The Halfway Point

I’ve been in Los Angeles for close to two years now. I drove here two days after my 22nd birthday, crossing the desert in August heat, and haven’t looked back. I listened to episodes of WTF with Marc Maron and dreamed of performing at the Comedy Store, a place he made sound like comedic holy ground. It was a breeding ground for comedy legends.

I remember the first time I walked into the Comedy Store, being taken up in a swirl of darkness and neon, sitting in chairs in the back of the room and watching the spectacle of the open mic, with the viciously funny hosts never missing an opportunity to let loose on particularly deserving performers. I remember feeling like I’d walked into where I was supposed to be all along.

Now close to a year and a half later, I stand on stage, performing as a member of the Comedy Store’s Friends and Family list for the fifth time. There is no audience.

Things change, things stay the same.

This is the halfway point in what has been one of my most chaotic, change-filled years. This year didn’t go how I thought it would. To some degree, it did, but I am wholly in a place that I didn’t anticipate being.

I have been doing a lot of comedy this year. I just did my 154th set of the year. I was at 120 by this time last year. I’m on pace to do at least 60 more sets than I did last year, and in all likelihood I’ll be doing even more. I feel unproductive if I’m not on stage at least five times a week now.

I co-started a comedy show in an old S&M bar with my buddy Tyler. We picked up steam and will be running our ninth show tomorrow night. (Come if you’re in Los Angeles.) It’s been a great place to learn about myself, my material, and my style - and, of course, to befriend some of the best comics in the game and watch them perform.

I have opened for Dana Carvey twice.

I have been getting paid to run a show since Super Bowl Sunday.

Tuesdays are my favorite night of the week these days ever since I became a very small part of one of the best shows in Los Angeles, the Roast Battle. Even if I’m working, I have a blast watching the comics engage in the weekly war of words. It’s the only show I’ve ever seen where people spill out into the street just so they can listen to the action inside. I’ve competed twice myself. I’m 1-1. I’ll be back in the ring again soon.

Unfortunately, things are not always great. After a long, love-filled relationship, I find myself single again. Comedy is partially to blame. I’m told this lifestyle has its share of casualties. I’m hoping one of those is the person who let things get so bad with the woman of his dreams.

I’m in therapy now, too. I’m attempting to grow as a person, to correct a lot of personal flaws. I’m too unsure of myself, too indecisive. I’m learning to be more fearless. I’m learning to confront issues instead of sweeping them under the rug. I’m learning that, if I want to become the comedian and the person I have the potential to be, then I need to make some changes.

I feel as though I’m in a totally different world than the one I planned on being part of when I moved to Los Angeles, especially based on how my education went, but this is a place I thrive in. I’m thriving. I’m living my dream every day, and I’m happy. I may not be able to see people as much as I’d like to, or have the kind of social life I imagined having, but it’s fine.

I have to work incredibly hard to maintain my dream and stay financially afloat in this city, but that’s fine. It’s all worth it. The least I can do is keep going. The changes will come.

Dear friends! Be sure and download this week’s episode of EXPLAIN YOURSELF! featuring hilarious comedian Joshua Meyrowitz, a.k.a. Autistic Thunder. We’re endearingly awkward! Check it out!

Get ready for tomorrow’s new episode of EXPLAIN YOURSELF! by listening to last week’s, featuring my hilarious improv classmate Erin Dewey Lennox and I talkin’ about Jewish stuff and having bathroom-related issues!

Download it now!

My most recent episode of EXPLAIN YOURSELF! features the excellent comedian and writer Aristotle Georgeson talking with me about the perils of ADD, ill-fated subway rides, and persistent grandmothers.

Ladies and gentlemen! My Valentine’s Day gift to you is a new episode of EXPLAIN YOURSELF! featuring the geektacular Mike Hover and I chatting about miserable superheroes, ruined childhood fantasies, and the world’s worst action figure (seen above.)

Download and listen now!

This week on EXPLAIN YOURSELF! I talk to my old comedy friend (and fellow podcaster) Tyler Meznarich about stickin’ it to the man, irrational anger, and books, because we’re smart dudes all about readin’ books.

Download, listen, and enjoy!

EXPLAIN YOURSELF! returns this week with the fourth episode, featuring my favorite Chicago transplant, Ken Garr, talking about ridiculous college stories. Download, subscribe, and rate five stars! I AM WORTH IT.

Download and listen now!

#238: The End

12/30/13, 7:15 PM

Open Mic, Rockpaper Coffee, Los Angeles, CA

We didn’t get up at the Store, and Meltdown is shut down until 2014, so I convince Tyler to go across the street with me to Rockpaper, which looks like it’s still going on. We enter and ask where the list is to find out we’re the last performers of the night. There are three of us left in here. We order our required items and sit down.

Nobody is hosting or keeping time. This mic is on the honor system. Sitting through those last three before my turn is agonizing, even though I like all the comics who got stuck here late. I just want to go on, though, because a room like this is rare, and there’s an opportunity here for me to really sit down and work some shit out. It’s one of those no-pressure-type situations.

The comic before me brings me on as “that young man right there,” and I take the stage, set down my phone and look at Tyler. “You were right, dude, we shouldn’t have come.” He laughs. “Oh well. It’s fine.”

I sit down on the on-stage stool. I don’t normally do this, but I’m feeling casual. I talk about living with my girlfriend after being long-distance, how it’s like going from being starving to being force-fed all of your meals. “I love the sustenance, but that tube really scrapes my esophagus. I think I’m bleeding internally.” The three present laugh. Something there.

I carry on by talking about the guy who tried to convert me to Judaism at work. I talk about how his methods might have been more effective if I didn’t feel the way I do about religion, then talk about my religious beliefs a bit. I haven’t ever done this before on stage. It feels cathartic, almost therapeutic. It’s a topic I can’t wait to explore more in the new year.

I finish my set, then bring Tyler on so he can headline. He does his time, gets out a few good premises, then closes out and leaves. We walk back to my car and I drop him off at the lot containing his car. We part ways.

On the drive back home, I mull over the facts: that was my last set of the year. I felt comfortable talking about something I’d felt immensely weirded out by in the past. I paid $2.50 to talk to two strangers and one of my close friends about this topic. It felt good. 

This year has been a great one. I feel like I’m getting a better foothold in the Los Angeles comedy world, and a better grip on my voice and personality. I’ve made friends and enemies. I’ve changed my act so much that it’s almost unrecognizable from anything I was doing when I first moved out to L.A. I feel accomplished, but I know I have more to do. So that’s what 2014 will be. A year of growth.

Thanks for paying attention. I won’t be posting entries as much next year, but I’ll drop in when something really cool happens. Besides, I’ve got a new project for y’all that I think you’ll really enjoy.

#237: What Else Should I Talk About?

12/28/13, 12:30 AM

Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s been ten days since my last set. A much needed sojourn to visit my parents in Texas made me want to relax instead of work, so I opted not to get on stage at all. But I’m back in town now and itching to get on stage. I get a work-in spot at the open mic and have a drink while I wait my turn. I shoot the breeze in the back of the bar with a few comics.

The show plays out as per usual - a few new guys, a few regulars, our resident old man Gary talking about his dick, my buddy Josh talking about being a 31-year-old virgin. This really is just an average Friday night. It seems routine at this point. That’s not a bad thing, though. I just feel comfortable.

Clarke calls my name, so I take the stage and start by asking if anyone had a good Christmas. Nobody bites, so I talk about mine by way of my grandparents and the gifts they’ve given me - one from my grandma this year that wasn’t even under the Christmas tree, one from my grandpa last year before he passed. The second joke gets a better response than the first one, but both get some laughter. This holiday-specific material might not work year-round, but I feel like when the crowd reacts warmly like this - even lukewarmly - there’s something worth exploring about the bits.

Next, I talk about a sign I saw for a Family Restaurant that advertised its Cocktails in a bigger font than the restaurant’s name. “I think that sends the wrong message,” I say to some chuckling in the back. I talk about how even though it seems like fun to be drunk around kids, it’s a terrible idea, relaying a story of getting repeatedly smacked in the face by one of my swimming students as proof. The premise is funnier than the punchline right now, so my next task is to get the end up to snuff with the beginning.

I don’t remember what my final story was supposed to be. “What else should I talk about?” I ask myself into the mic. I look at the notes I wrote in my phone and find a good one: a story from work when a guy tried to convert me to Judaism by complimenting me. His exact words? “You look smart. Jews are smart! You’re probably an Orthodox Jew who doesn’t know it yet.” This ridiculous line of logic gets a laugh, but that’s as far as it goes since I haven’t written this story out or analyzed my attempted converter much. But there’s something to this story. While realizing this, I lose my train of thought, ramble off into nothingness, thank the crowd, and leave the stage. I return to my now-empty drink at the end of the bar and order a glass of water. I’ll watch a few more comics then get out of here. What’s the harm in sticking around?

#236: The Grumble of Recognition

12/18/13, 11 PM

All Star Wednesdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

After clocking out, I just want to get out of here. But I have a spot to do in the main room that I’m not about to half-ass, so I change and ask Rob, tonight’s MC, if I can go on earlier. He says it’s cool. He’ll get me on in two.

About ten minutes later, Rob calls me to the stage. I take it, shake his hand, and face a crowd of about twenty. They’re lively, at least. I start with Jap-Slap, which works as per usual, and is only enhanced by the fact that our resident old man Gary decides to pipe in with a guttural grumble when I talk about old men being racist. I can’t contain myself, cracking up on stage and doubling over mid-act-out. “Nothing will ever be better than that,” I tell the still-laughing crowd before finishing the bit.

I talk about being broke. “Anyone else broke in here?” The comics all clap. “Of course.” I talk about getting a broken iPod stolen, and about trying to be smarter about how I spend my money through investing in canned goods. I talk about supplementing my income by teaching swimming lessons, and dealing with terrified two-year-olds. The tiny crowd stays with me.

I feel like I’ve hit the halfway point, so I transition into talking about moving in with my formerly long-distance girlfriend. I find a nice bit of wordplay when I call her a keeper, then say I literally do have to keep her since she pays half of my rent. One guy in the front says, “aw,” so I tell them not to worry. “We survived this long over distance, we’re gonna be fine.”

I close with the Dating Technology bit. Just like earlier this afternoon, something about the middle of the bit doesn’t quite ring true. It ends just fine, but that middle is giving me too much trouble now to not warrant some close scrutiny. I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and then get out of the club. I’ve got other things to attend to now.