Wednesday, 27 August 2014

bombing: from heroes to zeros

There is something tragical about comedy. I can't speak for other comics when it comes to what compels them to make others laugh. To me, personally, it is at first a narcissistic thing. The whole my-life-might-be-shit-but-I'm-still-going-to-share-it-with-you kinda thing can be both poetic and selfish at once. But comedy is also and to me mostly, about bringing happiness. That's why stand-up - paraphrasing Doug Stanhope - works better in bad places. Think of some shitty town or city where people are essentially unhappy, and that's where comedy thrives.

Some say stand-up is one of the bravest things you can do. That might be a bit of a stretch. Bravery is making love to a morbidly obese woman with a moustache. To get up on that stage to be judged by others can be one of the most frightening, surely, but is "brave" really the adjective we're looking for?
I think most of us comedians act in narcissistic ways, by telling the world about the good and bad things that happen to us, about our views on everything.We want to belong but we're not quite up for it. Comedians are natural loners.

No matter how bad or frightening you think comedy is, I guarantee it gets worse. To begin doing it is the most difficult bit. But at the beginning you're so shit you don't really care that much. You keep thinking "fuck it, I'll eventually get better". And that is the main issue right there, when you start improving. Your confidence goes up, you're getting good laughs, then the unexpected comes: You bomb.

Yeah. Your material is better, you're sort of funny, and then suddenly you have one gig that's really,  really bad. I had one two months ago, and it is a hard thing to recover from. The worst part was that last time I gigged in that same place, my material killed and I felt, for the first time, like a comic. It was my first ever good gig.

This time it was the other way around. But somehow, I could tell, from the moment I walked into that room, that the whole atmosphere was wrong. The audience wasn't right for me and I was wrong for them. My material didn't suit this audience. My self-deprecating sexual jokes fell flat. My great ten minutes became the shittiest ten minute set in the history of comedy.

I couldn't get away, I didn't know what to do. I had ten minutes, that was all the jokes I had. So I just carried on even though my main desire was to abandon the stage and say, in a Eric Cartman voice, "Screw you guys, I'm going home!". Sadly, that could have been the wisest of choices. Those ten minutes became a long and very painful experience.

In the end, the only thing that will help any comic overcome bombing is experience, because it is never going to stop. Even my favourites Bill Hicks, Louis CK or Bill Burr have bombed badly. Some of those performances have become the stuff of legend and even been edited as albums - as with Hicks' Flying Saucer Tour - or Youtube sensations - like Bill Burr's Philadelphia rant.

Bombing is bad, but it happens. You don't always have to run away from a rabid midget, but from time to time, you might do. Shit happens.
It's all bombing is, a minor incident.
So don't stop.
Keep bombing.
Bomb better next time - it means you haven't given up yet.

Ricky Gervais presents: How to Win at Losing

"Twenty-one times I've been nominated, lost nineteen".

Even though I don't agree with Gervais on many things, he's a great fucking comic. For a guy who started so late, his work rate and quality of his stuff is impressive. So to watch him and others lose Emmys year on year off to Jim Parsons seems unfair. I'm not saying Parsons isn't a good actor but is the Big Bang Theory, even though sometimes very funny, the kind of groundbreaking show that draws that much attention to the quality of its acting?

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, on the other hand, fully deserved their wins with their spectacular (yeah bitch, magnets!) turns in Breaking Bad, even though I think in the show's final season, Dean Norris deserved at least a Best Supporting Actor nod. Considering his initial portrait of the character was almost comedic, the way Hank Schrader evolved to be the super-detective and then head of DEA was some serious badassery. And to me personally, this scene from the episode "Blood Money" is one of the major pieces of evidence that show really how great an actor Norris is, and how he doesn't become overshadowed by Bryan Cranston's incredible acting chops and has a very strong game.

But back to Gervais, the way he jokes with the most times unfair nature of these awards and says what some of us have always wanted to, is refreshing. A kick in the teeth audiences and little grey voting showbiz people don't always enjoy. Proof that all of us can win, even at losing.

Monday, 14 July 2014

talking funny

"I started late. I don't want to die with a good idea. I want to get it out."

"I remind myself it really isn’t work. My dad was a laborer who got up at 5:30 each morning and worked for 50 years in all weathers for, by showbiz standards, petty cash. I remind myself of that every time I feel a bit hard done by. Winston Churchill said if you find a job you love, you’ll never work again. And that’s what it feels like. I used to be a lazy person, unambitious, a slacker, but now I’m a workaholic, because of the privileged position I’ve found myself in.

Fame is an upshot of what I do. If you're a successful comedian or actor, then you're a famous one. But it’s a by-product. It’s not the driving force. The making of it is the fun for me—not the money or the awards. It’s the process that I love, and the most exciting part is the creative thought. I’ve never done anything for a million pounds that I wouldn’t have done for free. Likewise, the awards are a thrill, but deep down I know it's only the opinions of a few people; it doesn't matter whether you win or lose. What matters is the work. You tried your hardest and you're proud of it. That's the important thing."

Thursday, 3 July 2014

morning star

a dance with the Devil
always begins

the skin
under my

torn apart

as we dig into
each others'

deep into
the somber ocean
of memory

where she
into ashes

where I
wait for her

wrecked and

a dance with the Devil
always begins

a silent passing
the obituary
of us

sweet and sour
as we split
like the atom

fall asleep
under the stars

and forget each

the echo of
our first

it was never
a dance

more a

the summoning
of storms
and rain


that ends in pain.

Friday, 27 June 2014

comedy lessons from Jack Dall and in praise of 'Louie'

The word 'masterpiece' is often overused. Everywhere we see artists dubbed as masters by critics and audiences alike, not always fairly. That isn't the case of Louis CK's semi-autobiographical masterpiece 'Louie'. Yes, I said masterpiece. Because 'Louie' on the surface seemed just like any other comedy series, only it's much more than that. As a human being and comedian it's the sort of artistic work that got under my skin like anything ever did before. 'Louie' is as much funny as it is scary and philosophical. It's a comedy and a tragedy. Tragicomical is the word to look for in here.

Very few shows have managed to touch me so deeply. Breaking Bad, the remake of Battlestar Galactica, the recent Hannibal and Twin Peaks were some of the very few. Of course, there are many very funny shows out there, but none as challenging as 'Louie'. 'Louie' dares not to be funny.

"This is real!" Louie yells at his daughter in one of the first episodes of this fourth season. And that is why 'Louie' stands on its own, away from the competition. The barrier between reality and fiction gets so blurry we're unsure whether this is all true. It can be, and if not it could, because every episode is more ground-breaking than the last one. CK shoots like a John Cassavetes documenting fiction and reality in the same way.

"Dig Deeper"

I  knew Louis CK's stand-up but I didn't start paying as much attention as when I started watching the show. My fascination with the man's art led me to discover he was greatly influenced by one of the comics that has the most influence on me becoming a comedian: George Carlin.

Wandering through Youtube videos months ago I found his speech at the tribute to George Carlin held at the New York Public Library after his death.

From a wholly inspiring speech, what stuck with me was this:

"When you’re done telling jokes about airplanes and dogs, and you throw those away, what do you have left? You can only dig deeper. You start talking about your feelings and who you are. And then you do those jokes and they’re gone. You gotta dig deeper. So then you start thinking about your fears and your nightmares. And doing jokes about that. And then they’re gone….It’s a process I watched him do his whole life. And I started to try to do it."

As a beginner comic, I thought this was insane. I barely had any material and this guy was saying to throw all the good stuff away? Then time passed and the "good stuff" no longer rung true and relevant and I couldn't understand how some comics could endure doing the same material for years. The fear of getting rid of your good stuff will stop you from getting to the great stuff, the stuff that will make you a great comedian.

I started doing it and then I improved a little. Louis CK had been doing the same material for decades. It took him years to get strong routines that worked. Then he got rid of them and became what he is today, one of the best comedians working in the world. How do you come up with your best material? "Dig deeper".

Of the many cameos 'Louie' has to offer, the one of David Lynch is something incredible. The way his character challenges Louie and in the end makes him a better comic is a huge lesson. When in one of the episodes he gives Louie a countdown and tells him at the end of it he has to be funny. Louie replies it doesn't work like that. It is truly one of the best scenes in the show for me and one that surely will apply to many comedians. Dall challenges Louie to improvise, to be funny, that that is his job.

Jack Dall has three rules for show business. The first one stuck with me and was the first step on me improving as a comedian.

"Look'em in the eye and speak from the heart"

"You're whatever you have to be to make people laugh". Get out there, be funny - it's your fucking job.