March Madness 8 – Giggles Laugh Off Week 4, Night 1

First I’d like to welcome a new blog reader, Terry Taylor, to the audience. Welcome.

On to the show…

I haven’t been doing that much comedy lately, relatively speaking. Did get up once at the Laughs open mic this week. Yes, I know, I missed a blog post about it. It wasn’t worth it. The set had one joke and the rest of it is what I would have picked on people for from the back of the room for doing.

But, last night was the first night in my competition week in the 2010 Giggles Laugh Off. This is week four of the competition, which means that three other comedians have already moved on to the finals. I’ve got four shows this weekend, two last night and two tonight. Audience members vote on their top three favorite comedians, and the scores are totaled across all of the shows. The top comedian moves onto the finals in April. So far I’m in a very close second to comedian Scott Black. Friday’s shows were fairly lightly attended though, so tonight’s first show will probably be the pivotal moment in this week’s competition. Here’s the what happened last night…

One of the Giggle’s regular hosts, Eric, hosted the first show. Scott Black went first. He has apparently won the competition once before I think a decade ago. He has a high energy set and props to him for giving it 100% for the 20 people in the audience that first show. I went up fourth. I’ll tell you this. These sets were way better than my performance in the Seattle Comedy Competition just a couple months ago. Not that I didn’t give it my all there, but I’m happy to see how much I’ve positively developed since that time. I decided to go with my exclusively “nerdy” set. I wanted something that would separate me from the rest of the comics. The first set went ok. Not amazing, not terrible, but pretty good for not being able to practice it as much as my Seattle set. Got good solid laughs through the first half, but kind of petered out at the end and my closer wasn’t as strong as I would have liked. It gave me a tied for third place finish with Sean McCarthy coming out of the first show.

The second show I went fifth of seven. This time I went right after Sean. He had a solid set and I really love his closer about low paid cashiers “drinking all the Robotusen in the store.” I went up there and laid down my first joke. Solid. Second joke. Pretty good. By the third joke I had them in a rhythm that I don’t get on every show and always love the feeling when I do. Had a group of three girls almost in tears when I started talking about Twilight and Harry Potter tricking girls into thinking that wizards and vampires were sexy. Obviously I was hitting their demographic or something. I judge the 10 minute set a bit better this time and was able to close up more professional. Again, almost all the set was “nerdy” stuff. One thing I was a bit critical of was that I fumbled a lot of words, way more than I usually do in a set. Internally, I definitely felt a little “off”, even though it was going really well. Almost flubbed a couple punch lines and stepped on a couple of laughs. Overall, nothing that hurt anything, just pointing it out. That set was enough to pull out the first place finish in the second set of shows and cumulatively puts me four points behind Scott Black going into tonight.

Hoping that tonight’s early show does me well, as that is probably going to be the deciding show of the competition based on the size of the crowd. I’ll let you know how it goes. For now, back to watching “Blade Runner”.

March Madness 7 – Laughs Open Mic

I totally forgot to put up a post about this one. My bad. Actually it’s my work’s bad, I’ve been pulling 10 – 11 hour days at the “real” job, and it hasn’t been pleasant. That has spilled over into comedy this week for sure, as Tuesday is probably the one and only time I’ll get up on stage. Anyways, forget it, just pretend that I’m writing this Tuesday night. TIME WARP!

I need to stop going out when I’m so tired, I don’t get anything really good accomplished and it’s not like I’m catching up on any sleep when I do that either. It’s hard to resist the pull of the open mic though, especially at Laughs, since I know so many people there and I enjoy shooting the shit and talking shop the whole night. I like helping people with jokes and talking about gigs and stuff. There is also enough (non comic) audience to get a decent reaction out of new material too. I tried a new tag to an old joke, which I think went well and I’ll try it a couple times as I wrote it. My closer was pretty weak though, but it was new and I worked on it right up until the point I got on stage. That being said, I should have probably done some more writing than I did last weekend. Also another point to (not) going.

I’ll say this though, I really like where my stage presence is going. Even without any jokes I felt very comfortable on stage and talking to the audience. I felt that even though I wasn’t delivering punch lines people were still enjoying themselves. The problem was, without strong, relateable material, enjoyment never really translated into laughter.

One thing that was kinda sad was I wrote this joke about how I’m a “Magic the Gathering” ex-addict that I was really excited but I knew had slim chances for success. Most people don’t know that Magic the Gathering is a strategy collectible card game. So not only do you need to know how to play, but you also have to buy all these packs of cards hoping to get the ones you want in order to beat your friends. The genius is, if you haven’t found the card you’re looking for, you have to, you guessed it, buy more cards. I was into it for about 2 years in various shapes and forms and probably spent a couple hundred dollars on cards. So for the joke, I wrote a tag (relating to the fact that it’s like a drug), which was that “in 6th grade I had to stop because I was up to a five ‘booster’ pack a week habit.” Pack, like cigarettes, but not, cause their cards. I think its freaking brilliant, but I think there are only a few handful of people on the planet that understand what a “booster pack” is. This little gem will possibly never see the light of day again (for a while). That being said, if I ever do a MTG conference, I’m going to blow the roof off that place, and then tap two green mana to bring it back into play. Ya, that just happened!

Emerald City Comic Con

Nerd overload my friends. Actually, for all my nerdiness that I tout on stage, I’ve never been to a “Con”, short for “convention” for those whole-word inclined. My mom likened it to an exhibition. I told her never to use the word “exhibition” and “comic”  together ever again.This being my first Con, I looked to my friend Tonya’s blog post on getting ready. She’s been to quite a few and prepares for them better than most do for a job interview.

I decided that I would wear my Star Wars jacket, since there are very few public places I get to wear it without someone staring at it. It went over well at the event. The ticket taker had apparently seen my act before, confidently stating “comedian!” as I approached her to buy a ticket. I confirmed that I was indeed “comedian” and I was wearing “the jacket” from my joke. She was happy to see that it did exist. Of course it existed! (Side note, I saw a guy in the Boba Fett version of my sweater there as well.) The guys who make “Red vs. Blue” liked it very much, and were even more surprised when I told them I got it at Macys. Various people bumped into me and said “nice jacket”, but that was the extent to which that story played out.

Now I’m not that big of a comic book nerd. I actually have no idea what to do at most of the booths. I just stood around and looked at the art. Oooh pretty. I did try and find some Hellboy comics to add to my small collection, and did buy a Wolverine comic out of one of the many $1 bins, just for nostalgia’s sake. Most of my interactions with comic book artists went like this though:

  • Me: Hi
  • Them: So are you interested in my comics, I have a new graphic novel that I just published?
  • Me: I’ve never heard of your comic before, but I think it’s pretty cool, can I buy a book?
  • Them: Uh, sure. Do you want me to sketch something in it? What is your favorite comic character from
  • Me: Well yes, but I have no idea who the characters are in so just draw something about Star Wars. 

One such interaction left me with a picture drawn in one of my book’s that looked strangely like my friend James. Actually in all seriousness (if that is even possible when talking about this subject), I did learn a lot about what is going on in the industry, and the amazing talent it takes to be a professional comic book writer/illustrator. It was really inspiring and makes me want to take up sketching again. Also, the electronic writing pads were freaking sweet. I ended up getting a couple graphic novels (which I prefer over single comics) and some other nerdy odds and ends. I’m not really into the superhero stuff that dominates most of the booths, more of a “Blade Runner” type of guy. Hellboy is the one exception. He’s a badass. Missed picking up a sticker with the statement “Real Vampires don’t freakin’ sparkle” on it, but that was my only misgiving from attending this year.

One thing that did surprise me. After only a couple hours at the event, my feet freaking hurt. I wore good shoes and socks like Tonya had suggested, but man. I’ve been to Disneyland and stood in lines for way longer than I did yesterday. Something about ComicCon just sucks the energy out of people I guess. Evil masterminds with energy sucking death rays maybe?

My experience was overall positive except for not getting the sticker and this; Fuck You ECCC for putting a pack of Magic the Gathering cards in my gift  bag. I do everything I can to stay away from that game and its incredible lure on my imagination and bank account. It’s like nerd crack cocaine, and I’ve been in recovery since 6th grade. It’s as if ECCC is like, “hey Brian, here’s a free hit, on us”. Its a good thing its only 10 cards and not enough to do anything with, but wow, dangerous dude. I’m going to go call my sponsor…

Next time, I’ll hopefully attend some of the panels they offered. This first time, it was enough just to walk the floor, see some cool stuff, and get out before I fell too deeply down the nerd rabbit hole. Expect a new five minutes about this in my act soon. 🙂

March Madness 6 – Owl & Thistle

This is going to be a short one, and late, I’m sorry the week just kind of ended this way. Thursday night I performed at the Owl & Thistle’s comedy night. This room has been running for over a year. It’s a nice road room in the heart of downtown Seattle, and it pays its host, feature, and headliner a little. Not much, but better than free. It was originally started by Nick McCord, and then given over to my friend Brett Hamil, who’s been running it ever since. It used to be packaged with a free open mic on Monday’s that for a time, I was in charge of. “In charge of” meant that I was the only one that cared to make a list and tell people when it was time to get off stage.

This is one of those rooms that for the first 30 minutes you have to bludgeon the audience into accepting the fact that there is going to be comedy for the next two hours and no, we’re not going to turn the UW game back on. Always a great start to a show. It’s usually a great place to take people if their being cocky about their act, as this place, along with Pegasus Pizza in Kirkland, tends to eat those people alive. Oh, and if you think you’re ready to feature, try Tulalip Casino in Marysville (another story for another time).

I did my 20 minutes after watching the first couple comedians get sucked into the black hole that was the table of drunk soccer fans. I was concerned, but not overly concerned, that they were going to destroy my set. I did something I don’t usually do, which is yell at the audience (read: that table) to shut up and listen or kindly move themselves to the other room. At that point, they stopped laughing at any of my jokes, but they were quit. Did my set of nerd jokes again, which is getting crisper each time I tell them, and generally had an ok time.

I get a break from comedy for a couple of nights, which I really need. My next appearance will be the open mic at Laughs this week. I hope to have some new stuff prepared for that as apposed to working on stuff I’ve already written. We’ll see how Sunday and Monday treat me in that regard.

March Madness 5 – Gerry Andals Bar & Grill

Tonight I don’t want to blog, not because the show was bad, but because I’m tired. And I had three cokes at the gig and my stomach is upset. This is why I don’t drink soda often from a glass, or at least one that is refillable. Probably had more soda than I do in a week at one gig cause it kept getting refilled and I just don’t log those events until its too late.

The gig tonight was in Stanwood, WA. Stanwood, the gateway to Camino Island, is located between the cities of Marysville and Mt. Vernon. Don’t know where they are either? Well Google Maps has nice satellite pictures of all of them; check it out. Stanwood has three major intersections before you drive through the whole town. The gig is at intersection #3, so almost on the outskirts. 🙂

We had a host, one Mr. Anthony Calderon, who’s an up-and-comer who has been doing this for about a year and looks like he’s 16, even though he’s 23. The crowd didn’t really get him too much, but he stuck with it, and did his time. Good job. Brought me up, I did my full 30. I let the crowd talk way more than I usually do because I just wanted something new to do besides my act. I knew my “nerdy” stuff wasn’t going to galvanize them in any way, so I just wanted them, and me, to have a good time. Actually kind of surprised to see the old guys in cowboy hats laugh at my Back to the Future references. Lesson of the night, I can do my act anywhere if I pitch it to them right. I’m glad I did my nerdy set, as it’s what I wanted to do, and I sold it to them. Sure they probably liked the headliner better, but I didn’t compromise.

The headline, Brad Upton, funny as always. He added a couple of tags off book, which for me, since I’ve seen his act a bunch, is always a treat. We caught up on the gigs we’ve both had over the last couple of months and before you know it, it was time to head back to Seattle.

Another paid gig on the books for this month, which makes March a pretty good month so far. Tomorrow night I’m back in Seattle for a gig at the Owl and Thistle, the best little Irish bar in the state.

Oh, and my potential gig with Q13 Fox covering the Emerald City ComicCon this weekend fell through. I may or may not have said anything about it already, mostly because I expected it to be a long-shot. Still really nice that the guys that I met last Saturday went to bat for me; biggest compliment I’ve gotten on the new act since I started telling it. Maybe something in the cards for the future, who knows. Because of this, I’ll be attending the ComicCon as a regular participant, but I’m still excited for Saturday. I’m going to wear my Star Wars sweater I think.

March Madness 4 – Comedy Underground Open Mic

I know I’m a day late with this one, but I’m going to blame all the free booze that I got at my own private after party (more on that in a second).

Last night was Monday night, and you know what that means, the world famous Comedy Underground’s open mic madness. Over 30 comics in just under two hours, which translates into about 2-3 minutes of stage time. But this is the place I came to start my comedy career almost five years prior, back in the summer of 2005. (If you ask me how long I’ve been doing it I’ll say just over four years though, cause I took a big break after three months in.) I did my three minutes (back then we got the full three), told some jokes, and then drank a lot of beer. Didn’t get that drunk that night, as I had to go back to my internship in the morning, buy ya. Oh, I’m reminiscing too much, this is supposed to be about what I did LAST night.

I hadn’t prepared anything for last night except one new tag, which I didn’t even end up doing right when I hit the stage. So much for being on the ball. I had a mean streak in me too. I don’t know why. I sort of feel like there is no humility in the craft right now, a sense of entitlement in all the open micers. I don’t get too preachy about it because I used to be / am one of them, and I know that sometimes we act up, but there aren’t any old timers coming down to the clubs anymore to put them/us into place. So last night I hit the stage and my first like was, “For all those open micers that think they have fans that come to see them at the open mic, you’re full of shit.” That is how you warm up the room, am I right? Nothing, not a laugh, not a boo, just 50 people staring at me. Fun.

Now comes the good part. As much as they probably didn’t want to laugh at my next joke, they’re sitting there going “who is this asshole”, after my first joke, bam, laughing. By the time I told the second joke, I had them all back. It felt really great. Not because I shit on anybody, but I was able to win the audience back after saying some really caustic stuff. Those two jokes were enough to prove that I could do that, at least this once. And then I left, way before the light, just to keep the MC on her toes.

I know, I sound sound/feel like a douche writing this. That, and I’ve used the slash thing three times, and it’s the trademark of a crappy writer that can’t figure out what he wants his character to do/say. I’m not trying to be mean, honestly I was still just telling jokes and if people are going to get offended by me, they really need to get out now. I’m one of the tame ones. Besides, if any one of them came up to me and sincerely wanted honest feedback (and I think they could handle it), then they’ve got it. I don’t care if you take all my gigs in the process, if you’re better than me then it’s time to write some better jokes and get funnier myself.

I love the open mic scene in Seattle and I think that everyone should continue to go to them. Respect the process, respect your self, but ya, you don’t have fans at an open mic. Besides, real fans come to see you when you’re featuring/headlining anyways…

March Madness 3 – Comedy Underground

Tonight I performed in the “Best of Seattle Sunday Showcase” at the Comedy Underground in downtown Seattle. It’s a weekly show put on every Sunday. Pretty good crowd considering our competition was the Oscars. I don’t know who won anything yet since I didn’t watch them and I haven’t looked at twitter in something like two months.

I worked on my “drugs” section of my act that I didn’t get to do over the weekend. It is currently composed of a couple different bits loosely tied together. I think I have about 8 or 9 when you count them all up, but I usually only through 4 or 5 into rotation at any one given time. Tonight’s picks where “legalized pot commercials”, “the effectiveness of DARE”, and my new one “Drugs at NASA”. The first two I’ve been telling for a couple months now and they are fairly solid. I mainly wanted to work on the third joke, so these were just filler to set up and get some good laughs on the subject. The joke, for the most part, bombed, but I succeeded in staying in a vary weird character for longer than I usually do. This was my main goal tonight, and I actually did a callback which worked better than I thought it would. I would say my commitment level to the character was only about a 60%, and some of that was due to playing with the setup WAY too much before getting into it. In the end, I may choose to take it a different way. Also, I don’t think I should assume everyone knows what the lunar lander looks like…

Shows like tonight are weird because I’m basically going up there with an experiment. I’ve got something very new and there are so many questions to ask about it. How is it going to sound coming out of my mouth? How is the audience going to react? Do I reveal too much in the setup only to let people down in the punchline? Is this new weird character believable, hacky, appropriate? This, to varying degrees, I have to do with all new jokes. After I’ve figured them out though, sometimes I put a joke away too early.

One thing that I’ve started doing more over the last couple of weeks is to take my favorite jokes and really dive into them. Even today while doing some writing, I uncovered a new tag that really effectively drills into the point I was trying to make in a much more generic way. I looked at it after I had thought/wrote it, and I thought “there it is, and I need 100 more just like that”. What this means from a performance viewpoint is that I’m doing the same 20 minutes over and over again but each time I tell it, its getting stronger.

I’m trying to compress a new video for YouTube tonight, but iMovie is so freaking slow right now. I think its because I have about 50 gigs of comedy videos that need to be moved off my laptop, but alas, I can’t find the power cable to my external hard drive. What is a nerd to do? Tomorrow night I’m back at the Underground for their open mic and helping a local photographer pick out open micers for an upcoming piece she’s shooting on comedians. Cool stuff.

March Madness 2 – Laughs Comedy Spot

Almost forgot to write this as my stupid pager for work went off on the way home from the club. Ya, I have to carry a pager for my on-call rotation at work (the job that pays me more than comedy, for now), I don’t want to talk about it…

Tonight I featured for Whitney Cummings. She’s a hot commodity right now. She’s a regular roaster and a guest on “Chelsea Lately”, a show my parent’s seem to like but I haven’t gotten into. Besides all of this, she’s a pretty funny gal. I think I may have fallen outside of her target audience, as I have a penis, but her comedy was definitely enjoyed by all. The first show was a packed house and the audience was ready for a comedy show.

I knew I was going to have a great set tonight as my energy level was higher that it usually was before hitting the stage. I think it’s because I got to have a nap today and actually slept last night. I’ve done a lot of gigs recently where I’m just dog tired and there is a marketed difference in my performance. It was nice as I drove to Laughs tonight to have some energy flowing through me and I was really getting excited for the show.

The opener brought me up and I hit the ground running with my “Avitar” opener. I think it only has a couple more weeks to live, especially after we consider how it does in the Oscars tomorrow.
I’m not too upset as its basically only a one-liner punchline with no tags, but I’ll still miss it. From then on it was straight laughs for 20 mins. There were too points that fell a little flat. One was my inclusion of a new bit about “nerdy people” that I had decided to slip into the set tonight, but hadn’t done on stage before. The second was an old tag for my “Star Wars jacket” joke that really has never worked. I’m going to drop the whole section and try to rewrite it / leave it out forever as it has just never performed well and/or is just way to predictable of a punchline. Other than that though, the audience came with me and we had a good time. No crazy huge laughter or applause breaks in this first show, but the laughs that I did get came at a good steady rhythm which was really good. At the end of the show I met some guys from a local news station, so I might have some exciting news there soon.

The second show, wow, they did not want to laugh for such a long time! I was up there a good 15 mins before the entire audience was on my side and enjoying the show. Looking into some of the faces in the audience, it was clear they just weren’t getting it or enjoying themselves. How awesome it was though to look back on those same faces near the end of the set and see them starting to open up and laugh. I mean, you guys are paying for the show, its to your benefit to enjoy yourselves. Sometimes you have to tell the audience that…

This is going to be some week for comedy. Tomorrow I’ve got the Comedy Undergrounds “Best of Seattle” comedy showcase. It’s on during the Oscars; hopefully we still have an audience. Monday and Tuesday are open mics, Wednesday I have a gig in Stanwood, WA, and Thursday I’m back in downtown Seattle. Lots of comedy, lots of blog entries.

Still monitoring the issue at work, have to get back to that…

March Madness 1 – Laughs Open Mic

So I’m going to be doing something new for my blog this month. I’m going to blog after each one of my performances this month. EVERY one, no matter how tired or cranky or amazing I feel, I will put some words down here. I know there are some people that actually read this and will be fun to let you know what I’m working on, especially those that don’t live in Seattle. Part of this is also just an attempt to get me to write here more. If anything it will be a nice, month-in-the-life snapshot of my comedy experiences that I can look back on and say, “hey, remember when I was doing all that?”

So for tonight, to start off the month, I hit up the open mic at Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland. This is definitely what most people would consider my “home club.” I work the weekends there pretty regularly, as a host and feature, and am at their open mic basically every week. Their open mic has been drawing around 40-50 audience members (non comics) a week, which is awesome. Sometimes you get people at the shows that have seen me a couple times and are able to offer some good feedback on the new jokes they liked, which can be fun depending on how they offer it up to you.

I didn’t know what I was going to go do on stage tonight. I’m tired after being awake 18 hours yesterday and a full day’s worth of work today. I would say my energy was about 50% going into this performance. Good combo, tired and unprepared. I took a look at my little black notebook and there were some notes in there about some improvements to a joke that I’ve already told a dozen times, about how I bought myself a Star Wars jacket for myself for Christmas. The new tags were drummed up the week before at the Columbia Winery over in Woodinville, where I did a gig with a great local comedian, Drew Barth. The note said 3 different ideas one of which was “one jacket was a Boba Fett costume with a zip up hood that covered your entire face with a Boba Fett mask, but you have to draw the line somewhere.” So this is where I tried to take the joke. More storyish and more about the honest reactions I was having while buying this jacket.

I didn’t like the results too much, although I haven’t watched the tape yet so it could have been better than it felt. I just felt like I was taking a perfectly good joke with good punches and muddying it up a bit. But it’s the direction that I want explore more (honest stories), as I feel it lets the character that I’m cultivating on stage to come out. It also sounds way more conversational/performing then straight “setup-punch” style comedy, which I also like. I think it’s definitely something I want to try a lot more, each time trying to tease out more story. I just need to make sure that there are still jokes in there and the big punches still hit just as hard.

Before leaving the club, I got a letter of recommendation from the owner, Dave, to try and get my foot in the door of some clubs in Arizona before this year is over. I’ll be making some copies and drafting some letters to send out over the next few weeks to try and set something up in Scottsdale or Tucson, both places where I have free lodgings :). It also looks like I’ll be featuring on Saturday at Laughs too, filling in for a comic. So that is some paid weekend work and I get to work with Whitney Cummings for the night.

Now I’ll try to catch up on some sleep and debate whether I’ll hit up the open mic at Giggles on Thursday or just go eat Puerto Rican food. And no, I can’t do both…