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Don't Shit Where You Eat! ™

Take Advantage of this Opportunity and Get Hubris for Free!

Uncategorised Posted on Fri, January 10, 2020 07:29:29

When I ran Crossfire Comedy Club, for the first two seasons it was a comedy competition. From Season Three I just made it a regular, weekly club, and the first night each month was all-English. Those nights were a lot of fun! The Swedish nights were… not as much fun, due to low turnout. A turnout that got progressively lower as time went on.

On one such night, Yvonne Skattberg was headlining. She’d warned me in advance that she wouldn’t arrive until after the show started, which was just as well since I was going out of my mind. Three people were in the audience. Also, since the venue was a restaurant with only one room, there were a lot of dinner guests who weren’t aware there’d be standup and were annoyed by it, frankly.

I hosted and did my best, which wasn’t nearly good enough. The three in the crowd weren’t much happier than all the dinner guests. Brought up the first comic who promptly and predictably bombed, I went back up and attempted to get things going, without success. But while I was up there I noticed Yvonne arrive.

Brought up the next comic and while they were bombing, went to talk to Yvonne. Apologized for the low turnout and said I completely understood if she just wanted to leave. ”It’s no problem, but instead of headlining, could I go on next?”

I introduced her to the stage and she didn’t treat the room like there were three people in the crowd, sort of listening. She treated the room as if 100 people were there for the show. Not only did she get those three people excited, she got many of the dinner guests to start paying attention, and we had them for the rest of the show.

I thanked Yvonne afterward for her energy and dedication. ”It doesn’t matter if there’s three or three hundred here,” she said, ”it’s a show and they’re here to have a good time.”

—————

One thing that all rookies find out early, much to their chagrin, is that standup isn’t a meritocracy. Talent alone doesn’t lead to stage time and new opportunities. On the one hand, this is a good thing- it shouldn’t be easy. Comics should push club owners for stage time and show up when we’re not booked and promote ourselves on social media as much as possible.

On the other hand, it can be frustrating to see someone get stage time again and again and again, seemingly for the sole reason that the comic has great social skills. Since the vast majority of comics are social retards, a little charm goes a long way; in the land of the blind, he with one eye is king.

I wrote in the last post that talent isn’t enough and not even the most important key to success. We need luck, but the only way to increase the chances of being in the right place at the right time is to be out in the clubs as much as possible. We need to be social, although, speaking as an introvert myself, it’s a tough proposition. ”Hey, you know that way you’ve been your entire life? Have you tried not being that way?”

We need something that makes us special, which is actually something we can affect. If there’s nothing special about the real you, just invent a character. Standup is a very honest art form except when it’s not.

For the very lucky, having a hard-to-define ”it-factor” is powerful currency. Club owners may not even be able to say the exact reason they throw opportunities to those people. Whatever it is, take advantage of it!

I am well aware that being an English-speaking comic in Sweden makes me something more than just yet another middle-aged white guy. All it took for me to make my debut at Maffia Comedy Club was writing an email to the owner saying I’m an English-speaking comic; I’ve seen Swedish comics struggle to get stage time there harder than a rabbit biting its own foot off to get out of a trap. I’ve headlined shows in multiple clubs because I speak English. Hell, I’ve headlined shows just because I have a car and was willing to drive a bunch of comics to the gig.

None of these things matters without some level of talent. Beyond that, whatever edge you may have, exploit the fuck out of it and without guilt. But don’t confuse that edge with actual talent.

Unfortunately, that’s a trap I’ve seen too many comics fall into. I can’t say I blame them. When you’ve just started and everyone is telling you that you’re hot shit, it’s pretty easy to believe it. I’m not sure if they’re so self-unaware that they think they’re far better comics than they are, or if they’re very aware that their talent alone doesn’t justify the opportunities they’re handed and overcompensate as a result. In either case, it leads to dickish, diva behavior.

Van Halen is infamous for demanding M & Ms be available backstage for a show with all the brown ones taken out. Hey, what Van Halen wants, Van Halen gets. Would I get away with making a demand like that? Should I get away with making a demand like that? Obviously not, I can’t play guitar, nor have I ever worn leather ass-less chaps, not even once.

(I’m sure there’s a rumor about me saying the opposite but, as usual, false.)

I wouldn’t say I’ve experienced that level of hubris in one of my clubs, but I do encounter these people on a semi-regular basis. Everything from, ”Oh, there’s only 10 people here and I wanted to try new material, I mean, what’s the point?” to showing up three minutes before their spot and leaving immediately afterwards, or not bothering to show up at all. One can hope that karma catches up to people eventually, but in the short-term it doesn’t seem to matter. The opportunities keep coming.

Probably sounds like sour grapes, I know, or the natural ”why do they get all the gigs I don’t, I’m waaaaay better” attitude most comics live with. Outside my own club I just shrug my shoulders. It’s the nature of the business and some people get all the breaks and some don’t. While I shamelessly press every advantage I have, I’d rather look back on whatever success I obtain and know I built it on talent and drive.

Speaking of shoulders, though, in my club that’s where I’d like to grab a few comics now and then and give them a little shake. ”Do you not understand that you’re not good enough to be this difficult?!”

If you’ve got any comments to make about this post, I only want to hear the positive ones. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be backstage eating green Non Stop only.



My First Not Really Decade of Standup

Uncategorised Posted on Thu, January 02, 2020 14:17:39

A caveat- in March 2020 I will celebrate nine years of standup. So no, technically I haven’t wrapped up my first decade of comedy, nor literally my first decade of standup. Hey, my blog, my rules.

But now that the 2010s have come to an end, I’ve thought a lot about where I was as the decade began and where I am now. About the progress I’ve made, about all the things I’ve learned about myself and standup in general. Some things that were confirmed, others that were surprises, good things and bad things but above all the sheer amount of them, and I thought this would be a good time to recap some of them.

– I was right, I am a nice guy.
Nothing makes me feel better than helping others, probably due to my Hero Complex and pathological need to save people even when they don’t want to be saved. The consequences have been more positive than negative, however. I honestly can’t count the number of people I’ve helped over the years, helping them write or straight out writing for them, giving them their standup debut at one of my clubs, introducing them to other club owners, vouching for them to get them bigger and better gigs, just to name a few things I’ve done. I hope that’s my legacy and how most people think of me, because…..

– Turns out, I can be a real asshole.
There are dozens of people I really like and enjoy hanging out with that I couldn’t tell you anything about other than their jokes, which I’ve heard a hundred times, because I make zero effort to learn anything about them. I’ve met people five or six times for the first time, because it took that long to remember meeting them at all. If I see someone new in a club, chances are high I’m not going to have an urge to say hello until I’ve seen them on stage and found them funny.
I’ve trash-talked other comics, though I’ve toned that down significantly in recent years. Gossiped- if there’s one thing comics love to talk about more than themselves, it’s other comics- and though I should know better I’ve certainly spread stories that weren’t my own. I’ve toned that down, too, but I’m still guilty of it from time to time.
“I have so many beefs in standup it makes me want to become a vegan,” is one of my standard remarks because I know plenty of people who don’t like me (and don’t claim to know all the people who don’t like me). Sometimes I didn’t do anything to deserve it, I swear! Most of the time, though, it’s earned. Comics are sensitive by nature, and I’m no exception. As tough as we talk, feelings are easily hurt.

– All it takes is a real apology to make everything ok again.
At one point, a comic really pissed me off and I didn’t talk to him for nearly a year. Lots of people got to hear why I was angry, except him; we weren’t close and didn’t see each other often, so he had no idea he’d done anything wrong. Eventually I confronted him, to his surprise, and he gave a genuine apology, not the more common non-apology of, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” He also bought a round of shots and all was forgiven.
This came as a surprise to me, that I could be that angry for a long period of time but have it go away in an instant. But this revealed another surprise…

– I can hold a grudge a long, long time.
Not too proud of this one, but if someone makes me very angry and never apologizes for it, they are dead to me. I have quite a number of these instances that, remembering them now, piss me off nearly as much as they did at the time. As much as I would prefer to forgive and forget, I’m just not wired that way.

– Talent isn’t the biggest key to success.
When I think about all the comics I’ve met over the years, there are far, far more people I never see today than familiar faces. Of them, the overwhelming majority quit. A small handful achieved greater success and have no need of grinding in open mic clubs anymore. They’re talented, of course, but they have more in common than that: ambition, social skills, an it-factor that is hard to define, discipline and a fair amount of luck.
I probably have a lower opinion of my own talent than I should, but I also have no ambition, poor social skills, cool is the last word one would use to describe me and, like most comics, I am very lazy (notice that this is the first blog post in a year). I’m lucky enough to be an English-speaking comic in Sweden, which makes me something more than just another middle-aged white guy talking about his dick, but this combination will almost certainly not lead to my Big Break.
Like I said, no one with zero talent will make it far, but I could name several successful comics who have pretty limited talent (I’m not actually going to name them because see the name of my blog). They’re strong enough in those other areas to make up for it. I could name several comics who are extremely talented but lacking in those other areas, and the biggest level of success they might enjoy is being known as a comic’s comic, never growing out of the clubs.

– Corporate gigs are awesome.
Wait, you WANT to pay me to talk about my penis, which I usually do for free? Sounds fantastic!

– Just kidding, corporate gigs are awful.
The money is nice, don’t get me wrong. But chances are high that you’ve been booked as a surprise by the one person at the company who has a sense of humor and your introduction to the party is, “Ok everyone, stop talking to each other and enjoying yourselves, it’s time to give your complete attention to someone you’ve never heard of who will try and make you laugh.”

– Counting gigs was silly.

I used to obsessively count and track all my gigs.  When I hit 500 gigs in less than three years I realized how goofy it was and a complete waste of time, so I stopped counting.

– Apparently, I wasn’t supposed to stop counting gigs.

Recently I saw someone make a very big deal about doing their 1000th gig.  Now you tell me I was supposed to keep counting?!