On Philly’s Funniest (and other Contests)

13 07 2015
A contest? Why not? My insecurity was just starting to diminish anyway!

A contest? Why not? My insecurity was just starting to diminish anyway!

I have a confession to make. When it comes to the Philadelphia comedy scene, I’m a voyeur. I’m the dude peeking from behind his Facebook curtain and watching the scene unfold in front of my eyes, often seemingly lead up to that indicator of the oncoming summer solstice – the one only a frustrated comic could understand. No, it’s not the changing of the clocks, it’s the naming of Phillies Funniest.

I have ever done two comedy contests in my life. One was in NYC. In NY, it was me and two other guys, one of which has become a very good friend and writing partner. The other was in Philly a few years ago as part of March madness. It was horrible (for me) other than getting to see Tommy Pope kill it as the headliner, as he often does.
I realized that contests bring out the worst feelings of inadequacy and insecurity in me. It’s me waiting in line to get picked last for baseball or buckling under pressure while playing the theme to “St. Elmo’s Fire” at the talent show.

I know not all contests are created equally and the level of talent for Philly’s Funniest is authentic and genuinely gauged and governed by a discipline that may not exist with many other contests. I deflected early anxieties around contests (be they visible or invisible like the dreaded SATs) by convincing myself that by putting myself in situations that were merit-based, my natural talents would be recognized and eventually, rewarded.

The truth is that the world really runs in parallel paths. In a balanced way, (though not always 50/50), those with talent will rise and often be put in a battle or contest against those who also deserve to be there. Perhaps next year, I will convince myself that I at least have earned the right to try.

Comedy is a master and I am her slave,
Marc





On Peaking

8 07 2015
We still have more mountains to tackle!

We still have more mountains to tackle!

“Have I peaked?”
That’s the question that has been running through my mind lately.
Embarrassing but true.
It’s this ridiculous idea that, at some point, I experienced “the best that it was going to be.” This is a very glass half full disposition to say the least. It’s really glass quarter full with a dead fly in it, to be honest.
As I have written about in past blogs, much of this is based on a false reality of where one should be at my stage in life. I let the chatter inside my head take over some times, though meditation has helped somewhat.
The question of “peaking” is really not the right question because, after all, what does that really mean? Rather, the question should be “have I stopped striving?” I hope I have not “peaked” because that’s a pretty boring road ahead. The answer to that question is entirely up to me.
Maybe this is one reason I really love writing, comedy and music. There is no question that there is so much more for me to do in these realms. I know in my gut that I have not “peaked” whatever that means. I guess I know it when I get there.
I can’t speak for anyone else but I think that I definitely put so much into being the role of husband and father that I just let the restlessness that existed inside me, about what really makes me tick as an individual, minimize to a dull roar. This feeling of being “past my prime” in some respect is completely ridiculous because it’s as if everything that was defined before is to stay as it was. Maybe it’s being conditioned with this onslaught of youthful messages so one thinks that if you haven’t identified your lot in life by age 25 and made it by 35, good luck. Maybe it’s an internal voice about what it means to be socially acceptable as a family man. Maybe it’s a combination of both. I really don’t know.
All I do know is that I see a lot of people that are seemingly just passing through life in a zombie-like state going through the motions. Perhaps it’s a misinterpretation but I have spoken with enough people where I don’t think that is the case. The only thing stopping any of us from doing something about it is fear. I can’t seem to think of any other reason. Sometimes that fear is tangible, real and requires a level of just “sucking it up” but often it is not even close.
I have found myself hitting “send” on emails or “post” on these blog posts prior to proofreading on purpose. I know myself. I will read something that I think will be judged as stupid and think that people will make fun of it (assuming it even gets read). I find myself saying “yes” to things before being able to talk myself out of them, often wondering on the way there “what was I thinking?” This is all done purposefully to push my comfort zone and work past fears that are mainly in my head.
I think a lot of people may be surprised to think that this is me. I like to have fun with friends, joke around and hopefully make people feel good about themselves. I can be the biggest extrovert with people I truly care about and enjoy being with and the biggest introvert with everyone else. The truth is that I am incredibly uncomfortable at most social interactions. I would never do anything, however, professionally or personally, if I didn’t work at it every day.
So, damn it – no, I haven’t peaked. Not even close. What about you?
Until next time,
Marc
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Independence Day (from my) Thoughts

6 07 2015

I think therefore I am (anxious).

I think therefore I am (anxious).

In honor of this past Independence Day Holiday, I am writing about me – again.

I spent this past weekend back at my parents home with my kids and my sister and her family. As luck would have it, my neighbors growing up were also all home and it turned into this fantastic ad hoc reunion with lots of kids and fun and no timelines. It was fantastic and just what I needed. It was a physical and mental independence day from myself.

It was at the exact right time for me. In my last blog, I wrote a little bit about “downsizing” my life right now. At this stage, I expected some sort of security that is now eluding me big time – financially, socially and even culturally. Most, if not all of that, is just based on a false pretense of what reality really is. But it feels that way nonetheless.
Everyone that I was with this weekend – from my sister and her husband to my neighbors growing up through a very good friend of my sister and her husband who stopped by were 100% unpretentious. These are all good people. Smart people. Down-to-earth real people. I miss that and I need that so much.
Where I now live, waiting at the bus stop or sitting at the baseball game or theater production, it’s hard to remember that we probably all have our struggles. I think once people get a little bling on their fingers and change in their pocket, they start to give themselves perhaps more credit for their lot in life than they should. Sure, careful planning, responsibility and hard work have a lot to say for a strong condition in life. A little luck doesn’t help either.
This is where comedy (and meditation come in). Meditation teaches us to sit with our feelings without labels and without stories: feel them and recognize how they manifest in your body. (“I am angry and that feels like tension in my shoulders.”) It teaches us not to try and hide from our feelings and this is what I love about good comedy, as well. It says “hey – I know it looks like I might have it together but I found a stink bug in my hair today that was probably there the whole day, my son told me that he can’t wait to leave the house and my ex decided I need to give her more money…but no worries, still living the dream!” It calls life what it is and I love it! I love people who can laugh about this, too. It is too difficult otherwise and wasted energy to try and be comfortable all the time.
I met a guy at a bar last week who just seems to have it all. He’s good looking with an amazing looking wife. Two fantastic careers, great sense of humor, smart – you name it. This dude even played with Springsteen. I mean c’mon! I was joking with him that I want to come back as him in my next life. (Well, maybe it wasn’t all a joke.) The point is that we got to talking over a few beers/shots and got to know each other and there was no pretending about anything. We even touched on meditation a little. It was an honest, real conversation and it was fantastic. I wasn’t there sitting trying to keep up with him and he wasn’t trying to be something he was not (though why would he – I mean, c’mon!).
I think when we face our insecurities and can laugh about them is when we really can connect with people. Why can’t CEOs and star baseball pitchers also be honest about their flaws while those of us who stumble a bit more through life pick one or two things to be confident about.? It can go both ways. It doesn’t compromise who we are or what we do. It just makes us more human.
I don’t know if you have ever been at the very tail end of a rain storm. I have. I was driving down south (if I recall it correctly) and it was pouring and then, all of a sudden, it just stopped and it was as if you could see the line where the storm ended. It was weird and cool at the same time. It has occurred to me that life is a lot like that. When there is something to get through, there is a definitive end and though sometimes it will come to you, more often than not, you have to try drive in a lot of directions to get to the end yourself… but it is there. Storms don’t last forever and neither do struggles in life, though it certainly can feel that way.
Are you waiting for the end of the storm to pass over you or are you willing to try and find the end on your own?
Until next time,
Marc




Live or Die by Self Talk

2 07 2015
Don't be such an ass to yourself!

Don’t be such an ass to yourself!

Almost every single song that I have written over the past few years – and there have been many – have been about my marriage.

Oddly enough, it is some of my best stuff – deeply personal, sadly honest and, at the same time, removed. I think it is the “removed” part that concerns me the most because no matter how many times you try to convince yourself of something, the reality always shows up…sometimes moments later, sometimes decades.

It is interesting to me because I spoke to no one about my marriage – no one but myself and my piano. Even today, I find it hard to truly emote my deepest personal sadness, regrets, fears, anxieties and feelings to anyone but the closest of friends but if you pay attention to the notes and the lyrics, it’s all there…even without the lyrics, actually. It can’t hide. I am hoping to embark on recording a lot of my songs and I think it is pretty much the anthology depicting the dissolution of a marriage. (Uplifting, I know- read on!)

I have been trying to impart the importance of letting out feelings to my son who is at the tender age of 14 when he is going through so much emotionally and physically. I want him to understand, as I put in terms that I think any teenage boy could hopefully understand, “feelings are like a fart – you can only hold them in for so long and then it’s gotta come out.”

This week, I listened to my feelings and gut and spoke to a very senior level officer at my company because my gut has been telling me over the past few months that my job may not be secure. The last time I had this feeling, 13 years ago, I had confronted my boss who told me everything was fine only to be laid off 2 months later. My discussion today was honest, candid and sobering. I am hopefully optimistic that things are going to work out at my current job but realize that, just like my divorce, there are certain things that change – out of my control other than to respond in a positive and hopeful manner.

I would be lying if I didn’t feel like I am a loser at this stage of my life – downsizing my home, perhaps my job, my perspective on life, my relationships with my kids as they need me less – it could easily turn into a pity party. I live in a nice neighborhood and when you look at guys similar to me at this stage of life, it seems like they are more where you would think they should be – married, saving money, looking hopefully to the future and enjoying family. The truth is – who the hell really knows?Furthermore, what’s the point? It’s completely irrelevant.

The truth is I can look at the future as an abyss or an incredible clean slate – a chance to start again (to a certain point) but this time with a little more money in the bank and a whole lot more wisdom. The way I have processed things in the past were with bad self-talk (“way to go idiot” “I’m such a loser.”). A recent article that I read in Psychology Today was talking to the incremental, positive impact of self talk that begins with your first name – as if you were talking to a friend. The overall point is that you probably would never talk to a friend in need the way you talk to yourself (and if so, please remove me from your holiday card list).

So, I can turn it around to “Marc – you have a lot going for you and this may be an opportunity to start that business you have dreamt of.” or “Marc – look what you’re doing with comedy and music – that’s a pretty cool thing.”

Try it…what do you need to turn around in your self-talk to cut yourself some slack and take stock of how great you really are? If you give it a chance, maybe I will, too.

Until next time,
Marc








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