Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the middle road

Last night was my intermediate comedy class graduation show... I didn't go up.

I am not sure what went wrong with this class - or rather not just one thing led me to these feelings. Maybe I'm just a bitch - but this was in no way an "Intermediate" class. The majority of the class had also been with me in the beginner class (which was a prerequisite for the Intermediate class). I really feel that had I had a chance to be in a class with those who had been doing comedy on a regular basis for a year or more, things may have been different. From day one of the class through last night, the instructor and even the co-instructors had no idea I had been doing comedy for well over a year - on a regular basis.

And while I don't think I'm good - hell, most times I struggle with doing an OK job, I'm not a nuts and bolts beginner. But I was treated that way. I know how it feels to get up in front of a primed audience who is there to laugh at everything you say. I know how that feels - it feels great... and I love that I have had that experience already - but that wasn't what I was looking for from the Intermediate class.

I wanted to network, to get some tips to write better, to perform better , to network and to be seen by the booker at the club.

Honestly, the class made me dislike doing comedy. Made me dislike writing comedy (which I already struggled with) and made what little confidence I'd built up over the past year and a half crumble beneath me.

Not fat enough to tell fat jokes - when in reality I'm not that much smaller than the biggest guy that was in my class. Not white enough to talk about how white I am - but I am truly whiter than the guy who used that for nearly 3.5 of his five minutes. And from week to week - the criticism I got directly contradicted what I heard previously. The criticism I had acted on and worked hard to remedy for the current class. I was lost - and the work I was putting in - for nothing. What I had on paper didn't even sound like me... and it was worse on stage. I was just reciting lines.

I emailed the class organizer last Friday and hope he'd have passed onto the instructor I wasn't going to go up (and even why) - but he didn't. So I had to deal with "Just go up, you'll love it." badgering from the instructor up to show time. Never mind he didn't care WHY I wasn't going up... he didn't even ask... And I didn't bother to tell anyone in class why I wasn't going up. I didn't want to cause a scene or any other such. Well, those who read this blog know - but I didn't go up last night - not because I'm chicken - I LOVE the stage. I LOVE comedy. I didn't go up because it would have been someone else up there, telling jokes I didn't believe in, that I didn't find funny, that I didn't feel represented me.

You see, I want to work hard - and then do my best. And if I fail, I fail because I didn't work hard enough, or didn't write well enough. And if I succeeed, I want to know I got that laugh because I worked damn hard for it. I want to earn my responses - good or bad.

So, given all of that, the way I saw/see it - I had 3 options:
  1. Do the material "I've" written in class - and unfortunately I don't feel comfortable with, I'm not committed to it and and I don't feel like it's me - so that option means not being true to myself.
  2. Do my own material I do believe in, which is disrespectful to the instructor and what he's asked for in the class.
  3. Refrain from participating but be there to support my classmates by being in the audience.

So right before the show, just before the instructor came around with the order (he had me in the 2 spot, and was going to put me up regardless of what I said), one of the co-instructors actually took a few minutes to sit down and ask me why I wasn't going up. I told him all of it, and he seemed like he understood. I really appreciated that. He gave me his email address in case I ever want some feedback (and I do).

And right up until I walked out the door last night, people were commenting on how one day I'd get up there, and that I'd love it and they'd probably see me at open mics someday.


This did do one thing for me - it solidified WHY I do comedy - for ME. It IS all about me - and if I'm not going to go up and be me, I'm not going to go up at all.
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1 comment:

Stace said...

A little late, but option 2 is precisely what some past students have done, so I've heard. And to kill in spite of that is quite telling.

I understand why you didn't go up, mind you. The same reason I understand why some of the students didn't even show up. While being pushed to write comedy for a theme or area in which you have no experience or frame of reference can be a challenge, it can also be a complete bust.

How can I come up with funny material in a subject in which I have no interest? If I can't relate to a position, I can't write for it. Frankly, the juxtaposition of "be yourself" against "no, you can't do jokes about that" made my brain fritz.

I resisted being pushed into a direction like that -- it was largely a product of good timing in that I barely had any stage time during the class in which to get pushed in a bad direction.

I'd really love to hear some of *your* material sometime.