Posts Tagged ‘improvement’

A Wonderful Workout

April 13, 2013

Thursday April 11th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

   People who aren’t comedians have no idea what is actually involved in the performing process, even though most think they do. I’m sure it’s like being in a rock band or playing pro sports – it’s a commonly shared dream of millions, but a ridiculously low amount ever get to do it as a career.

   Everyone may think they know what goes into not only getting there but maintaining a level of professionalism, but until one physically does it there’s no way to predict all that it involves. The craft requires extremely hard work, lots of it and the process never stops – or at least it shouldn’t.

   I’m to the point now when I really don’t need to work on my act anymore, although I still do at every opportunity. I can’t name the actual percentage of comedians at my level that haven’t done a single thing to improve their acts in years, but I’d have to believe it’s rather high. It’s common, and I see why. There are so many other things to deal with, many times the act itself is left alone.

   Technically, nobody makes us work on our on stage show. We don’t get more money if we’ve got ‘new material’, and that’s a widely misunderstood term as it is. The average public thinks we can just crank out new and polished jokes and bits and routines at will, when in fact it’s not true.

   Sometimes adding even one line or a single word to a bit can take months to do correctly. It’s a delicate process, and requires discipline to work on it over time in front of different audiences in different situations. Sometimes a way a word is inflected can make a difference. It’s an art form.

   I’ve always been aware of this, and have used my stage time wisely. That’s the only time when I’m in control, so I take it very seriously. I may look like I’m just goofing off up there, but I’m at work and am paying attention to everything that’s going on. As I get older, I’m even more into it.

   Tonight was a magnificent opportunity to practice, and that’s exactly what I did. The situation I am in at Zanies is rare, so I took full advantage of it. They love me there, and I’ve proven myself as a solid headliner. If there’s such a thing as comedy job security, I have it there. I don’t want to ever abuse that status, but if there’s ever a place for me to experiment with something it’s there.

   There was about a two thirds full house at Zanies in Rosemont tonight, and they were in a good mood. I could tell by watching the opening acts it would be a good audience, and I could’ve gone up and done my regular show and been done with it. It’s a weeknight, and my pay wouldn’t raise no matter what I did. Nobody was expecting anything other than what I do, but it wasn’t enough.

   Not for me, anyway. I knew I had a chance to improve, so I jumped at it. I decided before I got on stage I was going to dramatically slow my usually manic pace for the entire show and deliver my material in a completely different way than I normally do. It’s like a basketball team deciding to switch from playing a fast break style to a slow down offense. A different skill set is required.

   Not only that, I threw myself off even more by opening with material I rarely if ever use in that spot and throwing my big closer in about fifteen minutes in to see if I could follow it. I did, and it was a hot show start to finish. I was on my toes the whole time, but it was a wonderful workout.

   These are the kinds of things a craftsman does, and it keeps me fine tuned and in the game. The audience was great, but they would have loved most anything I did. I could have phoned it in but that wouldn’t have made me any better. I worked on my craft tonight, and it’s deeply satisfying.

Balance Is A Bitch

February 18, 2010

Wednesday February 17th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

It finally feels like I’m starting to make some measurable progress clearing off the huge pile of backed up tasks I set out to do at the beginning of the year. Valentine’s Day is past and time is rounding the corner to my birthday. If I keep it up, I’ll be in full stride by then.

All those quips and slogans motivational speakers use are true, no matter how cliché all of it is. Thoughts ARE things, and inch by inch it IS a cinch. We DO become what we put in our minds, and without goals nothing can be achieved. The hard part is taking action.

I spent most of today sorting through the scattered pile of confusion I’ve allowed to get completely out of control. Books and clothing and scraps of paper with comedy notes and phone numbers and receipts and anything else imaginable are laying around like a tornado went through, and there’s no excuse for it. Yes, I’ve been busy, but this is not acceptable.

I’ve never been a neat freak, but I’m not Oscar Madison either. You wouldn’t know that by walking through the clutter where I live, and it’s to the point of no return. I have to get organized very soon or I’ll never be able to get anything done. It‘s to the boiling point.

I really do have all kinds of things going on, and a lot of them are good, but if I can’t get myself into some sort of order I’ll lose whatever positive momentum I do have. This is an inner tweak which is manifesting itself outwardly and I’m just not going to let it continue.

One thing for sure is that my grandfather was SO right when he used to talk about how the most difficult thing in life to achieve was balance. He said it was even more difficult than getting rich, because many who did get rich sacrificed a lot of other things to do it.

Being balanced in all areas of life is the ultimate challenge. Has anyone done it? I used to think Tiger Woods was pretty close, but then he had his little fender bender and all that ended. Who else is close? Bill Gates? Oprah Winfrey? I guess I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are some people who have found a way to balance.

Extreme wealth isn’t necessary, but some degree of it is. Also, physical health, a family, creativity, continuing education, a chance to give back and all kinds of other things are on that list. Who has time to do all of it? How about even some of it? Most of us stumble our way through life, maybe focusing on a few things we do well because it strokes our ego.

How about taking time to really work at what we’re not good at? That takes total guts to even try, but I totally want to do it. If I never get rich or famous but continue to grow for a lifetime, does that make me a failure or a success? It depends who’s asked on what day.

I’d love to have it all, but is it in the cards? Is it even possible? I don’t know, but I put a full day’s work in today and in the short run it meant nothing. In the long run, if I keep up daily improvement I’ll be a much better me in not that long of time. I‘m seeking balance.