Chasing Year Seven

I tried dating. There is always this moment that you have to explain why I’m not working the main room at The Comedy Store or why everyone has a Netflix special except me. Why I drive 100 miles, sit in traffic for three hours, and wait for another two to do a total of 12 minutes of stage time. Or how she’ll always come in second. How do you explain you would rather dive bar hop every night because I want to know what it feels like to not call the suicide hotline. I dated a girl, her fake best friend got married on her birthday. Instead of going home and salvaging her birth-month-day, I did an open mic. If I thought I was useless and all about me, I know I had to dig deeper into the abyss to learn more about myself.

I don’t want to think I’m a glorified open mic'er, then, I’m not glorified. You’re suppose to find your comedy voice somewhere between year 7 and 10. Driving down with Pat Burtscher to Crow’s Nest, he said in year 11 he was beginning to hear himself. After hosting, and doing more time than I planned that night, I realized how bad it would suck to erase six years and start all over again.

Comedians @ Red Rock came from just wanting to be on a Saturday night show. Maybe have my name on a flier. Never thought it would be a producer’s dream. You see audience members come back again. And bring their friends. And their friends bring their friends, until it becomes a table of 27. It’s a comedian’s dream and a comedian’s nightmare. I didn’t want to do the same set or the same jokes. It’s cheating them or worse, not challenging myself. So I made some goals for 2017.

Every Comedians @ Red Rock show will be a new set. New jokes. It’s a month of working on jokes at dive bars and hippie coffee shops that could pass for under-the-table-pharmacies, to the show every third Saturday. It’s like farm to table. This comes from writing two new jokes a day. Fourteen new jokes by the end of the week. If five are good, I’ll expand and grow them. Or spend four weeks bombing.

I learned suffering is the best medicine. An ex had a sheet of paper that had 1-100. This “happiness program” sold this unhappy person the idea that happiness is the goal of being rejected 100 times. And when you hit 100, you’ll eventually stop caring. Since I am heartless, I knew I had 50 credits at birth. 300 spots (open mic and booked shows). The more spots I do, the stage begins to feel like my home. The late nights in front of two drunks that want to share. The more I know what rock bottom feels like. There are a few that have done 100 straight nights, and one that did 1,001 consecutive nights. Rejection will eventually turn to love. So far, 75 mics in three months. I did 140 last year. Half way to loving myself three times over!

Another goal is doing the road for two weeks. I’ve heard over and over how lonely and hard it is to be a bar-to-bar salesman that sells jokes to people that don’t want to listen. But it’s testing jokes and knowing if they’ll work. Jaime Foxx talked about doing 20 minutes of the blackest material in the whitest cities & 20 minutes of political stuff in the most chocolate cities, to piece together his 40 minutes.

Hate to admit this, but I found inspiration in LaLa Land. Someone that has to team up with a co-producer and bet on ourselves. It’s hard to find someone that has the same drive and dedication to not just put a good show together, but to go from 'So Long Boulder City' to Seb’s. Sometimes, you just want it more than the hundreds chasing. Maybe one day, I can look back and hope I find myself and be happy with the unwritten progress.

Who would date this guy?

Kevin Wong
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