Archive for February, 2011

The Ship Shank Redemption

February 28, 2011

Sunday February 27th, 2011 – Still Sailing

It’s like the Ship Shank Redemption – one more day and I’m free from these four walls that bind so tightly. I hope. I guess there’s always the possibility of an unexpected glitch, but as of now I’m scheduled to be home by this time tomorrow and I couldn’t be happier.

I tried to objectively answer what it is about these gigs I dislike so much, because all in all it was a tremendously upbeat experience. I’ve learned a lot, met some fantastic people and significantly improved myself as a standup comic in just a few short but hard months.

A year ago, I’d never been on a cruise ship in my life. Now, I’m a seasoned veteran who can’t wait to get off. What went wrong? I’m not sure if anything did. I just find myself in desperate need of some time off to work on other things and recharge my travel batteries.

These gigs are anything but easy. There are a lot of what seem like perks, but there are a lot more things that draw attention away from the fun stuff. For example, getting checked constantly from Immigration, Customs and airline security are a complete pain in the ass.

Having to get to ships on time in foreign countries is a constant source of stress that I’m still not used to. Landing in some outdated airport and waiting in a long line to have some Customs agent rifle through my luggage is not part of the job title of comedian. Or is it?

This kind of stuff goes with the territory, and if I don’t like it I don’t have to come back. The truth is I don’t like it even a little, but that’s not a reason to not come back. Money is the reason to keep coming back. Plain and simple. This is a gig to do for the paycheck.

For me, it’s also for the improvement possibilities. I put more hard work into my shows in these last few months than I have in ten years. I used the time at sea to watch and learn, and I’ve made tremendous strides on stage and off. It was hard work, but it sure paid off.

Still, I wanted to narrow down the exact cause of why these gigs are so painful and I’ve come up with the answer – it’s the cabins. That little room with (usually) no windows is a lot like what I imagine solitary confinement to be like in a penitentiary. It gets to a person, especially after time. The longer I’m out here, the lonelier those cabins become. It’s hell.

I hope they’ll have me back, because I definitely would do it again, but I’d have to be in a mental groove before I said yes and prepare myself to be out here again. This time I was a greenhorn and learning the ropes, and even though I did get stuff done it wasn’t enough.

I can’t be more thrilled to be going home tomorrow, but I’m not at all trashing anything about this experience, even the cabins. I got a chance to learn and experience and I didn’t burn a bridge or do anything stunningly stupid like I’ve been known to do in the past with situations I wasn’t fond of. I chose to hang in there and do my time, and I’m proud of my maturity in doing so. The old me might not have been so patient. Now, the smart thing to do is thank everyone for having me, not burn a bridge and go home and start work there.

A Texas Toast

February 27, 2011

Saturday February 26th, 2011 – Prowling The Gulf Of Mexico

This week is turning out to be the cruise to nowhere. We lost a day at sea because of fog at the port in Galveston, so that means we won’t be able to make it to any ports of call for the rest of the trip. I’d heard we were going to try for Cozumel, but that didn’t work out.

The passengers seem to be handing it extremely well. I haven’t seen anyone upset in the least, and they all had the opportunity to get off after the first night stuck in port and get a full refund if they chose. Those who’ve stayed are nice people who want to enjoy a cruise.

I have to admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how outgoing and friendly the majority of Texans have been since I’ve been based out of the Galveston port these last few weeks. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but drunk and dumb wouldn’t have surprised me in the least.

They’ve been anything but that, and I’m thrilled. Both the last two runs on the Conquest and now this one on the Ecstasy have been filled with friendly people who enjoy seeing a good show and aren’t afraid to tell you they had fun. I’d work for these people anytime.

I hardly ever worked Texas in the clubs over the years. I never had to. I had all the work I needed and more in the Midwest whenever I was there, and whenever I had radio jobs it wasn’t an issue because I had to stay near whatever towns I lived in, nowhere near Texas.

I used to work in El Paso, but it was never a hot bed for me. There are obviously a lot of Mexicans there, but they don’t beat down doors to come see gringos from Wisconsin they haven’t heard of and I can’t blame them for that. It’s all about who puts butts in the seats.

And therein lies the problem I’ve never been able to solve. It’s the $64,000 question for anyone who can answer it correctly, and actually way more than that. What does it take to draw crowds to see a live performer?  I’ve been searching for that answer since I started.

If there’s a crowd already there, I can go in and pull off a professional show more often than not. Getting them in there is a different story. I’ve tried all kinds of ways to fill seats including giving away free tickets, but the formula of what packs ‘em in is still a mystery.

My mistake was thinking it would be the one who had the best act. Ha! How stupid was I to think that? And who’s to decide what the ‘best’ act is? Everybody has an opinion, and what it usually boils down to most often is a popularity contest. Who does a crowd like?

I’m working this cruise with my friend ‘Just June’. Talk about someone who has what a crowd likes, it’s her. Wow. I don’t ever remember working with anyone with an ability to make crowds love her like she does. She just has that magic that attracts strangers to her.

People come up when we walk through the ship and give her hugs, ask for pictures and then gawk at me like I just sneezed on their children. I shrug it off. I’ve only got a day of shows to go and then I’m headed home. If I could jump off the ship and swim, I would.

Asleep At The Career

February 26, 2011

Friday February 25th, 2011 – Finally At Sea

One of the most difficult things to maintain on the road is a consistent sleep schedule. It wasn’t an issue when I started, because I was young and able to absorb punishment like a rented mule. I could and did pull all nighters frequently, and never thought twice about it.

Doing it two nights ago rocked my world. We had not one but two ‘Welcome Aboard’ shows to do last night, and I’ve never been asked to do that before. I only had to do a few minutes on each show, but I found myself yawning between jokes and ready to nod out.

I don’t ever remember that happening before, and I took immediate notice. I know I am physically tired from all the road work I’ve been doing lately, but it’s more than that. I am mentally exhausted also. I’ve been at this road thing my whole life without any significant break, added to the fact that I’m getting older and the result is I’m just plum tuckered out.

Not only that, it’s been a constant roller coaster of long drives and switching flights and less than healthy greasy road grub coupled with greasier cheap hotels with flimsy beds or worse yet, comedy condo couches. Even worse is trying to grab a couple hours of shuteye in the passenger seat of a car or on a plane. I don’t think humans were meant to do that.

I’ll admit, I’m not bulletproof and it’s finally getting to me. I fell asleep after the shows last night and woke up at 8:00. I panicked for several seconds, because I wasn’t sure if it was 8am or 8pm. With no windows in my cabin to check, I thought I might have missed a show. I couldn’t tell if I was on foot or horseback, and that’s not good either. I’m a mess.

I’ve been trying to exercise a little, but I think I need a lot more than that. I need to get a proper schedule and maintain it for a significant period of time to condition my body and try to make the best of whatever time I have left on this planet. Just because I never drank or did drugs doesn’t mean I didn’t abuse myself for a lot of years. Now I’m paying for it.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if I did drink or do drugs, but I’ll have all kinds of my comic peers who will be able to tell me soon enough. The ‘80s were the big explosion of the comedy boom, and a lot of us who started then are still around today. I’m by far not the worst off, and there are a few that I can think of that should have been dead years ago.

Good health really is a gift, and we don’t know how big a deal it really is until it’s gone. I can feel myself slipping slowly away from where I should be, and I need to stop it NOW or it won’t end well. I gave the road life a quarter century, now I need to wean off of it or if nothing else, a few months of a much lighter schedule is in order. I need to scale back.

I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, and reaching out to people I want to develop teams with to accomplish goals. I’ll have someone to answer to, and not just wander with no solid direction like I’ve been doing most of my life. I know a lot of really great people, and it would mean a lot more building something meaningful with them than being out on the road toiling alone for people who couldn’t care less about me. It’s time to restructure.

Everything is completely different from back when I started anyway, and I do mean everything. The comedy business is different, I’m a different and better (or at least more experienced) person and life itself has changed. The internet generation has created both challenges and opportunities for all of us. Reassessing is something we all need to do.

Gone are the days when someone gets a job at age 18 and retires at age 65. Times were different then too, and I wonder how many of those people were actually happy? Maybe a life of too much structure is a bad thing too. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never experienced it.

What I have experienced is the living of the dreams I had when I started in comedy, and not a lot of people can say that about anything they ever try. I really didn’t have anything I wrote down, and that’s probably why I didn’t go farther than I did. Still, I’ve done well.

I had a picture in my mind when I was starting that I wanted to become a headliner and travel from coast to coast making a living as a comedian and nothing else. I wanted to get on national television as well and be like all the comedians I used to worship back on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when I was a kid. Technically, I‘ve attained all of it.

I do admit, a lot of it wasn’t like the mental brochure I wrote for myself, but I absolutely did do all the things I’d pictured and then some. I did make it to headliner, and a solid one at that. Even my enemies will say I’m a strong comic, and it’s not an issue. I also played a lot of big time places from Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to major clubs from NY to LA.

Radio was a surprise direction, and if you had told me when I started I’d be on morning shows in Lansing, 93QFM in my home town of Milwaukee, Reno, Salt Lake City and the legendary Loop in Chicago, I would have given up any inner organ you wanted to make it happen. I didn’t expect any of those, and again it was something most people never get.

I did have some rough spots in there too, and working Negaunee, MI and Spearfish, SD were never on my dream list – but I did do those and hundreds more. The fact is, I carried out my initial dream and made it happen over and over and over again, and now I need to find something new to focus on and make both a bigger and much clearer dream to chase.

The reason I never took comedy any farther was because I didn’t dream big enough. It’s a common problem with many, and I admit it stunted my career growth. I also had a lot of other problems to overcome, but I’ve really done a lot to work through those also. I’m the very best edition of myself I’ve ever been, and it’s time to reboot, reshuffle and reinvent.

What is it I want this time? That’s a good question, almost too good to answer. It’s easy to look back on comedy and see what went wrong to the point of overlooking the several things that went extremely right. Too late to fix the bad stuff, the cement has hardened.

Whatever direction I do go, I want to spend the rest of my life giving and helping others have a better life. I know that sounds corny, but I mean it. Yes, this is a planet filled with idiots, but that’s not all that’s here. There are good people too, and I want to find them all.

Culture Club

February 25, 2011

Thursday February 24, 2011 – Houston, TX/Galveston, TX

The endurance test continues. I ended up pulling an all nighter getting caught up on all the emails I couldn’t answer on the ship last week. The hotel had free wi-fi, so I took full advantage and cranked it out. Too bad it took until 5:50am to finish, but at least it‘s done.

My shuttle from the hotel in Houston to the port in Galveston was scheduled to leave by 7am, so that means I was ready by 6:30. I get paranoid about missing transportation since it’s my responsibility to get to the gig on time. Being packed and in the lobby is a must.

I was there, and so were about 30 other people of all nationalities who were going to be living on the ship for various contracts of several months at a time. The makeup of ethnic diversity in the work place on a cruise ship is about as wide spread as I have ever seen.

It’s a smorgasbord of colors and cultures collected into a common place and people live and work without any racial dustups, at least not that I’ve ever seen. Someone told me on a ship recently there were 37 different nationalities represented with on board employees.

I think I’d have a hard time even naming that many countries off the top of my head, so I was pretty impressed. I try to be nice to everyone, so when I pass people on deck I smile and nod and try to at least acknowledge their presence on the planet as a fellow human.

It’s got to be lonely as hell for those people. I have a hard enough time lasting through a couple of weeks, and I’m on the upper end of the food chain. I get my own cabin, and I’m paid extremely well for the amount of actual work I have to do. These people have to peel potatoes and mop floors and make beds and wash dishes…over and over and over again.

And, they have to double up in a cabin…for months at a time. My life isn’t so bad when I think of that, and I have to admit it did cheer me up a little. It could always be worse and I’m grateful for what I have – even though I’m still glad I’ll be going home in a few days.

The shuttle ride to the ship was postponed due to a foggy port, and we ended up waiting until 11:30 for the bus to come get us. I did two crossword puzzles and caught up on USA Today from cover to cover but there was nothing any of us could do but shut up and wait.

Our trip was about an hour, and I sat next to a very nice Croatian guy who had so many consonants in his name he could have put Wheel of Fortune out of business if they used it as a puzzle. He was a waiter, and is just coming from six months on another ship. He had a lot of stories that made me even more grateful I have the job I have. Life isn’t that bad.

This is all a big adventure, and I’m not going to let the parts I don’t like cloud the fact I really am glad I was able to do it. The good outweighs the bad, and the experience of it all has made it one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done. I’m going to finish up these last few days and give it all I’ve got, but I’m not going to lie and say I won’t be thrilled to get back home either. Adventures don’t have to last forever. It’s time to live a new one.

Long And Grueling

February 24, 2011

Wednesday February 23rd, 2011 – Grand Cayman Island/Atlanta, GA/Houston, TX

Another long grueling day in transit, and it was everything I’d expected –  especially the long and grueling part. I knew it was coming so I put my brain on cruise control and let it all play out without fighting it. I knew I’d be waiting in lines all day and dealing with any number of various imbeciles, morons, halfwits and dingle berries. I was prepared for war.

This is the part of the business nobody ever expects, and it becomes bigger as time goes on because it’s a constant part of every day. The lines I waited in today I’ve waited in lots of times before on lots of different trips, but they don’t mean anything today. That’s what makes it so frustrating. I know I’m not a terrorist, but they insist on checking me anyway.

There was a port change this week due to foggy weather, and I ended up having to get a flight out of Grand Cayman rather than the originally scheduled Montego Bay, Jamaica. It came on short notice, and the office had to change not only my flight but several others as well. That has to be a nightmare, but they always come through and work it out somehow.

I give them major props for pulling it off, but the ship’s office accidentally printed out a travel itinerary from Montego Bay. Honest mistake, easy to do. Too bad the Immigration officer in Grand Cayman didn’t see it that way. He must have taken twenty minutes to get my paperwork done, then quizzed me numerous times as to why I was flying from there.

There were people behind me in line, and they weren’t thrilled to have to wait, but I did everything the guy asked including opening my bag three different times for a plethora of agents to ransack my soiled funky grundies looking for weapons grade plutonium, animal porn, subversive documents or whatever else they were scouring for. They found nothing.

Then it was to the cab, and it got stuck in traffic just as the air conditioner blew. We sat for half an hour sucking exhaust fumes and getting soaked, but there was no alternative so why bitch? It’s freezing in Chicago, so that’s what I focused on as my genitals stewed in a hot humid tropical trouser gravy that made me want to jump out of the cab and hoof it.

The rest of the day consisted of  typical dealings with the security apes measuring all of my liquids to make sure I wasn’t going to shaving cream somebody to death and fondling my inner thighs looking for either a bazooka or the financial records of Hosni Mubarek.

And, on three flights I didn’t have anything close to an attractive woman sit within five rows of me. I got a snoring grandma, a surfer dude and an Asian lady with her baby but at least it didn’t scream. It did fill a diaper, but it only smelled bad for a few minutes before she politely went into the bathroom and changed it. I gave her a wide smile of gratitude.

I don’t have my cell phone this week so I had to find first a change machine, then a pay phone and call the hotel to send the shuttle, which they miraculously did considering their phone person spoke little English. All in all, not a horrible day. I was mentally ready for it and now it’s over, but not really. I have to be up for a 7am shuttle to start it all over again.

Low On Gas

February 24, 2011

Tuesday February 22nd, 2011 – Somewhere At Sea

I am totally running out of gas with the whole ship thing and the road in general. This is the last night of this part of the run and I couldn’t be any more delighted. I had two shows tonight on the Carnival Conquest, then I’ll fly to Houston by way of Atlanta tomorrow for a short night in a hotel before getting on a 7am shuttle to Galveston to board the Ecstasy.

Then I’ll have a four day run on the Ecstasy, performing a total of five shows on two of those days yet to be determined. It could be the first two days I get there, then I’ll be stuck with two more sea days with no ports to explore. I just got through doing two consecutive sea days on the Conquest, and I’ve had just about all the time alone in a cabin I can stand.

This is really an endurance contest, and I’m just tired right now. The people at Carnival have been extremely friendly to work with, and I have no complaints there at all. I have a very high opinion of the cruise director on the Conquest. His name is Chris Jefferson and he’s not only an outstanding people person, he’s also a dynamic host and great performer.

He was low pressure all week and very friendly, as was Sammy the host of the comedy club. He’s from Trinidad/Barbados and has one of the most unique accents ever. We had fun with it, and the audiences seemed to like all the shows. On paper, it was a great week.

Unfortunately, life isn’t lived on paper. It boils down to timing. Had I been able to have a solid week like this when I started just a few months ago, I would have been overjoyed. Now, it’s a matter of being able to hang in there for the long haul. I’ll admit, I’m pooped.

All the ships start to look the same, and it just isn’t fun after a while. I’m not one to get in trouble, so that’s a major plus. If I were, I probably would have gone on a spree by now and gotten myself fired. So far, so good. I’ve been able to keep my job for the time being.

Working with Mark Hawkins has been a huge perk too, even though he’s put my whole act through the meat grinder so many times I can now drink it out of a juice glass. It’s not pleasant to get cut up like that, but it will make me a better comedian in the long run, and that’s all that matters. This life is not for the weak on many levels, and it takes a big toll.

I wish I were flying back to Chicago tomorrow, even if there is a fresh blasting of snow to plow through. I can handle that. I just want to be home and get to work on all those fun projects I’ve been neglecting while I’ve been out here at sea earning a buck to survive.

It’s all a game, and money is a big part of it. The ships have been great for that, and I’m totally grateful for the opportunity. I’ve also become a significantly better performer from working on the ships and I can’t forget that and don’t. It has not been without its benefits.

I’m just worn out right now. These next few days will be a big test, and I don’t intend to make any waves. I just want to do quality shows, not bother anyone and fly home in peace to quietly pick up where I left off. I guess money doesn’t guarantee happiness after all.

The World At Its Worst

February 24, 2011

Monday February 21st, 2011 – Somewhere At Sea

The rest of the world appears to be drowning in severe turmoil and chaos, but my little obscure corner of it is holding up just fine. Not only did I deliver three super solid shows this evening, I also found quality time to exercise, eat well and work on some projects.

In theory, it should be like that every day. I wish it were that easy. It was a major effort to focus and get all those things done, but I did it. I forced myself. Did I want to eat a big bowl of salad? Of course not. I wanted grease, lard, sugar and preservatives as per usual.

Who doesn’t? It’s hard to eat right, especially when all the rotten stuff is so accessible. And it’s not rotten, it’s DELICIOUS. If pastrami were a health food, I’d be Jack LaLanne. Would it be healthier if I drank it out of a blender? Nope. I’m screwed. I love greasy grub.

Today I ate well, and actually enjoyed it. I don’t claim to be cured of my love of all that can clog an artery, but for one day I gave my aorta a rest. Should I still happen to have my big league stage three lights out grabber, I can’t say it wasn’t deserved. My diet is a mess.

A few days good and a few weeks or months bad can’t last forever. Far from it. I’m sure my arteries could use a scrape right now. Hopefully I can find the strength to keep this up on a consistent basis, but all I had was today. So far, so good. Tomorrow? Who knows?

Maybe that grabber wouldn’t be so bad after watching CNN most of the day and sorting through all the disasters happening at once. The Middle East countries are all pissed off at their leaders, earthquakes devastated New Zealand and The Philippines, yet another giant blizzard is burying several states and my home state of Wisconsin is claiming to be broke.

None of this is good, but it keeps on coming. What about the earthquake in Haiti? They still haven’t dug themselves completely out of that one, and they were doing badly before it hit. How much help will they get now with all these new places needing outside help?

I guess I’m just not seeing the reasons for the way life works. Where is God? I’m sorry, but I have less and less faith every day. I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I do. This whole damn planet is coming unscrewed, and nothing is on the horizon to fix it any time soon.

I really hope this is my last pass through this stupidity based regime, and if we do live again I hope I end up far away from here. Maybe this is like doing time in Vietnam for a reincarnating soul, and whatever lessons I’m supposed to learn I hope I pass the exam.

I don’t think I could feel any less significant. Here I am busting my popo trying to make a few hundred people on a cruise ship laugh, and actually succeeding.  But – governments all over the world are teetering on the brink of overthrow and millions are in real danger.

I might as well eat bloody steaks and hot fudge sundaes. Maybe it will shorten some of my sentence on this maniacal marble of misery. There has to be a better place somewhere.

As My Cabin Gently Shrinks

February 24, 2011

Sunday February 20th, 2011 – Galveston, TX

Four days into the trip, and this is when my cabin starts to shrink. It’s small enough as it is, but being in it over three days gets to be tough. There’s nowhere to go, but I want to be anywhere but inside these four walls – even if it does have a port hole. It feels like prison.

This is the part of this gig that makes it such a challenge. If I don’t come up with a rigid list of things to do, I’m screwed. I’ll just lay around most of the day to divert my attention away from the boredom of sitting in my cabin. That’s not productive, and not fun either.

I totally see where vices could pass the time better, and I’m thankful I don’t have any of those to worry about. If I drank, it would be easy to bathe my loneliness in hooch and I’m sure some people do exactly that. It’s not the answer I seek. I need to work through it, and use all this down time as an opportunity to work uninterrupted and develop my projects.

There’s plenty of time for reading and plenty of time for writing too. I try to bring a few books with me each time I come out, and get through as much of them as I can. This time I brought a book about Wally Amos, the guy who branded himself as ‘Famous Amos’ and then lost his own name in court when he sold his cookie company. His story interests me.

What would I do if I had to completely start over and not be able to use ‘Mr. Lucky’ as a moniker? Would I be wiped out? Unfortunately, no I wouldn’t. I really haven’t done as much with that title as I could, and I’ve never been able to get famous with it. Wally did with his cookies, and then had to start over from scratch. That takes guts and I respect it.

Can lightning strike twice? I think it can, depending on the person. If someone believes in their abilities and is willing to take calculated risks, I see no reason why success can’t happen an infinite amount of times – at least in theory. I want to experience it once first.

I really haven’t had that one big run that people dream of. Not yet, anyway. Every time I was up for it, something happened and it got smeared like an ant hill. I thought I had a big radio run coming on The Loop, and we were almost there, but we got fired in about a year into it right as we were starting to take off. That would’ve been a great run had is lasted.

It may have been local, but Chicago is a good place to be a local celebrity. It’s a big city all the way, and I’d have been financially secure about now, probably for life the way I’m able to live like a cockroach and like it. That one still hurts, but it’s over and that’s that.

There are no guarantees for anything, and I know that. I took a calculated risk and it was a good one at the time, even though it eventually blew up in my face. The cruise ship gigs pay ok, but they’re not the kind of success run I’m talking about. It’s not a career maker.

So ok, what is then? I’ve got all this time to develop something that IS my big entrance, so it’s time to shut up and get it done. It could be a book, script, course or all of the above in some form or another. I’ve got eight more days on this trip to hack away at something.

Unpleasant Growth

February 24, 2011

Saturday February 19th, 2011 – Somewhere At Sea

No shows tonight, but I still ended up working all day. The process it takes to maintain a standup comedy career can never ever be called ‘finished‘. There’s way too much to do on way too many levels, and it all needs to be maintained. Between onstage development of character and material, to offstage business skills and contacts, it’s a constant drain.

Nobody is good at everything, so it’s always a challenge to maintain any sort of balance between what we excel at and what we don’t. It’s human nature to seek pleasure and stay away from pain, but that’s not the true way to grow correctly. The real key is to dig in and not only work at the weaknesses to make them strengths, but also improve the strengths.

I’m working with Mark Hawkins again this week, and I’m glad. I think. He’s a nice guy personally, but professionally he can be a major league ball buster – and I like it. Well, it’s not so much that I like it, but I need it. No, it’s not that either. I could survive without it.

What makes Mark so good to work with is, he’s got no history with me and can go right to whatever in my act needs to be ripped to shreds and do it surgically without having any personal agendas attached to it. He doesn’t sugar coat anything, but I know he’s offering a fair and honest critique from the point of view of both a comic and an ex cruise director.

That’s a rare opportunity, and I’m going to take full advantage of it whenever I can, and that’s now. In the long run it’ll make me a better comic, but in the short run getting a joke or bit ripped apart can sting a little – especially when it gets laughs. But I know he’s right.

I really respect Mark’s work ethic, as he busts his ass writing every day for his own act. His father is a big time sportswriter in Detroit, and Mark probably learned from him to do his due diligence and pay attention to detail, which he’s great at. He’s anal by admission, but that’s a good thing. He’s got computer files with set lists that go back several years.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to that level, but I do know I’ve already grown since the last time we worked only a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been way more aware of what I want to do onstage before I do it, whereas my old style was to just let things flow as I felt like it.

That’s not always bad either, it’s more of a free form jazz style. When it works, it’s very effective. But when it’s off – yikes. Everyone has off nights, but when the free form isn’t working it’s nice to be able to pull out something well structured and let it save the day.

Mark and I exchanged bit ideas and notes from watching each other’s shows in the last couple of days. I added a couple of lines to his stuff that made him laugh, and I could tell he’ll use them. That’s another thing, he’s not too proud to have to use only his own ideas.

He wants to have the best joke, and I’m the same way. Running things past others gives more opportunities to find them. We spent a long time working on this, and we were both a little tired when it was over. But, it’s an off day and this was a productive way to use it.

Pitching vs. Throwing

February 24, 2011

Friday February 18th, 2011 – Cozumel, MX

Five shows down, ten to go – not counting the ‘Welcome Aboard’ five minute teaser for Sunday night. They sure do keep us busy, but that’s not a bad thing. If I’m on the road I’d much rather work a lot than rot in my cabin with nothing to do. This way is much better.

I’m putting more effort into preparing for these shows than I ever have in my life at any time, even when I was starting out. I’ve never been a meticulous preparer like some, only because I didn’t have to be. I was always able to take funny ideas and work them into bits on stage because I had solid natural instincts. I could always get enough laughs to survive.

Looking back, how ballsy but stupid that was. I wish I’d had the experienced me now to throttle that lazy punk kid in the face and get him to put in the effort of proper preparation because my whole career would have benefited tremendously. It’s only now that I get it.

Athletes are the same way. I’ve read a lot of stories about baseball pitchers that used to throw 100 miles an hour and didn’t have to worry about a thing. Their natural ability was what got them by – for a while at least. It was only after they lost it did they have to learn to transform from a thrower to a pitcher. Pitching is a craft, and takes a lifetime to learn.

I’m now becoming a pitcher, and can see how much work is involved in taking standup comedy to the master level I see myself attaining. This is where it’s easy to get in my own way, and I’ve had a knack for doing that over the years. A plan is more crucial than ever.

Right now I’m working on expanding my act and improving my stage show as much as humanly possible. After all these years it’s hard to really ramp it up, only because I’ve got so much stage time under my belt. I’ve already developed myself into a seasoned comic.

The truth is, as far as the business part of comedy goes, I’m funny enough to last for the rest of my life. If I never wrote another joke I could continue to squeak out a living for the foreseeable future, and I’ve made it farther than probably 90% of people who ever step on a stage make it. I wouldn’t have embarrassed myself, and in the end I‘d have ‘made it‘.

Unfortunately, that’s not good enough for me. I want to take comedy to new heights and really blow people away, audiences and peers alike. In the end, it’s ME I want to blow out of the water. I want to impress myself, but I’m the toughest audience there is. I’m a bitch.

That’s a tough pickle to find myself after all this time. Where I lack severely is business sense and promotion. I know that. That’s where my focus needs to be if I want to raise my pay scale, but I also want to take my product to the next level just so I’ll be proud of what I’m doing on stage. It’s a Catch 22 and I’m looking for a way to find the happy medium.

The shows this week were quite solid, so that’s a positive start. Last night was my three show night and tonight it was two. I worked in new material and the flow felt good, even though it will take months to polish it all up. This is the craft. I’m a pitcher, not a thrower.