Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I Violated the Protocol

Let me set the scene:

Awhile back, I'm at a dive bar in the Mission. I walk in with a group of friends, and the first thing I see as my eyes adjust to the darkness is two enormous dogs wrestling on the floor.

Typical dive bar in the Mish. You know.

There is a third dog, "Bandit," who is fetching a beer coaster thrown by patrons of the establishment. She's good, too-- she catches the coaster in mid-air, brings it back, and then stares at it, waiting for it to be thrown again. She's 100% focused on the coaster. What a good dog!

I love dogs, so I start to throw the coaster for her. The first time, she runs and catches it, brings it back. I throw it again, she brings it back. We're playing. We're having fun! Right?

Then I reach for the coaster again, somewhat absent-mindedly, and all of a sudden, Bandit bites my hand. It shocked me more than it hurt.

I'm looking at my hand to assess the damage, when a guy at the bar says, "she'll do that. You don't want to grab it til she's ready."

"Oh," I say. "Sorry."

Apparently this is Bandit's owner. He's wearing extra long shorts, a wife beater, a Yankees hat and a not insignificant amount of tattoo ink. He looked like a cross between Kevin Federline and a Sharpie. This look is known in the Mission as "totally normal."

Fortunately, Bandit didn't break the skin. It was just a nip, Bandit's way of letting me know, "hey, I wasn't ready. Pay attention."

"It's not like she's got rabies or nothin," chimes in another guy at the bar.

Of course not, I wasn't worried about that. Bringing a rabid dog into a bar would be irresponsible. Everyone knows that.

The friend who brought me to this particular establishment was sympathetic, but also kindly explained to me what must have happened.

"I guess you violated the protocol," she said.

What is this, a United Nations meeting? Were we following Robert's Rules of Order?

"Mr. Chairman, I'd like to introduce a motion that I be allowed to throw a beer coaster for a dog in a bar. Second? All in favor? Opposed? The motion is carried."

I should have known, actually. If I had been paying closer attention, I would have noticed that Bandit really did have a protocol. She would retrieve the coaster, then fiddle with it a bit at your feet before dropping it and taking a step back to signal that, hey, human, time for you to throw it again.

I wasn't paying attention, so I missed the signal. Thus, the nip on the hand. My bad.

I mean sure, it would have been nice if K-Fed/Sharpie had shown a little interest in my well-being. But hey, I did violate the protocol.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Coffee and a Muffin; Is That Too Much to Ask?

So I'm running to work the other day, and I stop off at my neighborhood grocery store to get breakfast. I don't have any cash, and they take plastic.

I grab coffee and a muffin and head for the check stand. I swipe my card.

"May I see your card, please?" the cashier asks.

I hand him my card.

"May I see your driver's license?"

Come now. Is this really necessary? I'm buying COFFEE. And a MUFFIN. I'm starting to think this cashier is intent on having the Employee of the Month award renamed in his honor (which would make it the "DAVID").

But fine. Fine. I just want to get my breakfast and get to work.

"This doesn't look like you," he says.

Okay, how am I supposed to respond to that? I haven't had my coffee yet. He sounded amiable enough though, so I say, "yeah well, it's pretty close though, isn't it?" I try to lighten the mood with a little humor. Ha ha! Joking. That's what I do.

You get that, right? It's not like I was at airport security, and someone asked me if I had any explosives and I said, "why, what do you need?" That would be bad.

I was just being friendly, I thought. Breezy! But I guess David is not feeling that. He calls Enrique over.

Enrique is the Manager. At least I am assuming so, because he has a little swagger, and he has keys. David shows Enrique my license and my credit card. He's hanging onto to both of them, and it's making me nervous. I went into the grocery store, and now I feel like I'm trying to sneak through Customs.

"Yeah, this doesn't look like you," says Enrique. David shifts his head just slightly, I think to signal his vindication.

"Yeah, well, I used to have hair. That's an old picture," I say. I'm being serious now. Clearly, this was not a good time for me to be testing out material.

While they are looking at my card and license, the charge goes through, and I sign the receipt. David takes the receipt.

"These signatures don't match either," says David. Criminy.

"Yes, well, normally I don't sign my name on a desk the size of a sandwich with a pen on a 2-inch long chain."

Yes. Yes, I was starting to lose my patience. Did I mention that I hadn't had my coffee?

"Look, if the card was stolen, I wouldn't be here using it to buy coffee and a bran muffin."

Apparently Enrique is swayed by this. Besides, I think he also wants to let David know who the decision maker is around there. (Hint: not David. Not me.)

"Are you a regular customer?"

Regular. Heh. "I will be after I eat that bran muffin," I reply.

Oof, that was bad. Now I'm glad they're not getting my jokes. I make a mental note to write that down anyway.

Finally Enrique rubs his chin, then gives David the nod and swaggers off to hold court at another check stand.

David surrenders my card and license. "Thanks for shopping with us."

From now on, whenever I get a new credit card, I'm not going to sign it at home. I'm going to wait, and then sign it at the grocery store, with their crappy pen on their crappy little desk.

Oh, maybe I can use one of my headshots on my next driver's license! Then David will say, "you look like you're trying to be funny." Perfect.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My Headshots Suck

Well, that seems to be the prevailing opinion, concisely stated.

I appreciate all of the feedback, and um, candor. It was nice that so many of you made sure to say nice things like, "I'm sure you're a good looking guy, but..." to preface your comments. That helped to soften the blow.

Many of you asked, "can't we see more choices?" Well, possibly. The implication seems to be that it's simply not possible that out of 50+ shots, these two were the best. Well, I think they were, and I don't even think it was a particularly close call. I may post a few of the other ones, if only to illustrate a) how bad most of the other photos were, and b) how good these two were by comparison.

I guess the conclusion is, if you use a cheap photographer, you will get what you pay for. Maybe a second conclusion is that the next time I get a paid gig, I should use the money for new headshots by a better photographer.

You live and learn.

This week is less busy than last, thank God. So far I only have one show booked this week, on Friday, which is fine with me.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Results are In, and the Winner Is...


Thanks to the many of you who offered an opinion about my headshots. 40 comments (so far) is a lot for me! And to think, all I had to do was ask you to judge me.

Without further ado, here are the very unscientific results:

The clear winner...

"None of the Above, Try Again."

Some of the highlights:

Kirin said...

Is it ok for a comic to have a headshot where you look attrative? I mean just because you are a comic, must you have a goofy photo?(I am being sincere, not snotty. don't take any offense. I mean I implied you could be attractive;)

Well, I didn't know I had a goofy photo. But I think it's appropriate that a comedian who is only funny-ish would have a headshot that says, "hey, he could be attractive."

Anon 2:15 said...

Well..since you asked...I never have cared much for #1 since you put it up. I agree with looks "scowly". #2 is kinda cute but goofy but at least better than the scowl. I'm just sayin is all...
Loopy said...

I definitely like #1 better -- stronger personality. The thought bubble I imagine over your head is, "Hmm ..." as if you're mulling over something someone's just said to you while you keep intense eye contact. If it's a scowl, it's one of an intelligent person's concentration; not unfriendly. But I don't get the bemusement aspect, though. ;o)
Now we're getting somewhere! This is more along the lines of what I saw in #1.

k's sis said...

i like them both....but when i make the face you're making in the first one,it gives me a headache. you look more comfortable in the 2nd one! = )
Hard to disregard k's, sis! I'm actually pretty comfortable with both faces, but I don't want to give anyone a headache. I don't really want to hear, "Look, honey! It's the comedian that gave me a migraine!"

Changeseeker said...

You're not going to like this, Ish, and frankly, I have no idea what makes for a good commedic head shot and these are clearly professional quality, but I don't think either one is what you want.

Oof. And these two were the best ones. Out of fifty! Look away, I'm hideous!

riseyp said...

I want more to choose from!

I do too, but I paid $220 for these headshots, which is cheap. Out of fifty photos, these were the best ones. (There weren't even that many contenders.) I guess you get what you pay for.

haji-o-matic said...

try again

Candor, thy name is, apparently, haji-o-matic.

Anonymous 4:57am said...

Hi,I don't really care for either of those shots either.. you do look kind of "mean" in the first shot, and the other one makes me think you just got a wedgie...

Ha-ha! Funny story about that...

Anonymous 7:56am said...

#1 makes you look like you're going to kill someone in a cabin in the woods.
#2 makes you look like someone just surprised you by sticking something up your ass.
Do we have any other choices?

As I said above, sadly, for now, these are easily the best two. #2 was the one where the photographer said, "Now, make a face like I just stuck something up your ass," so it's good to know that that came across.

kim e said...

In the first pic, it looks like you're saying, 'wtf are you talking about, idiot?'. The second one is a little too clowny. Too obvious for a comedian. Sorry.

Serrephim said...

It depends on what you're going for. The first one screams "I'm hot and fuckable" The 2nd suggests you're a comedian. Is there a 3rd option combining the two?
No, but something tells me there will be...

Anonymous 10:27 said...

How about having your eyebrows land somewhere between sorta menacing and could be a doofus? In the first photo, you look like a bouncer. In the second, you appear scared of the camera. However, the composition and clarity and of the latter are vastly superior. I vote for back to the drawing board.

Okay then! How about having your comment land somewhere between candid and abrasive? (I kid.)

I think we're done here. (I hate it when my mom posts anonymously.)

So the conclusion is: None of the above, but if we had to pick one, it would be #1. But try again.

Thanks to everyone who came by! The polls are now closed.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

What do you think of the headshot?

I had headshots taken a couple weeks ago. Out of 50 or so pictures, I came down to two I really liked, one of which is to the right, as well as below.

Image hosted by
Ish #1: Bemused, wry, sarcastic.

Some people think I appear to be scowling in this photo. I'm not, really. It's more a look of bemusement, with a hint of a smile; like I just made some witty, sarcastic remark. At least that's what I see.

The other one (below), has more of a sense of whimsy, I think. Maybe I seem a little more likeable or approachable. But on the other hand, maybe it doesn't make as strong an impression as the other one.

Image hosted by
Ish #2: Whimsical, approachable

Which one do you prefer?

The Night After the Night After

Just to provide some closure, I had another show last night, and it went really well. I got really good feedback from the audience, as well as from other comedians.

The show was at a brew-pub in the 'burbs. The audience was great, very into the show, very attentive and enthusiastic. I couldn't ask for more. (Except maybe to get paid enough to cover my transportation, but whatever.) I had a guy taping my show, and I think that will turn out really well.

The headliner was a long-time comedy vet from Sacramento. He was fun to watch. His act is totally clean. He doesn't do a lot of club shows, but he gets a lot of private gigs-- banquets, church groups, that sort of thing. He had a lot of energy, he really seemed to enjoy himself, and the audience felt that. He tore it up. I hope I'm doing that 20 years into my comedy career. (Not so much the working a brew-pub in the 'burbs, but definitely the tearing it up and enjoying myself.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Sleepless Night After

I couldn't sleep last night. The Crap Set kept coming back to me in bits and pieces. I've heard that's the way post-traumatic stress disorder is.

As they say in the world of comedy, I ate it last night. I bombed. Probably the worst response I have had from an audience, ever.

Right out of the gate, the audience didn't get my opening bit. They were mostly tourists, and the bit required at least a tiny bit of familiarity with San Francisco. Apparently, they did not have that. Not their fault-- my fault. That first punch line is so important! It gets the momentum started. Or not. If there's no momentum, there's inertia. It gets progressively more difficult to get laughs after that. The tags on the joke worked, but they couldn't overcome the inertia that began to settle in after that first punch line.

The next bit, close to nothing. I attribute that to the inertia. And then, for some reason, I decided to do a tag that I had pretty much abandoned. Why, oh why? If I had thought that it was going to turn it all around for me, I was wrong. I hadn't planned on doing it. I guess I figured, well, nothing else is working, let's throw this out there.

My set was only 5 minutes (thank God!), so I'm already getting the light. I do my final bit, and it's a little better, but not much. I exit the stage to tepid applause.

I just listened to it again. (I tape almost all my sets. Sometimes I even listen to them.) There were laughs, yes, but for the most part, it was as bad as I remembered it. Bad enough that afterward, the host gave me one of those patronizing man-hugs-- the kind that says, "you'll get 'em next time, slugger."

And then he asks me, "were you working out new stuff up there?"


No. No, I wasn't. Those were all jokes that have worked elsewhere.

Oh I almost forgot! To start my set, the host announces me, then as I'm walking on stage, he accidentally turns off the microphone. So for an awkward beat or two, he's standing there turning the mike back on, and I'm just standing there watching him. In hindsight, an omen.

If I had it to do over again, I would have abandoned my material all together, and I would have called the audience on their lack of response. Not in a mean way, but just to let them know that I know they aren't digging my act.

Everyone, even the best comedians, eats it occasionally. That's just part of the game. It happened, it sucked, but I lived through it, and I will be okay.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Upon further review...

Blogging from a fetal position is difficult. Which is why I am, temporarily, sitting at a desk.

I did a set at the club where I've wanted to get in. I had a crap set.

Crap set, Ish? You? Say it ain't so!

(Sigh) Yes, annoying italicized voice, I had a crap set. How do I define crap set? Well.

I was first. Meaning, the MC did his time, then me. Those are rough spots, because the audience is completely cold. That's your job-- to get the audience rolling a little bit. Those are tough spots for getting laughs, but you play your role. Sometimes, you kill. Sometimes... not so much.

Tonight was decisively in the latter category. The audience did not warm to me. Don't know why, exactly. Maybe it was me, maybe it was them. Whatever. Thus the fetal position.

It was humbling.

I have another show tomorrow.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Performing vs. Writing, Part 2

So if you read my previous post (and judging from the number of comments, you didn't), you know that I recently concluded that I need to perform a little less so that I have more time to write (and do laundry).

Well, all of 72 hours later, and here is what my schedule looks like:

Tonight - class
Tuesday - show
Wednesday - show
Thursday - class
Friday - show
Saturday - show

So what happened to all that nice talk of balance?

Well, a couple of things. For one, I went to check out a new class last Thursday, and I liked it, so I decided to take it. Then today, I got booked on the Tuesday showcase at a club I've wanted to get into, so I was happy about that.

I'll shoot for balance next week.

I'm sending my laundry out.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Performing vs. Writing


I've been getting up a lot lately. Between classes, shows and stalking bookers whom I want to book me, I am out about six evenings a week.

And I love it. I love doing the shows, talking shop (and talking shit) with my fellow comedians. So I rarely turn down an opportunity to perform. For the most part, if I can do it, I will do it.

The thing is, that leaves precious little time for writing (to say nothing of reading or watching TV). And I need to write. I need to develop new material, so that my shows don't get stale.

Generally speaking, I believe that the more shows I do, the better I get. Or to be more precise, the better my performances get.

At the same time, I need to write in order to generate new material. The more I write, the better my material gets. (And the more material I have.) A former "Daily Show" writer once told me, "it's never wrong to write."

So might I be performing too much? Do I need to spend more time writing?

(Cue "Sex and the City"-style close-up of computer monitor as I type)

What's the proper balance between writing and performing?

I think I have enough opportunities to perform that I can be a little selective. I can let some of them go by, for the sake of having some time to write new material, and just having a life with a little more balance.

I also need to do laundry.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Saying Goodbye to Eli

Last Friday, a member of my extended comedy family was killed in a motorcycle accident.

I didn't know Eli very well. Our paths crossed when I was just starting out. He was encouraging, and an inspiring performer. He was absolutely authentic, and an incredible presence on stage. Eli was a fearless performer-- he would just put himself out there. He was a very physical comedian, and he could hold the stage for what seemed like an eternity-- without saying a word. He had such an original and infectious personality. Among our circle, many of his expressions-- Eli-ism's-- became part of our collective vernacular. (That one's true.)

Saturday night there was a show in which many of his friends performed. Everyone paid tribute in some small way in their set. One of Eli's best friends did only Eli's material. Amazing. It was sad, yes, but also a celebration. There was a lot of laughter.

You live long enough, this sort of thing happens with unfortunate regularity. People in your life die before their time. You know it will happen again, but it always comes as a shock. I cannot make sense of it. I cannot recognize any grand plan that this could be a part of.

As always, it's a reminder that it could be you, me or anyone, anytime. It's a reminder not to leave things unsaid or undone, because you never know when they may have to stay that way. It's a reminder that every day we have is a gift, and that once it's gone, it's gone.

I ran in a race on Sunday. As I neared the finish line, I saw someone holding up a big sign that said, "Go Eli!"

Go, if you must. But we wish you didn't have to.