My Eighth Year in Comedy

Year 8 snuck up on me. Like episode 10 of Daredevil season 3, or that restaurant closing you kept meaning to check out. Or the bobblehead that became a collection. You drive down to south San Jose, over pay for the first one, collect five more with partial season tickets, and eight years later you’re embarrassed to have 123 bobbleheads.

Like stand-up, I had my eyes on my first but I didn’t know how to obtain it. It was a J.T. Snow Xtreme Club Kids Rewards bobblehead. You had to be both a member and a kid to get one. I was neither but I had money and Google. I now have so many, I bought one, thought it was a duplicate, went back to the store to exchange it, came home to see I don’t have a Buster Posey Giants Race bobblehead. The similarities are if it’s a stadium give away, you have to wait in line. The longer the wait, the more rewarding. Then everybody has one. Friends would try to sell me theirs. They seem indestructible but delicate. Seeing them brings me joy. The dissimilarity is they don’t always nod in agreement.

A lot like any collection, most people don’t get it. They see OCD but don’t know about the sacrifice of pride, talking to backs of heads, competing with sporting events, driving home with heavy eyes. It is definitely a recurring dream. Not sure if it’s the kind I want. Even when there are no guidelines nor timeline on when you get your break, the distinction is like chasing the all-time home run number in the minors. Do you want people to know you’ve been doing it this long? I see a lot of kids that have early success and admire being labeled a prospect. I wish I was this good. It seems effortless and natural for them. I had to work with overcoming being shy, anti-social, and misbelieving I’m a lottery pick. I’m more like a Mike Piazza - drafted in the last round as a family favor. Or Travis Ishikawa - going up and down from the minors to the majors, traded, released, almost retiring, going back to the minors, then getting immortalized in a sound-chipped bobblehead. It might not even be a shiny career. Never getting that signing bonus or being in a magazine.

I had one goal this year. Bomb harder (or smarter). Allowing yourself to bomb is humiliating and humbling. It taught me not where the floor is, but where the floor was in the basement. I stayed in bits longer then see if I could get out of it without lifelines. I’ve become very comfortable and have a greater sense of invulnerability so taking chances isn’t so scary. What makes any comedy so unique is the experience then sharing it. There are five impressionable lessons I'm taking from this year.

  1. The goal is to write three pages (sometimes two) a day. The achievement is day-dreaming to make yourself laugh. I start this in the morning, then I’ll space out all day thinking about it, jotting down notes or tags. I feel the jokes are better because I’ve ringed out more water from the rag. It’s very much what I do on my podcast. Streamlining jokes verbally. On one of the car rides with David Nguyen, he said “Your podcast voice doesn’t match your comedy voice.” He’s right. I don’t day dream much when I’m trying make others laugh but when I’m in a walk-in closet with no judgment or instant feedback, I’m more fearless trying to make myself laugh. Shouldn’t this be the same?

  2. The other lesson is “none of this matters.” We think we’re clever, dance around the wrong things, but this is the best time to try. We’re given leeway because we’re in progressive Bay Area. What we say in a coffee shop at 730 on a Tuesday isn’t going to show up like an old racist tweet from high school. We ran a fun show for two years (yesterday). Today, forgotten. It’s all about experience. The good and bad. Experience it now so you’re more prepared for when it counts.

  3. Stand up is easy. It’s the most stripped down, basic form of entertainment. Verbal with expressions. It’s the noise, the negativity, and the self doubt and lack of self esteem that blocks us from knowing how easy it is.

  4. Be patient. I think about quitting a lot. I should be making that time and half at work. But I chose to drive across a bridge, park, and hope someone won’t smash my window, to tell jokes. I walk pass my Playstation to sit in a closet and hope I’ll find something more rewarding. Jaime Lee (Crashing) said it best in a Q&A, think of us like popcorn. It might take some of us more time than others but we’re all eventually going to pop.

  5. Say something memorable. Most comics know what their best joke is. The audience decide, then they know it’s the closer. Your best joke will make you. What joke do you want people to remember you for?

I’ve been chasing the 1987 San Francisco Giants reunion team. I’ve come across all four at some point but am still looking. The Will Clark (signed) was more than I was willing to pay. The Matt Williams (also autographed) had a smudged signature and it wasn’t authenticated. The Robby Thompson was well, I let a dad buy it without me calling dibs (or asking to look at it so he didn’t have the opportunity). The Kevin Mitchell, found in an antique store, is bobblehead #110. Dusting them helps, letting the “not right ones” go, and hoping the opportunities will come again. Sometimes it’s about collecting moments they are recreating and it brings joy. It’s inedible candy.

Kevin Wong