Thursday, June 9, 2011

As If We Never Said Goodbye (Sunset Boulevard)

I have written a few blogs about how I was angry at the NYC standup scene. I had a falling out after leaving an open mic aka unpaid galley slave bitch position at a club after I busted my ass for them. I also wrote about the pain of busting my ass and being passed over time and time again for lesser comedians because they fit neatly into the man made box but I didn’t. Not to mention living on the road, sleeping in the same clothes because I traveled the tri-state, and all the perils that come with pursuing a life of passion. However, the truth is, I hate to admit it, standup is my home.
Around the summer of last year I was starting to feel the burn out. I was taking less dates because I was writing a book, producing a webseries and then not to mention shooting another pilot and pitching another. I was busy, just not in the clubs. I was tired of the late nights, the politics, the weight gain from eating fried chicken when the industry got me down. I started to ask myself if the standup dream was even worth it. Here I was with a good education. Here I was with a great mind. Here I was telling dick jokes and thankful if I got a few bucks from generous drunks out of the bucket.
The problem was unfortunately was that standup was the only destination for me. Like so many mice, I was looking for the cheese in the same place when the cheese had been moved long ago. My friend Nicho Mendez who works as a life coach gave me this analogy not so long ago. Being the best and the funniest was not going to get me where I needed to go. I had also started to settle. The dream became less to be great and more of being a working comic. I didn’t mind being poor for as much as my mother said I couldn’t be poor and uninsured forever. I saw all the people making it and steadily I became allergic to success. I told myself that the odds of me becoming a superstar were slim and none and became more and more bitter.
Around October of last year something happened that changed me forever. My buddy Roger died. While technically a heart attack took him, Roger had battled for a long time with addiction. Sure, part of being Roger’s friend was not killing him most of the time. But after he died I realized the boy was smarter than I thought he was. He lived his life fearlessly, and perhaps that is the reason he is no longer with us. He lived his life fully, even until the end calling me at two o’clock in the morning with his misadventures. At the same time he never felt he deserved better than the back hand life gave him. When Roger died something in me snapped.
I don’t know if it was for better or for worse but I started to chase opportunities with a ruthlessness and fullness that I never had. I suddenly wasn’t afraid to talk to casting agents and producers. I wasn’t afraid to be laughed at. I also wasn’t afraid to tell people to fuck off and to walk away. I also knew it was time to say I deserved better. I also knew it was time to move up, up and away into more opportunities. I remember Roger once telling me, “People are in our past because we passed them over. When we look back at they are right where we left them doing the same things and even wearing the same bad clothes.”
He also said once when I got some air space, because Roger’s favorite subject was himself, and I was bitching about my life, “Either be Queen Bee or get the fuck out of the ball.”
Something about those words clicked and I found myself definitely moving in a good direction. I left a bitch position I had at a club where I was much underappreciated because I didn’t feel like settling. I also found myself using my talents in other ways and had a very busy calendar whether I was filming a movie, writing a script, looking for a literary agent, being submitted and interviewed for other TV specials, doing man on the streets or whatever else. I began doing less and less standup. While the sets I put away for the most part were good, I wasn’t chasing bookers like I used to.
As for my relationship with the standup community it became a strained one. For starters, I felt alienated because there were people talking trash about me for doing a reality show, for doing a press tour, for doing all these things. Then of course there were others angry at me for leaving my open mic even though the club in question was shady about letting me go. Plus I got tired of the gossip and removed myself. I would see my fellows at shows here and there but didn’t really care to see who was doing what and which club owner was on the shit list that week. When I did that I actually enjoyed the standup more and the bullshit less.
I remember one night I bedazzled myself and performed at the Stonewall Inn hosted by my friend Steve Ryan. Not only did I have a fun night, but I did well. Afterwards there was a dance party and I ended up dancing with a little gay boy who fixed my strap, a lesbian in a lumberjack flannel, and an older gay blonde dude who was so drunk he kept calling me Britney. It had been a long time since I had a dance party after a show. Hell, it had been a long time since I had that much fun at a show.
A week later I did my friend Nate Mitchell’s show for the first time. It was a good night in that I did a good set. I also got to see a lot of good comedians work. While we were all good, it seemed I wasn’t as sharp as I once was because I wasn’t getting the stage time I once did. I told myself in my heart it didn’t matter. I had been getting more TV time than anyone. But still, after that night there was something in me that missed being part of the community.
A week and a half after Nate’s show, I ended up going to South Jersey to perform with Andy Julia and the Mixed Nuts Comedy People. I almost bowed out because it was in South Jersey, I would have to go through Philly and there was no fucking way I was going there at 1 am after the show ended. Andy told me he would get me there hell or high water, and I could sleep on his couch because he lived with his wife and five daughters and nothing was going to happen to me. I ended up getting a ride from Craig Loydren, who lives on Staten Island though, and the car ride with him was a blast! Of course it was the night the world was set to end and we pranked our friend Rich Carucci and said, “What do you mean Rich, you weren’t chosen?”
To which Rich responded, “Hell no, I am telling dick jokes tonight.” When that happened I just felt this surge of laughter coming through me. For as much as the comedy elistists pissed me off, I did have friends in the community and missed them. I also missed the car trips, the stories, and the general bonding the road gives a comic.
When I arrived at the show I met Andy and his wife Stacy. And I also had an amazing set! Actually, it was more of a high than the best prescription diet pills with the most speed one could have and trust me I have been on all manners of diet drug. It was a fun night but I had to cut out early because Craig had another spot down the road and it made more sense for me to go with him than for him to do his gig, get me, and then go back. You get the picture. But while I was there I took a fan photo or two but I was also approached by a young comedian who told me that not only had he seen some of my clips but he looked up to me. At that moment it clicked. It didn’t matter what I thought of the industry. There were young comedians looking up to me and some possibly emulating me somewhere. That was a cool feeling.
A week and a half later my spread with my puppet children appeared in Chat Magazine. I got fan mail from the UK but also received an online message from a young ventriloquist who wanted to Chat with me. That was the coolest thing in the world. This kid was fifteen, did his ventriloquism at school, was a little bit of a misfit but then again I was at his age too. All and all adorable. We chatted about ventriloquism and stuff and he gave me the name of his figure. Then it clicked again. Young people are looking up to me and following me. Therefore I owe it to them to get visible in the clubs again because if I built it they will come.
However I was still reticent. While I would take bookings if they came my way I wasn’t chasing the standup dream the way I used to. I told myself the art form was dead. There was no way I was doing xyz. I had paid certain dues. On my way to meet a friend last night I ran into Jamie Rosen who was on her way to host a mic for a friend of ours. She asked if I was coming. I told her I was meeting my friend to jog. I was in a foul mood and was in no mood to be around groups of people. However she told me about an open mic she has every Thursday. At that moment it occurred to me, whether or not I liked it I was being beckoned back into the standup world.
Last night I found myself jogging with my favorite new friend Nicho Mendez. Actually Nicho jogged and I jogged/walked. Never call a gay man a sissy. Odds are they can kick your ass. Nicho proved to be just what I needed that night. He told me this wonderful story about two mice and the cheese. One day the cheese was moved and the two mice went back to the same place to find the cheese. They went back day after day after day. One day one mouse changed the routine and went to a few different places and found the cheese while the other mouse waited for the cheese to return but never did. The mouse who changed his route was happy whereas the mouse who kept waiting for the cheese went hungry and was pissed.
The point of Nicho’s story is that change is the only constant we have in life. Sure, the standup was the only way for me but then the cheese was moved. I found the cheese. Well the cheese has been moved again. And this time it is time for me to get back into the clubs and slug it out again. Not to mention the cheese has been moved again in the sense that my attitude is different. The people who dissed me a while ago aren’t my friends and they never were. Instead of being bitter I tell myself it was a relief to find out before they fucked me over when it came to money. And their anonymous dissing got me on Gawker, a website their names will never be mentioned on let alone be a main page entry. So I win, hah!
The jog with Nicho also put things into a good perspective too. When Nicho jogs he tells me when he puts the right foot down he says thank and then when he puts the left foot down he says you. That’s thank you. And during that ass beating it occurred to me that I should be saying thank you more. I have problems that many performers would die for. I have a life many would kill for. I have the privilege of living my dream in the greatest city in the world.
It also occurred to me that I had not chosen standup. It had chosen me. A comedy show at Boston one rainy night that I entered just to escape being drenched during a period when I was going to leave NYC and abandon my dreams changed everything. The standup world was beckoning me and I had no choice but to come.
Ventriloquism had chosen me as well. I had been thirteen, shy, and discovered one night by accident while watching TV that I could talk without moving my lips. Eight puppets later I am still at it. Not to mention one of the few like me running around.
After I got home that night I got several emails about shows people wanted me to perform in or shows people wanted me to host because they had heard good things about me. And I also realized there was no law in the land saying I couldn’t do my standup, produce my webseries, be a reality TV star, pitch my book, and pursue an acting and TV career. In my quest for my own manifest destiny and not settling after my friend Roger’s departure I realized in almost leaving standup completely I was punking out. While the might brag about knowing me in the after life, because he saw me on TV once and bragged about knowing me when he was alive, I know he would be disappointed to see me selling myself short.
So I am not settling. I am reaching for the stars. I owe it to all my friends and fans, alive or dead, to do so. I owe it to my mother in Pittsburgh to do so as well. Sure, I may have wanted to give up the standup completely by doing less stage time and cutting corners. But life is not about what you want sometimes. I am being beckoned back to the Mother Ship. I don’t know where my spots will come but they will come. Why? Because they are coming already. My fans already are inquiring about where I am next. Oh the problems I have.
As I get ready to host an event tonight for an organization that raises money for third world economies, A Global Friendship, I think of how standup got me this job. I think of all the wonderful things it got me. I also tell myself I am not settling. I will ruthlessly bust my ass whether it is onstage or anywhere else. This time I wont let the standup politics get me down. Oh no. Instead I will remember those fellow comedians of mine sometimes are just jealous nobodies who will always be jealous nobodies. They don’t pay my bills and they don’t do the hiring. They don’t count as far as opinions go, and like assholes everyone has one. I stick with the ones I like and trust and leave the rest. If people have an issue with my ambition and the way I chase my star fuck em. I guess I wont be seeing them on the way up.
Out of the corner of my eye I see my faithfully departed friend Roger, fresh from his botox with his Gucci bag saying, “Either be Queen Bee or get the fuck out of the ball.”
With each step out my door to my event tonight I will hear my friend Nicho telling me, “The left foot is thank and the right foot is you.”
With each step I say thank you.

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