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.