Embracing My Craft

 Friday April 13th, 2012 – Tucson, AZ

   Despite all the obstacles, distractions and petty politics of the comedy business, I’m still in love with the process of practicing my craft on stage. It’s a continuous game of mental chess between me and an audience, and no two shows are ever exactly the same. The challenge still excites me.

I have enough hands on experience now where I can size up a particular situation and come up with a battle plan very quickly. Chances are, I’ve been in a similar situation before no matter the circumstances and if I haven’t I enjoy the opportunity to experience something new. There’s not a lot I haven’t experienced on stage, and that takes the anxiety right out of it. I feel bullet proof.

Tonight I had two fun but completely different shows at Laffs in Tucson. The early show had a completely different vibe than the late one, and I adjusted accordingly. I watched the whole show before me both times so I could get a reading on what might work, and that’s part of the process.

There are a lot of headliners that don’t take time to watch the show in front of them, and that’s a huge mistake in my opinion. It’s always wise to have the same perspective the people watching the show have, so it can be used as a reference point later. If someone yelled something out loud or a waitress dropped a tray of drinks – whatever, it can often create a unique one time dynamic.

Another reason to watch the show is to know what the opening acts did to set the tone. Did the audience like them? Were they dirty? Did they step on any premises? If they did, will I be able to add to it with the bit I have or should I drop that particular topic for this show? I need these facts every single show, as they are different every single show. A craftsman knows they’re important.

The early show tonight was a bit snug, even though they did enjoy the show. They just weren’t as loud of laughers as some audiences, and I could sense they were a smidge on the conservative side. I hadn’t worked with these particular openers before, and even though they were very funny and nice guys too – they were a little bluer than I normally like in front of me. It does set a tone.

The late show was just the opposite. The audience was into it from the start, and they wanted it on the dirty side. The opening acts went up and rocked the house, and that made me have to take a completely different direction than the first show. I opened with a bit I hardly ever do anymore about taking a cross country Greyhound bus trip, but it’s very physical and was the ideal choice.

I’ll bet I haven’t done that bit in six months. For whatever reason, I’ve just chosen not to use it as I have a lot of other stuff I want to polish up and add to my repertoire. Tonight though, it was exactly what I needed and I was glad to have it locked, loaded and in the chamber ready to fire.

I can’t remember when I’ve ever opened with that particular routine, but instinct assured me it was the correct choice tonight. And it was. I was able to grab the audience’s attention with it and bring them into my world and keep them to the very end. I closed strong and it was a solid night. This is the part of comedy that keeps me going through those hellish long drives, plane trips and having to deal with the trivial minutia that can get so frustrating. The craft part never gets old.


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