If you’ve just started out in stand-up comedy, you need these things:
1. Matt Ruby’s Sandpaper Suit blog. It calls itself a “how the sausage gets made” account of the New York comedy scene. A massive inspiration, it’s my current gold standard for “inside baseball” comedy thinking on the internet. Pair it with Matt and Mark Normand’s “We’re All Friends Here” podcast, a disgraceful temple of comedians over-sharing their darkest moments.
2. The Connected Comedy podcast. Don’t listen for the laughs. Listen for the lessons. Hosts Jordan Cooper Chelcie Rice, Josh Homer and Josh Spector are breaking down what success and failure mean on the business side of the comedy world, now that the internet and social media are changing the model for everyone, all the time. Full disclosure: the intro music sucks, and you may find yourself getting scolded a lot. Fuller disclosure: you need to be scolded. We all do.
3. Bryson Turner’s Comedy Hajj blog (with contributions from Lawson Leong and Lucas Molandes). Bryson is New York City”s leading philosopher-clown. Just read him. Then watch his self-produced special here. Bryson is taking us somewhere and it’s very cool.
4. Christian Polanco ‘s Offstage podcast. I’m a new fan of this, but it’s a great podcast about relationships featuring comedians happy to cut the riffs, and dial up the honesty.
I just watched ‘Public Speaking‘, Martin Scorsese’s 2010 documentary about Fran Lebowitz. Fran is the greatest: New Yorker, intellectual, old, Jewish, a riff machine, an opinion factory… all the best things. You should watch it. She said one thing that stayed with me for days. She was talking about the AIDS crisis in New York in the 1980s. She lost a lot of friends, many of them performers or artists of some kind. The disease killed artists, dancers, actors, writers, and all kinds of creators. Losing them was tragic, she said, but that wasn’t the heaviest hurt each artistic community suffered.
The worst blow from AIDS was that it KILLED THE AUDIENCE. It ripped through the tastemakers, the appreciators, the fans, the people who could recognize what was good, what was bad and what was great. The way she tells it, AIDS hit New York like an iceberg: we saw very public deaths, but below the surface were hundreds more that did the real damage. For every Keith Haring, the city lost a dozen people who could love and nurture crazy people like him. And with them, we lost the next five Keith Harings, because no one was there to see them. The audience was more important. The audience is always more important. Not in a corny, “if it wasn’t for you, there wouldn’t be a show!” way, but more “if it wasn’t for you, there wouldn’t be a me”.
The idea hit me good and hard. As a performer, it’s natural to be an ego-maniac. And ego is a useful tool. A necessary tool. But I was seeking a way to relate to audiences that didn’t make it all about me, a relationship that didn’t sweep me along in an ego rip-tide that can (frankly) make me a jerk to be around.
Fran Leibowitz gave me a mental frame to beat that back. The audience is more important. They know what’s good and what’s bad. They know the truth. They may not know exactly how to get there (that’s my job to try and find). But if I’m willing to put ego aside and really listen to what they’re giving me, we have a chance to find something that’s bigger and better than both of us.
This is a new blog. If you want to hear from me, I’ll be posting here every day. If you want to see me perform at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland Oregon (April 18 -21), go to the Shows link above for dates and times. Love to all.