From the time I was nineteen until the time I was twenty five I was very much into standup comedy. My college days were spent in either acting classes at the Lee Strasberg Theatre or academics at NYU and then off I would go to a mic and then another booked show with May in tow. I tanked and bombed hard until it hurt or I killed and left no prisoners. Fearlessly developing my act, I perfected my ventriloquism and learned the art of telling jokes just as April. I have always been hit or miss that way and still am. You either love me or hate me, what can I say? My junior year weekends began to be spent schlepping May and myself around the tri-state. I learned how to do long stretches of time. I partied, met lots of characters, did lots of shows, and loved it. My old roommate, a human girl, got used to me never being around on weekends as a matter of fact. Standup brought me on so many adventures I know that yes, aside from banks there are people who do live in the great state of Delaware.
However at twenty five I began to experience a burn out of sorts. For starters, I had begun hosting an open mic at a local club and also producing shows within this club system. My plate was full but I loved the comics who came to my mic and being busy was good for me. As a host I went out of my way to make people feel welcome and comfortable to kill or bomb knowing they could try new material with no consequence. I discouraged the clique mentality that is so prevalent in the standup world as we know it. As for the shows I produced, they did alright. I had some cool folks open for me during my one woman show special. As for the spots I got, for the most part they were shit in exchange for hosting the mic. Sometimes it was only three people who were comedied out after a long night of bringer comics. Still I didn’t care. This is what comedy was.
Until one day I got sick of the bullshit.
It all started when months after reviving a mic that was basically dying I asked for better spots. The club manager and other comics who were “passed” looked at me as if I was crazy. Some of these folks, stuck in the rut they called careers forever, always treated me as if I was less than. It drove me bonkers and made me resentful as all hell because I knew I was funnier in my sleep then many of these people were. I was told by older comedians to wait my turn and to just settle because “we all deserve better spots.” Sometimes I would, but then I would get vocal. Eventually I got what I wanted, but once I calmed down the mistreatment began again. To add insult to injury although I received no money to host, I was charged to do the rest of the mics. I saw a lot of the folks getting passed. Unoriginal, they were carbon copies of each other and many had been doing the same shitty act for sometime. On the weekends when I went out of state I had done shows for biker gangs and killed and not to mention tamed some of the roughest urban rooms. In addition to some TV time, I had also opened for Aretha Franklin. The fact I was not getting my respect was killing me. Soon I was getting better bookings outside this club system and began to show up less and less to my mic because I was busy doing things like filming a national television show or doing musical comedy for the husband of the Sultana of Saudi Arabia.
As for the shows I produced, they started to fall off. I got sick of hustling my friends who were broke or had better things to do than see me again and again. Soon I was in “trouble” with people I had done so much for. It was no biggie. I had begun work on a webseries where my guests were Michael Musto who by the way included us in his Village Voice blog, Melba Moore who was nominated for a Grammy, Kate Clinton who got us mentioned on AfterEllen.com, Harmonica Sunbeam who is the realest legend of drag and many others. In addition I was working on a book. As my bookings dried up I didn’t seem to care because for the last several months standup had become less like something I loved and more like a task like cleaning the house or bathroom. As I showed up less to my mic my comedians also came less. Someone wrote on badslava that I only showed up when I wanted to. Plus I was being pegged as an open mic comedian when I featured more than any of my naysayers would in an entire lifetime.
As Christmas approached my schedule filled. I had taped for TLC and did the press tour. Not to mention I began a career as a reenactment actor. My open mic was the last thing on my mind. Around Christmas I found that not only had this club in question fired me, but they replaced me via badslava without even telling me. It all worked out because I wanted to leave. I was sick and tired of the bullshit anyway that came with this club system. I was tired of all the nobodies crawling to be someone. At the same time, I missed new comedians coming through my door and giving them the memory of their first time onstage. However, for the most part I was glad to leave and was in no rush to find an open mic hosting gig elsewhere. This place and the gossipy wannabes and has-beens as well as the politics had sucked the life force out of me. A friend of mine promised to take me to his club with more positive comedians. I half heartedly promised him I would go. I never did. My passion for standup and joke writing had disappeared. I told myself I was so sick and tired of it that I didn’t care if I never set foot in front of a mic again.
At the same time, I felt alienated from the standup community in a way. These people, who focus on art so much, suddenly felt that I had betrayed them by doing a reality television show. They showed their distain in many different ways. Some old friends snubbed me when they saw me or otherwise stopped communicating. Others trashed me, either openly or anonymously, online. They said I did things like make up an addiction to puppets or was fame whoring. While neither was true, it was just an excuse to trash me because they felt it was unfair that for one reason or another I was getting air time and they were not. My perception of people I once called friends was suddenly very distorted and I felt the less time around these people so allergic to success the better.
To be honest though I never quite left. I still was doing one to two shows a week. Some were private shows, many for gay audiences who had seen me on TV and were in love with my puppets. May and I also hosted a bingo game. I also did a lot of family events with my puppets, including Hoops Day in Newark. When it was a regular standup show I found myself having more fun. I also found myself less angry because I wasn’t so immersed in the gossip and therefore found my sets improved. At the same time, I felt left out because I was somewhat isolated from the community. Nonetheless, other doors were opening. These doors included making music and also being the star of a full length film, Death of a Dummy. In addition, a book I wrote is currently being shopped around to agents. Not to mention I broke my ass to make a web presence for myself and my puppet children. So while I was out of the clubs I was still very much making noise. Yes, I walk down the street and am recognized as a result of some of my TV appearances and people occasionally want to take a pic. Does it make me J list? Okay, maybe I am not even a part of the English alphabet quite yet.
However as of late I miss being the a part of the larger community. I miss going on the road, seeing the country, and using it as an excuse to make new friends as well as bond with friends I already have. I also miss going to mics and either killing or falling on my ass. In addition, while I felt alienated from people, those people were not my friends ever and it was such a relief to find out when I did. However, I did have friends within the standup community, good friends. My sight was blinded by all the negative forces that I lost sight of who they were, happy for me no matter what. Not to mention while I see money from appearances at private events I miss slugging it out in the clubs and sharing junk food with potential new friends. While I have come a long way I still have a long way to go. Sure, standup removes the snobbery of the J list.
But maybe I am ready to come back and this time find a club system where I am appreciated, not worked like a dog, and treated like a human. Now that my energy is better, perhaps I will be able to find that place in the sun. Not to mention see some more of America and the world. And while I am at it, I sincerely hope to make people laugh. Love April