Why Live Comedy Should Never be Free

If you’re involved with the stand up comedy scene, you will have noticed that there are a huge amount of free shows. It’s easy to understand why this happens. Comedians are afraid that if they charge for their show, people won’t come. They’d rather perform for a free audience than no audience.

I’ve been producing The Setup in San Francisco for a few years now and I have learned that as a producer you should always charge for tickets.

1. By putting on a free show you are not attracting more people because of the lower price point. You are getting rid of a potential audience who is wary that the show is free. There are A LOT of people who are not coming to your show BECAUSE IT IS FREE. Many people want to pay money so that the event has legitimacy. Do not miss out on these audience members as they tend to be the best. Can you imagine telling your wife that you are driving from Fremont to San Francisco to see a free show? You want the show to have a ticket price so that it feels real.

2. The audience pays more attention because they want to get their money’s worth. They talk to each other less because they might miss something. Therefore more people get the jokes and more people laugh which makes the show infinitely better.

3. The audience shows up on time and doesn’t leave until the end for the same reasons. Since the audience is there on time, you can start on time. Therefore the audience is less tired from waiting, and they can give you more energy in the form of laughter.

4. When you make a show free you communicate subconsciously that it is not worth paying for.

5. People have higher expectations because they are paying money. The show is naturally better because they believe that they are watching professionals. When you believe something is worth paying for you enjoy it more. It’s a placebo effect. The belief becomes the result.

6. The producers make money which means that they can:
 a. Pay the comedians. The comedians feel that their talents are worth paying for and they will work harder to develop these talents, resulting in better comedy overall. 
 b. Reinvest in the show to make it better. Better sound systems, better atmosphere, marketing, etc.
 c. Continue the show week after week and create more stage time.

7. When you charge a small cover you get higher quality people who are willing to spend money. These people are not richer than those who don’t spend money. Think about the quality of people who tip at a restaurant versus those who do not. Who would you rather hang out with? Who would you rather make laugh?

8. People pay a lot more to see music than they do to see comedy. Does that really make sense? The only argument here is that musicians have more equipment to set up. So yes, maybe a concert should be slightly higher priced. But is the audience only paying for the labor that it takes to set up equipment? No, it’s for the entertainment as well.

9. Imagine that every single producer started charging for comedy. There would be no free options and all audience members would have to pay. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

10. You do not have to pass a tip jar at the show. Passing a tip jar is annoying for the audience, and it slows the momentum of the show. If the jar is going around during someone’s set it is distracting audience members from the jokes.


Q. I’m already producing a free comedy show. If I start charging I will anger my current audience who expects a free show.
A. This is partially correct. You will alienate part of your audience. The other part will not care. You will see a slight dip in attendance for a short while. However, you are now on your way to attracting customers who are happy to pay to support the arts. You are also bringing legitimacy to your show.

Q. I’m producing a show at a bar where there is no way to charge.
A. Fine. This should be an open mic. If you’re producing a showcase, then it should be at a venue that lets you charge.

Sammy Obeid performing at Unnecessary Evil at  The Westside Comedy Theater  in Santa Monica. One of the best live stand up comedy shows in Los Angeles. Tickets are $14.

Sammy Obeid performing at Unnecessary Evil at The Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. One of the best live stand up comedy shows in Los Angeles. Tickets are $14.



I Hate Performing at Christmas Parties

Ok, so last night I had one of the worst shows of my life. I performed at a Christmas party for Little John's Auction Service. There were only two comedians on the show. Myself and my friend who I cannot name because he asked me not to. He said that he wanted to do his best to forget about the show. Also maybe he doesn't want publicity related to him bombing. Anyhow, we arrived at the party which was taking place at the The Phoenix Club in a giant tent in the field outside of the clubhouse. Immediately I was on edge. It was a brightly lit, the sound system was horrible. The sound only carried about halfway through the room. There were distractions everywhere. Food stands in every corner. A photo booth. Kids running around screaming. Surely this wasn't where we were performing. It was.

Apparently this was some sort of multicultural event because each of the food stands was from a different place. The irony? Only the pizza and fried chicken stands had lines. Everyone was White except for my friend and I who are Indian. I suppose we were part of the multicultural aspect of the event.

The DJ for the event was this idiot who was dressed up as Jack Frost. He went all out on his costume no doubt. But his manner of speaking still showed his lack of intellect through his costume. We asked him to do an announcement that comedy would start in five minutes and could everyone please take a seat. I've never seen a more timid approach to the microphone. He spoke into it like it was a snake that might bite him. No one heard the announcement. Party due to his nervous boy voice and mostly because the PA was barely audible.

Anyway, my friend goes up and bombs in totality. There are maybe 200 people there and I think only 5 people were paying attention. He was supposed to do 25 minutes and he only did 12. He brings me up. I bombed even harder than him. Even the 5 people who were paying attention to him turned their backs on me. I tried doing crowdwork with a woman that went no where. She turned away during our crowdwork and gave me the cold shoulder. Lil John was sitting in the front row. Lil John is nothing like the Lil Jon we know and love. This is a fat old white man who barely acknowledged us when we said hi to him. And he owns an auction house for guns. Go, picture him. He started holding his face during my set I was bombing so bad. I was getting so angry that no one was paying attention. Each time I told a joke to the sound of 200 people having side conversations I got madder and madder. Fuck these people. Who though this was a good idea. The person who organized this party was Ted Shred. Yes. Apparently this guy is some sort of stunt man in movies. Now he produces events. Christ, I hope to never be part of one of his events again.

Finally I tried a sex joke to get people moving. I thought maybe it would make them pay attention. It made one person pay attention. Lil John's wife. She pipes up and goes "Hey! There are children here! Not cool. Not cool." She gets up and leaves to talk to His Shredness (Ted Shred) and tells him to pull the show. My friend lights me and I get off the stage.

Ted Shred takes us out to the parking lot to have a discussion. He tries to not pay us for the show. My friend explains that he flew out from New York City to be at the show. Originally they were going to pay us $1500. Ted Shred docked us down to $1000. Believe me, the way I feel right now, it wouldn't have been worth it for $10k. After the show my friend and I went to Hooters because I believe it was the right mood for what had just happened. He was mad at me for causing us to lose $500. I think that's too simple of a way to look at it. He said I shouldn't have told a sex joke when I saw kids around. Yeah, that is true. But I think the bigger issue here is getting into that kind of situation and how to avoid it in the first place.

I thought a lot about things after that show. I realized that this is not the right way to do stand up. Christmas parties and other stupid corporate events are good for the money, but nothing else. But if I wanted to make money I would just go back to my life as a computer engineer. I was killing it in San Francisco. I decided that I'm only going to take gigs that get me closer to what I want to do. In fact, I have to think more deeply about what I want to do. There's so many options in LA. Improv, acting, writing, producing, stand up... I'm still mulling it over, but what I know now is that last night was an indication that things need to change.

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Six of My Favorite Stand Up Bits

Yes, this is a list of six. I'm the only one in the business doing lists of this length. I hope you liked my previous post on my favorite sketches. Now let's talk about stand up.

Eddie Griffin - You Can Tell Em I Said It
I think this is the best first line of any comedy special. George Carlin did really well with his abortion joke opening back in 1996, but this opening is just straight up ridiculous. Eddie Griffin doesn't care about making a political point. He just wants people to laugh. If you watch this entire special I think the word ridiculous will come to mind over and over and over. The things he says sometimes are so dumb, but you cannot help but laugh. This special reminds me why I like comedy. Because it's FUN. There's no agenda. Even when he talks about religion he does it in such a way that you can't tell if he's serious or not. He also does this thing where he thinks he's sounding smarter than he is and you end up laughing because you can't take him seriously even though he's so confident. Also, regarding the opening, he forgot to mention Jackie Kennedy who was definitely super hot.

Maria Bamford - Paula Deen
I love how Maria can make a dark topic funny in a stand up routine. This is not easy at all. Dark comedy is usually better suited for sketches because it's such a niche. People who like it can seek it out. But Maria does it for a broad audience at the Laugh Factory. If you've ever been to the Laugh Factory you know that the audience is a very general cross section of the population. If you make people laugh here, it means that your material is universal. Bill Hicks was a dark comic, but people weren't always laughing. He's more notorious. Maria Bamford is funny and silly first.

Don Novello - Economics
Don generally always does stand up as Father Guido Sarducci. I think the humor of this character comes from the fact that as a person of the church he is a high authority, but the things he talks about are so minute. The contrast creates a fun irony. The ridiculous things he says are extra funny because he delivers them so matter-of-factly. I know Don personally and have performed with him a few times. He gave me a signed copy of his legendary book The Lazlo Letters.

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Paul F Tompkins - Peanut Brittle
I'm embarrassed to say that I watched this clip for the first time very recently. I was taking Steve Martin's Masterclass and he was talking about beating a dead horse. You can make something funny by harping on the same idea over and over and over. This is much easier said than done. Most people who harp on a point do so in a predictable and boring way which is why "beating a dead horse" has a negative connotation. I honestly don't know why this peanut brittle bit works so well. I mean I know it's ridiculous that this "prank" could ever scare anyone, but I don't really understand why it keeps being funny every single time he talks about how common peanut brittle is. That's why I love this clip so much. When I listen to this joke I don't feel like a stand up comedian, I feel like a fan of stand up comedy. Another popular example of beating a dead horse in comedy is Bill Hick's joke about marketing.

Patton Oswalt - Vomit Bag
I think about this joke ALL THE TIME. At 3:24 is when it builds to the best part. The act out that starts "madam, I know you find me repulsive..." is such a vivid experience. Patton Oswalt is really good at helping you imagine a scene. I can totally picture some medieval courtship in which this man poetically tries to woo his lady with his ability to throw up. I laugh so hard when he talks about leaving the tuna sandwich from 7-11 on the dashboard of his car. How detailed and silly is that? 

Erik Myers - Taco Bell
Erik Myers is a character. We've hung out a few times and he is a sweet and genuine guy. The only wrinkle in his personality is that he loves crack and alcohol. We met while I was working at the Punch Line in Sacramento. Btw, I'll be at the Sacramento Punch Line this Sunday for the Green Room if anyone is interested. I've heard the same thing about Erik from many many comedians. "Erik is fire on stage, but he's a total wildcard off stage". Anyway, I think he's working his best on getting clean and he seems to be productive these days. The Laugh Factory appears to be helping him create a web series. This Taco Bell bit is hilarious because when he gets mad you can tell where that anger is coming from. This is a man who is down and out and has absolutely so outlet or recourse. The pain is real and hilarious because of how low he has had to sink. I am a huge fan and I hope to have him on The Los Angeles Setup at some point.



Five of the Best Sketch Comedy Videos

Sorry for the SEO optimized title. I just want to talk about some sketches I really like, but I have to go hard in order to get those keyword rankings! Sketch comedy is an interesting art form because it can span the gamut (I know most people say "run the") from highly produced pieces like SNL digital shorts to improv film making like Good Neighbor. Here are some sketches I think are awesome:

JAM - Musical Chairs
No dialogue and it's totally unexpected. It's so eerie how it's filmed from some sort of security camera, but it's in color. It's a completely different angle and style of footage from which you've ever watched a sketch. You get sucked in trying to figure out what's going on. They make you work to understand what it is. Eventually you see that it's musical chairs. You notice that the man who is controlling the music sees that his daughter keeps losing, but he won't have it! He removes one of the other kids and puts his own daughter in the chair. She keeps losing over and over. You notice another parent confronting him. Things turn violent. The music is haunting. And the thing that I love most about JAM is that there is no topic which is off limits. Violence towards children is run of the mill. After watching this sketch I was inspired to write my own sketch about a birthday party gone wrong. We had Ben Feldman play the conductor. He actually used to be a jazz musician before his hearing was destroyed after he flew on an airplane while very sick.

WOMEN - The Ultimate Trip
I just watched it again. Oh man. You might guess by now that I like dark comedy. This is a very specific type of sketch where you get to watch it two times because all the phrases take on a different meaning the second time around. I guess The Sixth Sense is the most famous example of that. The guys who make these sketches really take their time with production. I would say that they are probably the best produced videos of an independent sketch group. That creates an interesting dynamic because when you see something very well produced, it's generally on TV where there is such a broad audience that your jokes cannot be too dark. To see something that looks like it could be on TV, but that just ends up making you feel bad is so cool. Also these guys are all popular stand up comedians in Los Angeles. In particular Dave Ross runs an amazing show in LA called Good Heroin.

Tim & Eric - The Universe
I love these guys. A lot of this appears to be either improvised or written in a stream of conscience fashion. I bet that they recorded a ton of footage of them just talking about the universe and then just spliced together the best parts. This footage that I've linked to is the extended version where they added in a bunch of deleted parts that didn't air with the original show. I like how they throw every possible misdirection at you. Sometimes they don't finish their sentences. At one point Tim throws up in his mouth but it happens after the scene is already fading away. At the end they get super creepy with shining the light in the kids bedroom. All in the name of the wonder of the universe. The thing about Tim and Eric is that a lot of times you cannot tell why their sketches are funny. That's a good sign that they are onto something new. Right now I'm still in the phase where I know where the humor in my sketches comes from. My latest sketch was about an emotional bodyguard. It's simple to see how it was written. Usually bodyguards defend from physical harm, but what about emotional harm? With Tim and Eric you can't really distill it down. I'm sure there is a way to quantify it, because humor is a natural function, not a spiritual mystery. But the fact that it's hard to put your finger on it is intriguing.

Laurel & Hardy - Ice Cream Parlour
This sketch will definitely seem dated but I remember laughing at it when I was a kid, so I am including it for sentimental purposes. Also, I am not so old that I was a kid in 1929. My dad used to watch Laurel & Hardy sketches in the 1950s when he was growing up in Bombay, India. Why was he watching sketches from the 1920s during the 1950s? Because in India they love American entertainment, but back then movies didn't travel the globe as quickly as they do today. So Laurel & Hardy was considered state of the art in the 50s in India. Anyway, when my dad came to America his tastes in comedy remained the same and so I was raised on Laurel and Hardy videos. I think some of the jokes are definitely a bit goofy, but the faces, expressions, and mannerisms are still hilarious. The bartender's face in this sketch is so ridiculous. The influence of these guys is incredibly long reaching. Martin Freeman who plays Tim Canterbury on the UK Office said that the expressions that he makes in that series are mostly taken from the faces that Oliver Hardy does!

The Kids in the Hall - The Beard
Let's get back on that dark humor train. To me that's where the best humor lies because death and suffering are so polarizing that when you inject humor into the mix it creates a strange conflict which feels a little wrong. I used to watch a lot of The Kids in the Hall after school when I was in 9th grade. Most of the sketches were weird. If you watch all of their sketches you'll notice that their success rate on big laughs is pretty low. But there was always something that made you keep watching. Their tv show is reminiscent of maybe the last time that network television allowed people to get really weird. But regarding this sketch in particular, it comes back to me every time I shave after having grown out a moderate amount of stubble. That's incredible that they created a sketch that is permanently linked in my head to such a common event.

I hope you enjoyed this list!




How Do You Write a Joke?

Ah, great question. Now, I cannot tell you hard and fast rules of how to write a joke. But I can tell you what I have done in my life. And if you like my comedy, then maybe this post will be useful to you. And if you hate my comedy, then you can learn what not to do.

The first thing is that you need to get some basics under your belt. You need to understand some simple joke structures. I'm not talking about universal rules of comedy. I'm just talking about understanding the mechanics of a few short (not that funny) jokes. Let's take an example:

Misinterpret a Phrase

"You and I are very similar.... they're both vowels"

This joke sucks. But it has a structure that you need to understand. It's called misinterpretation. "You and I" have two different meanings. The second part of the joke reveals that you were intending the meaning to be different than the common interpretation. Get it? Try and write a joke with the exact same structure to prove that you know what's going on. Pick a word or phrase that can have two meanings and then make the second part reveal that you are using the less common version. I'll give it a shot right now:

"I hate it when construction workers do shoulder work on the road... can't you work your shoulders at the gym?"

Another joke that sucks. But I literally wrote it just now in thirty seconds. The idea is that I would sit down and write ten of these and probably one of them would be good. Cool, let's try another structure:

Cliche Reverse

Take a common cliche and give it a different ending! I'm not going to worry about being good. I'm going to worry about the joke structure.

"A journey of a thousand miles... is super long and I'd rather stay home"
"An eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth... is some sort of weird barter system"

Why does this work? Because you set up an expectation that the cliche will end the way that it normally ends, but then it doesn't! You can literally say anything other than the original ending and it will be somewhat funny.

Tom Swifties

These are a really silly type of joke where the adverb at the end turns out to be a pun. Here we go:

"I hate lobster!", Tom said crabbily.
"I'm tired of holding this banner", Tom said as his energy flagged.
"I don't want to die", Tom said gravely.

This is such a specific type of joke that I love it. You probably would never tell this type of joke in a stand up act, but it's still important to know how it works.


So, I've only detailed three types of joke structures so far. If you're interested in many many more types, please take a look at Mel Helitzer's Comedy Writing Secrets. This is the first book I ever read about comedy. Now let's be clear. After you read this book and write a bunch of jokes based on what you've learned. The result will be BAD COMEDY. It might be ENTERTAINING given the situation that you are in, but Chris Rock is not going to take you on tour. But, with these basics drilled into your subconscious, you can guarantee that five or six years into the comedy grind you will be coming up with some pretty interesting stuff. The issue that many people face is that because they never got the basics, even six years down the line they are still churning out bs because they don't know any of the rules. Here's a set of mine from my first year in comedy. I think I had been on stage maybe 15 times total at this point. All of them at open mics. This video is from The Brainwash in San Francisco. Watch it and you'll see what I mean. It's bad comedy, but it's still entertaining. These kinds of sets sustained me for my first years in comedy.


MAP (Material, Audience, Perfomer) We didn't even touch on this, but get Mel's book and you'll learn about it.

MAP (Material, Audience, Perfomer) We didn't even touch on this, but get Mel's book and you'll learn about it.



Too Much Noise

I went to a show the other day at The Friend in Los Files. It's a cafe/bar which has comedy on Monday nights. Maybe other nights too, but I went on Monday to witness the the saddest occasion. The lineup was Kyle Kinane, Dan St. Germain, Adam Conover, Nikki Glaser, and Solomon Giorgio. How much would it cost to see a show like this in San Francisco? I don't know... $80-$100? This show was FREE. And not only that! The host PAID people FIVE DOLLARS to sit in the front row. I cannot tell you how sick I felt. Talk about supply and demand. I don't want to link their show because I don't want to give them any SEO power to reward such awful behavior. Anyhow, this post is short because of how disheartened I feel.

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The Commercial Class

I am taking a class on how to audition for commercials. I had the first class last night and it's really good. The guy running the class told us that he had been in 22 episodes of Scandal and that he did one Honda commercial which paid more than all 22 episodes combined. He told us that doing commercials might not be ideal but it definitely helps pay the bills. I had a great time in the class. We had to read sides for an Applebee's commercial. The dialogue was the following:


I panicked when I read this. It's so cheesy and stupid I was like oh no what am I doing? This is a real commercial that aired apparently. I love the fact that you can't say "shit" on tv but you can show a woman having an orgasm while eating Applebee's. Anyhow, the whole exercise was to commit to the commercial and see if you could sell it regardless of how stupid it is. We all recorded one take of the commercial and then we watched every single one in front of the whole class while the teacher gave us feedback. It's so important to watch yourself on camera to know what you are putting out into the world. For example, the first line "Why am I a fan favorite...?" had to be delivered in a deadpan tone. However, when I went deadpan, it was TOO deadpan. So I was asked to redo it with just a bit of a smile. So it's interesting to note that my deadpan is more deadpan than a normal person's. 

Auditioning for commercials is all about appealing to left brained people. There are tons of little things that you need to do. The director will give you eye lines for where certain people you are imagining in the scene are. You HAVE to look in the EXACT right direction, otherwise you get cut. Another thing is that you do not stop acting until the director says cut. That's the mistake I made in the Clash Royale audition.

Another interesting tidbit is that now casting directors want you to act like a real person. Previously it was all about acting like a spokesperson. Clean, scripted, loud, direct, polished. Now it's all about being natural haha. In fact sometimes the casting director will ask agencies for real people... see the issue?




UCB Improv

I'm so glad that I decided to get into improv. I'm taking UCB Improv 101 which is held at the Sunset location. It's serious. I took improv classes in San Francisco and they were fun, but by virtue of the people who were in the class, they just weren't that good. Most of the attendees were people who wanted to "be funny at my job!" or "try to get out of my shell!" In my class here it's all aspiring actors and comedians. The book is awesome. I didn't realize that there are hard and fast rules of improv. It makes me wonder if other schools like the Groundlings have such a defined structure. And if they do, can UCB graduates do improv with people from the Groundlings? Anyhow, I always thought that as a stand up comedian that I would never be able to do improv because they are basically the opposite thing. Pre written versus in-the-moment. It's not the case though. You have to improvise within the boundaries that are provided to you. That's all I need, just a bit of structure. And really, everyone does. How many people do anything in a completely structureless environment? Even burning man has order... I think. Well, they have a website at least.

And the best part about UCB? This fun cafe with fast wifi, good food, and coffee. This is the Inner Sanctum, they have shows here occasionally. I'll be performing on Cool, Thanks on December 21st.




Art Versus Science

Yes, Aristotle tried answering this a little while ago, but I'd like to add my own two cents, ok?

People always say things like "it's an art, not a science", but they have no idea what that really means. I've thought about it a lot and for me it comes down to this. The rules of art are continually evolving. In science, there are hard and fast rules which can never be changed. People may go back and revise theories, but that's only because the original theory was incorrect. In art, rules that used to be correct can one day become totally wrong! Let's take an example. Jokes about how bad food is on an airplane used to be hilarious. However, if you even try to talk about how bad airplane food is today, you will hear the sound of a thousand eyes rolling. You should no longer talk about how bad airplane food is in earnest. The rule no longer holds.

The second difference is that art is a commentary on what type of art came before it. Periods of art have to exist in a certain sequence. For example, cubism had to come after realism. There's no way that cubism could have come first because it was a response to realism. In science one theory may evolve from another theory, but it never provides a commentary on the previous theory.

A lot of scientists like to say things like "science is an art, because it requires creative thinking". The mistake there is that just because something requires creative thinking, doesn't make it art. Everything takes creative thinking to a degree! Even when I'm figuring out how to get to LA from SF I have to be creative. Should I take the bus? Should I drive? Should I fly? What if I take the bus one way and fly back? Can I carpool? Oh my, creative thinking!




Comedy Management

Ok, I have a hunch that people are actually reading this blog now. Up until here I was simply writing for the purposes of SEO, but now it may be time to write as if there is an audience!

My next goal in comedy is to get a manager. The difference between a manager and an agent is still murky no matter how many videos I watch on the subject. All of them say the same thing: An agent is licensed by the state, takes 10% of your earnings, and the contract is usually for 1 year. A manager is not licensed by the state, takes 20% of your earnings, and the contracts usually last much longer. Ok, thanks internet. But what's the difference?? Apparently no one has any idea. I've heard vague things like "managers steer your career as a whole while agents just submit you for projects". That has to be wrong because I know that people who get on Conan or Jimmy Kimmel usually do so through their managers. I'm reminded of the Steve Jobs quote: 

"Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use."

So in essence, no one really knows the difference between a manager and an agent. The fact remains though, that most people who get on late night do so through a manager, so I need to get one. I've been doing research on managers by going to the IMDB pages of comedians that have been on Conan and seeing who reps them (You can see their info if you sign up for IMDB PRO). Then I've been cold emailing those people my submission materials. No one has responded except for Mosaic management who got pissed that I would dare to cold email them. They said that they only take submissions through an agent referral. Oh so murky. I even tried calling the phone number for Three Arts and they shut me down the same way. Why even have a receptionist?


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Haunted Hay Ride at Griffith Park

Last night I went to the Hay Ride at Griffith Park. It wasn't scary, but it was definitely odd. I hung out with my friends Jason Kyle and Grace Ingland who are both actors here in LA. On the way there I tried to charge my Absolute Xtracts vape pen in the car... but alas, it didn't work. I'm going to say it here and now, they suck. The vape pen was given to me when I performed on The Gateway Show in San Francisco. The concept of the show is that you perform one set sober, then get super high and perform the next set high out of your mind. Anyway, if I could have gotten high then maybe the park would have been scarier but it ABSOLUTELY was not. I mean, I guess if you are 12 it might be scary. The first thing we did was eat deep fried mac and cheese balls and donuts. Then! We stood in line for an hour. Ugh, I hate waiting for anything. I won't even wait 5 min for a table at brunch. This was madness. After an hour they put us in loading cages (lol) which prompted several jokes about how it felt like we were in the Holocaust (if this makes you mad go write about it in your diary). The ride lasted 30 min. Clowns and various ghouls pop out of the dark and scare you with various tactics. Some make weird noises, some hit the wagon with "weapons", and some say weird shit to you. I did respect that the actors committed to the role. What's actually terrifying is that these are all people trying to make it in Hollywood. There were a few times that the wagon stopped and you'd see a performance of sorts. My favorite was the punk rock zombies and strippers. The one part that was almost legitimately scary was when the wagon stopped and we had to get off and walk through a house where a strobe light was flickering intermittently. There's no way for you to gauge where the monsters are and they can definitely surprise you. Anyway, that about sums it up.

There are various attractions around the park such as a merry go round (scary go round) that goes backwards and all the horses are skeletons. There was also a strange man walking around the ride the whole time as you can see in the picture below. Yes, I am eating fries. The nausea I felt from eating while going backwards was probably the scariest part of the whole experience. And yes, he's wearing some sort of undead bluetooth device.




Atomic City

So I shaved my head recently. Not all the way, but #1 on the sides and #2 on the top. I'll share some pictures at some point, but right now I don't like putting pictures of myself on my blog. The reason I cut my hair so short is because it was thinning a little bit and I was starting to fret that I might not be able to get a commercial or acting role because of my hair. I got so mad thinking about all that because it's something that I cannot control. Hollywood is so materialistic and superficial. I would walk by windows and catch my reflection and feel sad when I could see my scalp through my hair. Anyway, I decided that the anguish wasn't worth it, and if Hollywood doesn't want me without my hair, then I don't want them. I walked by the most hilarious place that summed up the whole thing. It's a gift shop called Atomic City. They sell "designer jewelry" and they ACCEPT EBT. I can't believe the mindset of a shop that wants to prey on the vanity of poor people.

Anyway, things are looking decent today. The Setup will be in SF Sketchfest again this year. This time it will be at Doc's Lab on January 28th.





These days I am just drinking coffee all the time. Generally what I do is go to a coffee shop, do a couple tasks, move to another coffee shop, do some more tasks, over and over. I have a few that I go to and it's not rare for me to hit all of them in one day. I've even gotten into a fight at a Starbucks, so I hope that sheds a little light for you. There was barely any space at a table at the Starbucks on Melrose, but me with my San Francisco space saving abilities decided to squeeze myself in. The guy sitting next to me says "Hey, I think your laptop is really close to mine". To which I said "I'm sorry my laptop is so close to yours at this PUBLIC STARBUCKS."

Him: "I don't appreciate your sarcasm, why don't you move."
Me: "I'm sorry your Hollywood dreams never worked out. Sorry they never casted for homeless looking idiot at a Starbucks."
Him: "Why don't we take this outside?"
Me: "If I take you outside you'll have a heat stroke, old man." (I walk away)
Him: "Yeah, walk away you little bitch"

Starbucks is a crazy place. That's what happens when you let anyone come in. I much prefer this delightful coffee shop called Toasted and Roasted. It's quaint, but their internet is super fast, and the coffee is really good. The owner (I think) overheard me talking about being a stand up comedian and he let me know that they have an open mic on Wednesdays. I love useful eavesdropping.

The other place I go to is Coffee Comissary. I saw the Sklar Brothers hanging out there a few weeks ago. People are always working on their scripts there. A little blatantly if you ask me. It seems like they are more trying to be seen than do actual work. I say that because their internet sucks. I've never been productive there.

Toasted and Roasted:




Bring Change 2 Mind

I performed this past Sunday at the Lyft headquarters in San Francisco at a summit for Bring Change 2 Mind which is an organization that brings mental health awareness to high schools around the Bay Area. It was founded by Glenn Close, and she was at the event as well. Glenn's sister and nephew both suffer from mental illness. I'm glad I did it, but I probably won't do another event like this again. I got a bad taste in my mouth right as I got to the building in the morning. We were waiting in the lobby to go up to the auditorium and the camera man for the event was sitting next to me. He asked me how I was involved and I said I was the host and was going to do some comedy. The conversation immediately died. This is my issue with San Francisco. The tech industry has taken over so much that if you say you are an artist people think it's weird. Christ.

The event kicked off at 10am. I brought up Glenn and she gave a talk. It was great to meet her. I just kept picturing her movie roles as I was looking at her. Then I went up and did stand up. I've never performed for high school kids before. It was amazing because they understood all my jokes. I thought there would be an age barrier but there wasn't.

After I got off, I was told my the organizer that my jokes were too offensive! She said that my jokes about schizophrenia were insensitive (LOL). As you may know, my mother has schizophrenia and I have full reign to speak on the topic as I like. If you're interested in what those jokes are like, check out this clip at around 6:30. She also said my Google self driving car joke was too offensive because I said the phrase "kill yourself". Anyhow...

There were some interesting speakers at the event. One was a girl named Sarah Hawkinson who has a YouTube channel with close to a half million subscribers. She talks about horror movies, fashion, and psychology. She's really interesting, but didn't seem to want to talk much to me when I tried to engage her. There was also this girl named Amanda Southworth who is working on an app to help people with anxiety. She said the phrase "dick pics" while on stage and took the focus off of me and my "offensive" material.

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India Tour

Pretty exciting news... from March 6-20 I'll be doing a quick series of shows in India for the second time. I went in Feb 2016 and had a blast. My tour is being sponsored by the Canvas Laugh Club which has locations in Bombay and Gurgaon. I'll be doing about 16 shows and about 30 minutes at each show. I'll also be teaching a series of workshops on how to do stand up comedy. Cuz you know, I know how to do it. I'll post the specifics of the tour as the events get closer. I'm excited mainly because this will be my first time traveling internationally all alone. I usually have to go with another person, otherwise I start becoming very antsy. I'm excited to perform in Bombay but I am not excited to perform in Delhi (Gurgaon and Delhi are very close and sometimes referred to interchangeably by foreigners). It's still a sign of ignorance. Last time I performed in Delhi I found the scene to be lacking. We performed at a bar called Manhattan (lol). They enjoyed the local jokes to a fault. I am not from the area and cannot do local jokes. It was almost as if they only wanted to hear local jokes. Hopefully the scene has evolved. Last time I was so pissed I even refused to interact with the local comics. That was probably a jerk move. Here's a picture of me performing at Manhattan:




Can Stand Up Comedy be Your Vision?


I saw this diagram on Twitter recently and thought it made a lot of sense. I did a breakdown for myself regarding comedy.

1. Do I love comedy? Yes! It's probably my favorite thing to do. So far so good.
2. Are you good at it? Yes! Check the proof:
3. Can you be paid for it? The plot thickens. Yes. Clubs pay but not that much. Generally you get $50 for hosting a show and $100 for featuring. If you are headlining you get a cut of the door. But still, it's not enough to make an awesome living. Corporate gigs can pay a lot of money. You can get $5000 for a corporate holiday party if you play your cards right. Performing in theaters is the key but you have to have a *gasp* following that will come out and support your live shows. So yes, you can get paid but it's nebulous.
4. Does the world need it? Even thicker. Laughter does provide a release from tension. So does all entertainment. The goal of entertainment is to make people forget for a little while. So how does comedy do this differently than music? I think comedy is more immediate. To get someone to laugh you have to get them to understand what you are saying. There is a feeling of connecting to the audience. So I think what comedy does is help people feel more immediately connected to each other. Now the issue is what type of comedy is needed. Louis CK hit it big when he started talking about how he loves his kids but he also hates them everyday. The world needed someone to come out and say that. So I guess the question now is, what needs to be said in comedy?



US Cellular

Today I have an audition for a part in a US Cellular commercial. I have to act as an OCD guy who works as a gift wrapper. I am very proud of my work and very meticulous. I hand the wrapped gift off to a woman who then ravenously opens the gift and destroys my perfect creation. I have to look worried and agitated as she rips it apart. I'm pretty sure I have the life experience necessary to make this believable. I'll just pretend that I am myself and the wrapped gift is my chance at a normal life being torn apart by ever year I continue to pursue stand up comedy. Anyway, I'm now off to practice my worried faces: 



Blocked My Facebook Feed

I haven't read anything in my Facebook feed for a couple months and it's helped lots with peace of mind. Not much has happened in the way of missing out. One time I was supposed to participate in a documentary and the only communication the organizer had with me was that she tagged me in a Facebook event. I didn't see the notification and I never showed up. But that's not too bad for two months of mental clarity! I'm using this plugin for Chrome. It's called "News Feed Eradicator" and instead of displaying your Facebook feed it just shows a motivational quote. I love it. I wish there was something similar for the app on your phone. I just deleted the app off my phone completely. I do keep Facebook messenger so that people can contact me if they need to.

It's hard to understand why it was so irritating to be on Facebook. A lot of it had to do with jealousy. It was tough to keep seeing other people getting comedy successes. Instead of working on my own stand up I just stopped to think about why I wasn't being as successful as these other people. ....I also didn't like seeing pictures of girls I had dated. One time I remember Facebook said "You haven't spoken to X in a long time, do you want to reconnect?" I'm like yeah I want to reconnect, but why don't you check how she feels first?

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Music vs Comedy

I tried playing music for a while before doing comedy. It's ironic that I do stand up comedy because my favorite thing about music is how serious musicians can allow themselves to be. Sure, you can make jokes out of pain as Tig Notaro has famously done in her cancer set.  But it's a lot of advanced jujitsu to get people to laugh at dark things. I performed recently at a conference for Api Mixtape. I was booked for 20 minutes. I didn't time myself though so it was on me to just get off when I felt like 20 minutes was over. I did all my light hearted silly material which went over swimmingly. At that point I wasn't sure if I had done 20 minutes or not... so I went into some material about my mom's mental illness. Believe me when I say that those jokes didn't smash for a tired crowd who had watched 6 hours of presentations. I finished my set and got off to a lukewarm response. Less is more! I should have timed myself. 2016 Api Mixtape Conference, never forget. Talking to people after you've given a bad to ok performance is such a gross feeling. It's so important to remember to divorce yourself emotionally from the audience. If you get too invested, you get hurt. Sounds cliche, I know. If I do badly, I always tell myself "this audience doesn't hate you". If I do great I tell myself "this audience doesn't love you". Never mistake the audience reaction for a real feeling. You're doing an act and they either choose to buy into it or not.

I've been listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra recently. My favorite album, and I'm sure many other people's as well, is In the Wee Small Hours. I heard someone say once that it's ridiculous that Sinatra is listed as "Easy Listening" when really it should be "Suicide Music". It's so cool that he doesn't have to have a punch line. Just say what's on your mind and move on.

But I know that musicians often get jealous of comedians too, so I think it's a grass is greener situation. Also, I can't understand how musicians travel with so much equipment. As a comedian I literally only have to bring myself. I'm so thankful. And also, it's just me up there. Working with people is so difficult, I don't know how a band of 4 or 5 people can keep it together.




Tech Comedy

Last night at The Setup we had a tech themed comedy show called "Comedy vs Nerds". As I mentioned yesterday, I have no idea what this means. I've tried thinking about it which just causes your brain to fold into itself until you get tired. It was started by Michael Makarov so you'll have to ask him, but he only talks in riddles so that causes another issue. I wore my Yahoo "Summer of Service" shirt on stage. It has hot air balloons in the sky and two people kayaking. You know, technology.

Doing a comedy show for people who work in tech brings up questions. There is a backlash against tech from the comedy community. Most comedians come from middle or lower income backgrounds. But if we want to make money, we have to serve the existing demographics. In San Francisco that means tech people.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the function that comedy serves. Like comedy as a tool. Generally when you get paid decent money to do stand up, it's for a corporate event. It's funny because value is closely related to money. They paid me X so this performance must be worth X. Is that true? In a way. You can get as hippy dippy as you want, but at the end of the day bills need to get paid. As I get more serious about comedy I have moved away from "am I properly articulating my voice?" to "how do I make money?" I used to think that I would never do a commercial, and now I am actively seeking opportunities to do them. As if it's easy to get a commercial. I was in the offices of Vikki Goggin Casting recently and man is the struggle real. I walked by a casting call for some sort of modeling job and damn. Everyone had their clothes on but I still felt like I was at the beach.