(The guy in the picture above was one of the patrons at the open mic in Taylor, MI last night. He enjoyed the whole show, but got so drunk that by the end, he was yelling out tag lines and spoiling bits for the final comics. That's not too abnormal. But he then realized what he'd done, and put his head down on the table like a scolded child, leaving it there till the show was over. He came over, apologized profusely to us all, offered to buy the whole table a drink, then got a funny look on his face, headed for the door, and was never seen again. If that's you in the photo, you owe me a beer, dude.)
Things are really starting to happen. I updated my calendar tonight for
March, and then took a look at the finished product, and it frightened me a
little bit. Who the hell is this presumptuous dickweed who's gonna be away from home TWO weekends in a row? Who's doing a comedy festival? Who's doing paid gigs, urban rooms, benefit shows? This is ridiculous. It's a dream come true and it's just the very beginning of the trip. I'm more excited than I can tell you.
I did some great rooms in the last couple weeks. The LOL Lounge, in downtown Toledo, is a black room (I think we're supposed to say "urban," but what the hell ever) with a great, welcoming crowd. Sidney Smith put on a gig in suburban Detroit that had a big, diverse crowd that was eager to laugh. My second trip to Sunday Night Funnies in Grand Rapids, MI turned out to be one of my better sets so far, and the audience reaction was unbelievable (I'll be putting the video of that show on this site shortly). The following Saturday, I had the chance to do a guest set for Sal DeMilio up in Wyandotte, Michigan, at a room where I'd just had a good set working a benefit show, and I killed again.
Of course, not everything comes up roses all the time. I got the van back
home from Grand Rapids last week without incident, only to have it die on me in front of my son's school that afternoon. The mechanic couldn't find anything wrong with it, so I took it to Wyandotte, planning to bail out of there after my guest set and go see Dave Attell at Connxtions in Toledo. I stopped off halfway there to take a piss and get a cup of coffee, and the van wouldn't start up again. Nothing. Sat with it for a couple hours, trying it every fifteen
minutes or so, till my friend Jake Dickey finished up in Wyandotte and headed my way and could pick me up. Missed Attell, and I'm not sure I wanna even know how much the tow bill is gonna be.
But I've got guest sets for bookers coming up, new rooms to play, and a
schedule that's making my head spin. This is where I find out if I can really
keep track of this kind of schedule, keep myself healthy and rested, get my work at home done, spend enough time with the family, and still go do all this cool shit that I've been wanting to do for so long. Most importantly, I gotta keep my set fresh, decide what older bits are out the door, and what "greatest hits" are staying. I've finally had a little bit of success with "murdering my
darlings," or cutting out bits that just don't work even if I personally think
they're awesome. I've reworked a few things that didn't kill before and made
them better, and I've ditched some stuff that I just couldn't fix.
My set is tight, I'm hungry for more stage time, and I feel like I'm in a
roller coaster car at the top of a hill. I have no idea where any of it leads.
I'm certainly not presuming it's taking me to headlining status or a paying
career any time soon -- hell, the dates on my calendar I'm thrilled about would
probably bum out most road comics out working right now. But it's forward
motion, and there's energy I haven't felt for years behind what's happening for
me right now. I'm grateful for the opportunities in front of me, and I'm gonna
go tear into every one of them.
Monday was one of those rough nights that either grinds you down and makes you quit, or inspires you to dig deeper and get your shit together. I went up to two open mikes in Michigan, both of which were pretty sparsely attended - not an unusual thing on a weeknight, but I was running on fumes and in a bad mindset from being tired. I don't think either set went too bad, but little things became amplified - I went a minute over my time at Joey's in Livonia, a stupid rookie mistake. I was in the middle of a new bit and didn't have a good "bailout point" figured out yet, so I blathered on, eating into someone else's time, for the benefit of the other comics and an audience of maybe six. Embarrassing.
I'm at an odd place in my evolution right now. I have some tried and true A-game material that works more often than not. I have what I consider to be a "signature bit," a chunk of about 8-9 minutes of material that comprises a good bit of my feature-length set. The problem is, I'm still not working as a feature much, so most of my stage time comes from MC'ing or open mic nights. 5-8 minute sets are the norm at these places, and long bits don't generally work as well, since you're expected to get up, get done, keep it tight and leave room for the other 14 people who want stage time.
As a result, I seem to devote most of my open mic sets to newer bits, trying to work out where in my "real set" they could go, or if they work at all. My best material gets left out, neglected except for practicing my set at home. My worry is that I'll get sloppy or rusty with that stuff, so that when I do get the opportunity to stretch out and do a feature set, suddenly my tried-and-true bits aren't the highlight of the show, as they should be.
If I get to the point that I'm featuring a lot, this problem will solve itself. Right now, it seems like the height of luxury to have 30-40 minutes on stage on a regular basis, to hone that feature set, deliver the strongest stuff I've written to date, and work new material into that context. I'm sure once I get there, I'll have some other weird issue that I overthink and worry about... but hopefully I'll have the sense to enjoy that larger window of stage time I'll have earned.
Tons of shows in the next week and a half, some new rooms, hopefully some guest sets that will lead to new opportunities. Feeling pretty fortunate right now, and enjoying the hell out of the ride... just gotta make sure I get more sleep on show days so I have the focus to keep an eye on the damn clock.
Where I write about the stuff I do when I'm out doing the stuff I do.