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What does the Industry want?!

6 May

I recently got to watch a panel discussion on the industry of comedy.  The panel consisted of comedians, writers, managers etc.  People who had influence of some kind.  People who were bigger fish than yours truly.   Someone eventually addressed the elephant in the room and asked ‘What does the industry want?’  And the reply was … ‘We don’t know.’

At the point my head exploded.  I know that was a glib off the cuff response but still.  You are IN the industry and you DON’T know?! How the fuck is that possible?!  Why was I even at this panel?  If they didn’t know what kind of information could they give me?!

So I thought about it (As they should have done.  Like they really didn’t think someone would ask that question?!) and came up with 4 things that the industry would like to see from its comics.

1- Funny.  Just be funny.  While at the panel they said some things about me while not speaking to me specifically.  They said ‘We are tired of white males with beards wearing plaid.’  Uh, ok. But what does that have to do with being funny?  I am a white male, with a beard, who likes to wear plaid.  I would look like this even if I wasn’t doing comedy.  I’m sorry that YOU can’t get beyond my appearance.   Plenty of funny dudes with beards who wear plaid.  Plenty who aren’t.  Look for the funny.

2- Be original.  Maybe this is what they are referring to concerning white guys with beards wearing plaid.  With that being said I don’t think your appearance is what makes you funny or not.  I’ve seen plenty of guys wearing stupid shirts, beanies with propellers, dumb haircuts, and silly glasses that were original but just not funny.  They relied on gimmicks for laughs.  Instead have a unique voice and perspective and the rest will follow.

3- Be likeable.  You want a crowd to like you, to listen to you, to laugh with you.  Don’t be a dick onstage or off.  You’ll be better off.

4- Be versatile.  Be able to work different situations.  Be ready to do different things like act, write sketch, improv, blog etc.  All of those things will help you in the end.

That is it really.  I don’t have any other preconceived notions.  I could care less about demographics.  Race, gender, sexual orientation etc should just not matter.  I know too many people it does matter and maybe that is why I’m not in the industry.  I’ll just continue to be the middle aged bearded white male who likes to wear plaid

.Stu McCallister 014 (2)

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The Curse of a Good Host

19 Mar

A few days ago the 5th Annual Laughfest Comedy Festival came to an end.  For those that don’t know Laughfest is a pretty large comedy festival held in Grand Rapids, MI.  It is also a fest with a cause as all the proceeds go towards Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids.  (For more info on them check out http://www.gildasclubgr.org)

As a local comedian I am a go to guy.  I am a liaison for the fest.  I help promote in the community.  I network with other comedians and introduce them to the fest.  I do a lot of grunt work and probably most importantly I host (mc) shows. By definition a host is someone who entertains other in a social or official capacity.  A person who manages a situation.  The host manages the showcases.  They let the crowd know what to expect and intro the other comedians.

The fest has a lot of showcase shows.  Bigger ones (Clean Showcases, National Showcases, Best of the Midwest Showcase, Best of Fest Showcases) and smaller ones (Community Showcases and Late Night Showcases).  These showcases are great! The crowd gets to see numerous comics. Comics get to work on sets in front of numerous crowds as well as getting to hang out with other comics they don’t get to see regularly.  And concerning the community showcases these are often people who will NEVER get into any other comedy fest.  That’s the beauty of Laughfest; ANYONE can get in!

I’m not gonna lie, I fucking haaaaaaaaate hosting.  I hate it.  I HATE it. Why? I’ve done it too long.  I’ve gotten up in front of so many crowds (cold crowds) to do my thing.  I have to smile, do my song and dance, mind my short period of time and pump up the crowds for who?  The other comics.  The host has to keep the show running along. The host has to time comics, corral comics, make sure the show is running smoothly.  The host has to make sure the crowd pays attention.  The host helps in making sure the comics do well.  I’m good at doing this and that is why I keep being asked to do it.  But ya know what?  I fucking hate it.

It is a thankless job.  No one remembers the host ( and you really shouldn’t).  The host gets no love.  The host gets the most responsibility as they have to do so much during the show.  Up and down. Up and down.  Who is next?  How much time do they have left? etc etc…  You only remember a host when they suck.  I know because there was a guy who mc’d several shows who was not good.  I had numerous comics come to me to complain about him.  What ya gonna do?

People tell me I am good at being a host.  This is NOT a compliment even though I know they mean it as such.  No one gets into comedy to be a host.  It is a stepping stone to other things.  Talking with a few people after shows they asked me if I did comedy too.  Ha ha! Get the fuck outta here!!!  As I mentioned there is no respect for the host.

So I can’t do it any more. I can’t do it to myself.  I’m not going to let others define me.  I will define myself.  And I most assuredly don’t define myself as a host.

comedy

Offending the Offensive

9 Mar

I recently had a great week at a club I had not worked in before.  I felt like things were clicking on all cylinders. We finally get to the last show on Sat.  The last show of the week.  As much as I hate to say it the last show of the week is probably 80% of the time the worst show for me.  Lord knows why…  I can’t seem to end the week on a high note.

The crowd was light. Maybe 20-25 people.  They were a little tired or maybe just blah.  They weren’t getting a good portion of what I was doing.  There was a birthday party so I asked how old the birthday boy was.  They were messing with me telling me he was 32, then 22, then 32.  I never really got a straight answer.  I could see him well enough to see that he had quite the receding hairline.  One that would make Bruce Willis, Jason Statham and Vince Vaughn proud.  So I commented that he looked 52.  Big laughs ensued, no harm no foul.  The show goes on and I end my set on a high note and life was good.

I’m driving home the next day when I get an alert on my phone telling me someone left a comment on my fan page.  A woman, who was at the late show, commented that she ‘had the misfortune to see you last night. Making a note of your name so I don’t ever repeat it. Horrible act and so rude to your audience.  Bad comics get foul to cover up their short comings.’  I countered that that was a weird comment to make.  I said I can’t please everyone and that I certainly wasn’t going to try.  When you try to please everyone you end up pleasing no one.  And I know that I would hate myself for doing that anyway.

She continued that she felt that my comments to the birthday boy were unfair.  She said I called him ‘bad looking’ (I said he looked 52).  She said I was ripping on other people in the crowd (I have no recollection of doing this.)  If you know my act I am the brunt of the majority of the jokes.  I make fun of my own looks and stupidity.  So I am pretty much at a loss for what this woman is talking about.

Again, I am ok with people not liking my act.  I am not for everyone.  But this is where she crosses this line for me.  She says she is going to write negative comments about me on Yelp (they have a comedy section?!) and any other review site she can find.  Why?  Because you didn’t like a crowd work line I used? The people in the birthday boy’s party were laughing.  HE was laughing! No one complained to me after the show.

I trolled this woman’s Facebook page and looked at her pictures.  She had one of a meme that said ‘You are offended by the things I say? Imagine the stuff I hold back.’  Seems fitting to me.

Lets look at the context of what occurred that night. We were in a COMEDY CLUB and I made a comment about a young man having a receding hairline.  I didn’t do this in a Walmart!  This was a completely harmless and funny comment.  But now I have to worry about some women (who wasn’t even with the birthday boy!) getting offended and creating a ruckus….

I truly believe this folks… If you get easily offended stay away from a comedy club.  I’m not looking to offend you.  If I was I would work at the Offending Club.  Keep your beliefs to yourself and wait for the next comic.  You and the comics will all be better off.

receding-hairline

Crossroads to Peanut Butter and Jelly

26 Feb

In life we all come to crossroads.  What decision do we make?  Do we take a left or a right?  Follow dreams or make a more sound decision.  I have come to that crossroad for me in a professional sense.

I have a masters degree in social work and have worked in that field for over 22 years.  I’ve done everything from working in foster care, child protective services, homeless shelters, home based therapy and psych hospitals.  I’ve work with individuals, families, groups, kids, adults, mentally ill and developmentally delayed people.  I’ve done a LOT.

My social work license is up for renewal.  And I don’t know what to do about it.  My last job as a social worker was working per diem in a psych hospital.  I resigned from the job in Jan.  I hadn’t been there in over 2 months because comedy was keeping me busy.  And to be honest even when I could go in I just didn’t want to.  I just had no desire to go in and deal with other people’s problems.  Social work is incredibly draining.  I felt like it sapped any creative spirit I had.

But this is the crossroad.  I NEVER want to do social work again.  I just have lost what little love I had for it.  You’d think it would be easier for me to say ‘Sayonara!’ to social work and never look back.  Sadly comedy is a financial crapshoot.  It is very streaky.  One minute your calendar is full, the next gigs are getting cancelled last minute.  There is no certainty.

So do I keep the social work license and play it safe? Or do I say ‘Fuck it’ and drop that anchor that is keeping me tied to something I no longer want to be a part of?  I am not a smart man and I have no delusions that I will get rich and famous in the comedy world but I still would like to eat something more than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches when I am on the road.  Maybe I should just get that job at Jimmy John’s and eat Turkey Tom on the daily?

There are no guarantees in life.

Peanut-Butter-and-Jelly-Sandwich