Other news- Improv-Vegas has classes starting up. There's some great Second City folks involved, and starting this session, there's stand up classes. Okay- for the nay-sayers- it's not a "write a joke" class- it's a performance class. You learn to work, onstage, with a mic, with audiences, and with a little confidence. You learn about booking, road work, and getting college gigs. And you learn about speaking in public without feeling like a dork. I know, I'm teaching it.

You can sign up for classes by visiting
and calling the school

Onyx Theater news- The Short Bus Comics show is monthly for now but we're also hoping for another venue to add more shows. We had a near full house Friday night, and filmed some promo materials. Roman the Serial comic books the show, and you can reach him by emailing or visiting

The venue I'm working for- it's still not running yet... and I don't have any news. As soon as I'm aware of what we're doing , I'll post it here. The Fitgerald's room now has Kevin Burke nightly. Tanyalee Davis did a run there, and would be a great regular for the stage. I also know that there is a new Women in Comedy show starting up, with Kelly Hunt, me, and several other locals to the area. More on that as we know more.

Happy New Year, y'all- keep laughing-cheaper than gas, and better for you in the long run.