Claiming Your Space

16 01 2017

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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

 





Courage is Not Just a Word

11 11 2015
Courage has nothing to do with sales.

Courage has nothing to do with sales.

Today is Veteran’s Day. My dad is a Veteran. My brother-in-law is a veteran. I am a college graduate with a gap in my perspective because I haven’t put in the time and sacrifice that so many men and women have. It’s the truth and I am not going to make an excuse about it.

It was never in my trajectory to join the armed services and I am not sure I would in hindsight. However, having grown up with a very strong sense of country, thanks to my parents, I have always felt as there was more I can do. 

There is an act-out (this is a comedy term for “acting out” part of a comedy set, for example) that I have been working on based on a true experience. Thanks to my incredible acting skills, I am hoping it will be hilarious (he says sarcastically) but it was based on a very unfunny experience, in my book.

Here is the short Cliff Notes version – I was at a pretty high-level training course a few years ago and one of the women presenting to those in attendance was talking about how “hard” it is to build the right type of sales and marketing teams. After a very pregnant and deliberate pause, she looked at all of us intently and said “it takes real courage” to do that.

It took every fiber of my body to bite my tongue or not get up out of my seat. While the majority of the room was complimenting her on what a great leader she was, I was very frustrated by her use of the word “courage”. Let me be perfectly clear – building sales and marketing teams doesn’t take courage; it takes doing your job. Period. I hear words like “courage”, “fearlessness” and “perseverance” thrown out in contexts that have nothing to do with the foundations of these concepts – all the time. I may be overthinking it but don’t we suffer from a society today that doesn’t really keep ourselves honest anymore? It seems like it.

There has been a lot of debate recently about this word, “courage”. The most recent example that comes to mind is with respect to Catlyn Jenner and awards for courage that she has received. We all have our own opinions on this. In my opinion, what she did did take courage. I am not saying she may not be “milking it” for her cause but let’s be real, you have to feel pretty tormented to make the decision to become who you truly think you are.

There are different types of courage but can we hold each other accountable so we don’t minimize the true courage and sacrifice that people make in the battlefield, in the cancer ward, in the living room trying to raise a special-needs child, and in identifying with a certain race, gender or creed, especially based on where you may happen to live?

We all have in us moments when it takes courage to live – the life we are meant to or the life we are given and didn’t plan to. Sometimes, it is the courage to live a combination of the both. To me, it is ignorant to throw that word around as if it is just any other word.

What do you think?

Until next time,

Marc





Giving Up or Giving In?

29 10 2015

Sometimes it's good to give in. This isn't one of them.

Sometimes it’s good to give in. This isn’t one of them.

I haven’t been feeling so great about my work ethic the past week or so. I know that it’s because after months of working with some great colleagues to “save” the program we are working on, the end seems near. I think we all feel it.

The truth is, though I am getting done what I need to, I am focused on all the tactical stuff now – the “things” that have to get done and much less (if at all) on the strategy – the ways in which we try to get others on board, think “big picture”, and make it work.

I like to work. I have had some pretty awful “assignments” but as long as I get to work with some good people and we’re in it together, I’m pretty good. That’s where a strong sense of humility and an even stronger sense of humor is critical. I’ll put in all kinds of hours even if the challenge seems overwhelming and dire, even if I know, in my heart of hearts, that it won’t help me get ahead. However, as soon as there’s a failure to collaborate or listen – to me or anyone – that’s when it gets difficult. I don’t know how any relationship – professional or personal – sustains without some bilateral listening skills.

That being said, I have been thinking that I  am just “giving up”. You know how it goes – there’s no sense  in killing myself for something that no one wants, etc. etc – you get the picture. In an effort to try and figure out what is really going on, I did some deep thinking about my situation the past couple of days. It’s pretty simple. I’m frustrated. I’m disheartened. I’m disappointed. And, I don’t want to feel that anymore.

I am still doing my work. I am still working with the team. I haven’t given up. But, I have given in.

For me, giving in is a much better option than giving up. Giving up seems catastrophic and invasively personal whereas giving in feels more like a compromise – like I’m still in the game or something but with reconfigured expectations.

I think I could give in to a lot more things. This is the same thing as realizing that most of life is not really in our control. It doesn’t mean that we can’t impact the direction or outcome but it does mean that we have to offer up a certain level of acceptance that there may be a better option between fight and flight. 

Now, on the flip side, all I have to do is give up some of the things that I am all too quick to give in to – midnight Vienna Mocha Chip ice cream comes to mind.

How about you? Anything you can give in to, instead of giving up, and maybe ease the burn a little?

Until next time, Marc





My Millennia Moment

6 03 2015

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Until I started working more with comedians and writers, my experience with “millennials” was pretty much limited to people at work and a few younger siblings of my (then) wife. I got along with them well enough and enjoyed their sense of humor but, at the same time, was always stuck by the sense of inner confidence and security they seemed to carry around with them.

My younger sister-in-law (at the time), upon graduating (just barely) from college, proclaimed “of course I am living in NYC” as if there were any question. I remember both of us were taken by the sheer surety of her statement. In contrast, after sending out 77 resumes, (yes, I remember the exact number), I moved outside of Trenton, NJ because that’s the one interview I was granted and ultimately, where I got a job. I never even considered there was another option.

At work, I would have colleagues just barely out of school sit down across from my desk to ask when they could expect their next promotion of move. I always felt like saying: “I was basically someone’s bitch for my first 10 years – why not make some coffee or fax something? Oh, don’t know what a fax is? Google it, find one and then learn how to use it.”

To be honest, that hasn’t completely gone away. I am not good with any sense of entitlement, regardless of age. However, what I realize is that I had it somewhat wrong. It hit me this evening when I was doing a G-chat with two good comedy buddies of mine working on our individual material. This was my millennial moment, if you will.

I try to collaborate on creative projects with those that I feel are both smart, driven, creative, trustworthy and have a great work ethic. There are more than a few “millennials” in the mix here. In fact, what i may have mistaken as entitlement or arrogance was really a culture shift from my generation (or at least from me) where their expectations are just more solid. They are willing to be more open and upfront and not settle in a way that compromises their principals. They also bring a level of expectation to the table that, while it may seem unrealistic or entitled at times, is often purposeful and goal oriented.

I have gotten some great ideas and feedback from these so called “less experienced” friends and even recognize some of these traits in my own kids.

The millennial generation also seems more likely to take risks, try lots of different things and test them out – more entrepreneurial in spirt, maybe because they do not have the job security that previous generations had and there is nothing to lose. There is no better foundation for stand-up comedy, if you ask me.

It never ceases to amaze me where we can get our lessons from. I can be difficult for sure and have waxed poetic many times about the “good ‘ole days” where people connected over a beer, not email, or had stricter limits on work/life balance but the truth is that progress is not comfortable and if overall, the good outweighs the bad, then we are moving forward.

I think the verdict is still out on how history will look back on the dramatic shift our culture has taken over the last 20 to 50 years. In the meantime, it is my perspective that, as long as there are positives to be gained, I need to remove my Archie Bunker mask, (now THERE’s an old reference) and get with the program.

I do have one thing on those millennials, though – comedy is like a fine wine – it really does get better with age.

Until next time,

Marc

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you did, please sign up for this blog and find me on twitter @marckaye1.

Every time you do, an angel gets her wings.





Fight Your Way Through

26 01 2015

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A couple of days ago, I posted on Facebook that I found the next topic I was going to write about on this blog and here it is. In basically a minute and a half, Ira Glass, host of This American Life, had a lot to say about creative pursuits, patience and fortitude.

Basically, he explains that in beginning any creative endeavor, the fact that your first results are less than what you had hoped for does not take away from the fact that you still have good taste. The fact that you are aware of what you are trying to achieve but have yet not done so is proof enough that with a lot of work, patience and resilience, you will eventually get to a place where your “work is as good as your ambitions.” He ends by summarizing that “it takes a while…and you just have to fight your way through that.”

I made a spreadsheet at the end of last year of all the projects that I can potentially be involved with this year, that I know of. There is no way that I will be able to devote my time to all of them, but I prioritized according to those that I have more control over and I feel will help showcase my writing. When Ira Glass stalks about getting to a place where your taste matches your ambitions, he is talking about creating a “lot of work” – volumes of work so that you can hone in on your craft.

Interestingly, I happened to have a conversation similar to this theme with a very good friend and full time comedian just this week. I was explaining to him that my intention is to keep writing, writing, writing and not overthinking it. It might take years, and if it happens at all, most likely will take many, many years, but eventually something will stick. Something will lead to being able to look back at this time and realize that it was not a worthless pursuit. It may very well be that that something is not monetary in value nor recognition. It may be something as having a volume of work that my great grandchildren will look at decades from now the way we try to reconnect our ancestry to ask ourselves who we are and where we came from.

The point is, for me anyway, write articles, blogs, skits, scripts, do stand-up, blog, practice improv, participate and say “yes” more than you say “no” because if you have good taste, you owe it to yourself to quiet the restless voices that keep you awake and open yourself to where life might take you.

It’s a lesson for artists and “non-artists” alike.

You can watch and listen to the short explanation by Ira Glass here: http://omeleto.com/188186

Until next time,

Marc





Searching for the Funny

22 01 2015

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Today started out pretty good. I even got to exercise.

It didn’t end so well.

I’ll spare you the details. It wasn’t an “Unbroken”, “Precious” or “Schindler’s List” bad day – I mean, I have some perspective.

But it hit me hard personally in a way that some of those moments do where you look out in the horizon and you can’t really see much further than your own face. I want so badly to be balanced and yet, when these things happen, despite my best efforts, I fail miserably.

As a comedian, I try to find the funny in moments that are anything but. You know the whole Mark Twain “comedy = tragedy + time” or something similar to that. It’s not so easy when it’s recent and raw. So, it made me think about what do comedians do when they have to “be on” but might not feel funny?

As it turns out, they do the same thing any professional does who has a task at hand and may not feel into it – they get the job done (at least the good ones do). For someone who has his own struggles with anxiety, it is interesting that I would even consider trying to do stand-up, that is until I learned that some of the most anxious people are best in crises, because it causes them to focus on the task at hand and immediately get out of their own head.

I think this is how I have dealt with comedy when I might not feel so funny. Rarely do I find myself just going through the motions – my mouth saying one thing while my head is someplace else – at least when doing comedy. In life? Well, that’s another story.

Fake it till you make it. Make yourself laugh. You can do it and you don’t need to be a comic. In fact, it’s easier if you aren’t. It’s the best form of cognitive behavior therapy, in my opinion (he says as if it is an actual form of CBT, which he doesn’t know). Here’s how: think of something funny or a funny thought/take on something or better yet, experience it by telling the story to a friend (or your imaginary blog friend). It works.

A rule of stage comedians  – don’t just tell your story or joke on stage; actually experience it. So, sometimes, rather than searching and waiting, you have to fake and make. It’s better than the alternative: coping and moping.

Until next time,

Marc





Performance Review Time

13 01 2015

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For many of us, it is that time of the year when we get to reflect on our accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses, core values, beliefs, attributes, goals, objectives, development areas, hopes, dreams and do it all in bite size chunks made the size of a Tweet. It’s performance review time.

I just completed mine and while I joke about it, I understand the importance of a system that allows for a systematic evaluation of one’s progress at work and establishment toward goals in the New Year. It’s interesting for me – navigating two worlds. From a corporate perspective, while you may be lucky enough to get feedback on a regular basis, that annual review really still does hold the weight of a critique in the New York Times  – “what did they really think of my performance? This could really impact how many more times I get a go.”…that sort of a thing.

As a comic or other performer, (and in my case, I do use the term loosely), you get a review every single time you showcase your efforts – whether you like it or not. It got me wondering about how this could work in a more traditional work environment. How could an accountant, lawyer, project manager, marketer, sales person, etc. get a real-time evaluation every time he or she performed a task? Would this even be valuable? (It’s a given it would be incredibly annoying.)

As a comic, a lot of times, this is how you actually work things out. It’s the real time feedback of the audience that gives you a feel for what to work on, what to keep, what to trash and what to try out next time. What if every time i made a presentation at work, the attendees in the conference room either clapped, looked at their iPhones (which they do ALL the time) or threw a tomato at me? I’d get the picture pretty quick.

Neither case is ideal. Like anything else in life, the quality of what you get is largely due to the people you choose to receive from and the openness – the true openness – with which you are willing to receive feedback.

I am fine with the former – I have a fantastic network of people at work and in comedy that I trust to tell me the truth, whether I like to hear it or not. The latter is more difficult. The truth is, as much as I want the real deal – and I do – it is not easy to hear the things that you have to improve on, particularly when they seem so inherently a part of your personality. After all, if you want to be authentic, you don’t want to change who you are. But, sometimes, you have to tone it down (or up) to help you achieve what you set out to achieve.

So during this performance review time of year, I remember that I have had good and I have had bad. I have had good comedy shows and I have had bad comedy shows. And truthfully, in the long run – none of it really matters. What matters is whether each year, each month, each show was different than the last and there was some sort of progress. Two steps ahead and one back is still a net positive.

Until next time,

Marc








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