Thursday, September 9, 2010

Learning and Relearning

After not paying as much attention to standup for several months I am back in action and ready to go. I never really left the art of standup comedy but rather just put it on the back burner. Why? Well first and foremost I sort of got burned out. For starters I was doing one to three spots a night every night seldom taking a break. There wasnt a night where I wasnt stumbling home from a club at two in the morning. When I wasn't in the city I was in the tri-state. There would be weeks I would be in Manhattan one night, Long Island the next, Connecticut the next, then it would be a weekend in Delaware. The good part was I was getting pretty decent as a comedian. I was seeing a lot of different crowds and putting away a lot of good sets. Outside of the city, I was even starting to feature and headline. People were talking about all the good work I was doing. I produced my own one person show. Not to mention while I wasn't rolling in the dough and working odd jobs to stay afloat, I was seeing money from comedy.

The downside was that I wasnt getting the respect I deserved in the clubs of New York City. Being passed in the club means shit. You always have to fight for stage time unless you have been on Letterman or unless you are doing bitch work like bringing and barking. When you are passed at the club you still have to fight for stage time, they just might feel obligated to throw you two spots a month. So in the clubs I was getting shit spots when I knew I was more talented than that. Or I was getting passed over because while I had this credit someone else who wasnt as good had that. The more shit spots I did the angrier I got. The angrier I got the less I enjoyed the game and the less I wanted to show up. In some respects I stopped showing up all together. Not to mention some of the odd jobs I was working were bitch work at it's best. I was grinding it there and then being beaten down in my safe place. They say always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Fuck that. I was the flower girl.

Then I was producing my own one person show and had people opening for me. Comedians are always your best friend when you start producing shows. People who didnt even pretend to know me in public suddenly wanted to be my best friend so that they could get a spot. Then there was inviting people, and then inviting more people, and then inviting more people, and then having my people burn out. Then there was the blast on facebook and having all my friends hate me because they grew more and more annoyed with me. While I was getting a spot a week for producing and would most often close the shows in other rooms of said club because the producers knew me, liked me, and knew I would do a good job it felt like I was doing a lot of work for shit. Plus passing out became a regular thing for me. I wasn't sleeping, I was eating like shit, and nothing was going right. I was hitting a cieling with standup.

So after talking to some other people I decided to explore other avenues for my creativity. I started doing puppet videos with the very talented Matt Sky. While I had been away from the television format for a while I was back and making funny videos wasn't just a new and exciting challenge, but being funny was fun again. Inspired by the work Matt and myself did, I began to make videos of my own. Through my puppet video work I got to work with Michael Musto, Harmonica Sunbeam, Kate Clinton, Melba Moore, Jo Lance, Tom Ragu and many others. I also learned the ups and downs of self video production, especially when the audio is bad. I also perfected my puppet work on camera and learned how I think I am perceived versus how I see myself are two very different things. In addition my other puppets made vids which was cool. Doing the puppet video work, because I wanted to make it appeal to mainstream, made me work cleaner because I had to. This was all good.

During that time I also performed tons for children and again, forced to work clean, duh. I also learned children are brilliant creatures, fast learners, and know much mire than we could ever think that they do. I did several literacy events with my puppets and not only made some nice money, but felt very rewarded. I got laughs from the children and the adults and there was not one curse word in my act. Plus kids will let you know where you stand.

I was also on Shovio for a spell where my co-stars along with myself pulled a not so very wise publicity stunt. While we had many people going, we also got a great many people angry. I got into a very public fight with several comedians and ugly words were exchanged. Looking back, the whole thing was quite funny. However, the truth of the matter was I learned a few lessons. One was that there are some topics people get funky death and faking someone's. Another was that when something doesn't go as planned and the returns are bad, worse, and even worse.....aka not only losing favorable public opinion but fans and friends, it is always best to apologize no matter how it hurts your pride. It's not a joke if no one is laughing. Plus when people see you aren't such a dick they will forgive you. Lastly, sometimes you have to swing big and miss to see what works. No regrets.

I also filmed a pilot about a gay softball league. Doing this I got more in front of the camera experience.I also got to re-learn the art of interviewing people and learned to be a good interviewer you have to LISTEN. Some of the people I worked with have worked on Broadway, HBO, and one guy even won an Emmy. I learned a lot about researching people prior to interviewing them as well, and much like standup people will greet you with the energy that you greet them with.

In additon to that I have been pitching a television show. Doing this taught me to dress like a lady and act like an adult. When you pitch a TV show it is nothing like the way Hollywood portrays it in the movies. Some people are interested, others are not. However, you have to be passionate about your idea, eccentric in your way, and still act like a total adult. This was something I wasnt so good at doing until recently. Plus it was an excuse to put on some makeup, dawn my pearls, and try to take over the world.

Was also a part of the first offical authroized version of the Gong Show. I got to perform at BB Kings, and although dissed I was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. Although gonged, the audience did like me and I got to doll up in fake lashes and have fun. They are doing a second show that I am going to be a part of and we may even go to Vegas. Looking forward to it.

Then there is the book I have been writing. Currently I am on my second draft. Writing a book is a lot of work for that of work. And if anyone knows me they know that I can't spell so it is twice as much work for me.

But however, after a while I missed being onstage and the freedom a live performance gave me. I missed being on the road in front of different audiences. I missed kicking it with my peeps at the pizza parlor. Plus I was getting into way too much trouble in the romantic world. So I decided to start small and went back to the mics. While I hated paying for stage time, something I barely did in the year and a half I was really hitting standup hard, it was time to get back to basics. Sure, I remembered how much I hated the mics and all but the truth was that I needed to be there. I am not on HBO yet and there was a reason for that. I ate up all the free comedy seminars I could and decided to get back on the horse.

Since that time my sets have been up and down, good and bad. However, some of my edginess is gone. This is not all bad. While the edginess was a trademark, the excess was standing in my way of getting better spots. I had one booker who I regard as a friend tell me that if I substracted some of my edginess I would reach everyone more often than not than just hit with some people and then miss with others. While in the last leg of my year and a half I had more hits than misses, I know in my heart he is right and I am ready to take the advice now.

Not to mention I am not taking some of the things other comics say to heart. One comedian was telling me he couldnt come to my mic because he was at such and such a club that night. Meanwhile I may host an open mic but feature on the road and have even headlined. Not to mention I can do extended sets and when I go to mics, people sometimes don't even charge me out of respect. However, I can't let stupid shit like that get to me. It's what crippled me last time.

I am also not as hard on myself. I am what I am and where I am on a particular night. People have good nights and bad nights. There will be people out there who say awful things about what they believe I can and cannot do. There is some awful loose talk about me. Before I used to shut them up by going at it with them online, trashing them back, or spreading a rumor that was just as horrific. Now I go up and kill them all where it counts, behind the mic. If I kill an audience it kills all the shit that they want to talk about me. They can speak however they please about me, but my work will speak for itself.

On the other hand these days I am not so deserpate. Two years ago I almost broke out. I was on Rachael Ray, The Soup, Good Day NY, WE, and even opened for Uncle Floyd and Aretha Franklin. I shot a high budget pilot for one project and was up for another on NBC that got cancelled. When I didnt get the expose that I wanted I was pissed. But I wasnt ready. Although I had the sobering experience of being so broke I cried and being what I percieved as cheated, it made me fight for it all the more and I started to put the work in to become a decent comedienne.

These days I say no to things when they are not right for me. I just said no to a national TV appearance because it would put me in the freakshow category and limit me not only in my career pursuits but in the monetary value of the jobs I could get. Translated, it would label me closing many doors and windows. It would also jeopordize my work with children which I take tremendous pride in. Not to mention something in my stomach told me know. I know in my heart I did the right thing and something better will come my way.

In coming back I am learning audiences are smarter than you think, don't treat them as dumb children. Not to mention sex jokes get old after the punchline is seemingly the same. When you don't push the audience for a laugh you get what you want. When something goes on, move on. Be daring, blunt, edgy, but relatable. And above all things, you will always want to kick yourself a little even after the best sets for forgetting that one joke. In coming back people are throwing me better spots because they know how hard I have worked and how far I have come.

I also forgot what a gift it is to do standup in the greatest city in the world. In addition I forgot how standup and the ability to fight through by laughing got me through a bad breakup, kicking three very addictive habits, another bad breakup, being broke, the overdose/murder deaths of friends and acquaintances, and other rank shit the universe has thrown in my way. I joked after one OD funeral when I did one of the best sets of my life later that night, "I should have friends die everytime I have a big show." While I am just kidding when I say that, things were so rough that sometimes my standup was all I had.

While I needed to put it on the back burner to get my sanity back, I needed to come back. Not only does it keep me out of trouble, but I have friends I love and adore. I am proud to be a part of the New York City standup community, not apart from. While I may never feel I will get what I deserve, I can't let that fear and anger drive me away but rather drive me forward in my quest to dethrone Chelsea Handler on late night television. Rest assured I will do it. I always keep my word. At least I try, or maybe not.

Either way I am back and enjoying the journey. I am taking the lessons I learned during my time where this wasn't first priority and applying them to my art. I will keep you posted. Have a show tonight in Brooklyn. Man does it feel good to be home. Love April


  1. Good for you. Sometimes the journey is the destination, as they say.