Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way” - you hear it everywhere (well, mostly you hear it blasting out of men’s clubs in Little Italy)
Frank did it his way. But, please, please, for the love of all that is good (like peanut butter+ chocolate combined in any sort of way) don’t you do that. Don’t do it Frank’s way. Do it your way. Do it “Chauncey’s way” or “Eunice’s way” or “Nigel’s way.”
Dorcas, Myrtle, Elmer, Gretel, Enda - I have a message for you: You do it your way (And I have a second message for you: I’m sorry your parents gave you such terrible names).
Beginning comics, if they ask for advice, are told to do 2 things: (1) Write a LOT, (2) Perform as often as you can get on stage. AS OFTEN AS YOU CAN GET ON STAGE. In NYC, DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY TIMES A WEEK THIS IS? 5 GAGILLION. (<-helpful link to NYC open mics.) This is too many times a week. For me. (I’ve heard Elmer loves it.)
[Now, in Tulsa, I don’t know. I’ve never been to Tulsa but I’m guessing they don’t have 879 open mics a night. (To be honest, I’m Googling “Tulsa” right now to confirm that I even know what state it’s in. ….Ok, Oklahoma. Nailed it.) Maybe Tulsoan comics DO have to perform every night they can get on stage. Thanks to Google (again) I know that theres a weekly mic at the Tulsa Looney Bin. And they have extremely reasonably priced drinks for a comedy club (Holy shit, $3 beers? Everyone move to Tulsa! While we’re parantheticaling, can we PLEASE stop naming comedy clubs “Looney Bin” “Guffaw Garage” or “Chuckle Fucks”? It conjures up hacky “what’s the deal with airplane food?” jokes.)]
Ok. Back to NYC. Earlier me didn’t know that there was such a thing as “too much comedy.” Earlier me was determined to follow the rules and “get on stage as much as possible.” I’d say “yes” to every show ever offered to me. “Hey! Want to do this bar show? Its at 3 am, the patrons don’t know there will be a comedy show, so it’ll be a surprise to them (For the record, in the history of comedy, no audience has ever been “happy surprised” that they got tricked into attending a comedy show) AND you’ll be performing in front of a 5 foot flat screen that’s broadcasting an important sports game.” Great. I’ll do it. “Want to do an improv show?” Yes. Its at 12 midnight, in a maintenance closet. I’ll do it. None of the audience speaks English. I’m in. It’s really drunk people from Jersey. I have my standards. No, I don’t. I’ll do it.
Do enough of these shows, and you’ll suddenly start to question everything. (Like, WHY do old microphones smell like urine?)
Do enough of these shows, and you’re suddenly working hours that put migrant workers and 1st year investment bankers to shame. (Aww, y’all have something in common.) (I don’t really say y’all)
I work 50 hours a week at my day job. And then comedy easily takes up (…easily take up… weekdays 3x 5days = 15 + weekends 6-9 hours x 2 = 12-18…divided by Pi.. Carry the Cosign over the Denominator ) easily takes up 27-33 hours more.
So, after a year of consistent 77-83 hour work weeks my immune system started shutting down on me. WEIRD. I was on antibiotics every other week, and I began a new hobby called “alienating all my friends by never having time for them.”
One day my Mom (over the phone) told me “You sound frantic. When you get frantic your voice goes into a higher octave range. It isn’t flattering.”
So, I took a “break” for “July” (code: had a breakdown) and decided to “completely stop all comedy for one solid month” (code: still did comedy, but not as much) to see if I could get my brain to function again.
During my “break from comedy” I performed at a shitty basement show that I had committed to months before. I was mad at myself for not sticking to the “break” but I was really relaxed. I had been sleeping the normal amount of hours a human animal needs, I wasn’t running to 3 shows a night, and I had my set list of jokes ready to go. I ended up having one of the best sets of my entire career. Sorry, I mean, “career.” (How do you know when you’ve had your best show? Isn’t comedy subjective? Ehh, Trust me. You know. It’s like knowing when you’ve had sex. Even if you’ve been rufied, you can kind of “just tell”)
So the take away for me was that it is possible to not perform AS MUCH AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN, and still be fine (better than fine). This works for me. Maybe this doesn’t work for Jasper and Edna.
I get it. Stage time is vital. It helps you get comfortable with the mic, your material, get over stage fright, deal with audience/hecklers, … it transforms you into a stand-up.
But you also need to be healthy, have slept that month, seen your friends and family, go running, eat non-fried food, see sunlight, look at art, remember what grass feels like, smell the ocean … be a complete person.. Well, at least for me. Dorcas hates this shit.
So my new comic rules are (1) write a LOT and (2) get on stage as much as possible WITHIN REASON.