Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Birth of Donald J. Tramp

This time last year I began a bipolar journey that would restore the heart that was somewhat lost. The truth was, the last several years have been good exposure wise. I got on several television shows very quickly. Not to mention I was in the rotation of a national show as a talking head. A film I was in was nominated for a big independent award. I was getting press around the world. My DVD was on Finnish TV and I was garnering a cult following. And then I felt on top of the world in that manic sense and then life happened.

Next thing I knew I was at the hands of a maniac landlord who would tell me that he wouldn’t stop until he saw me homeless. He didn’t care I was being eaten alive by bed bugs and could barely breathe because of the mold in my apartment. He didn’t care I still paid rent on time. He wanted to torment me until I left and did so using the legal system. 

I still remember calling my mentor after one of my many court dates. Tired and waiting for the police because my landlord had been seen pacing my street in a psychotic state, I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. Earlier that day, knowing I had been in court, he  broke into into my apartment turning on my stove that frequently leaked poisonous gas. He had also gone through my things hoping to find evidence to use against me, specifically my underwear drawer. When I had gotten home, a cloud of smoke filled my apartment and I couldn't breathe. It seemed this man would stop at nothing to torment me.

I was scared that this man might well kill me. To make matters worse, I was all alone with no one to protect me. He knew this, and therefore I was easy prey. 

Panicked, I called my mentor who heard all about my landlord issues day in and day out. He said, “This is all getting in the way of your objective.” And the he gently advised me to move. An hour later the NYPD would do so in not so many words. 

Fast forward five days, I was moving under duress. I was leaving behind not only nearly a decade of memories, but also a lot of hurt. There was the heartbreak of a relationship gone wrong with a partner who lied. There was also the painful revelations of who my friends were and weren’t as things unfolded. And there was also the horrendous lesson that after a breakup there are the women friends who stir the pot lying about cheating on his end that might or might not have occurred, as well as the vulture male friends who regard you as fresh meat now that your male is out of the picture. I was just one big, gaping, walking open wound. Hey, when it rains it pours and this is what they call a shit storm. 

Then there was the cancer scare. Yes, me shaking. The nurses asking me what was wrong. Me telling them I fear cancer. Them not denying my fear. My mortality flashing before my eyes……

I didn’t have cancer, but that on top of everything else made it difficult to pick myself up off the floor. Sure, I was being profiled in magazines all over the world, but facebook success doesn’t mean real life success.

Now I felt I was all alone in Queens. There were a lot of unsure nights where I cried myself to sleep. Despite avoiding eviction I felt like a failure because for ten years I worked to maintain that apartment and had still lost it. I also had cut a lot of people out so while I wanted to make new friends, I was afraid to let people in. I am a very loyal person, and when you stab me I bleed. Friends are the foundation of my life, and with this gone I felt crippled.

As if my heart was not already pulverized from a failed romance that ended because of deceit, but also because of friends who were wolves and sheep’s clothing. Then there were the hyena’s who arrived to chop on my dying bones. Yes, the advice machines giving their two cents. These were so-called friends and family members who had an abundance of opinions about why I got myself in the housing mess I was in, why I got my heart broken, and how I was on the no where express. Many of these folks didn’t have their own lives together and their sides of the street were damn messy, so instead of tending to their own house they were telling me how to clean mine.

Wait…….I was nearly technically homeless there for a minute. Hack joke. Needless to say, some of them didn’t make the cut either. Now I was beginning to see some of them were relishing in the fact I was failing, and might have been jealous of my life all along.

I also felt burned out because I had worked at Madonna speed for sometime, and now was living like someone who had squandered her life being lazy. It seemed the harder I worked the less I got. Depressed was an understatement. Picking myself off the floor became damn near impossible, especially when the anxiety attacks that left me without the ability to speak returned. My nerves were shot, and getting onstage became a task. I was unfocused when I got up, my sets would do the job because I was a pro. However, they were uninspired and were nothing fantastic. They were not the work I do when I am focused.

Screw it. I am good at what I do. That’s why I get the attention I do. I said it. Shoot me. Make me a legend.

Still, the anxiety began eating me to the point where I was experiencing irrational stage fright, hoping there was no audience so I wouldn’t have to perform. It made no sense. I had always gotten so much energy from a packed house. And then going out of my house became work.

When I was younger I controlled these anxiety attacks by drinking heavily and eating lots of sugar. Both aren’t long term solutions and backfire in case you are wondering. Either way, it appeared I lost my swagger and mojo. Most nights were spent reading and watching Lifetime Movies when I wasn’t discussing UFO’s with my housemate.

I contemplated quitting comedy for good. But then I had a strange dream. It was during a sick day when I had to take Nyquil because I was too feverish to sleep. A familiar looking clown appeared. He was pushing the spotlight with a broom. With a wry smile he said, “Don’t even think about quitting kid. It won’t let you.”

The dream was a tad frightening and a tad hopeful. Still, I woke up feeling tripped out with goosebumps.  Then I realized where I knew that clown from. It was Emmett Kelly. This was a Wayne’s World Jim Morrison Indian in the Desert moment. Yeah, it could have been a sign or it could have been the Nyquil. I had also seen a poster of him earlier that day. Drugs do weird things to the mind……especially the dreams.

I was even surprised I dreamed, because I didn’t do that so much since my life was falling apart. A week later though it was revealed the clown was right. It wasn’t gonna let me quit. The universe had other plans.

It was after a weekend at a comedy club in Connecticut, an event that deserves a blog all its own. I totally ate it onstage in a way I hadn’t in sometime. It was in the middle of no where, and I didn’t expect to do well. I was a last minute replacement. Stepping offstage I was apathetic. I knew I sucked. It had sucked less than I had expected so I was almost happy. With all that went on in my life I was amazed I even was able to complete a sentence.

Most club owners would have shown me the door but I got lucky. Someday the whole story will get a blog of it’s own, but I encountered a club owner who gave me the smack in the head I needed. A veteran headliner who has performed around the world, and is a regular in Vegas, he had everything I wanted. Needless to say, he gave me the mixture of tough love and guidance that I needed at that very moment.

Needless to say the following night was a different story. The stage fright was gone and for the first time in forever I felt like myself. I felt like I could do this. I also knew that while I had come a long way there was still much work to be done, and there would be no substitution for it. I also had to stop being so angry about the events of months past and get my head back in the game. The secret was to embrace comedy like I had once upon a time, when I was so high strung it felt like the littlest stimuli on this planet would kill me.

And just so you know, since that moment that stupid temporary acute stage fright stopped rearing it's ugly head. 

I was neurotic and life was difficult. Being onstage was somehow easy. I needed to get back to that happy, safe place. That person who knew that if she didn’t get onstage, she was busting out of her skin so badly that she might die. Not this idiot who had been on TV a few times that thought she was a comedy genius. No, not that moron. Please……

I began watching videos of old ventriloquists, brushing up on my technique. It occurred to me that all the attention I had gotten made me really lazy. I wanted to go to the next level. I wanted to  be inspired again.

Around that time my mentor suggested Donald J. Tramp as an act. We both are history nuts and love politics. While I thought it was creative at first I balked. This was current event stuff and the time window would be short. I wasn’t a current events comic. But we talked and I began to soften. Why not? I wasn’t Madame Cleo. I didn’t have all the damn answers. And no, you can’t call now.
After much debate, not only did I cave but I was more inspired than ever. Not only did I want to do this, I was rabid on the phone with my mentor who I sometimes do think is afraid of me.

Soon Donald, or Donny as I have began calling him, was ordered from Scotland from a company called Pictures to Puppets. The reason for this being a great many puppet makers in America are evangelical Christians, and Trump supporters. Plus these days you are never truly sure of how or where anyone leans.

When Donny came in the mail, I began to practice religiously. I also began watching videos of old ventriloquists I admired to brush up on my technique. If I was going to go to the next level, I wanted to do it correctly. Gone were the cheap swear jokes and bad club humor of the old days and in was a new and improved kind of style. I liked it, I wanted it.

I got a second wind when it came to comedy, and almost like I was a 20 year old kid I began chasing stage time like a junkie chases a bag of dope. I was going anywhere and everywhere to get onstage, not caring how I would get home. Being a veteran of the NY Scene, there is a certain jadedness and bitterness that goes with open mics. It’s when as a semi-established comedian you roll your eyes when a newbie gets up and tells really bad race and rape jokes. It’s the memory of why you used to want to slit your wrists out of fear and loathing.

Yet this time I don’t fear that. I don’t feel the insecurity I did as a youngster, fearing I would never get on television. I don’t feel the insecurity I do as an oldster, now that I have been on television that my credits and press will magically disappear. I am someone honing and shaping a new act the best she can. It’s going to the batting cages. Bottom line, there is no substitution for the work.

Donny and I have been coming along nicely. Getting back onstage like I was back before I was almost anyone has been kind of trippy in a lot of ways, too. There are a lot of bad habits there. For instance, I have gotten so used to firing jokes I forgot how to talk to an audience. And when I talk to my audience I get what I want, a laugh. And when I am saying the joke like I am telling it for the first time instead of just looking for the laugh, I get the laugh. Sometimes even an applause break. When I slow down, the laughs come too. When I don’t let my audience see me sweat, eventually they do laugh.

Yeah, I am still working on it. But day by day, set by set, it gets better.

I am also re-discovering the standup community, too. At one mic someone recognized me from one of my many TV appearances and we shot the breeze about it. Teasingly, these young guy comics told me if they were my fiancé, they would have never made me choose. And actually, if a girl chose puppets over them they would respect the crap outta her. It made me feel like I had gained a bunch of accidental baby brothers.

I am also making new female friends in comedy, a network I never had before. When I was younger it felt like we were all lobsters in a boiling pot. Now I don’t feel that. Maybe they have changed or maybe my energy has changed.

Either way, Donald J. Tramp and I have been featured in papers in Germany and Iceland. We got into Clyde Fitch and The Huffington Post. Our videos have over a thousand hits each. I am also on the rotating cast of two national television shows. It’s funny because I feel like this is the most action I have had in America in years.

Still, the biggest victory isn’t all that. Rather, it’s that I love comedy again. So what I cut a lot of stupid people out of my life? I am replacing them with better people. People who love the same things I do and care about the same things. People who aren’t stirring the pot. Sometimes we have to go through it to get through it.

As it was all hitting the fan, a kid comic said to me, “You are about to get fucking funny.”

I thought he was an idiot who hadn’t lived. No, he was right. I am getting fucking funny. And it’s about to get funnier in this bitch. I am hardly defeated. Actually, I am rocking and rolling. It’s just the beginning for this little ventriloquist and her politically charged partner, Donald J. Tramp.

We are letting the world know that something is wrong that Donald Trump is on the ticket on laugh at a time. We are stopping racism and sexism one laugh at a time. We are defeating the evil one laugh at a time. 

I have always wanted to combine my love for activism with my love for comedy. A veteran comic once told me this, "When times are tough you look for God......but you also look for the punchline." 

I think it's safe to say I have found both, and we are both running to the nearest micophone, to the moon, to history, and to infinity

To Be Continued........