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




The “Comedy” Divorce

16 06 2015

marriage-divorce-ecard

It’s been almost a year since I officially started my journey of single “fatherdom”. To be honest, it hasn’t been easy but my kids are incredibly resilient and that was and will always be my first priority.

This seemed like as good a time as any to reflect on this “momentous” anniversary of sorts and I wanted to put something to rest. There have been some that, upon finding out that my wife asked for a divorce, have assumed that it was “comedy-related”. The rationale goes something like this: “well, it’s hard being a comic and being with someone unless they really understand it and are supportive. Comedy can be like a drug and it can tear families apart….blah, blah, blah.”

WHOA!!!

The idea that myself or anyone would do anything to jeopardize their family because of a love for stand-up seems a little far-fetched. Comedy is my golf. It never took the place of family activities or priorities. It is one of my personal passions but never once have I thought of compromising relationships for comedy. Comedy may have highlighted already existing issues but they were always there. For those who insinuate otherwise tend to be both over-simplistic and quite frankly, insulting.

For sure, there were parts of my routine that did not sit well with my wife, which I modified and then after vigorous debate, withdrew completely. At one point, I was directed to NOT talk about being a husband or a father at all because it could reflect negatively on the family. So, for a time, I spoke only about being Jewish and other stuff. I wasn’t about to talk about dating, college or my fast food job because it wasn’t authentic. It wasn’t me.

I don’t understand how comedy gets such a bad rap. I have met some of the most real people ever doing stand-up and writing. I have played in bands and been to plenty of “professional” events and let me tell you, people are people and any one who thinks that income, social status or vocabulary is a measure of how trustworthy or authentic a person is- well, you’re dead wrong. I could never get this message across to my wife because she simply refused to believe it and then I got too upset that she would not listen. That is what contributed – a fundamental lack of respect for who I was – not comedy, itself. I was willing to “quit” comedy. I still would if it meant being able to have my family in tact. That is not the issue.

I am now trying to turn this pivotal event in my life into some good material – not an easy thing. Every time i bring it up on stage, I can hear a hallowed gasp among some in the audience. I am not quitting though. I know that talking about what is really happening in a way that is truthful (and hopefully funny) is really who I am.

The one thing I have learned in all of this is that whatever image I was trying to hold onto was just a fallacy. My “secret” is out and it has given me incredible freedom to just be me – like it or not. I really do not care.

There are plenty of people who politely say hello while judging and they will always be there. I will continue to say hello to them. Believe me, nobody knows what really happens among two people other than those two people…unless one of them happens to be a comic…that’s when the fun begins and believe me, I’m working on it….stay tuned!

Until next time,

Marc





I Never Asked for the Anal Probe

2 05 2015

alien-midway

Well, if nothing else, I am guessing the title of today’s blog post will at least peak your interest.

“I never asked for the anal probe” is a line from a comedic scene from an older movie called Passion Fish. Honestly, I can’t even recall what the movie was about (though I do recall Alfre Woodard in it) but I have always remembered this scene where, if I recall correctly, there was an actress (playing an actress) who was saying that she had only one line and she kept practicing it, emphasizing a different word each time:

didn’t ask for the anal probe. (As if someone did, but it sure as hell wasn’t me.)

DIDN’T ask for the anal probe. (This one makes the most sense because well, yeah…you get it.)

I didn’t ASK for the anal probe. (I just may have insinuated it a little.)

I didn’t ask FOR the anal probe. (I asked about the anal probe – there’s a big difference dude!)

I didn’t ask for THE anal probe. (Because there isn’t just one…there’s a variety as we all know.)

I didn’t ask for the ANAL probe. (I asked for the nasal probe, for example.)

I didn’t ask for the anal PROBE. (But I did ask for the anal…well, never mind.)

So, “Marc – what the hell is the point of all of this?” you may ask. Great question.

Well…a couple of things. One – this is yet another example of my exemplary ability to retain incredibly useless facts that will, in no way every help me in a job nor in a hostage situation.

Two – words are incredibly important but how you emphasize words can mean everything. I have learned this the very, very, very hard way – being married…and by being a comic. It has been a much easier lesson the latter.

It is such an easy thing to simply say to “choose your words” wisely but it is so much more difficult to choose them and then think about how they are going to be received. Even more difficult is the fact that non-verbal communication has an even larger impact.

You may be familiar with the popular statistic that nonverbal communication accounts for 93% of all daily communication, commonly quoted in science and media outlets. Dr. Albert Mehrabian conducted several studies on nonverbal communication and found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).  What?!!!

This reminds me of a time a couple of years ago when a high ranking person explained that even though I appropriately did not respond during a meeting, my face gave me away and I should “work on that”. It’s my face, yo!

So, next time you’re taking the stand-up stage, giving a presentation, making your case to your significant other or faced with an alien abduction, remember – words and non-verbal cues can make all the difference between getting information or becoming part of the experience.

Until next time,

Marc





Fight Your Way Through

26 01 2015

ira_8701378838_l-650x537

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





Fear of Flying

18 01 2015

fly

I’m big on metaphors – to the dismay a lot of times of my kids, colleagues and generally anyone with a pulse. I think it’s because it is one of the ways in which I can process things that are meaningful to me objectively. If the metaphor literally has nothing to do with my topic but the meaning does, (hence the purpose of a metaphor), it’s just more clear cut to me. I don’t know; I’m weird.

I was listening to an NPR Fresh Air Podcast with Terri Gross with author Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, daughter of  self-help author who, herself, is a skeptic of self help. She happened to talk about her own personal fear of flying, which luckily is not something I have. As she was describing her fear and those of others in a “self-help” class she took, I kept thinking: “why am I not more afraid of flying”? It’s simple. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that things, more than likely, will work out. The plane will take off and it will land and everything including and between those two moments are completely out of my control (even if I get to sit in the exit row). Basically, I allowed my rationale thoughts to take on a bit more importance than my irrational thoughts.

It just so happens that I was listening to this podcast this morning on my way home from NYC on the train. Every single moment from last night through getting back to my house was a potential cause of anxiety: trying new material out at the comedy show, figuring out the subway from Brooklyn to Union to Penn to NJ Transit while slipping on Montrose to the subway station and navigating driving on roads from the train station back home that were to be icy.

As I listened to this podcast and thought about flying, it just hit me that if I could learn to apply the same mental state I have to flying to my life, that would probably not be a bad thing. It is really the same. For the most part, there is very little we really have control over.

This concept has served me well every time I have applied it – every single time. I just have not applied it very often. It is not something that comes naturally to me at all.

A friend and well known comedian gave me some great advice late last year as I am always looking to get better. He said what is holding me back is just myself and that if I could trust the process once I am doing stand-up, it will free me up and take me to the next level. It has. I had to (and still have to) give up the fear, relinquish control and trust that things will, one way or the other, work out.  I tried this again last night and it was great and freeing. Some stuff hit, some didn’t. Most of it was awkward and a bit uncomfortable but 100% true and liberating.

And it wasn’t all about the performance either. But more on that in a future blog.

If you’re “afraid to fly”, remember there are a lot more people in place to catch you than you might have thought.

Until next time,

Marc





Comedy Confessions

17 01 2015

stand-up-comedy

I am sitting at home Friday night working on some new comedy for a last minute gig I got in NYC tomorrow night. I am excited for it because regardless of how it goes, when I am in NY, I always feel so alive. It is, without exception, my favorite city.

It has occurred to me that this blog has been sort of heavy as of late – very cathartic for me – but perhaps it was time to get back to the reason I started it in the first place – getting my comedy mojo going. And, I promise, I won’t use the word “mojo” again.

When I first did stand-up it was on a dare – actually with myself – I had given myself 1 year from a birthday to try it and I was less than 10 days away from the next birthday. I took my kids roller skating and next door was a sign for an open mic…10 days before my birthday. So, that was it.

The main reason I considered it is because I had been writing for such a long time and was frustrated that I just didn’t know how to get “It out there”. After reading a lot of blogs and a few books, they all seemed to agree that the stand-up thing was a necessary evil, at least starting out, to network and also learn how to frame dialogue. I think there is something to that.

Now, I still am at it but grapple with if I really am funny or not. It’s hard to admit that because I envy so many of the comics I work with and get the crowd going every time. They are amazing to me. It is so difficult. I love the feeling of getting people to laugh and my best laughs have been in social situations or at work but that is a very different thing than being on stage. Perhaps, I’m not stand-up material and I am really more of a writer. That is fine, too.

That being said, I know I have improved and have had moments that feel really good. This is something every comedian goes through and I am still a newbie, relatively speaking. There are a lot of things I am still figuring out: the balance between pleasing the crowd and trying new stuff out; the balance between things that work and being edgy (my preference); how to trust my instincts and not plan as much; how to let go; how to find my natural stage presence and most importantly, how to stop making excuses to myself and others about why I am doing this.

I don’t think a lot of people understand the craft of comedy and writing. Just like any other profession, there are those who take their craft seriously and work really hard and there are…well, you get the point. I am taking it as seriously as any other comic, with the caveat that I will not usurp my responsibility to my family, which means comedy comes after family and my job that provides for said family.

For a long time, I was told to “hide” the fact that I am not a “full time” comedian. Who cares? It is not a coincidence that the people who have the least amount of time are usually the ones to take on more responsibility. Life is not an all or nothing game and I enjoy it (usually).

I am grateful for the opportunity to do something that has opened me up to a whole new world and regardless if it ever takes off or not, there still remains a push from within to not give up.

Comedy is pretty serious.

Until next time,

Marc








%d bloggers like this: