Tiffany Haddish, the Buddha and Me

28 01 2019

haddish

You may have heard that the actress/comedian, Tiffany Haddish, had a not-so-great New Year’s Eve a few weeks ago. She bombed on stage. It happens to the best of us.

Not long after that happened, I decided to do a longer set at a comedy club largely based off of new material I worked on during the Christmas break at the end of December. This is never a good idea unless you’re maybe Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock where the audience can give you a lot of leeway if you are “working things out” because, well, you actually are Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock.

I get really eager to do new stuff. I write a lot and have enough new material to try out at an open mic every night for the next few months if I actually got to an open mic every night, which I don’t. For whatever reason, I had a “just go for it” attitude.

I didn’t bomb but I was definitely not happy with my performance. I just did not get the audience reaction consistently as much as I would have hoped. Nor should I have. This was pretty much all new stuff, after all. 

I had another gig the next night at the same venue and all day I was stressed out about it. I had a lost sense of confidence particularly since this whole comedy thing is so judgmental. You have a great set and finally a booker considers you. He or she hears or witnesses something that doesn’t feel right and you’re out of luck for the next year or longer.

While I felt some sympathy for Tiffany Haddish, I also saw the outpouring of people coming to her defense. She’s not going anywhere and people know she is not just that one bad performance. When you’re “a nobody”, the pressure to have that one performance represent whatever is needed for the person judging you (the right tone, the right material, the right look, the right amount of laughs) could be overwhelming.

All day that Saturday as I was preparing for that evening, I was wrapping myself in a cloak of doubt and uncertainty. Then I remembered something I read in “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright. We have evolved to have feelings so we would be compelled to perceive things in a certain way to protect ourselves in order to pass on our genes (“it’s probably a stick but it could be a snake so best to feel anxious and fearful”). The problem is that these feelings do, in fact, lead to perceptions that drive thoughts that ultimately lead to behaviors.

This is something I keep reminding myself time and time and time again for years now. In this case, I had feelings of frustration and despair that made me perceive myself as an imposter of sorts which drove thoughts of unworthiness and a behavior that led me to first question whether I shouldn’t be giving my attention to some other endeavor. Once I took a pause to see a barrier between what I was feeling and what I was perceiving, I could start to separate it out a bit and get down to the business of watching my set, taking notes and preparing again.

And it worked. I kept three or four things from the previous night, tweaked them and weaved them into a set that went great. And the perception I had that I was not good enough to get booked again went away, too (and luckily was confirmed).

So, it seems that Tiffany Haddish might have been a lot more evolved than me because clearly she has been able to overcome a much more visible flop sooner than I did. She’s probably a closet Buddhist.

Until next time,

Marc





The Lazy Man’s Guide to Goal Setting for the New Year

3 01 2019

pexels-photo-733854

Did you wake up an hour earlier to do that run or forgo that cookie after dinner?

Yeah, me either.

The excitement and prospect of starting anew is so intoxicating…until it comes time to do it.

I went to the gym today – not because it was January 2nd, but because it was Wednesday. The parking lot was full. By now, we are all familiar with the peaks of gym memberships in January and then the nosedive for each subsequent month after that (with the exception of April/May when thoughts of summer give some of us a second wind).

I can’t speak for you but I know that history has taught me the hard way that the self-loathing associated with NOT following through with something far surpasses the excitement of “a new start”.

The good news is that this is where being present in the moment can really pay off. Rather than focusing on how much progress you are making toward your goals for a long period of time, this is a good way to give you a daily dose of encouragement and if it turns out to be a failure for the day (and there will always be days like that), you always have another one.

The question is how to do this without feeling like it’s half-assed and there’s no real commitment. Here’s a suggestion that seems to work for me: I have a list of 5 things with a goal of making sure I hit at least three of them each day. Truth is, I may only get to two of them but this way, it assures me that I am always keeping important things front and center.

So, I may have exercise, meditate, write, stretch and work on music as my 5 items. Each day, I try to work on at least 3. As I mentioned above, this can be challenging – especially with kids, work and other responsibilities (not to mention the unexpected water leak or blown tire) that can take priority. What it does for me, however, is ease up on the end goal (run a marathon, complete 15 pages of a script, finish recording the song) while not deflecting from the actions that will ultimately get me there.

It’s not ideal and I’ll probably never make it onto a Tim Ferris podcast but it works for me. Maybe because it is too discouraging to see how slow progress is any other way.

So, on this 2nd day of the New Year, if you’re already wondering if any of those ideas ruminating around your head may ever come to fruition – welcome to the lazy man’s goal setting for 2019. Good luck and let me know how it works out.

Until next time,

Marc





Marc’s “Considerations for 2019 if You Want To – Really, It’s Up To You – This Isn’t a Pressure Type of Thing” List

31 12 2018

2018-2019 #2

There are a lot of “wrap-up” reviews or “10 things you can do in the New year” type of lists so I am not going to pretend like I have anything more to add that might be valuable to anyone.

However, as a final post for 2018, I thought I would write 10 super easy things to consider in the New Year that might not change the world but maybe, in some small way, will help you feel better.

So here they are -Marc’s “Considerations for 2019 if You Want To – Really, It’s Up To You – This Isn’t a Pressure Type of Thing” List:

  1. Listen to the Waking Up Podcast with Sam Harris. – I believe the name of the podcast is going to change soon but he is seriously one of the most intelligent people around and always makes a logical argument with guests for some of our most divisive issues. If you are like me and want progress but not at the expense of being so politically correct that everyone and their mother is eventually offended, he’s the guy for you.
  2. See the movie Vice with Christian Bale. Not only is his performance uncanny and incredible but the movie is so well scripted, directed and acted that it is the top of my list for 2018. A serious movie that uses creativity and humor like well placed spices, it is not to be missed.
  3. Read “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright. Is this about becoming a Buddhist? Absolutely not but it breaks down the evolutionary chain of events that have brought us to the minds we have today in the name of survival and how perhaps not all these constructs might serve us anymore. A scientific look that is not difficult to understand or read.
  4. See “Hearts Beat Loud” with Nic Offerman –  a touching father/daughter story with some cool music and characters that make you wish you could grab a drink with some day.
  5. Watch the Good Place – a comedy series on NBC. Creative and well written, this is a unique take on life after death and always serves up laughter and some delicious surprises now and then. It will make you feel good.
  6. Buy good socks. Man, what took me so long? I received a couple different pair from different people for gifts – and if you hike or hate the cold, what a difference a sock can make.
  7. Try cloth napkins instead of paper. In addition to learning about the incredible waste and dangers of single use plastic (straws), cloth napkins remove the need for more wasteful paper napkins. But what about water and soap to clean them you might ask? True, but at least with me and my kids, we don’t wash them after each use.
  8. Make a photo book for a loved one or good friend. Often overlooked, collecting photos and then weaving them into a gift book on a site like Snapfish is a great idea. My sister and I did one for my parents from their anniversary party and they loved it.
  9. Write a letter- with a pen and paper – just one – to someone you haven’t been in touch with in a while. (Or if you really need to, send a letter in an email.) You’ll be surprised how much of a cathartic gift it is for you as much as for the person on the receiving end.
  10. Plant something, anything. I planted a garden that I would give a C+ to. It didn’t churn out all the spices and veggies I had hoped but it felt so damn good and I plan to do it again this summer. Pick one thing – even just one plant and do it. It’s nice to be among something living (besides people and pets) once in a while that doesn’t require a password.

That’s it! Hope you have a joyous 2019.

Until next time,

Marc





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

 





Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

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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





Daylight Savings, Raking Leaves & Beginning with the End

1 11 2015

It's a fine line between death and birth

It’s a fine line between death and birth

I’m not a huge fan of the period between Thanksgiving and the onset of Spring. I can tolerate the cold, though I tend to wish for warmer weather. It’s the darkness that I have a hard time with.

I don’t know whether or not I have SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) or not. It doesn’t matter if I do and I want to be careful to not self diagnose when there are people who really do suffer either seasonally or otherwise. All I do know is that when the sun starts to set early, I can’t stop yawning – a lot. The urge to nap, slow down and eat carbohydrates is pretty intense – or at least more intense than normal as those are all three things I enjoy doing, anyway. I take Vitamin D and I try to keep up with exercise, regardless, but as the days shorten, so does my motivation. (Daily intake of left over Halloween candy doesn’t exactly help, either.)

It’s not a coincidence, then, that on this first day of Daylight Savings Time when, yes, we gain an hour, but we also start to transition to much shorter days, I made myself sign up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This is, essentially, a 30 day challenge to write a a 50,000 word novel – approximately 1,700 words a day. I am not sure if I am going to succeed or not, nor if I do, if what I end up with will be worth anything. But I do know that without some sort of goal, the potential for getting to November 30th with little more than another month’s worth of “to do” lists is pretty good.

After grabbing a late breakfast with my son at a diner this morning, we raked leaves for a little under two hours in the front yard. He is an endless source of comedy material but more than that, an endless source of pride. Truthfully, the way this kid is maturing is an experience to behold – his approach to school, his aptitude for helping friends, his hilarious sense of humor and more importantly, his resilience. I am part father and part witness to an emerging adult.

We raked in silence, side by side, with the occasional verbal interruption. He could not tell the feelings of longing and loss that were welling up within me – both grateful for the opportunity to be there in the moment and, at the same time, dealing with a profound sense of sadness, melancholy and frustration at my current situation. If we were laying poolside in 85 degree weather at a resort, I may have the same experience but it would come and go. Something about the fall shadows cast on the lawn as we raked in an autumn chill, the smells of decaying leaves and the distant rustle of wind, leaves and branches set a scene for things coming to an end. It’s all too easy for me to internalize my surroundings. This, in some form or fashion, has been my achilles heal my entire life.

I really struggled with a sense of hopelessness. I am not sure exactly why. Intellectually, I knew that it was both not as dire as it felt nor chronic in nature. Still, the feelings were profound. When I get this way, I try to get to the root and ask “what is going on and what am I afraid of?” I concluded that it’s all about endings. This year is going to come to an end and one way or another, I will have to forge through a new beginning of sorts. Anyone who knows me understands that I am trying to get there – divorce, house, job – there are a lot of endings on the horizons and new beginnings to be had.

Though a story of fiction, I am hoping that the novel I am writing, “On the Side”, will help me get there. I need to get things out of my head and onto paper in one way or another – either through prose, song or comedy. I don’t have much of a choice at this point. Maybe NaNoWriMo is good for me. Maybe it isn’t. I do know that it is better to have something to shoot for than not. I need to apply this to all facets of my life, in reality.

I have no delusions of grandeur. There is no Pulitzer prize, Grammy or Comedy Central special awaiting me. I would be happy to get some extra comedy bookings and record a song or two, if that, not to mention, some sort of job security (let’s not forget about that).

I also know that I cannot simply “walk with my feelings” alone. It helps to acknowledge them. It helps to understand that they are with me, regardless of wish, desire or circumstance. That’s not enough for me, though. I need to have them materialize somehow for no one other than me the same way that a maple tree must shed it’s leaves in November. There simply is no choice. 

A setting sun, a browning landscape and an emerging winter must still be expressed, regardless of whether it is welcome or not.

Until next time,

Marc





The Labor of Labor Day

8 09 2015
It's time to get to work - real work.

It’s time to get to work – real work.

Labor Day is supposed to honor the work and achievements of workers in our country. Take a moment to think of all the things we take for granted that are built on the backs of the American worker…not people trading money on the stock exchange nor filing litigation or even presenting well structured PowerPoint slides (yours truly) but those that are making a difference.

Don’t get me wrong – white collar and blue collar workers alike make differences every day. I just feel that we lose sight of the ethic of work – the tangible activity that produces something to be lauded, held or referenced for decades to come.

This has been of particular consequence to me in two capacities as of late.

Firstly, I have been trying to “network” more in terms of comedy and writing. As much as I write on an almost daily basis, I have inhibited my own progress by not asking others to help me find opportunities to collaborate, perform and get better. The focus here is squarely on the networking part. The actual “work” taking a backseat somewhat. It feels necessary but shallow.

The second example has to do with a very difficult meeting I was in for my job on Friday. I am fortunate to work with a few colleagues over the past couple of years who are completely dedicated to a healthcare endeavor that I know, in my gut, could be truly transformational. We have taken risks associated with our careers to be on this project with the assurance that it would not negatively impact us and Friday was a big day for this program. The reception that we got from a senior leader was disappointing, to say the least. This was not due to the feedback, per se, but more because of the disconnect between the vision we had heard so much about and the reality of work – churning out things that are more short-term focused versus strategic. In this case, the focus was squarely on more near-term work as opposed to long-term big transformational impact.

What is my point in all of this? Labor Day is a tradition mired not in picnics and sunshine, (though that is my favorite part), but as a way of recognizing the value of work with meaning, purpose and high impact. Whether it is the contextual spin that comedy provides and changes the way issues may be discussed or the risky, long-term and evolving work of driving toward something that can provide impact over the next 2 decades, as opposed to the next 2 years, it is that value that is to be celebrated in work. After all, it is the naive parent who applauds their efforts after only 2 years of raising their kids. Show me the well-adjusted 30 year old and I’ll show you someone who deserves more than just a picnic and a little sunshine once a year.

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it. If you haven’t already, please consider enrolling to get my blog posts delivered straight to your inbox through this site, email me at marckaye91@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @marckaye91. (Better yet, how about all 3). Also, through October 15, for every new follower I get, I will be donating $1 to Nechama, a disaster relief agency, in honor of my daughter who is raising money and awareness for this great organization for her Bat Mitzvah project! https://www.razoo.com/story/Robyn-Kerachsky/

Thanks again, Marc








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