Archive for March, 2006
I’m gigging at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls tonight. I’ve been a number of times already. It’s the strangest gig I play in that nobody wants it. I’ll elaborate. In general, the audience is happy to be there, the management is happy they’ve booked me and I’m looking forward to the laughs. At the casino, the audience is generally miserable since only losers would leave the table/machine to watch the free comedy show. The management only hires me because they are required to provide some entertainment other than gambling by law and I’m doing it for the money since the response is usually minimal for the effort required. It is rare for me to do any gig that I don’t do for the enjoyment. People might say that a small town bar or roadhouse gig is only for money but I find those crowds are almost always responsive and grateful to have some professional entertainment in their community. Still I do love going to a casino and knowing I’ll be leaving with a chunk of their money in my pocket. And I know that whatever gig is next, it’ll feel like fresh air in comparison.
Finally got to do Boyd Banks’ awesome Sunday night room at the Dominion Pub. the space itself is ideal for comedy with perfect sightlines and a raised seating area at the back. The atmosphere is very different from other gigs. The crowd was really listening. It was more about wanting to hear what you had to say than watching a show. It made me reach for my better bits and adlib more cleverly. I finally got to do my jokes about Boyd which are only for his crowd. Boyd is one of the most gracious guys I know. He didn’t just host the show, he hosted the acts. We were treated like guests and stars. Other gigs could learn from the lavish treatment the Dominion and Boyd gave us. Also had fun with Lou Eisen and Paul Irving – two hilarious guys. Those in the know (among them comedians Randy Metson and Michelle Shaughnessy) dropped by to see a rare performance by the legendary Steve Shuster who did not disappoint. Hilariously funny with his classic routines including musical numbers “Andrew Dice Webber” and “On a Good Night”. I knew Steve from the start and consider him a mentor. He taught me much of what I know about comedy and most of what I know about music. Steve is fighting and winning against some powerful personal demons and all of us who know and love him are happy to welcome him back to the land of the living. All in all, a terrific night. I highly recommend checking it out on a Sunday.
Last night I was not working so I was able to go to Spirits for the whole night. As usual, a great time and a very fun atmosphere. I’m not much of a drinker but Wednesday nights at Spirits I make an exception and enjoy some beer. It’s so nice to have a place where comics from all over the city (and sometimes the world) can gather and relax together. The whole vibe of the place puts everyone is as good a mood as any decent comedian can be.
I did a set, thanks to the gracious Jo-Anna. I tried some of the material I’m preparing for Winnipeg (see previous blog entry) and even though it was late in the show and the crowd was tiring, it went over really well. So I suddenly have a boost of confidence about how the fest gala will go. Although generous, the Spirits crowd does not coddle. If they don’t like a joke, they certainly won’t feign enthusiasm for the act’s benefit. It means that you can get a pretty decent gauge of how it’s likely to work in front of a paying crowd. I also got a lot of compliments after the set from audience memebers and some of the young comics. It’s amazing, after all these years, I still get a charge when somebody says “Good set.” I guess it never goes away.
I’m off to the Winnipeg comedy festival next month. It’s my second time going and I had a blast in ‘04. This time I have to write a set for the gala on a specific theme. It’s odd because it’s not the way I work. As a rule, my bits come to me as real ideas based on thoughts that occur naturally. This writing to order business feels dishonest since the theme is not something that is true to my life. It means I’m writing jokes as if they’re for another comic.
I’m sure it’ll go well. The venue and crowd assures it. I sent a jumble of notes to the producers in an email of what I’m hoping to do. But I need to use the local stages over the next few weeks to hammer out the details and sequence. It feels a lot like work. Maybe that whole “honesty” thing is a lie and the effort is what bothers me.
I just watched “The Aristocrats” on video for the second time. For a movie that cost next to nothing to make, it’s extremely entertaining. It should be mandatory viewing. I have my own approach to the joke itself. I think the guy should be pitching the show to the booker in character. I do a fairly clipped, sophisticated gentleman as the act and a seen-it-all agent.
I also think the description should be fairly unemotionally delivered. Not so much deadpan but as though he’s a professional describing his professional act to another professional and has no concept of the level of shock his ideas must generate. Much of the improvised part is pilched from John Wing Jr. who first told me the joke. I also change the punchline as John did, as you’ll see. Nevertheless, I did originate a lot- in the performance in particular. To visulaize it properly picture this – when I deliver the punchline, I hold my hands in front of me stretched forward with the fingers spread like a director seeing an image and I push them apart as I say the name as though reading it in lights on a marquee.
When I had the pleasure of telling this joke to Paul Provenza (who made the movie), I started with “Stop me if you’ve heard this one.”
And now – my version:
A guy walks into a booking agents office and says:
Hello, I’d like to talk to you about booking my act.
The agent says: Ok. I’ve got a couple of minutes. What kind of act is it?
Act: Well, it’s a family act. Me and my famiily. It starts with my wife and I. We come on. I’m dressed in a tux and tails. She’s in a lovely ball gown. She’s carrying a stool. She puts the stool down at the front of the stage. I bend her over it, pull up her dress and fuck her in the ass.
Agent: you what?
Act: I fuck her in the ass. (without pause) Then the children come out. My son is 19 and a strapping young man. My daughter is 12 but, no fear, in the full flower of womanhood. My daughter is leading a donkey. While my daughter is sucking the donkey’s cock, my son is giving it an enema causing it to lose control of its bowels and cover the stage behind it with donkey shit. At this point, my wife, the donkey and myself all come (with a flourish) simultaneously! and the entire family stands behind the donkey and gathhers the shit into balls with which we pelt the audience. (looking at him, expectantly)
Agent: What do you call yourselves?
Act: The Debonaires.
See, I think Debonaires is funnier because it represents a behaviour and carriage while Aristocrats indicates a societal position. It’s not as logical a punchline.
I just got home from an audition for a commercial. It was another one without any words. I know a number of comedians are also fine actors. Boyd Banks and Alex Nussbaum come to mind. I, however, am not. I am quite successful in getting parts. I rarely get any acting auditions but have a fairly high percentage of booking the jobs I do try out for. I thought this might be an excellent place to reveal my technique (how pretentious to call it that).When I’m directed how to act or react, I almost always just say a funny line that reflects that situation. The people behind the table usually laugh and often hire me. If they insist on doing it silently, I think the line and it tends to reflect in my expression. That’s how I use my stand-up skills to secure acting gigs. I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you might have.
I’ve finally joined the 21st century and have a website. I’ll try to update the blog regularly. In the meantime, please post a comment so I know who’s visiting. Thanks for taking a look.