Claiming Your Space

16 01 2017

o-stand-up-comedy-facebook

I have been running for over 20 years but won’t call myself a runner.

I’ve been playing piano since I was 7 but wouldn’t call myself a pianist.

I’ve been writing for 30 years but still hesitate to call myself a writer.

And yet with all of these things, I probably have reason to be more confident in those pursuits than I do with comedy, which I have been performing for much less time. Still, I am proud to call myself a comedian, if only reluctantly. It makes me happy.

The truth is, I am a working comedian. I am not working to where it can be my full time job and I’m not sure it ever will be but I get hired to do shows as if others comedians would and it goes well. As I mentioned to another comedian friend, I am at a place where even if it doesn’t go as well as I would have hoped, I feel like I have earned a right to take the stage and I can hold my own. This isn’t an ego thing. It’s just a hard work thing.

I don’t think that unless you have been part of this mind-game that is stand-up comedy you could really understand what that means. It’s like my daughter learning a new dance step. The whole step may take seconds but it can take weeks or months to even get to the point where it’s “in the ballpark.” It’s the same with comedy.

This may be the first positive comedy revelation I have had about myself and though I have no idea if things will progress or not, it really is ok. I am enjoying myself and meeting some really wonderful people and learning to be more confident based on what I know and not what others might think they know about me.

It reminds me a little of losing weight or “getting in shape.” The advice is to not focus on the scale so much (what the scale “thinks” it may know about your health) and focus more on how you feel and even may look (what you, yourself, know). I don’t know – I’m rambling. I just watched “Primal Fear” with my kids (saw it 20 years ago – what a great movie) and my mind is still sort of blown so this is what you get.

I guess the purpose of this blog is to say that we all have a right to claim to be who we are and not just what we do but why we do it. I am an artist, a songwriter, a writer and yes, even a runner, and all of these things funnel up to the dad, brother, son and friend I am. It sort of works that way. Don’t limit yourself. Claim your space. It’s yours. You own it.

Until next time,

Marc

 

Advertisements




Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

untitled

I should only look so good in my state of nakedness and fear.

There is nothing more vulnerable than putting “it” out there in the world. And by “it”, I am talking about that thing that you have been keeping to yourself and have finally given up on trying to hide from the universe for whatever reason.

Maybe you can’t live with yourself refraining from telling that person how you really feel. Maybe it’s been 3 years of working on the same damn manuscript and you can’t bear to look at it one single, solitary second longer. Perhaps you’ve practiced that solo over and over again, or that pitch you have wanted to try out but were afraid would fail miserably in front of the coach or the audience.

For whatever reason, you have decided the price of living in fear is far worse than the price of any potential embarrassment and you have put “It” out there.

This is what I refer to as my “naked and afraid” moment, or moments. It starts when you’re in junior high school and your chubby, pimply and less-than-macho self cannot resist from asking out that girl to the dance even though every guy likes her. Sure, the advanced math part of you knows the odds but damn those hormones. It just grows and gets worse and worse from there.

For us creative, angst-ridden types, it can be pure torture. Though, as I write and talk to more people, I am convinced that it is in all of us. Many of us are just better at maintaining clearer lines between our inner and outer voices.

I have given presentations on such exciting topics as market share growth and competitive market analyses in front of people who could single handedly decide my career trajectory and have felt way less vulnerability than sending a 100 page script I wrote to a few friends “in the biz” to get their feedback.

Why? Simple. It matters to me. It matters a lot; more than it should. I don’t envy those poor souls who received it and consider their friendship with me too good to actually provide me with the truth, though that is what I need the most.

Here is what I say to them and to you, should you ever be on the receiving end of one of those “can you let me know what you think” requests – be honest. Apologize in advance for the criticism if you have to. Be kind but be honest. As much as it may kill us (slowly) to realize that our biggest fears may be true – that we suck, it’s a bad script, she’s not into you, etc. etc. etc. – it’s only going to be worst later on.

I finished my first full-length screenplay in April of 2015. I sat on it until early this year to even start to make any revisions. After the 5th or 6th time, I just had to let it go into the universe. It was doing no good, just sitting there on my computer any longer. I know it’s not perfect. Hell, it may not even be good. Even worst, it might be the hokiest, cliché, boring piece of shit that anyone has ever read. I’m not totally sure yet because I haven’t received any feedback from those I sent it to (hint, hint).

In seriousness though, I want them and you future reviewers out there to know that it’s ok. You can start of your feedback email with something like “I commend you on working toward your dream” or “I am so happy your day job seems to be working out for you.” We get it. In the meantime, some constructive feedback might actually turn that stinker into something of real value one day. You know the story – piece of crap athlete turns it around after reading coach makes link between learning style and his pitching. Something like that anyway.

Here’s some things for you hesitant “friend/reviewers” to keep in mind:

  1. We had to do it. We had to write, sing, draw, ask her out, and try to build that deck on our own. We just couldn’t NOT do it. It wasn’t in our blood.
  2. We know that we are all amateurs in this game and yes, we really, really, really want to do something great with “it” but chances are slim and we aren’t go to die from rejection or the truth. (I don’t think.)
  3. We feel bad for asking you. We spent hours – ok, months, with a draft email in our Draft Email box waiting to go out to you asking for this one favor. I made a bid on an entire house that I am not 100% sure I am eligible to buy in a ridiculously less amount of time than it took me to craft that email, by the way.
  4. We understand you are not an expert. We get that these are opinions. But for whatever reason, we need to hear what you think. In my case, I need to hear from people who write, who may have a female point of view (for the protagonist in this one particular script) or have a cultural knowledge that is woven through my script. Or maybe, I just need a friend to read it and say “wow – that was not what I expected.” I am not sure.
  5. If reviewing something is a burden or you just flat don’t want to, just be a mensch and say so. It’s totally fine. I Facebook messaged a comedian I know (peripherally) whose writing I admire. This dude has been on Comedy Central, Inside Amy Schumer etc. etc. – you get the picture. I was on a few shows with him (as I reminded him in my message) and am sure he has no clue who I am. I asked him if he would consider reading my script, fully expecting that he wouldn’t want to or be able to. Sure enough, I was right. But he messaged me back the same day, told me he was super busy and was totally cool about the whole thing. I hated asking him. Hated with a capital “H”. I did it though because how the hell does anyone accomplish anything without the help of others (besides Donald Trump, that is)? I am much more grateful that this guy just said no politely than tried to pacify me. That would only lead to him having to blow me off in the future or refer to me as “some dude who I told I’d review his thing” which is never good.

So, here is my lesson for anyone who is naked and afraid. Go with it. We are all naked and afraid. That Rico Suave looking dude with the French cut fit shirt, George Hamilton smile, perfect hair and huge 401K account? Yup. He’s way naked and afraid. Of what you might ask? Exactly! That’s how naked and afraid he really is. He’s still wearing his costume.

Go out there and show your cajones (figuratively, please) and your vulnerability (that one you can try literally) and it will feel nauseating, anxiety provoking and even a little liberating.

Until next time,

Marc





Enough With Passion Already

1 02 2016

feed-your-soul

Vegan, low carb and completely organic….just saying.

If I never hear the phrase “follow your passion” one more time, it won’t be soon enough. 

First of all, depending on what your passion is (or who it may be), this can end you up in a legal situation and no one one needs that.

Secondly, if every single one of us followed our passion, I suspect we wouldn’t have working sewage treatment plants, clean highways or confidently diagnosed proctology exams (not that proctology can’t be someone’s passion, I guess.)

My point is that, what, who and why we “follow” in our lives can have some pretty significant consequences. As someone who is constantly at angst with himself over how to blend in those things that I love (music, comedy, writing) with those things that I can actually make a living at (right now) to serve those I love (my children), this choice to follow my passion could be great for me but for those I care about, not so much.

However, what if we focused on feeding our souls instead? Feeding is not some ritualistic, ethereal cult-like foray into dissolving everything else in the name of all that is passionate! Instead, healthy feeding is about nourishment and just like the right amount of protein, fiber and fat (and in my case, resveratrol), we need the right amount of experience that builds up our soul. This is a physical thing. You know what it feels like to be excited about doing something.

You know that feeling when you have it – that moment when you are just in the moment, maybe alone reading or listening to something, or with friends or family and simply feeling glad to be alive at the moment, regardless of what you may be going through otherwise.

I cannot imagine not spending time with my parents, friends, pursuing comedy and music or watching bad TV with my kids – regardless of how easy or not those may be at any given time (which is a nice way of reminding everyone how painful comedy really is).

My point is that we have enough pressure on us already without having to buy into this notion that there is some amazing life that awaits us if we only find, follow and pursue at any cost our one passion. Do yourself a favor, and find a couple of things that nourish your soul and you may just realize that your passion is something entirely different in the first place.

Until next time,

Marc





The Amateur Advantage

20 10 2015

Stay classy you amateur!

Stay classy you amateur!

I am always a little envious of those friends of mine who seem to be experts at something – martial arts, baseball, a specific era of art history….The Simpsons.

I don’t consider myself an expert at anything. I probably never will be either. I don’t have the fortitude to commit to one thing so wholly that I can even approach mastery level. There are just too many things I want to try.

This, while great for weekend excursions, is a difficult realization when you are passionate about doing something – in my case writing, music and comedy. I have a lot more experience writing and with music than I do with comedy (of the stand-up variety) and the numerous articles and podcasts proclaiming that it takes a “good 10-20 years” to really get good and know what you are doing have often times nicked away at the “carpe diem” attitude I have tried so hard to apply to this strange endeavor.

Recently, I heard vignettes of different TED talks on people who “plunged” into unchartered waters as amateurs and emerged as “experts”. You can listen here if interested: http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/431363633/amateur-hour

What really struck me was that the word “amateur” stems from the latin root amare which means “to love”.

The TED talks and interviews I listened to were incredibly inspiring in that they spoke to the power of being so enamored with something that you have no choice but to learn everything you can about it. This is the part of work that I really love. For a while, I prided myself that if there were some sort of less than terrific project at work, I would be asked to do it. I thought it was an honor and for me, it gave me the chance to learn something new. The problem was trying to live up to some expectations to have all the answers. I am slow – which has a bad connotation in our society. But slow does not mean dumb. It just means slow. I have to ask a lot of questions, take a lot of notes, doodle – a lot – and then hopefully, retain the most salient points of whatever it is I am trying to learn.

We should all be amateurs at work regardless of our title and position, otherwise I do believe we are not challenging ourselves nor are we allowing others to freely admit what they don’t know – a sharp cliff to failure in organizations and relationships alike, if you ask me.

So this brings me all back to comedy. I am not going to shy away (as much) from the count of years I have in front of audiences compared to some others I perform with because the passion is there and that creates more momentum to learn more, quicker and in comedy – what better material than discussing your “epic fails” (as my son calls them)?

So, don’t hide from your inner amateur – whether you are a weekend warrior on the golf course or a Vice President of Finance at the Fortune. I have a feeling you’ll find yourself farther ahead than you ever imagined.

What’s your amateur advantage?

Until next time,

Marc

Hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please consider signing up to receive blog updates straight to your in-box and follow me on Twitter @marckaye1. Thanks!





Portrait of the Artist as a (not so) Young Man

26 08 2015
This is not a portrait nor a young man...discuss.

This is not a portrait nor a young man…discuss.\

Yes- leave it to me to pick a nerdy title for a blog post. I’m special that way. Now onto the blogosphere….

Last weekend I got to sit out in the evening at a local pub – the mahogany bar in front of me and on the other side of a wooden divider, the sounds of a lone singer belting out classic tunes by Neal Young, Pearl Jam and other amazing artists. It was as close to my version of “The Voice” as I had come to before….hearing the vocals but only being able to imagine from whom they arose.

The singer had a fantastic range and a syrupy but deep tonality that surprised me for the range of various different songs he was playing on the guitar while strumming away. I had an image in my head of who this guy was. When I took my beer and headed over to the patio where he was performing, I was surprised to see a guy not much taller than myself with a pair of jeans, spectacles and an unassuming blue and gray plaid short-sleeve shirt. My first impression was, “man, this guy looks like Moby but I don’t think Moby sings like that.” My second was: “did we go to school together?”

I was thoroughly enjoying this guy singing and even wanted to catch up with him after as I have been looking to hire a vocalist to record (or re-record in some cases) some original music I have written. After he played his last tune, he thanked the audience and also said that he had an original 10 song CD for sale for $5.

An older gentleman sitting with his 3rd or 4th wife – I couldn’t tell the exact number; it’s so hard to tell these days – started laughing and quipped to me: “$5 for 10 songs? How good can it be? He’s a little old to be hocking CDs.” In one minute he was able to convey every horrible judgement that some inappropriate distant relative from the past had said to me at one point or another about something or somebody.

Thankfully, I had not let my “beer voice” talk on my behalf and instead, just said something to the effect of “well, he’s really good and clearly enjoying himself.”

I was so frustrated by this guy. Was I internalizing his comment a bit? Probably – sure. What gets me though is the ease with which he felt comfortable making fun of this artist. Had he been 20, I am sure he would have still said something like “let’s see where you are in 20 years” but have accepted the fact that he was giving it a try. The message here was that his age had something to do with the acceptability to express a passion of his – guitar playing and singing. (OK, OK  – editors note here – I AM internalizing that part because, honestly, for all I know he hates singing and guitar playing and was just doing it to pay the bills. But based on the looks of his tip jar that night, I highly doubt it.)

Why is our society so comfortable with allowing youth to explore but once you reach a certain age limit, it becomes more acceptable to judge? I am the first to find annoyance with all of those adults still “finding themselves” but that doesn’t mean that people necessarily should stop finding a part of themselves.

Sometimes people are found – they don’t need to look anymore. They are born into families that are supportive (financially, emotionally or otherwise) or have a natural gift for those faculties that are easier to get caught and be found – athletics, academics, the last name Kardashian. However, many of us have a lot of exploring to do and this should not be seen as the antithesis of responsibility. It’s quite the opposite. Show me the person who has nothing left to figure out and I’ll show you someone who continues setting unrealistic expectations on someone – a child, an employee, an entire Republican party (hello Mr. Trump – I’m talking to you).

But in all seriousness, Joyce wrote about his protagonist breaking away from conventional norms and figuring out his identity. He was a young man but his age wasn’t what made it exceptional. It was his journey. This doesn’t have to stop just because you happen to be an older man of means sitting with your 3rd or 4th wife watching an amazing guitarist and singer for free on a beautiful weekend evening. That’s not “making it” at all – that’s barely even “finding it” if you ask me.

Until next time,

Marc





Youth is (not) Wasted on the Young

20 06 2015
Youth is (Not) Wasted on the Young.

Youth is (Not) Wasted on the Young.

You have probably heard the saying that “Youth is wasted on the young.” The idea is that younger people don’t know how good they have it or may take their youth for granted. I used to buy into that. Not any more.
I had an epiphany recently. I went to see a dueling piano band at Howl at the Moon in Philadelphia. They were fantastic. I love live music and the energy and talent was palatable.
When I first was there, it was not even 8 PM yet. I enjoyed listening to them play and the room was yet to be filled but represented people of different age groups – from 20s through much older. By 10 PM, the demographic noticeably changed where the room was packed with college aged kids. I have to say, that by the time they celebrated another person’s 21st birthday, I decided I did not have enough beer in me to deal anymore…that and the music selection noticeably changed.
It is important to know when to leave and by 10:30, it was time. I am not 21 and there is a difference. That being said, watching so many young people raising arms in the air while spilling drinks on each other, smiling, dancing – you get the picture – did make me reflect. When does this type of fun stop for the rest of us? Why does acting stupid and enjoying friends with song, dance and an adult beverage every now and then often get relegated to the wedding or Bar Mitzvah ceremony?
I don’t think youth is wasted on the young at all. I think those guys know exactly how good they have it. That’s why they are celebrating so much. Inherently, all they have to do is look around at their parents, their bosses, teachers – basically anyone born before 1990 and see how their lives are most likely to turn out. Carpe Diem is their mantra. Youth is not wasted on the young – it is ignored by the rest of us.
I say “it” and not “they” because I am really referring to the state of youthfulness. To me, the distinction between being youthful and “acting your age” is the same distinction between being confident but “not being arrogant or cocky”. It is subtle but distinct nuance.
I am not convinced that people really get that, particularly in our good vs. evil society that is referenced on Facebook, Fox News, CNN, etc. Admittedly, I think I struggled with this distinction for a long time. It was why I kept my hair short, my comedy relegated to a notebook never to leave my pocket, my music hidden in an iPhone app and my voice suppressed with the exception of a few friends.
Youthfulness is about expression and exploration and there is no reason at all that this needs to stop once someone enters “the real world.”. How does someone even experience the real world without expression or exploration? I think these two things are part and parcel of innovation, learning valuable lessons and living. It is really about ignoring fear. Exploring new things and expressing oneself are very vulnerable things to do. They often lead to embarrassment, failure and things that are not as acceptable as you grow older. But it is incredibly exciting at the same time. Maybe that is why some people say “life is a roller coaster” – it is scary but a thrill.
It is not a coincidence that so many successful artists and entrepreneurs are so damn young. They’re not smarter than people twice their age. They are just more fearless. They have chosen not to make excuses for their passions or their approach regardless of what people think.
We could do so much more if we didn’t think of youth as an age demographic and rather as a state of mind. I am hopeful. Now if we can get the rest of society to catch up, we could really do something.
Until next time,
Marc
Thanks for reading! Please pass along and sign up for future posts. Also, you can follow me on twitter @MarcKaye1




Great Expectations (or living life on the side)

3 03 2015

Ill-Have-What-Shes-Having

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

For those of you hoping for a lively review of the Dickens classic or an examination of cinematic treatments of the female sexual response (see graphic above) – my apologies. Yes, I may have lured you in with that nice graphic above but this is about me and my “great expectations”. However, not unlike the protagonist, Pip, in the literary classic, who wanted something so opposite of his orphaned beginnings – to be a “gentleman” – I, too, had aspirations greater than that of my humble beginnings. (Or I hope that that sounds interesting enough to read on, anyway.)

I spent most of my life living ‘on the side’. Much like the famous character of Sally played by Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”, ‘on the side’ was a very big thing in my family. This wasn’t a food thing either. It was a life thing.

It seems like almost anything and everything I was interested in really didn’t fit into the norm growing up and due to lack of money, lack of comfort, or both, I was often relegated to pursue things ‘on the side’. What I have realized since, however, is that I never stopped categorizing things between the main course and the side dish. As an adult, I neutralized any excitement to pursue things ‘on the side’ due to the mismatch with my great expectations.

If you’ve ever been passionate about something, you may recognize how difficult it is to scale back and have that thing take 2nd or 3rd fiddle to anything else – in other words, work on your passion ‘on the side’.

The older I grew, the more responsibilities I encountered that not only mandated that anything that I was personally excited about – music, comedy, writing – would have to be ‘on the side’, but that the ‘side’ kept getting farther and farther away.

As some of you may have read from previous blogs, I have been learning a lot about the complex web that impacts a person’s happiness. It turns out that expectations have a lot to do with it. If our expectations are too great, it is almost impossible to achieve them and even if that does occur, the process and self-talk is so tortuous that it makes the entire thing worthless. What is the point doing the thing you love if you don’t enjoy it anymore?

It has occurred to me that I let my great (and completely unrealistic) expectation of being the best I can be in anything I pursue get in the way of me actually just doing it. Having “great expectations” of yourself is a wonderfully cowardly way of simply masking fear. “I would love to try (fill in the blank) but I won’t be very good at it and don’t have the time…etc.”

My kids are older now and that definitely has freed up some time for me to pursue things that I hadn’t pursued in well over 10 years. But, more than that, as I start to just type that first word or play that first note or throw that first punch, I am learning that my ‘on the side’ doesn’t have to be that small. Maybe one day, it will even be the main course and then as the infamous scene in “When Harry Met Sally” notoriously proclaimed, you might even have what I’m having!

Until next time,
Marc








%d bloggers like this: