The glorious Nina Storm had me on her Doors-named variety show and I don’t hate this tape I got.
Well, it’s the holidays, and it’s a hard time of the year to do comedy. It’s the time when all the best-of and who’s-next lists come out, and you might not be on those lists. It’s also when shows go on hiatus or just die off, as the hosts say, well, don’t we have something better to do on a Tuesday? You say to yourself, well, I went to that show ten times last year in hopes of being booked on it and that was time wasted. It’s also the time of year when you have to justify to your parents what you’re still doing in LA.
And then it’s Spring, when all the festivals write to say you didn’t qualify to fly yourself to a small city and do unpaid shows, but it’s only because they had SO many comics apply for SO few spots. And who decided you didn’t make the cut? A guy who sleeps on his friend’s couch and lives on burritos.
Some festivals you’ve been applying to for so long that other people have started comedy, done that festival, and quit comedy again, all while you’re still sending in your thirty bucks. You realize that one festival has taken three hundred dollars from you, and you could have just flown yourself to New York to do unpaid sets. You’re on a show with a guy whose whole set is about how he likes smoking pot and how dating is hard, and he’s done every comedy festival you haven’t done. It’s a hard time of year to be a comic then.
After that is Summer, when you might hit the road and do some gigs, really remind yourself what it is to do comedy for real people, not those sycophants and ass kissers back home, except for every show you get to, everyone’s at the tractor pull or the air show or they’re just wandering the streets on a clear, warm summer night, holding hands and sharing a bag of kettle corn, like regular people, instead of spending the night trapped inside a sweaty comedy club listening to some LA asshole who can’t even get into festivals. And that’s a hard time of the year to do comedy.
After that it’s Fall, when your friends who write for television are up for Important Awards, and they look so great in their red carpet outfits. The new shows start and you’re not on any of ’em, I mean sure, you take some comfort in the fact that the pilot you didn’t get cast for didn’t get picked up, but it’s time to get out to the new comedy shows to kiss up to the new bookers, who two years ago were open mikers you wouldn’t deign to speak to but now you’re their Instagram friends, until they stop booking those shows and you quietly unfollow them. It’s a hard time of year to be comic, then.
And then, of course- it’s the holidays.
After writing a smart-assed post about ways to deliver backhanded compliments to other comics, I went on the road for the week and got my own back. If you hang out long enough at the club, you’ll see people’s excitement levels drop precipitously. The people who really liked you will come talk to you about it immediately, and then the people who kind of liked it will say something, and at closing time people who didn’t really care for it will feel compelled to mention that they saw you or that they heard you were good.
I also got my favorites handed out in Lewiston, ID at MJ Barleyhoppers (yes, *that* MJ Barleyhoppers) : “I don’t know what their problem was, I thought you were hilarious”, and “Don’t worry, they’re too stupid to know how funny you were!”
BILL HICKS’ PRINCIPLES OF COMEDY
1. If you can be yourself on stage nobody else can be you and you have the law of supply and demand covered.
2. The act is something you fall back on if you can’t think of anything else to say.
3. Only do what you think is funny, never just what you think they will like, even though it’s not that funny to you.
4. Never ask them is this funny – you tell them this is funny.
5. You are not married to any of this shit – if something happens, taking you off on a tangent, NEVER go back and finish a bit, just move on.
6. NEVER ask the audience “How You Doing?” People who do that can’t think of an opening line. They came to see you to tell them how they’re doing, asking that stupid question up front just digs a whole. This is The Most Common Mistake made by performers. I want to leave as soon as they say that.
7. Write what entertains you. If you can’t be funny be interesting. You haven’t lost the crowd. Have something to say and then do it in a funny way.
8. I close my eyes and walk out there and that’s where I start, Honest.
9. Listen to what you are saying, ask yourself, “Why am I saying it and is it Necessary?” (This will filter all your material and cut the unnecessary words, economy of words)
10. Play to the top of the intelligence of the room. There aren’t any bad crowds, just wrong choices.
11. Remember this is the hardest thing there is to do. If you can do this you can do anything.
12. I love my cracker roots. Get to know your family, be friends with them.