Posts in Comedy
My Sixth Year in Comedy

On the eve of hosting Crow’s Nest and having my comedy anniversary at Throckmorton Theater, I started to question and doubt six years worth of jokes. It’s the same lack of conviction feeling I get when it’s been a few days since I did a set. The host is agitating a drunk Trump supporter. I am up next. It’s been over 2,175 days since that first three minute set at Tommy T’s, and it still feels like I don’t know what I’m doing. They say it takes 7-10 years to find your comedy voice. What if it’s just this, they went, f- it. I wasn’t funny anyway. 

I have one goal; Get better. Not funnier. Better. Anybody can be funny. Being good is when they go "I was thinking that same exact thing... but didn’t say it". Better is when they go "I could of thought of that!” Great is when they go home and google. The mantra for year six is own it. Anything you put out there, own it. This year, I really felt like myself. The asshole on stage is the same asshole off stage. But I still want to bring fire and go deeper. 

Year six was a shift. After 95 shows at The Swingin’ Door, we decided to shift it to Rail Club in San Carlos. I shifted my feet looking for a Saturday Night venue and did one show at Red Rock with a promise of one more. Then they shifted to residency for a year. Recording myself in a closet just wanting to see if I verbalize my thoughts and feelings shifted to a bi-weekly solo podcast. Zero to 93 real quick. I shifted from being a shy introvert, to a kind of shy person with opinions. I shifted from wanting to tell jokes to wanting people to have a good time. Sometimes it’s not about the jokes. It’s about if they want to come back or follow you.

Four big moments happened for me. My Mount Rushmore. Or reminders. One was Dana Carvey walked passed me in San Jose. He is the reason why I attempted doing this. Just the idea of him having fun on the biggest stage and how I had to share with my friends Monday morning. On a podcast, he mentioned interviewing Robin Williams for his paper and he asked, why he did comedy. “I want to play for the people.”

The second was seeing Billy Crystal do a drop set. Reading his autobiography, Billy Crystal was passed up for representation from a big agent because “he didn’t leave the audience a tip.” It sounded nice and cleaver, but it wasn’t until I saw him leave us a tip, I fully understand what separates them from the pack of comedians.

Third moment has to be Wendy Bartholomew doing anything I ask. I mean, co-produce. Everything from making fliers, buying a neon sign, curtains, and sound tech. Even drive and lets me be myself. It’s always a good feeling knowing someone has your back and understands what it takes to get better or do simple better. 

Fourth moment had to be hosting Crow’s Nest and doing 35 minutes. I just saw two 10 year comics bring fire in a broom closet in the Tenderloin. I walked to my car knowing I am nowhere near getting the fireman to put out my shows. Hosting this show in Santa Cruz told me I can get people to laugh. Sometimes it’s a performance, Sometimes it’s just being real. I think I have a voice. Or at least I’m right on track.

ComedyKevin Wongcomedy, blog
Owning Year Six

I had a lot of fears in comedy. Bombing (or people not getting the joke), not getting likes (on Facebook or in person), even friends that say they’ll come see you (because it means they won’t). Ever watch a showcase on Comedy Central like Premium Blend or A Night At Catch A Rising Starbecause you see names like Silverman and C.K. under the description? Then fast forward thru some random comic because you want to see a young Chris Rock? That’s another fear. Me being that random.

I went from trying too hard and not enough to maybe I should do homework (year 1) to cole mining. No shortcuts or flashlight. Just a shovel (year 2) to when I was on stage, I compared it to spinning plates. I was doing the act, feeling out the room, thinking on the fly with crowd work or reorganizing jokes, and hearing myself think while the spotlight was on me (year 3) to hosting and producing a weekly comedy show. Creating a show for paying regulars that attend every Monday night for over a year (year 4) to stopped caring about the act but wanting the regulars to have a good time or at least stay and pay attention (year 5). Bombing isn’t so bad. Neither is people that don’t like your posts or me in real life and people still walk past me or reintroduce themselves like they forgot we met.

Most people wear something inspirational about not fearing, be yourself, or selling themselves short with “I’m the next big thing” and hide behind how they really think about themselves. Year six is me putting myself out there. When I was getting away with saying things at open mic nights and not documenting anything, it’s time I take ownership. I’m not running for office, just want to be accountable and put out content for people to laugh. Even when it’s painful for me.

Where did this confidence come from? The confidence is always in us. We dance by ourselves and have hip hop names. Sometimes it takes being alone in a dark room for it to come out. I dressed up in my Superman costume and posed for a polaroid. My grandmother asked, I did it, don’t know why. With a little attitude change and support from my friends, I’m sharing moments.

My only advice is: Get better by accepting any situation as a challenge and a experience. The more experience you experience, the better you are at handling situations. I’m not the most popular or have the most friends. All I can control is how I treat them and how hard I work at something. A good attitude and hard work will only get you so far. Sometimes when someone tells you no it’s time to kick down your own doors. Own 2016. Whatever you put out there. Own it.

ComedyKevin Wong
My Fifth Year in Comedy, 2.0

The first four years, I thought it was about building a 20 minute set. You had your opener, (the one joke that consistently works) then it’s trying to find the right combination to not bore the audience before your closer (the one joke that made someone fall out of their seat. Intoxicated still counts). If you’re lucky, at the end of the show, someone will shake your hand and say “nice job” or “you’re funny.” Even when you know they’re doing it because you’re standing next to someone that crushed and they don’t want it to be awkward for you.

Jerry Seinfeld relates years in comedy to how old you are in life. Even when I felt like a fifth year high school Senior, I was really just starting first grade. They say the first years are the hardest and I would say yes but disagree because I was comfortable. Comedy three nights a week and softball for two. I had the perfect trifecta; a day job that knew they were second fiddle to my pipe dream, my own show, and a girlfriend. Then she gave me the best present. A break up.

The act was gone. It was all relationship jokes. When I saw couples, I knew I had them at “why are you yelling at me?” “I’m not yelling at you. This tone right here is considered yelling.” It was like a tornado ran through me and I had to figure out what I was going to talk about and where I was going to live.

A few things resonated and stuck with me. Seeing Jeff Garlin work at The Comedy Store and hearing him say if “I can get through the set without touching the act, I’m happy.” And a comedian should never feel comfortable. The new act was about going through the break up. I was hoping they would see humor in my pain but it made people sad. Someone told me “your act is sad.” But she was trying to be mean. Then I got uncomfortable. Then comfortable being uncomfortable.

I hated comedy. I didn’t know what to talk about but I knew I wanted to be up there because it was therapeutic and the only place that felt safe and sovereign. When I started five years ago, I saw this comic bomb every time we did a mic or a show. Almost and sometimes walking a room. He would go up with a notebook, make the audience feel uncomfortable then pick on the ones that stayed. I felt like I was doing the same but I wasn’t headlining and wasn’t getting paid.

I understood jokes and structure. I got how to build a set. It’s very calculated. My fifth year was the first year I stopped thinking and started to talk about how I really felt. I went down a couple rabbit holes and smeared lines. Comedy wasn’t about doing the act. It’s about making people feel better about themselves and their situations through our situations. It’s about them going home and remembering your bit, then tell their friends like it’s their joke, or even better, wanting to hear more jokes from you like how I get with comedians. When I figured this out, comedy was fun again.

A co-worker was retiring and I did the speech. It was at 8:30 am, was completely lit, everybody was standing, hopped up on coffee. His parents were there and I bombed. I felt bad for a little bit then I walked away knowing I said what I wanted to, what I thought was funny. I crossed the line on a lot of things but this is the new me. Taking chances. And bombing in front of everyone I’ll see for the next 16 years before I can have someone talk about me like that.

If comedy years is anything like real life years, the first day of first grade I bailed. I walked home at lunch time (school got out at 3pm). It was five miles. I tried to talk to public school kids about Jesus and wore a plastic garbage bag Captain America costume for Halloween. The one with three tiny holes. Two to see, one to suffocate. And by the way, the guy that I saw bomb hard, now, when he’s in town, I’ll hear ads on the radio for his show at the San Jose Improv, was on Comedy Central, and he’s doing well in L.A.

ComedyKevin Wong