Some New Stuff at the Open Mic

Some old material, some new material, some bad delivery, some decent recovery. So it goes when you aren’t performing often enough, but at least I felt like I got something out of this set. This took place at the Tao Comedy Studio in Hollywood, run by Bobbie and Chris Oliver, easily my favorite open mic in LA. The video quality here is shite, but it’s fine for reviewing.

I opened with an old bit, and totally screwed up the wording. But I was interested to see how it would do as an opener, and how well I would remember it. Now that I think about it, it’s not really that strong of a bit.

The thing about being lazy is brand new and, in case a prospective employer reads this, untrue. But for everyone else, there’s some truth to it regarding career mistakes/bad habits over the last two or three years that I am trying to rectify. I also have always loved how every job description sounds the same. Consider this snippet from a job posting:

We’re looking for hard working, enthusiastic individuals who want to be a part of a winning team.

And these bullet points from a different listing’s basic qualifications:

  • Proactive and self-motivated
  • Ability to work in close coordination with others
  • Strong worth ethic

They vary in tone but seek the same things: team players who are motivated and proactive. The first snippet is from a McDonald’s Crew Member job posting and the second one is for a Goldman Sachs investment banking position.

I don’t think I’m lazy, however I do believe that we are all taught to project a certain image of ourselves involving drive and success that is so generic it’s worthless. I wonder how non-comics will respond to this bit; hopefully I can tighten it up and try it in front of a real audience.

Moving on, the “dial 1” joke is old but I added on the new part about the phone company keeping track of your errors. It went over ok, but I let myself get distracted during the setup, focusing on someone to my left who was yawning, which was stupid of me because she’s just another comic and was really friendly. It’s bad onstage decision making, which happens when you don’t perform often enough. Would have been best to let it go, but I feel like I recovered from it ok.

The NSA bit won’t be topical for too long but I really like it, even if it’s not particularly original. And the bit about smoking is very new, I’ve only done it once before and am trying to get at how we are too quick to villainize. I am not a smoker but get annoyed by people who are overly sensitive to it. At the same time, there are toooonnnnns of comedians doing bits about how annoying anti-smokers are. Usually their bits reenact them smoking a cigarette when someone comes up and coughs in an overly dramatic manner. So there’s no need to make fun of that personality, it’s been done. I still hope I can make this work without being hacky.

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Dear Apple: I Know I’m on a Mac, Stop Reminding Me

I have two personal computers that I use regularly. One is a desktop running Windows 7 that I put together using parts from Newegg and similar stores. The other is a Macbook Pro that I bought in 2008. Yeah, it’s over five years old but still kicking.

There is no question, at least in my mind, that Apple has its shit together when it comes to designing and building computers. That’s why I paid several hundred dollars more than a comparably powered Windows laptop, and I don’t regret that decision at all.

But every time you turn on or restart a Mac, it plays that chime sound that annoys the hell out of me. You can avoid this if you mute your Mac before shutting down, which I never remember to do because that’s never on my mind when I’m shutting down. Apparently you can hold the mute button down to prevent that or disable it using Terminal or some applications. In Windows, you can disable it in the Control Panel. Why is that so hard?

This is especially annoying when you turn your computer on and don’t want to disturb people or draw attention to yourself. Yet there it is, blasting away, announcing “I OWN A MAC” to anyone within earshot. The other thing that irks me is the glowing Apple logo on the back of every laptop screen. I have a giant sticker from Gelasknis on the back of my Macbook Pro, but you can still see the logo dimly as the sticker is translucent. I know it’s just light from the screen, and not a separate light, but they could have made that opaque.

I can see liking the chime and glowing logo if you’re a super Apple fan and love announcing to the world that you think their products are superior. Maybe you’re the type to wear an Apple shirt even though you don’t work there. Yeah man, put that Apple sticker on your fucking Volkswagen, I don’t care. But I use a Macbook Pro because I like that computer, not because I love Apple.  I don’t need built-in advertising after I’ve bought the product unless you’re going to give me a discount on that product.

This is a stupid thing to dedicate a post to, but it’s just ridiculous to me, especially the chime. Obviously, no one else cares, as Apple just keep raking it in. Hell, I’ll probably end up buying another Macbook in the next year or two when my 2008 machine goes kaput. If a Windows machine manufacturer could keep up with Apple’s design instead of copying it, I’d probably ditch the Mac. Until then, if I’m in a cafe you’ll hear my Macbook Pro loudly announce my presence followed immediately by the sound of a grumbling Asian Jew.


Procrastination

Edit: Well one more thing I’ve learned about the WordPress app is that it doesn’t always publish things that you ask it to. I didn’t check this on the computer until just now, at 12:07 am, but I’m still counting this as a post from yesterday. I know, no one cares.

Just yesterday I was pleased with myself for making it one whole week posting something every day. Well if you look at the time stamps on those posts, most of them were done between 10:00 pm and midnight.

I’ve been at home pretty much all day today. I’m not sick, it’s just that every month I have to take one unpaid day off, a furlough day required by employees of the State of California to save the state money. Thankfully I get to choose the date, and I chose today because of the United States vs. Bosnia-Herzegovenia soccer match (which was awesome) that was on at 11:30 a.m.

The only times I left the apartment were 1) to buy beer, and 2) to do laundry. Despite that, I waited until 11:20 pm to start writing this. That laundry had been put off until I was out of underwear. My point is, I procrastinate way too much.

I’d like to think that this extends beyond just individual tasks and applies more to my entire life. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I think about why I’m at the point I am in my life and career and all that good stuff.

On a more positive note, I’m using the WordPress app for my android phone, using Android’s built-in speech-to-text aka voice recognition feature to write mostof this post and it works surprisingly well. the only downside, it is that there’s no punctuation or capitalization, so you end up having to go back in and everything. However, I just discovered that if you actually say the word “comma” or “period” or other punctuation mark word out loud, the voice recognition software registers that and will put it in your text for you.

I’m still figuring out capitalization and line breaks, but I am definitely going to start using this feature more!


It’s Been One Week

Typing that title reminded me of that awful Barenaked Ladies song that was so popular in the 90s. I fucking hated that song and never understood why it was such a hit. Similarly, how was Counting Crows tolerable to people?

Anyway, it’s been a week since I said I would post something every day, and I have managed to do that. One thing I’m realizing about my writing style and process is that it’s very difficult for me to stay on track. I’ll start getting too introspective, or I’ll go off on a tangent or otherwise include things that prevent a post from being concise and cohesive.

This happens in stand-up too. Continue reading


Cooking is Hard

At least it is for me. I have been saying for a very long time that I want and need to cook more. I consistently told myself that I would learn new recipes and make good use of them, which amounted to maybe three or four new things over the past two years. That’s pretty lame. And while I’ve learned to eat out far less than I used to, most of my meals are either very simple (eggs and toast, spaghetti and jarred sauce with ground beef, etc.) or frozen/pre-prepped.

One of the things I eat most (and I’m not proud of this) is store-bought pizza. More specifically, I would not be surprised if I consumed at least 75 frozen or take-and-bake pizzas over the last year. Yes, that’s more than one per week. Doesn’t that sound like a healthy lifestyle?

I tell myself that by eating Trader Joe’s or Open Nature brand pizzas, it isn’t as bad for me as because they don’t use hydrogenated oils or insane amounts of chemicals the way Tombstone or Red Baron would. While that does somewhat mitigate the effects of eating processed food, it doesn’t change the amount of calories and fat with each meal. Or the fact that I’m a 30-year-old man sitting alone at home eating frozen pizza. But let’s put this last part aside for a minute.

I’ve had friends and relatives tell me over the years that making pizza from scratch is not that hard. Of course, I put off actually trying it, but I was recently inspired by a post on My Money Blog that was inspired by Michael Pollan’s Cooked. So I figured it was time to get to work, and I looked up a recipe that my cousin had suggested from Smitten Kitchen.  I went out and bought the ingredients listed along with a frozen pizza just in case this all went to shit.

Prep and Cooking

Only once, in home econ class in 8th grade, had I ever made any type of dough from scratch (biscuits, a recipe I should reacquaint myself with) and I had never made tomato sauce. I had assembled pizzas before with pre-made dough and sauce, but this was different. The process was interesting and even somewhat fun, though the “joy of cooking” that so many people rave about didn’t really hit me. Here’s the progression from dough with sauce to fully assembled pizza with cheese and basil to cooked pizza fresh out of the oven:

Sorry for the low-quality images, I wasn’t about to run and grab my camera with my hands as they were, and on my phone screen they didn’t look so bad.

The Results

For a first effort, it wasn’t bad. I liked the taste of the crust but wish it had been crispier. I believe I need a stone or special pan to get the most out of it, but I feel like in terms of making a dough that I like, I got it right. The sauce, on the other hand, had way too much salt. I generally like less salt than most people, so this was an especially bad mistake. I think I may have also put a bit too much wine in.

In terms of assembly and baking, I stretched the crust thin enough to where it cooked all the way through, but I still prefer it a bit thinner. The sauce was exactly the right amount, so kudos to Smitten Kitchen for that. Unfortunately, I put way too much cheese on. I had sliced up a half pound of mozzarella as the recipe called for, and I didn’t even use all of that. I also had cut up too much basil, so I cut up some tomatoes, added olive oil, and made a little caprese salad.

IMG_20130812_222927

I felt so smart for doing this

Again, this wasn’t a bad first effort, but it wasn’t what I want to get out of two hours. Still, given the amount of pizza I eat, I will keep working on this until I can competently make pizza from scratch. Next time, I will probably use a simpler recipe like the one My Money Blog used, or this one that I found from a quick search. Or maybe I’ll just keep trying the one I started with until I get it right.

I was additionally inspired to check out Pollan’s book, as I had enjoyed The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I downloaded it and burned it to a CD to listen to on the way to work. I have never listened to an audio book, and I couldn’t even get through the intro before opting to listen to music instead. I guess I’ll have to read it instead.


That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

That’s the title of the song by The Smiths I happened to be listening to as I checked to make sure that this video uploaded correctly:

I haven’t even gone through the video yet, but I skipped around to make sure the video and audio quality were passable. I intentionally left extra footage at the end, after my set was done, to provide a sense of how that event and room were. They weren’t entirely conducive to comedy. That doesn’t relieve me of responsibility to perform well, but it does make it harder. Still, I enjoyed myself and would like to think it went well overall. Before I actually go through the video to see whether or not this is accurate, I will try to describe how I remember it.

Before the comedy show started, a psychic and his sidekick went up to do their shtick and a half-assed reading on someone. It wasn’t that good, but it was also a pretty tough crowd given that it was still daylight, there were no spotlights, and people were still walking around engaged in conversation and raffle prize inspection.

After the psychic duo finished, my friend Kelly McCarron was introduced to start the comedy section. People were still talking a lot, and it seemed like the people interested in the show had trouble paying attention to Kelly. So I hatched a little plan to go up there, be loud, and power through the first several minutes because I wouldn’t have the whole room no matter what I did. The plan worked, and at some point in my set (maybe halfway through?) I noticed that people were fairly quiet, paying attention.

As for how the material went over, I recall getting some laughs here and there, a couple of big laughs (at least, big for that room) and a few dismissive silent reactions. The psychic going before us did give me a great saver line, which I unfortunately used early in the set.

What cracks me up is that I was given 15 minutes, and I ended up doing no more and no less than the jokes that I wrote out on the whiteboard that I used to prepare a setlist. I didn’t even realize it but I was doing the bare minimum to prepare for this show. Perfect.

I really liked the rest of the lineup in this show; it was all comedians I know from the Bay Area who are funny and have good taste. I may have gone a little over the line talking about suicide at a fundraiser for breast cancer, performing in front of people who have battled a life-threatening disease. I always wonder about that, because I would expect such people to have an even more flippant attitude toward life and be more willing to embrace a dark sense of humor, but given that I haven’t faced such an ordeal I have no idea what they have been through.

In any case, you can judge for yourself how that set went. And by “you” I mean someone who happens to find this post on my website. And my mom, who reads everything I post online, like this: I love you mom!


A Few Topical Jokes

I’m generally not a huge fan of topical jokes in stand-up sets but I can appreciate a well crafted and delivered monologue on a late night show. Sometimes I’ll write jokes that are sort of in that monologue and/or Twitter style. They’re not always good but it never hurts to write something down and try to work with it.

That said, here are four that I came up with tonight just from looking at stories on cnn.com.

  1. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical expert who had previously spoken out against medical marijuana, recently made a mea culpa when he declared that he no longer believes that CNN is news.
  2. Two out of three winners of the recent $448 million Powerball jackpot have come forward. While the third winner has yet to be publicly announced, reliable sources indicate that it is someone who will lose the money within five years.
  3. The Perseid meteor shower is set to peak on Monday and Tuesday, offering Earthlings a chance to look up at the sky and see the illustrious fiery streaks that could also be falling Boeing 787 Dreamliner parts.
  4. Matt Damon’s new movie ‘Elysium’ debuted, offering a story about an elite society of the rich who have completely separated themselves from the vast majority of people. The movie opened at #1 as millions of people each spent 3 days’ worth of their paychecks to see the movie.

Not my best, not my worst. I don’t like the Dreamliner joke, as a) Dreamliner problems are kind of old news, and b) I am somewhat of a plane geek and think the 787 is amazing. Still, writing jokes like these is very likely something I’ll continue to do, regardless of whether or not I intend to use the jokes in any way.

And to follow up from yesterday, I did that show in Long Beach and it went well enough. I recorded it all and will upload the video when I can (it’s a huge file in AVCHD format, so processing/editing takes considerable time).


It’s Not Like Riding a Bike

I remember watching Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedian before I started doing comedy, and then again when I’d been in it for several years. It was interesting to see that someone who was a veteran of stand-up was getting back into it and it was really hard. Seinfeld had trouble stringing things together, delivering his jokes, etc.

I’ve been out of it lately, performing far less frequently than I used to, and one thing I’ve noticed is that I lack fluidity unless I plan out my set beforehand. I haven’t really needed to do this since three or four years into comedy, because I could just go on stage and know that I’d figure it out as I went along.

Nowadays that doesn’t work because I don’t know my catalogue of jokes as well as I used to (which is weird, because they’re mine!) or because I’ll forget how one goes. I’m doing a show tonight that I care about, so I’m putting together a set list and even rehearsing some of the bits. It’s sad in a way, realizing that I’ve regressed in that manner, but it’s not so bad when I remember that even Seinfeld had trouble getting back into it. And no, I’m not trying to compare myself to Seinfeld, I’m just saying that it doesn’t reflect poorly on my abilities that picking things up again is difficult.

This is my whiteboard after writing out bits that are being considered. That plus the DMV notice that I need to register my vehicle again and my reflection.