Posts filed under ‘Tricks of the trade’

The starting-on-time thing.

New York City shows never starts on time. The show says it starts at 8:00pm but it doesn’t get started until 8:15. Why is that? I’ve taken the liberty of trying to explain part of it:

First, a look behind the scenes:

A producer creates a show and gets comics/musicians/actors to agree to perform in it. The show is to begin at 8:00pm. At 7:50pm on the night of the show, the producer will say, “Ten minutes until show time” and everyone backstage swoons with anticipation. Then 8:00 will come and someone will say, “Okay, time to start the show,” and the producer will say, “Well, people are still filing in, let’s give them a few minutes to sit down.” And everyone agrees that starting the show when people are still walking in the door, finding their seats and getting settled would be distracting and annoying. So they wait. After all, shows never start on time. Everyone knows that.

Now, what’s happening outside:

Being supportive awesome friends, a group of people decide they want to see their friend perform on a stage. They all agree to meet at the venue at 7:45pm. That will give them enough time to grab a drink at the bar and get seated. Then one of them is a few minutes late. He arrives at 7:55pm and is apologetic and spends a few minutes explaining his delay to his friends. Before the show, everyone realizes that they should go to the bathroom. But since everyone had this idea simultaneously and this is a tiny New York venue, there is a big long line. Everyone waits. No one is anxious. After all, shows never start on time. Everyone knows that.

Do you see what’s happening here? The show is late because the audience is late and the audience is late because the show is late . It’s a vicious cycle. Better yet, here’s a graphic:

I’m not offering any solutions.  I’m just getting it out there for the good people, both performers and audience, who have said, “Aw poo, nothing starts on time in this city!”

I used four colons to make my point. Is that too many?


February 15, 2011 at 3:09 pm 4 comments

Have car, will drive.

Usually, when my father asks me if I want to use his car during the winter while he’s in Mexico, I laugh in his face and say, “Hells no, my Pap-dawg!  I ain’t need no hassle of gassin’ it and worryin’ about it and dealin’ wit’ no alt’nate side o’ the street bullshnizz and diggin’ it out of the snow and shizz.  Keep yo’ crazy car, old man, keep it!”  (I’m paraphrasing.)

This year however, I got struck by a whim.  I said to myself: “Think Carrie.  If you had a car, you could more easily get to those gigs in Jersey or Connecticut or north of The Bronx without as much of an issue.  You’d be free to take any gig and you could get really well known across the country and become really famous and invest wisely in your fame and retire and take a nap.”  And I love naps so I accepted my father’s generous offer.  He added me to his insurance and suddenly, I have a car.

This last week, I lived the dream.  I booked a gig in Long Island and chauffeured myself and another comic to it.  (By the way, this particular gig was so inaccessible via public transportation that when I asked Google maps about it, Google went into a weeping trembling coma.)  We did the gig and I drove us back to civilization.  A mini-roadtrip!

And yesterday, I chauffeured a comic to his gig north of the city and he actually paid me.  We got there and I did 23 seconds of crowd-work before introducing him.  We had a giggly comic-bonding ride there and back.  And, bonus: he had a GPS device which is really the only way to travel when you have no idea where you’re going.  AND… I faced my fear of driving on the streets of Manhattan, which I have been raised since birth to fear.  Go me.

Anyway, I have a car and I want to drive it.  If you’re a comic and you need a ride to a gig, I’ll trade you a ride for a spot.  Or money.  Or both.  (Depends on the gig.)  Let’s live the dream!

October 3, 2010 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

How long you been doing it?

At some point, when two comics are getting to know each other, one will inevitably ask the other one, “How long you been doing it?”  It’s kind of like asking someone what their major is or what they do for a living.  It’s a getting-to-know-you type of question.  But, of course, it’s wrought with judgment thusly:

If the comedian really sucks, and they’ve been doing it 10 years, you think to yourself, “Holy shit, 10 years and you still suck? What happened? I’m so glad I’m not you.”

If the comedian is amazingly excellent and they’ve been doing it five months, you think to yourself, “Holy shit, five months and you’re already that good already?  Damn you!” And no matter how good they are, no matter how they shred an audience into strips, if they’ve only being doing it five months, they’re still considered a newborn.  There’s a kind of paying-your-dues that they still have to endure. Where is the cut-off for earned industry respect?  I’m not entirely sure.

The thing that I always want to ask is:  How intensive was the time that you’ve been doing stand-up?  Assuming natural talent is equal, if you’ve gotten on stage once every six months for the last 10 years, yeah, you might still suck.  And if you’ve been getting up three times a night for the last five months, yeah, you might be really really good. A better question is: How many times have you been on stage in the time you’ve been doing stand-up?  I’m not sure if every comedian knows that number but I know mine (and I have no idea how it compares, incidentally).

I’ve been doing it just over three years — still a baby in the eyes of the industry.  But the very first time I ever got on stage alone to tell original jokes to a live audience was one night two years before that.  Should I count that?  If that’s the case, I can legitimately answer five years.  But I don’t count that. I count the day I said, “I want to be an stand-up comedian,” and quivered on stage for the first time — and then started getting up regularly.

One time, I asked a comedian how long she’d been doing it and she simply answered, “I don’t answer that.”  On the one hand, that’s a little snotty, but on the other hand, she was saying that her comedy should speak for itself.  If she’s good, she’s good, and it shouldn’t matter how long she’s been doing it.  It’s a good point.  But I still wanted to know, y’know, to judge her and stuff.

September 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm 1 comment

How the show goes.

After doing comedy a while, I’ve noticed that there is a science to whether or not I have a good set on a given night.  And since a picture speaks a thousand words, I have created this handy chart to illustrate the results of my scientific research.  Here is how you can know how your set will go:

That’s all there is to it.  I hope this research helps a young aspiring comedian out there.

August 29, 2010 at 10:03 pm 1 comment

The Rules.

I’m sure I’m not the first to come up with the idea of a list of rules or guidelines for stand-up comedians.  Unfortunately, this idea runs counter to comedic philosophy.  In the comedy world, you are constantly told that there are no rules or that any rules are meant to be broken.  It’s a world where for every rule, you can find several exceptions.  And yet, I still find the need to make a list of rules – rules of etiquette that I feel should be obvious.  Keep in mind, I don’t dare fancy myself an authority on this stuff.  I’m a simple comedian, trying to make it big.  If I were an expert, I’d be big already, right?  I’m still learning, still growing, so maybe I’m still new enough to think there should be some rules.  Here’s my first one:

Rule number 1: Don’t insult people just for coming to see you perform.

I see this all the time.  There’s a show that’s not well attended and there are only five people in the audience.  Five kind-hearted normal people who came out to have a good time, see some comedy and have a chuckle.  These are not five people who came out to be berated and insulted for not being 40 people.  They can’t help it.  These are the people who showed up.  When comedians take out their aggression on a small crowd for not being a bigger crowd, it makes me cringe.  It makes everyone uncomfortable and makes these poor innocent people not ever want to see live comedy again.

This happens: The comedian will come out and say, “Look at you five idiots.  Why are you here?  Didn’t you losers have anything better to do tonight?”  No, they paid to come out and see you entertain them.  They should be thanked.  They shouldn’t have to defend themselves for being a small audience.  Again, that’s not their fault.  It’s like throwing a birthday party to which no one comes and then yelling at the one friend who does show up.  It defies logic, it’s uncomfortable and it’s rude.

Unless they make it abundantly clear that they deserve otherwise, always be nice to your audience.  Your small audience of today is your big audience of tomorrow.  Each one of those five people could have five friends who have five friends and you need that kind of exponential admiration to fill Giant’s Stadium one day.  So be nice.

May 11, 2010 at 10:20 am 2 comments

How to take a compliment.

I used to think extreme modesty was the only way to go.  If someone complimented a good set I did, I would say something along the lines of, “It was a good crowd.”  I thought I would sound conceded if I agreed.  I’ve stopping doing that.  Now, if I have a good set and someone compliments me, I smile graciously and say thank you and let myself feel good about it.  I work very hard at what I do and I feel that shifting the credit to something else diminishes my hard work.  (Conversely, if I have a bad set, I have no one to blame but myself.)  Naturally, I love getting compliments but the one I got last week took the cake as far as a new-to-me way to get one.

A drunk and disorderly patron was in the process of being ejected from the club.  He was standing in the hallway arguing, being loud and shouting insults at the club and its staff.  In the mayhem, I and some other comics peaked our heads out into the hallway to see what this awful person looked like.  He caught sight of me and, enraged and red-faced, surrounded by the club staff and the bouncers and servers, he pointed at me and screamed, “YOU! YOU WERE FUNNY!”  I, cartoon-like, looked to my right, looked to my left, pointed at myself and mouthed, “Me?”  He screamed, “YEAH, YOU! FUNNY!” and then he was thrown from the club.  A drunken, angry, disruptive freak in mid-club-ejection thinks I’m funny?  That’s a new one but I’ll take it.  I smiled graciously and said thank you.

April 26, 2010 at 7:19 pm Leave a comment

Know thyself.

When I get ready for show, I “do my eyes” which involves putting in my contact lenses and applying on mascara.  (I know, I’m a real girly-girl.)  I was in an office restroom completing this task, my mind on my jokes, when I fell into a rhythm.  My rhythm went as follows:

1) Wash hands.
2) Dry hands.
3) Throw paper towels into garbage.

1) Open contacts.
2) Insert contacts.
3) Throw foil contact packages into garbage.

1) Open mascara.
2) Apply mascara.
3) Throw mascara into garbage.

Oh no!  I just threw my mascara into the garbage!  I’m so dumb!  And it’s office bathroom garbage filled with disgusting office-lady God-knows-what.  Here’s my head:  NOT “Do I want to reach in and retrieve my mascara?”  It was more like, “Am I the kind of person who would reach into a gross garbage can to retrieve a mascara?”  I chose this moment to reflect on myself as a person, not my immediate desires.  What does contemplating this action say about me?  Will I be able to live with myself knowing that I am the kind of person who has to go digging around in the garbage for a used mascara?  What is this task worth to me and my ego?  (Details that might sway your answer to one side: The mascara is readily available in drugstores nationwide, retails for $8, and is about a month old.)  Money isn’t as tight as it once was.  I could easily replace this mascara.  But if it was $8 in an envelope a the bottom of this garbage can, would I go in for it?  Is that who I am?  The answer: Yes, I am the kind of person who would go digging around in office bathroom garbage to retrieve an $8 drugstore mascara.  That’s me.

Additionally: since it’s office restroom garbage, the can was locked in a slick stainless steel casing, so that means I’m ALSO the kind of girl who will pick a lock and pry open a metal garbage door to fetch an $8 drugstore mascara.  It’s good to have my mascara back but it’s even better to know who I really am.

March 2, 2010 at 11:26 am 2 comments

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Thursday, December 1st
Ed Sullivan On Acid Comedy Show
The Duplex
61 Christopher St
New York, NY

Sunday, December 11th
Jazz on the Park


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