Talking Shop

Saturday January 22nd, 2011 – Somewhere At Sea

No shows tonight, plus it was a sea day. That means no port to wander and explore. I’m stuck aboard ship all day and all night with nothing to do and nowhere to be. That can get long and lonely without a plan of action. Laying around like a beached whale only sounds fun in theory. After about an hour it gets to be unbridled torture. Structure is important.

One thing I’ve been pretty good at out here is finding something productive to do when I have down time. I’ve made spectacular progress in laying the foundation of projects I’ve been meaning to do for years, and it feels great. If anyone asked for tangible proof of what I’ve done for the past six months, I’d be able to print off a copy and display it with pride.

Today I spent a few hours bouncing ideas around with the other comic Mark Hawkins. I really caught a break working with Mark, as he’s a former cruise director and has worked for Carnival for a dozen years. He’s been really helpful at removing the mystery of how to work these audiences, and I learned a lot hanging out today. That doesn’t happen often.

In the old days, there were quite a few opportunities to talk shop with other comics. The clubs used to be a place to hang out, and comics were there every night they were in town doing just that. We’d go up and do sets, and most people watched each other and knew all their jokes as well or better than the person doing it. It was a great way to learn the craft.

Road trips were another way to do it. In a four or five hour drive, there’s a lot of time to go over lines, premises, concepts and ideas and trade thoughts. Sometimes another comic could add exactly the right word or idea and make an incomplete thought ready for stage.

It didn’t work with every comic, as some were just in it for the booze and women. They didn’t really care about making their act better, they had other priorities. Those of us who were in it for the comedy part were usually always up to exchange ideas and get better.

As time went on, those meetings stopped. Nobody hung at the clubs anymore, either we were out on the road performing or the club wasn’t a fun place to hang anymore. I missed it right away and have often tried to get writing sessions going, but it’s not an easy sell.

That’s why when Mark asked me to do it today I jumped at the chance. Our styles aren’t even close to being similar, but that’s ok. We went over each other’s unfinished ideas and the other person would comment on what they thought of them from a fresh perspective.

I was able to throw a couple of punch ups his way, and he’s going to try them this week. That’s the whole idea. I’m glad I could help. It works so well because we don’t touch any similar topics. Whatever lines I give him isn’t something I would ever do, and vice versa.

He also threw some great ideas my way about sports. Mark’s father is a big time sports writer in Detroit and covers the Tigers. He’s been around sports his whole life, but has no desire to do it on stage. This was a total win/win and worth every hour of work we put in.


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