Friday, April 29, 2011

Show #75: Make Me Laugh Comedy Tour

My seventy-fifth show of the year came at the Make Me Laugh Comedy Tour in Hagerstown, MD. Despite some adverse conditions... I had a great twenty-five minute set.

I woke up this morning with a really sore throat. By five o'clock this evening, I could barely talk. I almost canceled the show, but did not want to pass up a chance to perform in front of three hundred people. I spent the next three hours drinking hot tea, sucking on lemons and even drank Brandy. The last one made me a bit tipsy (I'm a light weight).

Despite sounding like Marty Funkhouser from Curb your Enthusiasm, I had a really strong set. I worked the entire room and had a lot of fun with this audience. It is almost worth the pain I'm in now (I can't speak at all and even swallowing water is painful at the moment).


Show #74: RFD

I did six (mostly) new minutes at RFD in Washington DC last night. This is still my favorite open mic to do in the area and I had a great set. I was very happy that the new jokes worked really well and every beat got laughs (that were supposed to). After watching video, the only thing I would do differently is work all sides of the room. RFD is a big wide open space, so you have to engage the entire room. Last night, I focused too much on the right side of the audience.

I've been feeling a little burnt out lately... Life has been hectic (stand up, wedding planning, full time job etc.) and the trip to New York took a lot out of me. After two days off, I watched an HBO special called "Talking Funny" (any person trying to be a comic should stop what they're doing and watch this). The show was a round table of Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Ricky Gervais talking shop and comedy. Listening to those guys talk comedy really inspired and energized me. Between that and the new jokes, I am feeling slightly reinvigorated. I'm ready to work harder and keep getting better at this...


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shows #70, #71, #72 & #73: New York Comedy Club, Perch Cafe, Stand Up New York and Carolines on Broadway

Here is a rundown of my shows in New York:

4/24- My first set was five minutes long at New York Comedy Club. I did a show at NYCC last year and decided to hit their open mic while I was in town. I had a good set and really enjoyed the "feedback" portion of the open mic. This is where the other comedians can critique or give suggestions for each comedian's sets. All the other comedians were extremely complimentary and someone suggested a really funny tagline for one of my jokes.

Later that night, I did six minutes at Perch Cafe in Brooklyn. I went with my good friend Will Carey (a great Baltimore comedian who moved to New York last year). This open mic was a lot of fun. This is the only time I have ever seen music and comedy work well together. There were some really talented folk musicians and comedians, so it was fun to watch as well as perform.

4/25- I did two sets on Monday night. The first was at Stand up New York. This open mic was a colossal waste of time. The club is a decent space and the owner Gabe seems like a nice guy. Unfortunately, there were ten comedians and zero audience members. Apparently, that is normal for this venue's open mic. I have no idea why anyone would show up to this club three hours before doors open to sign up early and pay money for stage time.

That is my biggest beef with the New York Open Mic scene. In researching, about three-quarters of the open mics charge comedians for stage time. Bringer shows are one thing but cash for stage time is different. Open mics charge anywhere from $5-$15 for five minutes of stage time. That is really all you are paying for too... the use of that club's microphone. There is usually no audience and little to gain. Unless you enjoy performing in front of an audience of twelve jaded comedians, I do not recommend most of these "pay to play" mics.

My last show at New York was at the historic Carolines on Broadway. This was a big moment for me. Every comedian I love and respect (including Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld and countless others) have performed on that stage. I'm proud that I got to do the same for six minutes and change on Monday. Despite going first on the bill in front of a tight crowd, I had a good set. I really wanted to knock it out of the park and didn't quite do that, but I still did pretty well. I was invited back to Carolines this summer and was also offered a spot on another showcase at Eastville Comedy Club from someone at the show.

Overall this was a good experience and quite a bit of fun. Special thanks to my friends Will Carey, Mark Hendricks, Sam Angell, Tom Decker, Josh Mccarthy, John Cramer, Caryn Heller and New York's newest New Yorker Ben Rosen for hanging out and showing me around the city.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Show #69: Magooby's Joke House

I ended up doing a last minute guest spot at Magooby's Joke House in Baltimore, Maryland. My six minute set went great and it was really good practice for Caroline's on Monday. I've gotten into the rhythm of doing longer sets (I still work best in the 20-25 minute range) so it was important for me to practice my shorter/faster paced "showcase set".

I'm going to cut a few lines before Monday but I think this set works very well. I'm really excited about doing stand up in New York over the next few days.


The Big Apple

I'm heading to New York City tomorrow and my goal is to do eight sets in three days (including my Monday show at Caroline's on Broadway). Due to a hectic schedule and unknown internet access status, I'm probably going to write about all of these shows in one monster blog next week.

Until then...


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shows #67 & #68: Ilusions Magic Bar and NcDevin's Bar and Grill

I had two shows tonight... My first stop was at Illusions Magic Bar in Federal Hill, MD. My set was a little under ten minutes and it went very well. I felt very comfortable on stage and think this was a very good set from start to finish.

When I did Capital Comedy Connection last week, I used an opener I hadn't used before (in part because I needed something clean but also because I didn't want to open with the same joke twice on that show). The joke was a hybrid of three parts of jokes that didn't work seperately but now work really well together. I've used this opener a few other times since and I'm pretty happy with it.

I'm sure when I watch tape tomorrow... I'll be more critical. For now, I'm really happy with this show. I really have to thank Ben Rosen for having me. Ben is moving to New York and this was his farewell to Baltimore show. It was an absolute honor to be a part of it and Ben (as a friend and comedian) will be missed. Best of luck to him in NYC.

I co-featured my second show of the night with my good friend T. Brad Hudson at NcDevin's in Canton, MD. My seventeen minute set went well (but not as well as my first set tonight). The crowd was a little rowdier than I like, but I adapted and the set went over well. My written material got laughs and my improv did as well.

Overall... this was a good night of comedy.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Show #66: University of Delaware

I performed fifteen minutes opening up for my friend Matt Baetz at the University of Delaware last night. This was a really fun show and I had a good set. I really learned a lot from watching Matt's performance (and re-watching my own set on tape). I should have worked the stage more. Matt did a great job of moving around and engaging a large room... I should have done more of the same.

Otherwise, I am the happiest I have been with my sets in the fifteen to twenty-five minute range. I'd like to get back to writing again. I can not reiterate how funny Matt Baetz is. The line "Suck it Dunken Donuts! Newark has Chipoltle now!" will stick with me for a while.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Show #65: Capital Comedy Connection

I was invited back to the Capital Comedy Connection yesterday. I had a really good set that went overall well and was a lot of fun despite one flub. I stumbled through the one line but turned the gaff into a laugh. I still hate watching myself but watching video is really helping.

I had a second show scheduled last night but after driving all the way out from Annapolis... it was canceled. Womp wah.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Show #64: 11th Street Lounge

I did eight minutes last night at the 11th Street Lounge last night. It wasn't a great set but it wasn't a complete disaster either. The crowd was really tight and pretty much every comedian struggled. My biggest problem was connecting with the audience. The self deprecating stuff didn't get laughs. Anything remotely dirty got groans instead of laughs. I felt like I couldn't win.

That all being said, I didn't give up and my closer got a big laugh. I wish I got more laughs but all things considered...I got enough not to kill myself.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shows #62 & #63: Hightopps Bar and Grille and Sonoma's Bar

I co-headlined Hightopps Bar and Grille with my good friend Ben Rosen on Sunday. I was not very happy with my twenty minute set...

Issue #1: I stumbled through two jokes I haven't done in a while. I have been working really hard on new jokes lately and ended up being rusty on a few of my older bits. I realized that lately I've been working so much on selling and performing the new bits, that I have not put the thought and performance into the old jokes.

Audiences can tell when you're on autopilot or going through the motions. As a comedian, you never want to feel like you're just saying or even reciting a bit. As I've stated before, selling a bit is key and I haven't been doing that enough on the older bits lately.

Also... I should have opened with a different joke. My usual opener (which in my Iphone is labeled 'sponsorship') works great in clubs. It's a slow burn and works well with a comedy audience. At a bar show, you have to hit the audiences hard and fast. You can slow burn on jokes at certain points, but it is important to get people's attention early. If I would have opened with a quick hit, it would have set a different tone for my set.

I ended up pulling a few audibles and changed a few things during my set. This was the big positive for me. Some bits were't working and I went to other jokes that I thought that particular audience would like. I'm happy that I have enough material to do that now.

I got my biggest laughs and reactions during improvisation and jokes that I did not plan on doing. I don't really improv or change things up a lot but it is a skill I'm developing and working on. I'll never be a comedian that flies by the seat of his pants... but doing these things successfully during a set makes me feel more confident about using that particular skill set.

Ultimately, this show was not a disaster. In baseball terms, I went into Hightopps wanting to go four for four with a few homeruns. In the end, I went two for four with a double, a walk and a strike out. Ben Rosen and Mike Moran on the other hand had awesome sets. These guys are good friends and it was nice to see them do as well as they did at that show.

Speaking of that adorable Hebrew... I had a long conversation with Ben Rosen before my show at Sonoma's last night. This conversation with Ben pointed out and reinforced some of the things I've been working on (listed above). It also forced me to focus on some of the positives I got out of the Hightopps show (that were also noted above). This talk really helped me refocus and feel better going into my next set. Talking to comics you respect and admire is always helpful and productive... Not to mention a lot of fun. Ben is definitely in this category of people that pushes me to be funnier.

I feel really good about the twenty minutes I did at Sonoma's. I really tried and worked hard on selling the jokes better. I had a focus and conviction that I didn't have the other night and this helped me engage and work the crowd better.

I stumbled into one joke that I hadn't told for a while and still need to tighten up a few things... but overall it was a strong set. In fact, I think it was my most consistent twenty minute set from start to finish (so far).

Ben raised the point of "If you want people to watch you, you have to watch yourself". As much as I hate watching myself... he's right. With that in mind, I filmed my latest set (and plan on filming all sets now). I know I can write a good joke but my biggest weakness is still the performance part. Having game film is going to help me. There are always going to be things to tweak and fix so watching myself will make the things to work on more clear.

I'm going to get back to work. Until next time... Did you really make it to the end of this long ass blog?


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Show #61: Magooby's Joke House

I did a seven minute guest spot at Magooby's Joke House last night. Despite a really crappy and awkward introduction, I had a pretty good set. I'm getting better at playing off the crowd and improvising. Overall, it was a fun night.

It was also nice seeing half of the Mega Powers.... Justin Jones.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Show #60: Arlington Drafthouse

Today has been a crazy day, so my update is going to be brief. My sixtieth show of the year was a twenty minute set at the Arlington Drafthouse. I really enjoyed this show and have to give a special thanks to Will Hessler for letting me be a part of it. Will is a very good comedian and runs a very good room there in Arlington.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Goals

I set several comedic goals for myself in 2011. Here is where I stand on obtaining each goal so far....

1) Perform 200 sets this year... So far, I have done 59 sets in the first 90 days of 2011. Currently, I am on pace for 239 sets during this calendar year. Obviously, that is well ahead of my goal. With my wedding in May and honeymoon in June it will be hard to keep this number up... but doing over 200 shows is more than obtainable.

Most importantly, I feel like I'm getting a lot out of each set. Even when I do not do well... each show has been a great learning experience. Looking through this blog, there have only been 2 sets I did not get anything out of. That is a pretty good batting average.

2) Have 60 minutes of material by the end of the year. At the end of 2010, I did my first headline show. I did a set that was just short of 30 minutes long. I think out of that 30 minutes...20-25 were quality. One of my goals this year was to more than double that. I want to be a solid feature (20-30 minute guy) by the end of the year. To do that, you have to have 45-60 minutes of really good material. Things are going to go wrong and not every audience is going to get every joke. A comedian has to have audibles. Hence me wanting to have a really solid 60 minutes of bits.

So far this year, I have 10 new minutes that I consider solid. I've tried out almost 30 minutes in concepts and bits...but 10 of them are usable. Ten new minutes in 3 months is a lot and I'm very proud of this new section. I've cut out older jokes that I've outgrown from the old set (I was either sick of them or they didn't fit with the new material). So right now, after 3 months, I'd say I am up to a really solid 35 minutes. I consider myself pretty far along on this goal.

As I've stated before... I'm becoming more of a personal comedian. I'm also a believer that the older I get, the more interesting life is going to be. With that in mind, I'm going to have a larger amount of material (and interesting jokes). It's already starting to show.

3) Feature at Magooby's Joke House... This goal hasn't happened yet, but I'm well on my way. I've already had several guest spots and hosted multiple weekends (with another one coming in May) and I've gotten nothing but great feedback from audiences and the people at the club. Andrew (the brutally honest owner) tells me that I am already ready to feature. He just needs to see me host there one more time. I'm pretty confident in saying that this goal is attainable. If it doesn't happen by the end of 2011... It's still very close.

4) Perform at the D.C. Improv... I've made the least amount of progress on this goal. I sent in a reel at the beginning of February and have not heard anything back yet. Though there is no immediate timetable.... this is going to happen. All I can do is keep working hard and getting better and this stuff will take care of itself.

So 3 months and 3 days in, I feel like I've made a lot of progress. Setting these goals (especially doing 200 sets a year) has helped me stay focused and also work more on the process of doing something. I can definitely see improvement in myself as a comic and other people can too. There is definitely more of a comfortability and a confidence that was not there just a few months ago.

It's like when people have goals in a general life sense. If you set a goal like "I'm going to lose weight", it probably isn't going to happen. But if you set a goals like "I'm going to the gym four times a week and cut out fast food"... really good things could come out of it (including your bigger goal). Yes, it is ironic that I, Mike Finazzo talked about weight loss in a blog. But that's besides the point...