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.
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!