Chasing Year Nine

If you’re looking for advice, this is likely a waste of time. Within eight years, most comics have enough success from getting passed at comedy clubs, winning competitions, or build enough connections to have the confidence to move to a bigger city and pursue tv credits, I’m still here ushering a new group of kids in the game. Still doing the same open mics as I did eight years ago. Unsuccessfully. Last week I bombed so hard, an audience had to flag me down after my set to tell me “I come down here four times a year and you’re always funny. But you didn’t have it tonight.”

The first few years were suppose to be the hardest. Not knowing why a joke work the night before falls flat the next two attempts, who to listen to, getting butt-hurt hearing other comics tell jokes similar to yours, or being unsuccessful trying to reveal a little about yourself in your jokes. The last two years, I was a line in Eminem’s song; his hoes don't want him no mo, he's cold product. They moved on to the next schmo who flows, he nose dove and sold nada. We had a pretty fun room that broke capacity every show for two years. It gave me the opportunity to record 50 minute comedy album. Doors were opening for me. It was easier to get on show because comic/producers want the favor in return. Last year, the goal was to bomb harder and better. I commit to trying different things, not take it so hard when I failed, and shared like I couldn’t.

Without a room, I knew I was taken for face value at most if not discounted. Wasn’t getting booked on shows I was aspiring to be on, didn’t place well enough on competitions, and I wasn’t contributing to the comedy community but clogging spots. Ever had a producer tweet “comedy shouldn’t be interactive” after observing you do crowd work? We all have our own interpretation of what stand-up comedy is. Can’t use props, it’s not stand-up without a microphone, no stage/no show... my interpretation came from anticipation of sitting through a commercial break to hear a comedian’s hot take on a topic and feeling the idea of “getting it” or seeing it live and feeling a little bit scared that they might shine a light on something I’m embarrassed to admit then tripping over trying to retell it to my friends. It was dangerous because it wasn’t conventional logic. I wanted my jokes to be edgy. I also don’t want anyone to walk out before I go up knowing I was going to recite the set of jokes, so I never do the same set, if not just one new joke to convince their friend to stay.

The Twilight Zone’s rebooted pilot, The Comedian, popped up on Youtube. The episode was free. It’s CBS’s ploy to get me to bite and pay for their exclusive porn app on another platform. The episode is about a comedian that had integrity, boundaries, and self-worth named Samir. He wasn’t getting the same laughs as other comedians that went for the easy, low brow humor. He worked hard on his intelligent second amendment joke but nobody cared. He wasn’t... killing. Samir, meets JC Wheeler, a Morpheus or the bartender in Mr. Destiny, got the blue pill or red pill, spilt milk option of fate. So he took the obvious choice. Wheeler tells him: You have on thing. One natural resource. You are one country with one export. And you are the export. Nobody cares about your jokes. They care about you. He ditched politics and started talking for a dark place. What he really felt and started exporting. Laughs came in waves. Harder and harder until people he want to vindicate disappeared. I was so moved with The Comedian, because I was Samir, I knew I should quit comedy. I was using comedy to justify being an asshole. What’s the difference between a comedian and a glorified asshole? Laughs.

I was hanging with comics after a show hearing the dumb thoughts I dismissed as pretentious insecurities, come out of their mouths about others. The uncertainties, fears, and getting iced on bookings were real and what did they say about me to each other before tonight? I looked for an exit strategy out of comedy. Nobody would care. Maybe a couple of thank you. But I know it would eat me up knowing I stopped trying. So year nine has been a journey of being self aware of what I say may bring shame to people or turn them off, even when I see irony and my own export. I still fail. I still do my best supporting comics that have questions but most of the time I say I can’t help them. Because they have their own journey and I only got so far. If anything, I’m still here. The Piano Man.

Kevin Wong