Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Just For Fun

This past week I found myself thinking a lot about my life and what is potentially next for me. Here I am, I am twenty seven years old. While I am young, I am not terribly young. I should almost have my shit together. At the same time I am not so old I should just give it up. I have accomplished a lot in my tenure in NYC. This past year I have been on TV a lot. So much so that my Rachael Ray appearance, one that caused my mother heartache, got a second shelf life as well as a cult following amongst young, male comedians. Did I mention I don’t mind? Oh and then there is that following in the UK that I am getting that I do adore.
With that being said I have a book about to be published. I have a single about to be dropped. I have a TV project I am pitching. Not to mention a show I am hosting online. While all are wonderful next steps for a reality tv starlette nothing is set in stone. That’s when I realized I had not been on stage in some time. Sure, I have been performing live on younow but it’s not the same as a paying audience. While the chat on younow is vocal and some people get nasty it’s not the same as a paying crowd.
Standup had been my life from the time I was about twenty to the time I was about twenty six in the city. I did whatever I had to do for stage time. I did bringers. I barked like a bitch dog. I cleaned toilets. I produced shows and did promotional work for thankless club owners. I spent my week nights out networking hoping to meet the right people. My weekends were on the road sometimes losing money in order to get the experience I needed under the lights. I went from Park Avenue to park bench for stage time. I performed anywhere that they would have me. Sure the game was hard but I was willing to play. But then I got burnt out.
Truth be told the politics were eating me alive. I couldn’t deal with someone being the flavor of the month for a external reason when they were getting the breaks sans talent. I couldn’t stand seemingly having to work as harder than my male counterparts because of my given gender. Worse yet, people wanted to box me in because of my act. Male bookers wanted to hide me because either I challenged their perceptions of what a woman comedian should have been, was a prop act, or was funnier than their good old boys. Because I wasn’t easy to box in I had to fight harder and often felt like a round peg in a square hole. I got bitter about how the business worked. Going onstage started to become less of a treat and more of a chore as the club I hosted my mic at was seemingly slaving me to death for no reward in return.
That’s when I got on Reality TV.  Yes, we know the story, April and her puppet children. You would have thought the club I worked so hard for would have kissed my ass, right? Instead they fired me from my own mic.
I thought the standup doors would burst open but instead it seemed they closed tighter than ever. I would have been sad except other doors started opening; doors that involved writing, acting, television work and music as well as being a talking head. In addition I found myself becoming an outspoken advocate for those with HIV, women who were victims of stalking/dating violence, and children who were bullied. At first I was bitter that it seemed like for as much time and energy as I gave standup I got nothing in return, but that bitterness faded as other doors opened in abundance. Then suddenly I went from being angry I was seemingly cheated because I wasn’t a perky harmless woman or whining heffer in a male dominated art form but rather apathetic because I was doing so much else with my life.
Eventually I came to the conclusion standup gave me the courage to host online the way I did because I am quick on my feet. It also helped me write a witty soon to be released book of mine because I spent years writing jokes. Not to mention it gave me dimension from a lot of other women when I auditioned for things. And I got noticed for the reality series because of my work with my puppets in the clubs. If anything standup had been a spring board and everything had happened because of it.
However I found myself getting letters from a lot of young people about how I was giving them the courage to follow their dreams as artists whether they saw me on younow or on other TV shows. Many of these were from young ventriloquists and comedians who told me that they were just starting out, were fans and hoped to be like me someday. While the letters made me smile they wanted to know when I was coming to their city to perform. I didn’t know because I really wasn’t putting club dates on the calendar. Part of me felt like a hero and it felt good, but part of me felt like a hypocrite. In my eagerness to reach for the stars and make a name for myself I had let the stupidity of the politics pull the plug on what I loved most, being on stage.
Then I got an email. An organization that means a lot to me is having a fundraiser and asked me to perform. Now it was on. Then there was an email for a meet up open mic.
While part of me hated paying for stage time I had a note book of new things I wanted to try. So I put my ego aside and went. I showed up late partially because I was dragging my feet. But I said to myself, “April, a lot of these folks probably look up to you. Even if you tank you have still been on TV. And even if you have been on TV you still need to try new things. You would tell your fans to do this.”
I walked in the club not knowing what to expect and to my surprise I saw some old friends and right away felt at home. Suddenly it wasn’t about the TV time I got or everything else on the horizon for me but rather just the comedy. The bitterness soon became nonexistent. I realized what a lifesaver the standup stage had been for me. There had been not feeling like I fit in NYC and then one rainy night I found what was once Boston Comedy Club. Then there was a nasty break up with an ex fiancĂ© that turned violent that became a routine that has never failed. Oh and then just being broke, poor, and a failure with guys. This was my safe place and my playground. No one had the right to take it away.
I got onstage and actually did very well. It’s not because I am some comedy genius but rather was just hungry for the spot and didn’t care. It was an open mic. There was no pressure. There was no fighting for spots. Instead I was doing something I hadn’t done onstage in a long time. I was having fun. Afterwards I felt happy, happier than I had in sometime.
I also realized that the way one gets better and gets where they need to be is by honing their craft sans politics. Sure I had worked with some awesome people. I also had an awesome person or two compliment me as I was being ripped apart by nobodies on the radio. However while I have come a long way, I still have a long way to go before I begin to pray to join that pack. I also realized that some working comedians who were well respected still did open mics from time to time. It wasn’t about killing but having new bits in the arsenal.
One young woman starting ventriloquism wrote me and asked me some advice. I told her the mirror was her friend, give her character a complete identity that included a last name, and to perform whenever she could. I think my advice is wonderful.
So wonderful I need to start following it. While I am not sure that standup is still the endgame it looks like I will be getting stage time, a lot more stage time. Love April

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