Tell It! On Second Thought, Don’t.

This guy is obviously a pro.

“Write what you know.”

Ye ‘olde golden rule. This is especially true with comedy writing, even more so if you plan on delivering it vocally in front of a room full of unforgiving bastards. Oh, they can smell a phony all right. Over the past four months I’ve conveyed a handful of false premises in fields to which I am not an expert. Particularly when it comes to drug use. I blame my lack of experimentation on a low tolerance, anxiety and an overactive imagination. Personally, I feel that if even the weakest of highs make you contemplate stepping in front of a moving bus, it’s probably a good idea to just avoid it all. All aside, it’s hard to ignore those cleverly crafted little bits you’ve invested valuable time and effort into. Here’s a good example of one I was doing:

“I never really got into drugs, but I did go through a short pot smoking phase once. Around this time, on my birthday, a friend mailed me a small satchel of chronic – you know, marijuana laced with cocaine. And so there’s no users manual, nothing. So I assumed since coke was the dominant substance, you sniffed it. Makes sense right? Long story short, don’t ever do that. I still have stems lodged in my nasal cavity six years after the fact. Every now and then I’ll feel a little beaner trickle down the back of my throat.”

It’s not great by any means, but it looked good in the memo pad at the time. I performed it maybe four times before deciding to drop it because 1) I didn’t enjoy, much less feel confident telling it and 2) this guy yelled “Narc!” when I referred to a sack as a satchel. He was right to do so. I’ve always thought that comedy is as much about the acting as the jokes, but obviously if you don’t believe what you’re conveying, the other will suffer. And we all know a Daredevil Ben Affleck is no Chasing Amy Affleck. Speaking of Aflac!, that duck can act.

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Whatever The Fuck Do You Mean?

I just finally started listening to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast a week ago. With 260+ hour long interviews available I’ve been trying to keep myself limited to two-a-day, which is a struggle man. So many interesting stories you gotta give that stuff time to marinate. Speaking of which, a Wonder Roast sounds so good right now. Something to do with the chemical seasoning I’m sure.

Anyway, for anyone who’s interested he was just featured in a new series Hulu is hosting called Day In The Life. You can check out the actual episode here.

CHAD DANIELS: Minnesota Awesome

Chad and I both grew up in Fergus Falls. I never knew him personally, aside from a quick compliment he gave me in school once about a Philadelphia Eagles Starter cap I was wearing (he loved the team – I was only in possession of such an extravagant piece of wardrobe because I had stolen it from my brother who had swiped it from a local hat merchant). A few years later I was fortunate enough to catch one of his earliest performances at the old, crusty Fergus Theatre. It was the first time I had ever seen or heard of anyone in our town doing stand-up and although I can’t recall anything in particular from that night, whatever it was allowed me the courage to cold call him the following morning to ask him how to do comedy.

“Just write some material and give me a call when your done and I’ll help you with it,” he said. Fourteen years later I wonder if the offer still stands.

What made you want to get into stand up and when did you take the dive?

I’d always loved watching stand up.  From the time I snuck out of my bedroom and watched Eddie Murphy’s Delirious from under the extended footrest of my dad’s recliner.  I had a TV in my room and would stay up and watch A&E’s Evening at the Improv. After school I would watch Comedy Central in it’s infant years with shows like Short Attention Span Theatre and Stand Up Stand Up.  I was enthralled with the idea of people making strangers laugh.  I could stand around a bonfire and make fun of teachers while my classmates laughed, but there was a common bond that all of us had.  Same school.  The comedians on TV were making people laugh that they had never met and came from different backgrounds.  Amazing.  I hosted the Homecoming coronation my senior year in high school, gave my classes graduation speech, and tried some hosting things in college.  However, nothing compared to signing up for open mic at ACME in Minneapolis.  Straight stand up.  I almost shit my pants the first night.  And the second night.  That was 14 years ago.

Where did you try out material – I don’t recall there being any open mics anywhere in Fergus.

I lived in Minneapolis when I started and went to open mics at ACME and Knucklehead’s at the Mall of America.

Is it true that you opened for Gallagher once and he sat in the crowd and heckled you?

Ha. Yes.  He was touring working on material for his next tour.  The show was called The Gallagher Monologues.   So he was only doing jokes.  Not the normal smashing thing.  I was in Louisville, Kentucky.  He yelled, “Maybe they’d like you more if you talked about Louisville?”  I said,  “This is a tough crowd.  Good luck without your melons, dick.”  The crowd erupted.  I heard a couple of different trays crash.  Later I found out it was some servers laughing so hard they dropped their drinks.

Your sister told me you had made the cut at one of the Last Comic Standing auditions but then got bumped?

Sounds like you know it.  I got the red envelope to go to the semi finals and two weeks before I left they said tough shit, we were kidding.  I’m paraphrasing, of course.

You seem pretty relaxed when it comes to sparring with a drunk crowd.

I don’t know if it would work for anyone else, but I don’t care if I lose.  That seems to help.  Plus, I come from a home filled with sharp tongues.  My mom and sister are very funny.

When did you hit the road and primarily make your living doing stand up?

Six months after I started doing open mic I got asked to audition to house emcee in Grand Forks, ND.  It sounds like a horrible move, but my first week was with Mitch Hedberg.  Not too shabby.  After those six months I was lucky enough to have a lot of the headliners I had met bring me on the road with them.

Who are some of your influences now as opposed to when you first started out?

When I started my influences were household names.  They are still influences, but I have added some people that no one has heard of.  There are people doing amazing things on the road.

Worst gig ever?

A casino in New Mexico.  I had to have three security guards bring me to my room.

You can check out Chad headlining at Acme all week. You can also still get tickets for a special he will filming for during the Friday shows here.

Trail Of Breadcrumbs

The Philip Kolas Story

While I was involved with the skate shop my friend and business partner kept a meticulous finance, weather and going-ons log each month. Personally, I hate mathematics and dreaded the end of the month reviews and future quarter forecasts. But if there’s one thing I took away from those six years it was an odd appreciation for the story numbers told. Not so much the dollar amounts as the quantities sold and sales dates. For example, why did we sell eighteen sets of bearings this week as opposed to four the following week, when it was much nicer outside? Could it be due to the rise in crow farts and the cause and effect they have on the different lubrication levels or was it just anxiety spending? Sometimes the answer was obvious and other times it remained a mystery – an open field of possibilities.

“373, as of 7:33 pm 2-25-12. I’ll be at Ricky’s tonight, so there’ll be another one by the end of the night.” – Phil Kolas

This is one of the reasons I love the scan of Phil’s tallies. There’s the proof that he was there performing at those places, but where was there? And on what date? Did he barf that night or get laid or have one of his arms broken? How much time was spent rehearsing for that blue one there? Did he get heckled? And so, therein lies my favorite part – the speculation. 373 marks, each one representing a different story and set of circumstances, acknowledged and celebrated with a simple scratch.

Fuckin’ awesome.

Smells Like A Funeral

"Shit, let me down, I'm up!"

So I got all boozy before a set for the first time the other night ‘ala the big Sauce show. I had planned on doing the open mic but it wasn’t until the very end – which considering that you have seven comics each doing twenty-minutes followed by a metal band (DOOMSTRUCK!), you run the risk of getting drowsy. So instead I decided I would indulge in a couple of beers and enjoy an anxiety-free evening.

So 1:00 a.m. rolls around and I’m informed by the host that I’ve magically made the list. I immediately get scared and tell him no way – I never drink before a set because I read a book once that said not to. But rather than spend the next few days feeling like a total puss I decided to go with it. Besides not drinking beforehand is just some old superstition concocted by a bunch of square old timers right? That’s just as silly as saying that walking under a ladder or pissing in the face of a black cat on Friday the 13th is going to bring you a lifetime of lousy luck.

And so I end up going last and was actually doing okay. But just as I’m getting to the punchline of my final joke this lady starts bantering with me and I go completely blank. Like someone-threw-a-bucket-of-White Out-over-my-brain blank. Retrieval of a safe word or phrase-trigger is futile. I guess on the bright side I can finally cross closing out a totally awesome show with an apology to the audience that embrace me with a big, fat silence off the list. You can come fetch me now death, I’m stoked.

So, alcohol: inhibitor or enabler? Personally, I’m the type of person whose first faculty to go is memory. Introduce me to someone after two beers and you may as well forget about it. But it was nice to meet you and I’m sorry for wetting your bed. Loss of speech and directions usually attach themselves around five. At the same time there’s those dudes who have the ability to be half in the bag and still turn a room inside-out. I’ve talked to a variety of other comics about this, and really, it all comes down to how you handle your liquor. You’ve heard of a functioning alcoholic right? Well if you manage to get plastered way to often but have no outstanding cable or electric bills, by all means go for it – you’ve got skills. On the other hand, if you have a slow reaction time combined with a staring problem, it’s probably not a good idea to go bathing that puppy in beer.

 

Sometimes I Cut Myself.

It’s hard to imagine any one type of performer who puts themselves through the emotional wringer more than a stand-up comedian. I thought of this Wednesday night at Grumpy’s after a fellow newbie I met the previous week didn’t make it onto the night’s list. Of course I felt bad because the guy was visibly bummed, as is any comic who spends whatever free time they have writing, rewriting and nervously rehearsing only to drive to the gig and then not be able to get on, because there’s thirty-some-odd other retards looking to torture themselves in the same manner. A normal person would shout out with glee if they showed up to work only to find that their big presentation had been postponed because the boss fell out of a tree that morning and couldn’t make it in. He’s hurt. Instead, we get all twisty inside when we’re not allowed the risk to stand-up in front of a bunch of strangers/drunkards/much-funnier-people and try not to bomb.

Really though, everyone should try it.

Dear Diary: Am I Gay For Keeping A Diary?

Yes it’s true, I do in fact keep a diary. Not like a personal one –  that would be total homo. Okay fine, I do have that kind too, but I only write in it if something totally kick-ass happens that I want future races to know about (like getting my driver’s license back after five years) or some super shitty shit goes down that I figure my kids could take as a lesson after I’ve bitten the dust. Anyway, it’s my other one that I want to talk about – My Stand-Up Diary.

For starters it’s not like a play-by-play recalling every glorious/painful detail of every performance. It’s more of a quick summary: gig number, venue, date, audience reaction and set list. By far the most useful of these have been the audience reaction and set list. It’s interesting to see how one joke can slaughter an entire room in one spot but leave you standing in a pitiful silence in another. Sometimes it can be blamed on any number things – a waitress dropping a glass, drunk lady puking on her baby, etc. –  and other times it’s just a goddamn mystery. You can really get down to business in this aspect if you’ve taken to recording yourself. You’d be surprised what kind of little shit-bits you can find cross referencing the two. I rarely do this but one of the few times I did, I found what my ears took as a man saying something congratulatory, only to find he was actually responding to the host’s “That’ll do it for Jack Boyd…” with an enormous “ABOUT TIME!“. So I wept a little as I had to scratch that one out, but hey, it’s a learning process.

Now the set list, this one is a gold mine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to reference this to make sure I’m not repeating the same list in the same order at the same venue the week prior. And this is coming from someone who only makes it out twice a week. So if you’re hitting the open mic circuit three to five times a week, even just recording this little bit of info can be helpful.

So is keeping a diary a must? Not really – more or less I do it because I think it will interesting to look back on what those early gigs were like while at the same time serving as a useful purpose now. And sure, saying you keep one might make you feel like a puss but that only depends on how serious you take the presentation of your manliness to others. In fact, you don’t even have to call it a diary – just call it “Set Notes” or “Awesome Observations” or whatever it takes to fool yourself into believing you’re not actually keeping a diary.

Recommended Reading: The Official Barf Book

So far this blog has been all about living and laughing without an ounce of puke (unless you count this old posting that was before the fact). So to be fair to all parties involved I stuck my fingers down my throat and here’s what came up – The Official Barf Book. It’s actually a perfect bathroom read, more so if your pooping, less so if your puking. Its author, Craig Yo, left no stone unturned in his search for interesting barf factoids which include, but are not limited to, animals, aliens, celebrities, professional athletes, presidents and other historical figures who have heaved at the most inappropriate of times. Of course no book on this particular subject would be complete without a list of the rock stars who died tragically attempting to produce and chew cud without the proper training. In this regard the TOBB doesn’t disappoint. It even sheds light on an interesting conspiracy theory that Elvis’ death was actually the result of shitting through his teeth and not the heart attack as the official coroner would have led us to believe.

Obviously, this book is only for the strong of stomach so if you got the guts, you can find it here. As an added bonus, it comes with free fake vomit, which when sprinkled with water, looks pretty doggone real. A real treat for those of you cat or baby owners with a sense of humor.

The Dirty Dozen

"This isn't what I signed up for!"

I hit the big number twelve last night and it went pretty good. It was sort of surprising because the microphone was broken and I had to shout all of my jokes. And as you know, the last thing drunk people like is to be yelled at. If I recall correctly that’s usually the part where bitches start getting smacked. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was performing brand new material and was put on first (the microphone was, of course, fixed two comics later.

So what’s the lesson here? Don’t get scared and run away – go with the flow . That’s certainly what I felt like doing but was glad I stuck it out. This was in part thanks to the advice of a certain local comic we’ll just call Mike Linden, who once told me that the best nights to go out are the ones where things don’t seem to be going your way and you don’t feel like being funny. Well sprayed.

Comedy Corner Underground Triple Feature Show

CCU will be hosting its brand new Triple Feature Show this Thursday. Gah – how’s this work?!  Simple – every month they bring three experienced comedians, in this case Brandon Reynoso, Nate Abshire and Sam Spadino, to the stage to make you laugh.  It’s not all bubblegum and farts either, because their failure to do so will result in them being tossed into the Mississippi from the bridge. Okay, maybe not that last part but you gotta admit that watching people flail and bellyflop from high perches is as entertaining as it is funny.

You can check out all the truthful details for the night as well as short bios on the comics here. Now get them tickets!