The Artist as a Catalyst

26 05 2013


I have been a fan of Billy Brag ever since hearing “New England” and “Sexuality” for the first time. He has the soul of a folk singer and the fire of a punk rocker. Not many musicians that I can think of embody the focus, smarts, talent and sheer fortitude that Billy Bragg does. When I realized that he happened to be the guest on WTF, the podcast that is led by Marc Maron, I was really excited to listen.

Regardless of your politics, it is hard not to listen to him and respect his point of views and the down-to-earth approach that he has built over the years to support them. In part of the interview, he was talking about one of the first experiences he had as a younger man (he is 55 now) where her realized that he was going to have a role not only as a musician, but also as an activist. It was during the mining strikes in England in opposition to the full force of Margaret Thatcher and what ultimately resulted in a minimization of power of the collective labor at that time.

When discussing it, Billy said something to the effect that he learned that music, musicians, artists cannot necessarily change the world but they are the ones that bring things to the forefront so those individuals in the audience, listening etc can advocate for and ultimately drive change.

I thought this was so spot on. I think the type of artist that draws me in is the one that really challenges my beliefs, makes me think and ultimately may change the way I might approach others around me – in my personal life, at work, or even strangers I meet. Musicians, comedians, painters, writers – they all have the ability to deliver messages subtly (or not so subtly) in a way that creates a new way of interpreting the world. This is incredibly empowering. 

I am not sure comedy does this with a well placed fart joke but I do think there are some really prolific comedians who provide a unique take on the world and continue to make us rethink the world and catalyze us to ultimately move toward transformation – of ourselves and our world. That being said,sometimes, a fart joke is just a fart joke.


The Miseducation of Marc Kaye (or is it those who don’t “get” what we’re doing with this comedy thing?)

24 05 2013


I have noticed something interesting about the “world of comedy” as it is sometimes referred to – there are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about both it and those that choose to participate.

It is interesting that there seems to be a yet-to-be fully developed comprehension or respect by those who are not part of it. I think a lot of it has to do with those who profess to be “serious about comedy” yet exacerbate already long-held preconceived notions about what it really is all about. These comics often perpetuate stereotypes that work against so many of us who are struggling to find something more.

I am here to help – mainly those of you who, like me, are trying to build something, though it may not be clear what it is or if it will ever come to fruition. That is not the point. The point is that for those of us who are taking this seriously – as serious as any business – it’s time to set the record straight for our friends, families and colleagues who might not get it (yet).

  1. This is work and a lot of times, it’s not much fun. I don’t necessarily want to go to open mics but these are one of the only opportunities to practice routines, wording, crowd reaction, technique, network and otherwise learn what to do or what not to do. I am not hanging out, getting drunk, getting stoned or otherwise necessarily having fun. Yes, there are those who are doing that. The serious ones, however, are trying to take small steps forward so that we won’t have to rely on practicing in a room in front of 20 other comics only.
  2. This is not some sort of arrested development, mid-life crisis, procrastination technique, or avoidance strategy. If I were at least 6 inches taller, could dunk a basketball and could find a pick-up game a couple times a week, things would be much easier – maybe for not just me. I realize that. I apologize. I have a restless nature and this seems to be a fairly positive way of exhibiting it.
  3. I am not delusional. (Well, about this anyway.) I realize Comedy Central is not in my future, nor writing for the Daily Show. That being said, my writing is better than it was last year – so is my delivery. I am feeling embarrassed and question myself only 90% of the time, not 95% of the time. That’s progress. I do think maybe one day this may lead to something – maybe not something big, maybe just a side thing or maybe nothing more than a way of scratching a creative itch. Either way, my eyes are wide open. I’m not going to be famous. I’m not going to be on the cover of a magazine. Hell, I may not even headline in a local dive bar. And that’s ok. But, I am not doing this as just a hobby. There are far less painful things I could think of – like cataloging every episode of the Lawrence Welk Show.
  4. I need this. Yes, I know that sounds dramatic. It’s the same way I feel about exercise. You know when I’m really tired and cranky and that’s exactly when a quick run or 30 minutes at the gym takes the edge off? Well, it’s the same thing here. I need to exercise my brain the same way I have to exercise my heart. Believe me, as much as you might not understand this completely or get it, it will be better for us all.
  5. I am not obsessed. I am passionate. This is a good thing. It feels good to have things in your life that you feel are authentic to whom you are and go with it – as long as it is not harming anyone.
  6. Comedy is not just about “being funny”. It is also not brain surgery. What it is, however, is a broad platform of utilizing humor and wit to make people laugh, get messages across, cope during difficult times, address important issues and otherwise engage people, a lot of times strangers, for a few minutes to help them forget about what a drag life can be sometimes or show how things really are manageable by just providing a little bit of perspective. When you do this, it is incredibly empowering. This makes up only 3% of my experience so far but I am working to increase that.
  7. I don’t know what I am doing – please see 1 through 6.


Writing a Wrong

24 05 2013

Writing a Wrong
You may have heard this before but when polling professional writers, regardless of whether it is short form, long form, no form, there is one piece of advice that always gets passed along time and time again – just write. Write. Write. Write.
It sounds obvious, as if you would tell a carpenter to build or a baker to bake. I don’t think I understood why this piece of advice would be so hard to really take on until I challenged myself to really write, more than I ever had, whenever I got the chance, without respect to purpose.
There are no architectural floor plans. There is no recipe. That’s the main difference and so the act of getting started with a complete white space can often be intimidating.
I, like many of you, have a lot going on. Family, a more than a full-time job and all the responsibilities that accompany them. It is amazing, however, how 10 minutes of waiting time, lack of TV and voice recording into an iPhone can generate lots of content on a daily basis. Sometimes I just “journal” to help me work through a personal issue (a never-ending process) and sometimes I am inspired to pull out my outline to complete one of the screenplays I am working on.
Like exercise, the writer’s mantra has to be “just do it”. I used to think that I am not really a writer. However, just like Nike’s mantra that if you’re breathing, you’re an athlete, if you’re transferring your thoughts onto paper, one way or another, you are a writer. If you have a desire to get better and write but aren’t doing it, it’s time to get out the computer, the notebook, the recorder – whatever and write a wrong.

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