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

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





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





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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My Millennia Moment

6 03 2015

millenial-on-facebook

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

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Every time you do, an angel gets her wings.





The Virtue of a Made Bed

12 02 2015

Textured-wall-tiles-draw-your-attention-instantly

Until recently, I rarely ever made my bed. It wasn’t for the reasons you may imagine: “what’s the point, it’s just going to get unmade at the end of the day?.”

It was pretty simple, actually. There were a ton of blankets and pillows and it took a long, long time. And I was the only one who would make it. That, and I, too, admittedly, didn’t really see the point. My wife had 3 or 4 blankets, an assortment of pillows and lots of other stuff. That is typical, I realize but it was a lot to get through.

Then my wife filed for divorce and everything came to a grinding halt. I mean – serious halt – like the one where everything goes into slow motion and you can actually hear screeching sounds from thousands of miles away. What little control I ever thought I had quickly was removed and through these almost 2 years of, let’s call it ‘hell’, just for lack of a name at this point, it became clear that I needed to surround myself with people and things that were positive more than ever.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all “self help” on you. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with myself let alone you. So, here’s the point. I write – all the time. I read a lot, too. I do both of these activities for work, comedy writing, scripts – you get the picture and I found myself sitting at my desk completely cluttered. Millions of thoughts floated simultaneously and a list of items to do and the order in which to do them (categories, actions, timelines, sub actions) would not help my cause.

Then it occurred to me – I need a decluttered environment to declutter my mind. There has been plenty written about this but I chose to ignore it, pretty much like everything else. It is true. I make my bed and organized my desk almost every morning (after the kids go to school because before – what’s the point, right?). It makes a difference. This is sort of my physical meditation. Clear mind, clear room and I can think. It works.

I have been thinking about why and I can only tell you why it works for me.

I am not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination. (There are a few things, though, that if I could get my kids to agree to, would inspire me to write poetry: answering the phone, closing a drawer, putting a glass in the sink and pushing down the garbage. Four things. That’s it. Not too much to ask, right?)

Though I’m not OCD, I realized that the more clutter around me, the more a subtle (or maybe not-so subtle) reminder of how out of control things seem in my life. When I am working in a decluttered zone, I visually see calm and that sets my  mind in the right state to focus on other things like writing. That’s it – all I have to offer.

I will say this. I feel so good about my comedy right now. Not “wow – I’m going to make it” good but “yeah, ok, I can do this” good. There are two things that have changed: 1) I have been very honest about my personal situation in a funny way (or I hope a funny way) without worrying if people think it is appropriate or not, and  2) I have been more focused in my writing. For that, I have to thank the simplicity of a fitted sheet, a top sheet, two pillows and a barely fitting blanket. My bed looks like a bare bones lasagna but it is orderly and now, so are my thoughts.

Try it.

Until next time,

Marc








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