Archive | November, 2009

A Moral Victory (or a Victory Moral)

7 Nov

Friday was full of ups and downs.  

Ups Included: 

Watching this week’s 30 Rock.  Terrific friend Sarah coming to town.  Seeing a giant octopus and poking some anemones at the Seattle Aquarium.  Denny’s.  My best set of the trip.

Downs Included:

Fender bender (everyone’s okay).  Missing the Top 5 in the competition in spite of my set.

Generally I don’t like to write too much about comedy shows, because it’s boring to anyone who wasn’t there as well as anyone who was there, but I’ve got some general thoughts that apply to last night’s specific performance.  So here goes!

In my experience, comedy competitions are somewhat of a gamble.  There are certain people who tend to excel at them, whether they are able to organize exceptional five-minute sets, or they are just so undeniably unique and funny that they can almost always shine in these situations.  Other comics, even long-time headliners, often struggle with the challenge of putting their funniest foot forward in such a short period of time.  Comedy competition audiences are  not always ideal crowds, either.  The pressure to compete does not just affect the comics; audiences can be less likely to stay “hot” for multiple comedians in a row.  In general, I do not feel that my comedy always translates to a competition format.  I haven’t in the past been able to combine the necessary amounts of good decisions and luck to advance in any major contests.  Usually, I leave the stage feeling like the audience did not see the best of me.

Last night, however, at the Auburn Ave. Theater in Auburn, WA, I felt precisely the opposite way.  I had the good fortune to go on fourth in the show, before the audience got too tired.  Host Paul Myrehaug had warmed up the crowd within instants of the show starting, and the first three comics had all had great responses.  I was half excited to get out and do my thing, and half nervous that I was going to break the hot streak.  

It turned out that I didn’t need to worry.  The crowd was on my side literally before I said a word.  From beginning to end, I had the strongest set I’d done all week and probably the best contest set I’ve done all of ever.  The audience at the theater was not there to judge.  People came to listen and enjoy.  After the show, Ahmed gave a really great summary of that feeling: “It’s like you can do the things that always work, but then something else comes out of you, and you can shine a little brighter.”  It’s the feeling that the audience likes and trusts you rather than just enjoying your jokes one at a time.

Anyway, I felt great, and the other comics said really swell things.  It ended up that I didn’t crack the top five, which was a disappointment, but in the end, it’s a good feeling to know that I did my best and earned the respect of my peers.  I didn’t want to look at my scores, but I got convinced to check them, and right now I’m in 7th place overall.  So I’m within striking distance.  And I’d like to strike, but mostly I’m excited to get to perform some more shows before I go home.

Hooray,

Josh

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Neopolitan Complex

6 Nov

Guys,  sometimes you wait all day for something, and that thing is the best part of your day.  Ahmed, Andrew, and I whiled away the morning reading, writing, and watching ESPN, knowing that the specter of gourmet cupcakes loomed in the evening.  

We went over to new friend/comic Mike’s house across the water and watched the DVR’ed presentation of the Mark Twain Award to Bill Cosby.  It was really inspiring to see legendary comics like Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, and Steven Wright venerate another comedian so much.  Also, they played a ton of classic Cosby and Cosby Show clips.  It was super funny and inspirational.  But it wasn’t cupcakes.

We then enjoyed fish and chips for an early dinner (also not cupcakes).

We went back to home base (Andrew’s house) and waited until my high school/college friend Melissa got out of work.  I should say that she is a friend I know from my time in high school and college.  She is not currently enrolled in both high school and college.  In any case, we quickly mobilized and met her at Trophy Cupcakes in a fancy shopping center called University Village.  We picked up the ‘cakes (short for cupcakes) and took them back to Melissa’s house to have with tea because we are old ladies.  

Side note: Melissa gave several profuse apologies for the “messy” nature of her apartment.  There is more clutter in the back seat of my car than there is in her entire apartment building.  

Regardless, the cupcakes were great, and the frosting had flavor and not just sugar, but still lots of sugar.  It put is in the right frame of mind for a fun car ride to the gig with our New York friends.  We arrived in Kirkland way early for the gig at Laughs Comedy Club, which is a nice little room.  I met Bil Dwyer, comedian and former host of Battlebots, and told him the creators of the show (Battlebots) hello.  I don’t know those people, but they found me on Twitter.  Hooray, internets.  Bil did the stall set while the judges tallied votes last night.  He also signed my lucky robot, Blastor!  (I don’t have an actual lucky robot.)

As for the comedy show, sometimes you wait for something all day, and then there’s not much to say about it. 

Also, I left my camera at Melissa’s.  Pictures later!

Josh

Unified Scene

5 Nov

What?  Only day two of blogging, and already a Hold Steady quote?  Oh, yes, readers (I mean mom and dad).  Day two.

The day started with a bang.  And by bang I mean blog.  Then Ahmed and Andrew and I (along with Andrew’s friend Jason) had an outstanding Mexican breakfast at a place called Pesos.  They have a program there known as “Breakfast Happy Hour” where all of their enormous and delicious breakfasts cost six dollars.  It is probably the most dangerous kind of happy hour for me, because I came dangerously close to a Huevos Rancheros overdose.  

From there, we moseyed on down to Pike Place Market.  Unfortunately, I forgot my camera.  So you’ll just have to trust that we saw hand-blown glass and people throwing fish and fish that people weren’t throwing. Ahmed filled up on free samples of pears.  Then we tried to figure out which Starbucks was the original one.  The debate was resolved when we all stopped caring about 45 seconds in.  So, pretty sweet touristy trip.  Trust me.  You should have been there.

From there we went back to Andrew’s house and hung out.  I had never before benefitted from the west coast phenomenon of sports being on so early that you can watch them on weekday afternoons.  I think I could get addicted to that.  The World Series came on at 4pm.  Amazing.

Ahmed and I headed over to the Columbia City Theater, which was small but pretty lovely.  The other comics filtered in a few by a few.  It was really swell.  It was fun seeing who bonded immediately, who knew each other already, who stayed to themselves, who was “always on.”  The production staff gave us a very thorough briefing, and then we descended on a deli plate, swapped local comedy stories from our home towns, and waited for the show to start.  I think that shop talk about anything is pretty exclusive to the insiders, but I like to think that comedians have intrinsically more interesting shop talk than most industries.  But probably they don’t.  It was a great sort of pre-show camaraderie.  (And also mid-show camaraderie.)

The show itself was really long (16 comics plus a host), and I will not bore you with the details.  I did a lot of pacing and fretting, but fortunately the audience stayed loose and enthusiastic until the bitter (I mean awesome) end (me).  I felt like I did a really strong job staying myself and not caving in to exhaustion.  My set went really well.  Although I didn’t place in the top five, lots of people said nice things like “Great set!” which was nice and “You go girl!” which probably wasn’t directed at me.  Five more nights of shows!  Hooray!

After the show, we hustled across town to Laff Hole, an “alty” show at the rock club Chop Suey to see Brent Weinbach.  He is super weird an really really great live.  He does lots of audience participatey things and lots of silly voices.  His mission statement is to do things that you laugh at without knowing why.  And he totally does.  It’s like everything he says is an inside joke where you can’t remember exactly how it started, but you just  know that it’s obviously funny.  His headline-length set flew by because it was so original and compelling.  We got a ride to the show from excellent New York comedians Andy Haynes (3rd place last night, yeah!) and Mark Normand.  The Laff Hole show had a great vibe of people being out to see and enjoy something weird and late on a week night, which I wish would happen more in Boston.  

Overall, it was a great night full of meeting people and seeing good comedy.  We ended the evening at 1:30 at an IHOP, so you know it was a success.  

The one picture I took is forthcoming.

Back in Blog! Back. In. Blog.

4 Nov

Hello Everyone,

It’s me, Josh.  You may remember me from such blogs as this one, but several months ago.  If you don’t remember, you can read previous posts that chronicled my trip across the country and back, at which point my postings dropped precipitously to zero, as I went back to regular life, which you probably know about or don’t care about.

But now I’m back not back!  That is to say, I’m out on the road again.  This time, the road meant the sky, as I took a plane to Seattle with comedian and friend Ahmed Bharoocha for the Seattle International Comedy Competition (www.seattlecomedycompetition.com).  We will perform in six shows this week as part of the first preliminary week.  If you are out here, you should come check one of them out.  The first show takes place tonight at 8 at the Columbia City Theater.  Huzzah!

I took an aeroplane over the land, guys!  Hipster sight gag!

I took an aeroplane over the land to get here. Hipster sight gag!

So here’s the thing.  It’s early-ish here, but I’m pretty jet-lagged.  The allure of an airplane nap proved too much for me.  I just can’t resist waking up with a stiff neck and upper back.  Now it’s 8:30 am, but it feels like almost noon.  I forgot my toothbrush in Boston, and I’ve got pita chips and chocolate covered pretzels to eat for the time being.  Plus, there’s the vague sense of failure.  Allow me to explain.  My participation in this comedy competition is only incidental.  My true reason for traveling west is that I wanted to go back so many time zones that Weezer’s new album could never be released.  Ideally, I could go back past their last three albums.  But alas, here I am on November 4th, and “Make Believe,” “Weezer (The Red Album),” and “Raditude” all exist.

So I’m here at very generous host/very excellent comic Andrew Sleighter’s house in Seattle, waiting him to get back from a radio appearance (swanky!) and for Ahmed to wake up (sleepy!) so we can tour the city.  In the interim, I will read Bill Simmons’s “The Book of Basketball.”  It is a zillion pages long, and only about half a zillion are about the Celtics, so it should be informative.  

kg

How am I going to do in this competition? "Annythinnnnngsss possiblllllleee!!!!" Oh, right. Thanks, KG.

It’s going to be an exciting week.  Stay tuned for updates!  (And, yes, pictures.)

Sincerely,

Josh