Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Summer Place (Percy Faith)

When I was starting comedy, the big emphasis was on headlining. To headline it meant you were a star. It was your night.It meant you worked hard and were good at what you did. When they brought you up, your television credits were announced. The crowd cheered. You blew them away. Meanwhile the rest of us neophytes looked at you with admiration and idolized you. We were envious of your talent and television credits, but dreamed we would get there someday.

My big dream has always been to headline theatres. My act is one that is different. Club owners and bookers either want to grab me up or slam the door on my fingers. Casting directors want me because I am unique, or want nothing to do with me for the same exact reason. It is a two sided coin, a boobie prize sometimes but a prize in other ways.

A year and a half ago, I was ready to quit standup all together. I had just released a book, and wasn't hitting the stage as much. My focus was changing from comedy to just writing and I thought perhaps that was the path I wanted to take. Sure, I was making videos and stuff, and getting on TV had become "easy" for me. I thought standup was something I did when I was young and going through hell, and it had gotten me through.I had become sick and tired of the politics, and how I was always seemingly on the wrong end of the debate. It seemed being unique and being visible were the worst things to happen to me. No one wanted me. Male headliners were quick to remind me that they were men, and therefore I should make room for them for this reason. Not to mention I was reminded of how I was simply getting things because I was a "cute girl with puppets." Male bookers were something else too. Women were no help, telling me I pandered to men when they were more guilty than I was. I had paid my dues and was getting shafted. It wasn't fair. I was done.

After one terrible night, I had a cigar with a headliner I looked up to who had always supported me. He told me that being unique wasn't terrible, and that a lot of people who make it are a one and only. My headliner friend also informed me my act was different, and this was good. He pointed out that my best bet would be theatres, and that when people like Dimitri Martin discovered this they took off. Instead of being an oddball, suddenly I felt like perhaps I was in good company after all. A dream I had since the beginning of comedy echoed through my mind. I wasn't quitting standup. I was going to pound it harder than ever. I had a growing fan base and a bizarre skill, there was a market for me and I wasn't going to let people tell me otherwise.

For the next year, I made an effort to develop more of my puppets. The inspiration for the long set had been a DVD of Taylor Mason I saw as a teenager. He did a headliner set in a theatre with multiple puppets. While he is more of a Christian comedian, he was still incredible and I walked away knowing that was the way to go. Still, I was not sure how I could put them in my act. Yeah, I was on TV and all, but I just didn't want to be the proverbial blonde. I wanted to show people I was good at what I did, and cared about being funny.

The dream of being a headliner had gotten me through some of the darkest times in my life. It got me through a lot knowing that in my heart believing I was destined to do things with the weird little talking doll skill I had acquired. This past winter had been particularly brutal. Money was tight, and I was more broke than I had been in some time. There was a lot of uncertainty with my career. Familial drama was at an absolute high, and there were a lot of distressing events on that front. So I did what I always do when shit hits the fan, I threw myself into my work.

In the words of Winston Churchill, "The only way out of hell is to keep going."

So I made it my business to record a DVD and got an offer to headline a theatre. These were two big things I dreamed of doing since I started comedy. The DVD taping was a few weeks ago, and this weekend I headlined my first theatre. Night one the crowd was a little light but they were good. Night two the house was packed and the crowd was amazing. The energy was off the wall and fantastic. Both nights all of the comedians who proceeded me onstage were amazing. The level of professionalism was top notch as well. I was blessed, humbled, and gifted to enjoy such a wonderful weekend.

The thing I have to get used to is the nerves. I always am a jumbled set of nerves before I get onstage. It's the perfectionist in me coming out. As the emcee, you are the sacrificial lamb, and they either eat you up or eat you. As the middler, you are hoping the emcee isn't the sandman so you don't have the wake the crowd up, but also that they don't eat you alive too. Oh and sometimes they forget the middle man. Headliner though, you are the main event. So it can feel like forever before you get onstage. The nerves are like, "AHHHHHH!!!!"

But then as always when you get up there, everything is fine. And then when you hear the audience laugh at your first joke time flies cause you are having fun.

 Of course, after the show an audience member did recognize me from television. She confessed my voice and look were familiar, but when I pulled out May Wilson, it all came together. The whole thing was pretty funny. After all this hard work and effort, I am outshined by a damn puppet still. But the gift of this situation was that I got to be the main event at a packed house, got paid, and love comedy more than I have in some time. Thank goodness for my friend who not only talked me into soldiering on, but convinced me theatres were the way to go. As my hard work is starting to pay off, I am grateful I didn't quit five minutes before the miracle.

Now I am no longer the emcee or the middler, those days are gone. Now I am the main event, and the one everyone has come to see. Before I step onstage they announce my television credits, and everyone expects me to be good, and in my heart I know I earned this slot. I step onstage to deafening applause.

Yes, I am the headliner.

Yes, I will be here all week.

Next stop Carnegie Hall.

Shit, that's my alarm clock. One step at a time Ventriloquistdolly.


Buy my book I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Check out my DVD Broke and Semi-Famous coming soon

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