The show inside was winding down. The headliner just got the 5 minute light. It was set #250 on the year. A month before my comedy anniversary. I was hanging outside with a comic. He’s kind of a dick, 10 years in. We’ve seemingly took the counter side on every topic to make the conversation last longer. He would smash hard on his points and unravel my even before I finish the thought. When I see our names tagged on the same show, I’d look forward to it but know I’m walking to my car feeling dejected. Kind of like an abusive relationship. It only took him seven years to say “you win that one and I figured out why.”
Right before people started walking out, I asked him if he found his comedy voice yet. He goes “what’s that?” It was a question I’ve asked myself and others over and over. He was the first to flip it back to me. “You know, saying things you’re proud of. Being proud of your jokes or being true to your comedy.” He asks, “Did you come up with that right now or did you give that some thought?” I thought it was obvious. I started wondering if I was chasing a mythical feat. They say it takes 7-10 years to find your comedy voice. What if it’s like finding Jesus, or Noah’s ark, or worst, doing the actual 10,000 hours and realizing it’s just a exaggerated metaphor.
Two nights ago, at a mixed open mic, I hear the familiar sounds of a white male in his early 20s talking about drinking, f-bombs, and getting with a Chinese woman. It was “like third time ever doing stand-up.” He asked what I thought of his set and if I have any advice. I told him I can’t help you. But keep going up. You’ll find your own path. I didn’t take the fastest path and I’m at the same shitty dive bar on a Monday night. I really wish I could of told him this;
Every night I learn something. Even if it’s not going back to that room. You have to see something in that night. It’s information you can pass on.
Be nice. People remember if you’re nice to them but never forget if you’re a dick. A comic last night remembered my name. I couldn’t place him. “We met at Tommy T’s.” It’s been months since I’ve been there. I still think about the night in D.C., when I didn’t get on a packed line up show. A comic I just met was willing to give up his spot so I could go up. At Throckmorton Theater, there were three San Francisco Comedy Competition winners, comedians that worked with Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Will Durst.... They listened to my jokes, asked me how I was doing, and made me feel like I belong. If they were dicks, I’d delete this paragraph.
It’s never fair. Everyone is hungry for a set. It doesn’t always come to you. It could come years after you ask. Other comics with less years invested in this game may get more time on stage than you. But it’s nothing we can do about it. The same comics that would ask if they can get a set are the same ones that will ice (not book you) you on their show. The comedians I have the most respect for are the ones I see doing the same grind and not complaining. I know this because they tell me they had a great time at The Swingin’ Door and I know it was shit.
“My reputation is yours. My talent is mine.” -Vir Das. Sometimes you have to bet on yourself. Create your own opportunities. When comics ice you (or tell you there is a long list and it’ll be a year and half) on their show, I’d start a show and book them. Even when they close the door on me, I’d jimmy the door so it would pop open.
“Save everything. Things will come to you and it won’t be in order. It’s like scrabble. Then you have to put it in an alphabetical order. -Godfrey via Bill Cosby. I love this quote because even when I know this, it’s said just right that I got it. I started with premises. One liners. It evolved to tags. Then I’d look back at old notebooks and find another line for the same subject. Now I have a chunk. I plan on recording a comedy album at the end of November and I’m looking at putting them all together like a story.
“Move fast and break things.” -Mark Zuckerberg. It was Facebook’s Moto. The idea was to put out something that you would be embarrassed by and people would give you feedback and your window may close. I think most people appreciate thought and a product more than waiting two months it being right on a now old joke.
When we start out, we do an impression of what we think stand-up is. We mimic or use another comedian’s voice because we don’t know how to do it. Richard Pryor wanted to be Bill Cosby. Jerry Seinfeld wanted to be Robert Klein. I wanted to be Jim Breuer. I think what a comedy voice is, is when you say what you want to say freely. Without a filter because it comes from the heart. Some weirdo out there will relate to you because they are you too. Saying it without caring if it doesn’t go well. Or being real. It’s us going to see a comedian, bearing the parking and the two item minimum, because we want to see what they’re saying. It’s us tuning into the Late Night for the monologues. What I learned this year is I am different. Nobody has my childhood or my issues. My voice is me sharing. Now I just have to do it.