Thursday, December 15, 2005

My new hero: Patton Oswalt

A comedian friend of mine sent me this link to an interview with Patton Oswalt. For those of you who may not know, he is a comedian probably best known for playing a supporting role on the TV show "King of Queens." He also spent some of his formative years as a comedian in San Francisco.

Image hosted by

Here's the link, followed by some of the highlights.

You can't go up and hate the audience, but you also can't go up and need the audience. It's gotta be just this -- you better be having fun. "“I'm so happy to be up here. So happy you guys came out. But I'm gonna do what I do. And you can come along. Or not. But if you don't come along, it's all the same to me, 'cause I'm happy to be up here period.

I had an opportunity to live this observation last night. I did a show at a Filippino restaurant. This one table of people just talked non-stop right through my set. I tried a couple of different times to get them to stop, to no avail. One guy talked (loudly) on his cell phone for most of my set. But you know what? I still had fun. They became part of my set. They weren't being mean, just inconsiderate and clueless. I had fun with them, for the benefit of the rest of the audience. I would have preferred they listen, but it's okay. I still had a good time.


I think George Carlin, there's a quote from him that's like, "I'm here for me, and you're here for me. No one's here for you."


I hope all of you reading this are granted the gift I was given in the summer of '92 -- watching everything you believe to be true un-fucking-proven right before your eyes. I hope you get to face a blank page and no way back. There's nothing more liberating, nothing more instantly evolving than to be proven wrong.


isoS: So you were still trying to form your identity? How long did that take, to really figure out who you were on stage?

PO: Well once I moved to San Francisco, which was '92, I'd been doing it for four years at that point, and it took me another three years to really get comfortable. So it took about seven years to get over -- I just openly aped the people I was gonna ape until I got over it. It's like the cure for heroin being more heroin. So I was like, Fuck it, I'll just do it 'til I was like, okay, enough, I got my own thing now.

Seven years! I've heard that Seinfeld said the same thing. I'm at 2 years and counting. I'm getting more comfortable on stage, and getting more comfortable with being myself, but that's a process. I see others do it, and I know I do it too-- we write jokes and tell them in the styles of comedians we admire. I think the biggest reason for this is because we are just too damn scared to really be ourselves, to put ourselves out there that far. It's probably just as well that you don't realize how far you have to go until you look back. It would probably be demoralizing.


Yeah, I'm always hopeful. I mean, it just takes -- If Louis C.K.'s show is a success, then they're gonna say, "Well where did that come from? We want more of that." And they'll go looking in places like the UCB Theatre and the M Bar and Largo. They'll go looking there, and they'll see -- God, I mean, I hate to sound like a sleazy producer, but there are people there that are ready to be given shows. It baffles me to see the kind of stuff that for the most part is being picked for Comedy Central and even Spike and networks. It's like, if you want a show, it's just sitting there! And not even raw and needing to be developed -- well formed, well thought-out, ready. Hire the fucking cameras, hire a staff and shoot this goddamned thing, it's ready to go. It drives me crazy.

But I'd also love to -- there are so many comedians that are doing the UCB every week that have had zero exposure that are so fucking funny I can't believe it -- and I'd love to do a show where it's me and some people that I know can draw, but we're not in the show, and we each get to bring up someone that we're excited about and say, "Folks, I'm really glad you came out, I'm glad you're fans, you're a fun crowd, but this is someone that I really like that I want you to be able to see and this is his first time on TV and here we go." And just cut that show together. It's their first time, and we're fans, and we want to bring them to you.

There it is, another free plug for the UCB. It's true, though. I have never been doing stand-up, and been on a show with someone where I said, "oh, that guy's going to make it big." But there are a solid 5-10 or more people at UCB who can and will have major roles on TV shows.

Plus, how cool would it be to have a big-time comedian pick you out and say, "folks, I really like this guy, and I want you to see him."

Got another show tonight, last one before Christmas. Then nothing until New Year's Eve. Whee!

PS- I didn't get the Las Vegas Festival. Not that I expected too. But I am joining an improv group, so I'm excited about that!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I'm Alive

I have been a very bad blogger the last week or so. So I'll catch you up on recent events.

Last Thursday night I had a gig in Tiburon at a restaurant/bar. My parents were in attendance, along with a certain young lady friend of mine. The audience was tough - very quiet crowd. There was this one white guy with dreadlocks who didn't crack a smile. Are those things correlated? White-guy-dreadlocks and no sense of humor? Maybe it was just this one guy. Anyway.

I didn't have a great set, but it wasn't terrible either. I didn't find too much fault with myself, so I felt pretty good afterwards. Put it this way: I don't think my parents were cringing much. They've seen me a half dozen times or so, and they've yet to see me have a truly *good* set. It would be nice if that would happen.

Friday night I had a show for a church group in Santa Cruz. Yes, a church group. It was a young adults group, so ages ranged from 18-35. Politics ranged from right to slightly more right, which in Santa Cruz, puts you on the fringes of society. The minister told me that not only did I have to be "clean," I had to be extra "clean," because the head minister was there. I was a little worried about this because, while I don't do a lot of dirty material, I have some bits that at least involve some racy subject matter. And I didn't want to repeat an experience I'd had before, which was launching a bit, giving the setup, and midway through it, realizing I couldn't tell the punch to this crowd. Not good times.


I figured out my "clean" set, and it went very well. They were a very responsive audience, and appreciative. I had a great time. I was a little nervous, though, because ahem, I tend to pepper my daily speech with terms that would offend this crowd. You know, words like, "damn," "ass," or "Democrat." So I was looking out at the crowd thinking to myself, "did I just say shit? Did I? Is he looking at me funny? What did I say? Did I just curse?" Well, I managed to avoid offending, and they were very receptive. And... I got paid. Woot-woot! Okay, so it was only $50 bucks, but that's better than nothing.

On the way back to SF from the gig, my friend Tom and I were talking about the greatness of Richard Pryor. I even said, "I think a lot of people think he's already dead."

Next morning, I find out Richard Pryor has passed away. So Tom and I aren't going to talk about our comedy idols anymore. The next drive we take together, we will talk at length about the greatness that is Pauly Shore.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Thanks for coming to the show. Both of you.

I did a show the other night where there were 6 comedians and four people in the audience. It's usually optimal, in this business, if there are more audiences members than comedians. But hey, that doesn't always happen, and because I am a professional, I went out and did a show.

But it's weird with that few people. The dynamic is definitely different. In a bigger group, more people will laugh, and then others laugh along. With such a small number, you might only make 1-2 people laugh, and that's not enough to create momentum to bring the others along. If anything, it works in reverse. There's not the same anonymity in the audience, so everyone can see what the other people find funny. People can be self-conscious about what they laugh at.

Plus, in such a small group, audience members are more likely to get, um, conversational. Sometimes I will talk to people in the audience, ask them a question-- where are you from, do you have kids, can I have some money-- you know. And in the small setting, people are far more likely to ask me questions back. Not their fault - to be fair, that's the risk you take when you ask questions. But sometimes people keep going-- they keep on asking me questions. "Where are you from? Do you have kids? Do you live in the city?" Sometimes it's a little jarring, but then the whole experience, performing for a tiny audience, is a little that way.

My gig for the high school kids was cancelled. Apparently a member of the group saw another one of my shows and decided that we (me and one of my friends) "were not a good fit for their event." And I already got the grommits in my earlobes! Oh well...

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Check-In

I did an improv workshop over the weekend with Seth Morris from the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre. It was really great. at first I was a little nervous-- I wanted to be good, you know? I didn't really know anyone else in the workshop, and I didn't want them to think I sucked. So I was a little hesitant, a little bit in my head, but eventually kind of settled down and had a lot of fun.

Busy week this week! Got a show Wednesday night in SF, Thursday night in Tiburon, and Friday night in Santa Cruz. I am going to try to hand-off my usual gig hosting an open mic on Saturday.

I have got a couple of non-standup, non-blog writing projects that need a nudge, so I am going to attend to those projects to the probable detriment of my standup material and my blog. (Even though I am the only one who reads it, I think.)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I auditioned for the Las Vegas comedy festival yesterday. They are watching several hundred comedians in order to pick about 30, so the odds aren't that great. Better still, I traveled about an hour to do a three minute set, at 12 noon, in front of a bunch of other comedians who I am competing with. Hi, welcome to the open audition!

Actually, I wasn't bad. I had a pretty good set. It's hard to tell-- who knows what they're looking for. And I think they can see through the fact that it's noon, and the audience isn't exactly warm. I'll find out in a couple of weeks. If I get it, I'll announce it. If I don't, well....

I've got a few shows coming up, and this is a tough time of year to try to get people to come to shows. The week before Thanksgiving people are either bracing for visitors or planning to travel, so they stay home in droves. The holiday weekend itself, not that many people around. And now, this in between period, people have holiday parties, relatives visiting and shopping to do. Plus, the weather can be foul, which can have a major impact on whether or not you get an audience.

Does it sound like I'm bracing to do a few shows for empty chairs? Yeah, I guess I am. But I will still bring the funny. Oh yes I will. Those chairs will go home thinking, "man, that show was awesome. I just wish we weren't inanimate objects!" The curtains will be like, "dude, that one thing you said about cell phones? That totally sounds like a friend of mine. That cracked me up!"

I think my material plays really well with furnishings.

I'm doing a show for some high school holiday party. I'm really gonna try to understand these kids, gonna try to get in their world. So tomorrow I'm going to get a tongue bolt and a tattoo.

I asked my sister what kind of tattoo I should get. You know, what could I get that would say, hey, this is who I am, this is what I'm about.

She thought about it for a minute and then said, "maybe you should get a tattoo of hair. On your head."

Ah, family!