Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Emotional Connection

In my comedy class recently (yes, there are classes, and yes, they work), I got feedback about being more emotionally connected to my material. Not that I need to be more emotional about the material I have, but that I need to work on material that I am emotionally connected to. I don't know if that sounds hard or not, but it's hard for me.

A lot of my stuff lacks that emotional quality-- I have clever observations, and stuff that people enjoy and find amusing. I can write a good joke, but I don't have strong emotions about it.

Forget about being funny, I have trouble writing with any passion at all! And what there is that I am passionate about, I'm either afraid to share with a wider audience, worried about the collateral damage (such as hurting a friend or relative), or I am not yet far enough from to find what's funny in it.

It's a fine line, between being honest and emotionally connected, and trying to find humor in something that you still haven't processed. If you go to open mikes frequently enough, eventually you will see someone trying to work out a bit, and ending up on the wrong side of that line.

It's okay if it's planned and intentional, but then it's more of a monologue, Spalding Gray-type stuff. When it's unintentional, it can be awkward, even painful.

As a comedian, as a general rule, it's not a good thing when the audience is afraid of you, or wants to give you a hug.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

China has us by the short ones

China has finally decided to stop pegging their currency to the dollar. For years, China has undervalued the Yuan, making Chinese goods cheap. So our trade deficit with China is gigantic. China is sitting on a huge pile of US Dollars. What do they do with it? They loan it to us. They buy our debt, which finances our deficit spending, and helps keep interest rates low, which supports values in the housing market, which in turn has supported consumer spending, which has stimulated the economy. (We don't really put away any savings in the US. We count on the unrealized appreciation of our homes, which we then borrow against so we can buy jet skis.)

"Okay," you say. "What's your point?"

China has us by the short ones. We depend on China economically to a degree that I doubt most people realize. If we got into a trade dispute with China, we would feel the pain and quickly. Wal-Mart would be empty without Chinese goods. I think consumers would soon freak out.

150 years ago, the west exploited China by getting them hooked on opium. Now they've got us hooked, except we're hooked on cheap patio furniture and golf shirts. And jet skis.

Do Chinese people have little tags in their clothes that say, "Made here?"

If I ever met the inventor of pop-up ads, I would kick him in the groin. Unless she were a woman, in which case... no, still a kick to the groin.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's one of those probability things, like, "if you drop a piece of buttered toast, there's a 95% chance that it will land butter side down." When you go to the gym, no matter how many people are there, no matter how many lockers there are, there is a 95% chance you will end up right next to someone who is changing at the same time.

That happened to me today, and the neighbor in question was a very large person. Not fat. Well, actually, yes, fat. But not just fat, massive. He was strolling back from his shower as I was changing. I picked up the pace a little.

He moved in front of his locker (and mine), and continued to dry himself. And dry himself. Clearly, this was a fairly involved project. And why wouldn't it be? There was a lot to dry, some of it remote, rugged terrain. He seemed to have trouble reaching his own private Baluchistan. His breathing was a little bit labored and he was sweating. He paused to take a bump off his inhaler.

By this time I was going full throttle. I was getting claustrophobic, with this mass of pink flesh threatening to envelope me. I pulled on my shirt, forgetting to unbutton the collar. I nearly ripped off the button. I pulled on my shoes from a standing position, deciding that I was better off to risk losing my balance than to endure the certain discomfort of sitting with my head 6 inches from Baluchistan.

I jammed my stuff into my bag as though I were fleeing a fast-moving wildfire, or a volcanic eruption. (There's no time for your cell phone! Just leave it! Move! Move!) I got out of there, wondering just how many lockers, and how few gym members there would need to be to reduce the odds of close encounters.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I planned to look all hip and young today. I got this sweet new shirt. I wore it with khaki pants, and my oh-so-hip-to-it Merrill shoes (brown).

I'm thinking, perfect, the shirt has khaki which reads well with the pants, and a darker color which goes with the shoes. All systems go.

It looked excellent in the mirror in the early morning hours. When I finally caught sight of myself in broad daylight, I was able to see that the khaki color of my shirt and my khaki pants are totally different. The pants have a slightly pink-ish hue, while the shirt's khaki is more green. My shoes, too, are more of a greenish brown than reddish. (They are much cooler looking than I am making them sound.)

Is it hip-looking to clash, but just slightly? I am asking myself: what would Mary-Kate Olsen think of this ensemble?

The Ongoing Search for My Comedic Personality

A big part of what makes a comedian successful is finding and knowing yourself. I read somewhere that Jerry Seinfeld didn't really know his comedic personality until he'd been in the business for 6 years.

So far, not that much of my personality has made it into my material. There are bits here and there, but I am clearly not there yet. I'm still taking baby steps, and I am envious of my colleagues/classmates who seem to be more adept/willing to reveal themselves onstage.

Another transition that people sometimes talk about is going from talking about what you think other people will find funny to what YOU find funny, and then from what you find funny to just what you care about. (That is, there may be things you find funny, and they might kill, but you abandon them because you don't really care about them.)

Where am I? I am still working with what other people find funny. Why? I love the applause, and I fear bombing. In that I am probably like a lot of other comedians. (Right? Just me? Okay.)

Why do I not work more with what I find funny, and what I care about? Again, fear-- of bombing, of not being accepted, of exposing my vulnerabilities and flaws. But I know, at least intellectually, that that is where comedy really takes off. Eventually, I will take a deep breath and make the plunge.

Hey, aren't you... someone?

I am a comedian. Not a great comedian, not accomplished. But I aspire to be, if not great, then at least pretty damn good. If not "Robin Williams on Broadway" funny, then at least "that guy from the Sprite commercial" funny. My role model is Larry David, pre-Curb Your Enthusiasm. He was not that successful as a stand-up comedian, but he was very successful and widely respected as a comedy writer. Yet he could go anywhere and not be recognized.

So you may ask: "just what is this going to be about?" I don't know. It will be about my journey as a comedian and writer. It will delve into my personal life, at least a little. It will probably be a home for some of my writing.

And if you read it, then someday you will be able to say, "see that guy on TV? The one holding the Sprite?"