The Tools of the Trade

August 31, 2006

People talk about how different careers have tools of the trade.  Things that help you succeed in different ways.  Hey, it’s only natural that people would wonder what the tools are when it comes to comedy.  Well, it is known for a fact that ideas come in all shapes and sizes.  They can come in the middle of a corporate boardroom or in one of your dreams.  The key question is:  Will you be able to record your ideas on paper or in some other “viewable” form to look at later when you’re not busy doing something else?  The answer is yes, if you prepare in advance.  Here are a few tips that I use that I hope will enter your “comedy life.”

Little Notebook:  You’ll want to buy a notebook that’s small and durable enough to fit into your pocket or purse, depending on your gender.  I’ve gone through very many notebooks because they weren’t durable enough to withstand the amount of activity I do.  So I decided to get a small, leatherbound notebook that works pretty well.  Sure, it’s an appointment datebook, but I just ignore the dates and write whatever comes to mind in it.  I also clip a pen to it so I always have something to write with.  If I get any other ideas that will be relevant later, I also use it for those tasks.

Little Tape Recorder:  This is another idea that worked well for me for awhile, until I realized I looked ridiculous talking into it in public.  I had it connected to my belt loop as well, in case I were to drop it.  It does help exceedingly well to get a rant on tape, but I had trouble using it in public settings because people would look at me like I was crazy.  But I am, so I tolerated it for awhile.  But I decided to eventually dump it because it caused problems, like the string that connected from my belt loop into my pocket would often get caught on things, which would in turn jerk it out of my pocket and have it dangling around my knee.  Awkward.  It has it’s good and bad points.

A newspaper:  You should always read the newspaper to get ideas.  You don’t necessarily have to carry one around with you, but staying current is a very good way to generate current event material.

A fanny pack:  If you want to look gay, even if you’re not, a fanny pack would be ideal to use to carry around everything.  But it’s so gay-looking, I can’t do it.  If it was part of modern culture, I could see myself doing it, but it’s so outdated that I feel ridiculous even bringing it up.  But it would be a great way to start your comedy act.  “Check out my fanny pack.”  If you’re a gay comedian and I offended you, then maybe this is an idea you should try.  Well, whatever floats your boat.

Those are just a couple of accessories you could use if you want to improve yourself at remembering things you think of.  It’s very helpful because sometimes you think of comedy gold at such inopportune times.  If you’re at a funeral, do you really want to have to ask someone for a pen and a napkin while they’re lamenting the loss of their husband of sixty years?  No, I’d hate to be in that stiuation, too.  Just do what’s suggested here and you’ll be fine.  Get these things, but the fanny pack is not necessary.


How I Chose My Purpose

August 31, 2006

Flashback to high school.  2004.  Not that far of a flashback, but I have a feeling it will at least need a minor one.  I just graduated high school in Woonsocket, RI. I’m moving to Myrtle Beach, SC in five days.  I’ve been accepted at Winthrop Unviersity, as a Mathematics Major and a Secondary Education Minor.  So we go down to this college and I stay there for awhile, but I finally decided that I didn’t want to do this. I guess what I was looking for was an audience, as a teacher. One that would always be there, at the school, but didn’t really want to be there. Sure they wouldn’t always listen, but they’d always hear.  I’m sure I would have screwed around in the classroom more than I taught.  It’s more motivating to create things than to teach things that have already been created.  I guess it’s just the fact that I knew I wanted to do something in the creative/comedy field, so this is one paradigm I looked at and still are lookin at.

For example, I often met these colorful characters in my life.  I would often imitate them, doing my best to match their voice, doing different things in life.  For example, I would put this one guy, Ben Higgins, who had this very verbose voice, kind of a cross between Forrest Gump and Kermit the Frog, into situations where he might get aggetated.  LIke I did a verbal act-out of him in a restaruant where he ordered the Beef Strogonoff in a white wine sauce with a side of Eggs Benedict, but the Strogonoff was medium-rare and he wanted it medium-rare-medium. 

And then there was a character only known as Doug.  He is a real person, with a very, very soft-spoken voice.  I used to work with him at a supermarket and he was a cashier.  I was a bagger at the time.  His voice was so fucking soft it was off the wall.  He was actually denied a customer service job because he didn’t talk loud enough.  So I did this character a lot, just in regular ranting, but eventually, I did a little act out of him talking to an elderly man who has trouble hearing.  Let’s just say it ended with, “Hey, man, will you speak the fuck up?  This old man can’t hear very well.”  And he responded by saying, “I can’t! My voice isn’t loud enough.”  And the old man says, “What?”  It was pretty decent.  I want to animate them, but I have to find some people who are good at things like that.

On the horizon for me is I want to develop these two characters who work in conjunction with one another.  One of them is a real nice guy who can’t seem to keep a job and the other is someone who really doesn’t care, is a really bad worker, but never seems to lose his job.  The guy who always loses his job is pissed off that he can never make ends meet and the other guy really doesn’t care about making ends meet, but always does anyway.  Maybe they could be brothers.  Who knows? 

Some of this may go into my stand-up act because I feel sometimes a little structure is needed.  I like to sometimes just take the identity of a character I created and put him/her in situation where comedy is second nature.  It’s very hard to come up with unique, individual funny characters, but most of them are loosely based off people I’ve come into contact with.  Most animated shows or sitcoms base many of their characters off people they’ve actually met.  The Simpsons’ creator based Homer off his real dad, loosely I’m sure.  Although I know many comedy show’s pretty much just churn out new shows, but I think the original creation of the shows, where they come up with all the characters and what they act like, that must have been the most amazing time to work on a show like that.  Sure, when the characters are already established, it’s good to put them in situations, but creating the characters is the most enjoyable for me, at least.

In my stand-up act, I’ve given voices to objects, like my computer. Ironically, I made it sound like Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants.  It’s just what came to me in a dream.  If I ever write a book, you can be sure that the characters won’t be two-dimensional, unless I write about the show South Park.  But they’ll have depth to them.  They’ll have philosophies about life, where they’re headed, and you’ll know where they’ve been.  I know books usually focus on scenery and details of the room, but I would rather focus on meaningful character descriptions than describing a meaningless scene, although it will be noticeable if they are inside or outside. 

This is what I love to do, so this is what I chose to do with my life.  Some people may like it, some people may not.  But the only person who matters is me when it comes to living my life.  And that’s all that I need to remember.

Sidenote:  I’m learning HTML and XHTML and CSS in spurts now because I feel it is necessary to have a great blog.  I want readers to enjoy

Steve Pavlina’s Blog

August 30, 2006

Steve Pavlina has one of the most amazing blogs on the planet. His personal development website is dynomite. Here’s a link to it: Steve Pavlina’s Weblog . It has so much information. There has to be 400 articles on there about all kinds of very interesting topics. I’m not much for marketing other people’s sites, but he definitely has earned some eProps from me. He also has audio files on there, too. There’s about 15 podcats and they are really informative. I know it may seem like a lot to read, but I recommend downloading this tool I’ve been using for about a year called Read Please 2003. It’s a very, very useful tool to make Internet reading passive. It will actually read to you and you can adjust the speed. It’s amazing. Well, thought I’d give props to who deserves them. Now I’ve got work to do. See you all tomorrow.

You’re Unique, But So is Everyone Else

August 30, 2006

I remember watching one of those kids’ shows on PBS when I was about six or seven, playing some stupid song titled, “Everyone is Special.” It went on to decribe the differences between different children and how it all makes them beautiful in their own way. How charming! Honestly, I think most of that is a crock of you know what, but it does have some truth to it. Everyone is different, meaning we all have different experiences that we could make funny.

I’ll give you an example: I am very unique by trade. One of my most unique endeavors was my bout with brain cancer. i had brain cancer for about a year and went through three brain surgeries, radiation, unbearale pain, and slow recovery time. Sure, many people may ask, “What’s funny about that?” Everything! I had a whole routine on the hospital and how you’re just a number in there. You lose your complete identity. It’s not “Hello, Andrew,” but “Hello, patient number 3715674.” And they treat you like you’re a fucking toddler. “Do you want to get up and try and walk today? Huh? Do you? After that, we can do finger painting. Yay!” And the ridiculous hospital clothes. Holly shit. But that’s an experience that makes me unique. Oh, I also lost my hair because of the radiation, and for some reason, only half of i grew back. I guess the rest of it was like, “Forget this cancer kid, we don’t wanna risk falling out again.”

I’m sure all of you have your unique experiences that define who you are. Then theer’s the you in the present. Who are you today? What do you think about? What are you thinking about right now while you’re half-reading this blog? It’s not that I really care, it’s just that who you are now is the most important part. If you used to be a drug user, don’t talk about how you still use drugs. Maybe tell the audience you used to, and how hard it was to get off them. Don’t talk about things that are no longer authentic to you. Here’s a great joke about drugs from comedian Mitch Hedberg. “I used to do drugs. I still do, but I used to, too.”

Everyone is different. Unique. You’re this snowflake that’s dying to share some of your unique experiences with the world. The things that have happened to you don’t have to be funny. That’s where you come in and put a funny spin on it. I’ve heard comedians joke about their suicide attempts. Now, that may not be funny to everyone, but with a certain audience, it resonates. Here’s an example from Paula Poundstone . “I tried using carbon monoxide, but my building has a big underground parking garage so it was taking a really long time. I had to bring along a stack of books and some snacks. People would go by and tap at the window and say, “How’s that suicide coming?” and I’d say, “Pretty good, thank you, I feld drowsy earlier today.” It’s pretty funny to an extent. Here’s one from Patton Oswald, “I would jump off a really big building, but before I did it, I’d fill my pockets with candy and gum, so when I landed people could go, ‘Hey, a Snickers!”
Beaically any life event is funny. Christopher Titus did a whole one-person show about his dysfunctional family. It was entitled “Norman Rockwell is Bleeding.” It had everything from laughter to sadness. Although I do use personal experiences in some of my acts, I think I’m more suited to be talking about obscure topics and how they coexist simultaneously. But that’s just the way I am. I like to talk about things that are pretty funny, like when you think you’re alone in a public bathroom or things I do when I’m alone that no one really knows about. It’s shit that’s funny to me, and to many audience members. I finally realized who I was, and I sure hope you do the same.

On a complete and utter side note, I’ve decided, eventually, to convert this blog onto my up-and-coming website. Once I learn, to a certain degree, HTML, CSS, SEO, blog carnivalling, and other very powerful technical skills, I want to make blogging my career, or at least part of it. Wish me luck, universe. Good day.

Deceit can be funny, but it pisses me off.

August 30, 2006

Okay, so one time I got this juicer.  I thought it was going to be great.  I would have all-natural juice all the time.  I bought like five apples to make a pitcher of juice.  I figured it would be enough.  I ended up getting about a shot glass of juice out of it.  Sure, I was frustrated as hell, but I thought to myself, this is funny shit.  Thinking how things are going to turn out and then them not turning out the way we planned is a funny bit.  So I go on about how I had to bother the neighbor to borrow some of their fruit.  Which is funny because I don’t think they’d expect it back.  It reminds me how people will do anything to get you to buy stuff.  I remember seeing the Ginsu knife on television.  They’re showing how it can cut through shoes and stone, but who the hell is ever going to use it to do that shit?  Who wants a cement sandwich?  Who the hell wants to cut their shoes up?  But yet, the Ginsu knife corporation sells its share of knives.  You know why?  Because they have the commercial on late at night, when people lose all capablity for rational thought.  At five in the afternoon, buying a knife that cuts through leather is stupid, but at 1 AM, it’s amazing!  So you call the little hotline and they send you this box and when you get it, you’re like, “Why the hell did I buy this?”  But it’s too late.  It’s a pain in the ass to return it.  You gotta mail it back.  It’s not worth it.  And the people on those informercials really convince you that the product works to perfection, when the truth is anything but.  You ever see that guy on there, that’s always like, “Wow!  You mean I can use the blender to blend things?”  What an idiot!  But people buy that shit late at night.  I’ll tell you the truth, though, I do own the Ginsu knife set and the Jack LaLame Juicer.  However, I do use the knives, but the juicer is tucked away where it will never be used again.  And I’m tired of the home based buisiness infomercials, because they never really tell you what you have to do to make money, unless you buy it.  So you don’t know what you’re getting until you waste three easy payments of you got screwed.  They always have testimonials, with some fake idiot saying, “I never got a high school diploma, but I make $200,000 a year only working one hour a week.”  And I’m thinking, “My ass, you make that much.”  They fucking bullshit you into buying shit and then they give you garbage that you end up feeding to your dog.  Why is it always about deceit and not truthfullness? 

And the same thing goes for colleges.  Why can’t they just tell the truth.  I don’t need to hear the bullshit phrases, “We’re academically diverse with a learning culture that exceeds everyone else.”  Why don’t you just tell the truth.  Why don’t you say something like, “We’re not that great.  We just really want your money.  We’ll definitely make you pay us back for twenty years after you graduate while we watch your credit score suffer immensely.”  Why can’t they just say that?  Because that won’t attract any prospective students.  Well, I’ll tell you right now, I’d rather go to a college like that than waste my time at an Ivy League school, where the main concept is, “How much money can we squeeze out of these rich people for a piece of paper.”  That’s all you get.  Four years or more, thousands and thousands of dollars, and you get a piece of paper with your name on it. I could make one of those.  Why waste thousands when I can waste about three dollars in art supplies and a piece of paper?  I’m just glad I caught on before I got screwed again.  And then they force you to take classes that have no merit towards your major, yet another desperate attempt to drain you of every dime you’ve worked so hard to make. 

And people fall for it because they actually believe the shit they’ve been spoonfed their whole life that a person who doesn’t go to college is a loser and will never amount to anything.  Forget that.  Just because you don’t have a degree doesn’t mean you’ll never be something.  And who the hell cares about being “something” anyway.  Don’t you want to be someone and not something?  My parents and relatives, when I was younger would always ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Until recently, I never really considered the flaw in that question.  That question is asking us to define ourselves by our career, not by who we are.  The question should be reworded as, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?”  That’s a question that’s more sensible.  That way, you can look at a list of your values and decide what kind of life you would like to lead.  Sure, you can have a career, but don’t let your career define who you are, unless it’s all you ever do.  You don’t want to end up with a name like Groundskeeper Willie or Tony in Accounting.  Why don’t you aim for becoming an entity in yourself?  Be someone first and something second. 

And I’m tired of the news trying to scare people into watching.  Every day, there’s something to be scared of.  Is there something in our drinking water?  Is there a bird flu coming our way?  Will killer bees attack all of us?  I mean, come on.  But it works.  At least for most people.  People sit down and watch the evening news, like a ritual, because they feel if they don’t, they’ll miss the next Koala attack alerts and be mauled to death by two strung out Koalas looking for a bamboo fix.  I mean, what the hell?  Every fucking story on the news is negative.  All of them.  It’s always, “six dead in plane crash.”  It’s never, “the world is a better place.”  Is Saddaam going to get the death penalty?  What idiotic thing does Bush have to say?  Who cares?  It’s not relevant in my life.  Sure, if I want to inflate my ego and seem like I’m smart, I could make references to the news, but what purpose would that accomplish?  Who cares if I know what Hezbollah is?  I really don’t want to know about that.  Sure, it’s probably terrible, but why dwell on the shit that makes us feel depressed and scared when there’s so much good in the world and laughter is much more powerful than depression.  But people can’t see that because they’re so used to being messed with in the mass media.  It’s commonplace, really.

So I got some of my frustrations out and I really think this is a pathway to some great material.  I have some very solid premises here and I usually write for about twenty minutes to an hour when trying to get new premises.  I just let off some steam and this is what becomes of it.  This is a very powerful tool for getting material that’s true to you.  God, I love WordPress.  It kicks the shit out of  I don’t know what it is, but it’s just fucking amazing.  I have categories, archives, and other features I haven’t tried yet.  I’m just glad that building my actual website is getting underway.  This blog will eventually be transferred to that site because it’s a great way to market my site.  I’m really enjoying writing.  I may come out with a book that’s all my thoughts just in a row.  No format, no nothing.  It will be an interesting concept that I may work with, but it’s all up in my head right now, but we’ll see.  I’ve got some Seinfeld to watch and then it’s time for bed so I can wake up at eight or nine tomorrow and type another blog entry.  I’m hoping to accumulate over 100 articles/blog entries by December.  Wish me luck and Godspeed.

My Favorite Comedians

August 29, 2006

Here is an ongoing list of the comedians I would recommend to anyone who has a love for comedy. All of these people are very talented and you will get your money’s worth, whether you go to a show of theirs or buy a CD. Here’s my list, in no particular order.

  1. Jerry Seinfeld
  2. Steven Wright
  3. Stephen Lynch
  4. Jim Gaffigan
  5. Jeremy Hotz
  6. Todd Barry
  7. Arj Barker
  8. Alonzo Bodden
  9. Drew Carey
  10. George Carlin
  11. Adam Corolla
  12. Dave Chappelle
  13. Louis CK
  14. David Cross
  15. Rodney Dangerfield
  16. Jimmy Carr
  17. Greg Fitzsimmons
  18. Zach Galifianakis
  19. Kyle Grooms
  20. Mitch Hedberg
  21. Richard Jeni
  22. Lisa Lampanelli
  23. Dennis Leary
  24. Demertri Martin
  25. Kevin Nealon
  26. Dwayne Perkins
  27. Brian Regan
  28. Freddy Soto
  29. Nick Swardson
  30. Jon Stewart
  31. Tig
  32. Tony Woods
  33. Howie Mandel
  34. Robert Schimmel
  35. Richard Pryor (sort of)
  36. Bill Hicks

There you have it. The list of comedians I really enjoy, although I really couldn’t rate one better than the other, although I could, but I wouldn’t want to hurt the other comedians’ names’ feelings. Like any of these people will ever read this blog. Ha! That would be funny as hell, wouldn’t it? But I thought, just for the hell of it, I would put a list of who I like, and if you are so inclined, feel free to put a list of your favorites on here, too. Be sure to include whoever you find funny, and not who everyone else likes, but you think is just okay. It’s all about honesty here, although I have no way of knowing if you lied. I just hope no one puts Carrot Top or Louie Anderson, who I find mildly funny, but not in the top 40 or even close. Well enjoy! Good day, you all.

What is Humor?

August 28, 2006

We all have things in our lives that make us laugh. We all laugh at the movie of the week or our favorite shows and it brings us pleasure. But we never really analyze why it makes us laugh. If something is funny, why is it funny? Does it have to do with the person or is there some sort of formula for funny? Some people would tell you that there are certain formulas for comedy, but in reality, not all those formulas will work for everyone. Let’s go over a few of the humor techniques used by many famous comedians and writers to see why certain things are funny.

Relatable Topics: People find relatable topics funny. If someone talks about their girlfriend/boyfriend spending too much of their money, some people will say, “Wow, that happens to me, too. This guy is funny.” Other people in the audience will be like, “Well, I’m sure that happens, but I’ve never experienced it.” So they may not laugh as much as the people who can relate to it. Some people talk about their childhood, banking on the fact that everyone in the audience had a childhood of some sort. Unless, of course, Michael Jackson is in the audience. But using common denominators that people go through in everyday life is one tool for making people laugh. If they’ve experienced it, remembering the experience will only heighten the laughter and reminiscence. It’s a very powerful tool for getting laughs.

Coincidences or Synchronicities: This is a tool that was used almost to perfection on the sitcom Seinfeld. It was amazing some of the crazy coincidences that would happen on that show. It would start out with each one of the four main characters having a story and towards the end, they would all collide into some sort of explosion of comedy. It just had that appeal to it because it took one funny story and added another funny story and the combination was one gigantic piece of comedy. I really enjoyed this type of humor and still do to this day. We, as a society, love to see connections between things. That brings me to my next topic:

Connecting two usually unconnected items: Steven Wright was the master of this. Some quotes of his are as follows:

I spilled Spot Remover on my dog. Now he’s gone.

I have a microwave fireplace. I can sit down in front of the fire for the evening in eight minutes.

I put instant coffee in a microwave and almost went back in time.

Like I said, connecting things that otherwise would be solitary is very intriguing. I enjoy listening to things like that. It’s kind of just noticing things. Wright said in an interview I read recently, “It’s kind of like art. It’s just noticing things. Like if you were to draw a table and chair, you not only have to consider the table and chair, but the shape of the space between the table and chair. I guess I do comedy from the spaces between things.” It was something to that extent. And it really spoke to me. Comedy catches the things that “fall through the cracks.” The usually ubiquitous things that we never really consider can be brought out in spades. Here’s an example from my personal joke stash. “People always say, ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Why not? If I bought some cake, why wouldn’t I eat it? Did I buy it just to throw it out?” It’s just the things that people don’t really think about in general. It’s creative, in a sense. It’s making unfunny things funny by connection.

Surprise: The element of surprise is prevalent in comedy. Misleading an audience and then turning it around at the last second, preferably on the last word is comedy gold. I’ll give you an example from Jim Gaffigan: “Isn’t it funny how when you’re single, all you see are couples, but when you’re part of a couple, all you see are HOOKERS?” You see, he misled you into believing that he was going to say single people, but he turned it around at the last second to totally throw off the audience. That is something that really speaks to me. Another example from my own personal stash is. “I don’t know why, but I can never write anything down while I’m in the car and someone is driving, especially if that someone is me.” It’s just some clever wordplay, I know, but it illustrates a point here. People like to be surprised. That’s why we find magic acts so amazing. Twists in jokes make them better and more cutting edge. I know those are cliché terms but this is one of my first articles for this website, so don’t judge me by that yet.

The Rule of Three: The rule of three is a great way to get an audience going and surprise them at the end. This is also in the same hierarchy as the surprise element. For example, here is a joke from George Carlin sometime in the ‘80s or ‘90s. “I like going down to Florida. Everything is in the 80s. The temperature, the ages, and the IQS.” You see what that did there? It got you going with two regular parts of the series, and turned it around at the end. Here’s another one I heard recently. “A man and a woman had a child from a frozen embryo recently. The woman said, ‘I didn’t know if I was going to have a little boy, a little girl, or fish sticks.” Conan O’Brien at his best. Although he’ll never be Carson. Another look at the rule of three is many business speeches will use it. Sometimes the rule of three is used and then negated. For example, “To be a president, you have to have three qualities: honor, courage, and integrity. Unfortunately, our president possesses none of these qualities.” Negation of a previous statement can also be very funny if it’s done right.

Callbacks: Callbacks are monumental in stand-up comedy. That can set you apart from the rest of the pack. It’s where you use a punch line from one of your previous jokes and apply it to a later joke in the set. Many comics do it, and when it’s done correctly, it is a gem to behold. It creates an intimacy with the audience. It makes them feel like they are the comedian’s friend. It’s really a powerful comedic tool.

I’m sure there are more tools, but for now, let’s get to the why. Why does this stuff make us laugh? It’s simple, in fact. We, as a society, yearn to laugh. We yearn to have a good time, and comedy allows us to put aside the troubles of our day and just laugh. Laughter is a great medicine mostly because you can’t overdose. I love laughter more than anything. It helped me through a tough time in my life when I had a brain tumor. Serotonin is key. If you laugh constantly, you’re either insane or very happy. Studies show that children laugh something like 200 times a day while adults laugh about 5 to 10 times a day. What happens to all our joy. We’re told we have to grow up and be more serious about life. And that kills our joy. Our joyless spirit walks the Earth that’s too serious to let out a chuckle once in awhile. But going to see a comedian helps us rediscover our childlike nature. It allows us to open up and be who we really are and laugh at what we think is funny. There’s no “Oh, you can’t laugh at that.” Well, what do you think you’re there for? Why would you go see a comedian if you’re not going to laugh? You sick bastard! Just kidding.

Upon remembering our spirit, as Oprah so eloquently puts it, we tap into the real us. And the real us is way better than the socially conditioned us that’s been told all kinds of propaganda from news media and other sources to live in fear of everything that moves. Comedians also tell the truth. You don’t get the truth from media sources. Go see someone perform political humor and you may have a new perspective opened up on you. Humor is a powerful tool. Will people remember the time they cried or the time they laughed? It’s up to them, but if it was up to me, I’d choose to remember happy moments. Humor is my religion and I invite you to embark on a journey with me into Comedy Heaven.