Monday, 14 September 2020

Re-evaluating what I want out of comedy 09/14/20

Oh hey, didn't see ya thah! (That's a joke for two comics that won't read this anyway). 

It's been a while, eh? And there's really no excuse, because like most people on the planet, I haven't had anything to do over the past few months. Comedy pretty well screeched to a halt - although it seems to be picking up a little steam again, which is awesome - and I've spent most of 2020 at home. 

Which I guess is why I haven't wrote one of these since March. I usually focus them on comedy, and I haven't had anything to tell you about. but I'm bored, waiting for laundry to finish, and I have some stuff I want to get off my chest. And what better place to do that than on the internet with a blog nobody reads?

On Friday, March 13, I had a show in Saskatoon with my buddies and fellow comics William and Steve (who ironically, are the two guys that joke I started this blog with was for, and again, I don't think they'll see this). We had a good time, and I had a great weekend lined up:

Friday - Saskatoon 
Saturday - Mad Hatter's Comedy Club in Medicine Hat (check them out, they're awesome!)
Sunday - An open mic in Calgary
Monday - Being part of a comedy album recording with Just For Laughs. 

And then on the drive back from Saskatoon Saturday morning, our phones started ringing with cancellations due to COVID. You all know what happened. And the album record disappeared (along with the rest of a calendar that was shaping up to be the most successful financial year of my life). 

I'm not whinging about it, because I know a lot of people have had it a lot worse in 2020. If you've lost your business, job, savings, or especially a loved one, you have my sincere condolences. I'm sure you'd trade the hand you were dealt for some cancelled comedy bookings in a heart beat. But that's what's been happening in my world. 

So I used the time to hang out with my girlfriend (who works from home now), because I was barely seeing her pre-COVID between my comedy schedule and her long work hours. I also started walking my dog 3 or 4 times a day, and I doubled down on my podcasting. That show has grown exponentially over the last 6 months, I've launched two additional podcasts, started streaming on Twitch, and it's transitioning from a hobby into a legitimate business. Or at least a potential business, anyway.

It's also given me time to step away from stand-up and think about what I want from the comedy business.  What I've figured out is I don't really like it that much. I'm not quitting, but I'm changing my approach moving forward. I have a lot to get off my chest here, so get comfy and let's pull back the curtain a little...

When I started, comedy was just something I had wanted to try forever, and I figured it'd be a welcome distraction from my job at Uline (fuck them, by the way). It kind of unintentionally, but fortunately, blossomed into a career, and I've spent 5-6 nights a week telling my dumb jokes since then. 

And going out every night, making dumb jokes and hanging out with other comedians can be a lot of fun. Like, A LOT of fun. 

But over that time, I started to see aspects of the business that I didn't really like, too. I met a lot of people I didn't want to be around (much less spend several days in a car with), and I started wondering if this was what I wanted to do with my life. I've always enjoyed making people laugh, but I can do that in a room with my friends. It made me start asking myself if the drama, politics, and other BS that come with a comedy career were worth the "paycheque" - very loose term - that comes with them. 

I've had a job since I was in High School. I was a card carrying member of the Alberta workforce for fifteen years before I left it to try and make a living telling jokes. So I'm fully aware that every job comes with people you don't like, politics to navigate and deal with, and all that other fun stuff. But all my other jobs also came with a guaranteed paycheque, not to mention benefits, paid holidays, and all that jazz to balance it out. Comedy doesn't.

Most comedy bookings (for newer comics anyway) come with a "take it or leave it" offer of pay, from which you have to cover gas, food, travel expenses, etc. And when you're not the headliner, that pay is usually pretty small. And in northern Alberta, it also includes 6 months of brutal winter roads, and long ass drives along them. The money kind of sucks, to be honest, but I'm willing to accept that in exchange for not having to get up every morning and go to work. 

That said, you really gotta love this to make it through the early years. It's a lot of long drives, away from home and your family and friends, for little money. You work Friday and Saturday night, too, so when those aforementioned family and friends want to hang out, you can't because you're working (and you probably can't afford it anyway). 

Then you add in the people you deal with in this business. Some of them are awesome. Some of them are whatever. And some of them are the most insecure, fake, obnoxious people you've ever met in your life. They might be fun on stage, but outside of the spotlight they're awful human beings. .

I've worked with headliners that hit people, threaten to hit people, and brag about hitting people all the time. That same headliner screamed at me once for carrying his stuff out of a hotel room because he wanted to "make a second trip to see if he forgot anything", and then I spent 20 hours in a car with him wondering if he was going to hit me or lose his temper because I didn't wash his car windows well enough. (Yeah, he makes new comics wash his car windows. I don't work with him anymore. Or follow him on Twitter). 

I've worked with headliners that put on "charity fundraisers" and then sell merchandise that fits the theme of the charity and pocket every penny without saying anything. If you've "Raised the Woof", you've probably seen it.

Headliners (male AND female) that talk about how veteran comics pray on young, new comedians sexually and then do the same themselves when they don't think people are watching. I've seen so many comedians cheats on their husbands or wives and then talk about how shitty other people are. 

You spend a week in a car with someone, and you get to know them pretty quick. So many fake, phony people. It's aggravating, frustrating, and it's sad. 

I'm genuinely grateful for the cool, sincere people I've met in this business, because they're drastically outnumbered. Most of you know who you are.

There's also countless, COUNTLESS "bookers" out there sending horrible comedians on the road, because they'll work cheap, so the booker can pocket more money. I can't tell you how many awful comedians (particularly headliners) I've opened for, and been embarrassed to be on the show. Audience members coming up to me while the headliner is "performing" and asking if we can get them off the stage, or if they're always this bad. These horrible headliners continue to get work because they undercut everyone, and/or the booking agent doesn't care about the quality of the show. Then the client decides to never book comedy again and we're all out a potential gig.

I started booking my own shows to supplement my income, to be able to pick the comedians I work with, and to ensure the shows I'm on are of good quality. I only book comedians I like, that I want to work with, and that I truly believe will provide a top quality show, because I think that's what people deserve in exchange for their money. 

And when I started booking my own shows, I realized that this is what I want to do with my comedy career. Doing fun shows, with fun people, particularly in small towns and for good causes, is the best comedy gets. I don't care about fame, fortune, Instagram followers, comedy albums. I just want to make people laugh and hang out with my friends.

I still work comedy clubs, and enjoy doing them. But I've also realized that most of them don't want to headline me. And that's totally cool. If we're being honest (and that's a big part of why I'm writing this post), I truly think I'm good enough. Frankly, I feel like one of Canada's best kept comedy secrets. I think most of the comedians I work with feel that way too, which is why they book me to headline their shows. But I'm not a draw. I don't sell tickets or get people in the door in a major city, and that's what helps you get a headline spot at a club. No harm, no foul. It's business, and I completely understand. 

It takes a lot of work, hustle, and commitment to grow a following large enough to impress a booker. You also need to be persistent. And honestly, I don't want it bad enough to do that. Some comedians complain that they're funnier than the headliner they're opening for at a club, and it isn't fair. It might not be fair, but it's a business. I don't hold wanting to sell tickets against any promoter in any walk of life. If they aren't selling tickets, there's no club to work. 

I'd love to headline, but I know I'm a great host and a good opening act. I'll show up on time, be a professional, be polite and do the best I can. Because I agreed to do a job in exchange for a paycheque, and I'll always honour that commitment. I'll probably never headline most of the stages I host on, and I don't care enough to try and change that. If hosting at comedy clubs supplements the money I make headlining my own shows, that's fine by me.

I don't want to quit comedy, because it's probably the coolest thing I've ever done. And when you're on stage and things are going well, it's a drug. But the fake people, long drives, politics, time away from home, and bad pay sucks. So if I've taken anything from this 6 month "lay-off", it's that I don't want to deal with it anymore. 

I/m not folding my booking company. Frankly, when we're allowed to have comedy shows again, I'm going to step up my game and get out there. I love raising money for good causes, I put on a good show, and I like going on the road with my friends. If you're a comedian or a booker reading this, and I still reply to your messages and work with you, there's a reason. And if you're an audience member, client, anyone that has seen me perform in the past, I give you everything I have up there, and I hope you had fun. 

But I don't take every gig anymore. If I don't feel like it's worth it financially, or the person I'm supposed to work with gives me a headache, I turn the gig down. I've turned several down already, and I'll keep doing it. If this blog costs me work, so be it. I don't need the work, and I don't want to listen to you slam new comedians for making mistakes when you do the same thing. If you talk shit about another comedian to me in private, you probably talk shit about me to them when you're alone, too.

I'm not perfect, but I know in my heart I'm a good guy, who tries to do the right thing. I don't know how welcome that guy will be in the comedy industry, but I don't really care. 

And if anything in this blog offended you, you're probably part of the reason I wrote it. 

Hope you guys and gals are staying safe!

- Adam

Thursday, 19 March 2020

I forgot about this thing! 03/19/20

I didn't know if I'd ever write one of these again. 

But, like most of you, I'm stuck in my house for the foreseeable future, I'm bored, and I want to give a shout-out to my girlfriend and get some stuff off my chest. So if you have 2 minutes to kill (and you probably do), keep going. 

This whole thing is crazy. It feels like a dream or something, doesn't it? The entire world is shutting down. A lot of us are making stupid jokes about it, myself included. And that'll continue. Prepare for show after show of comics telling Covid-19 and Corona jokes when this is over. But it's seriously scary shit. I was one of those people that wrote it off in the early days, saying stuff like it's just the flu, blah blah blah. But when everything started shutting down and you couldn't turn on the TV without a doctor telling you to stay home, I came around. 

I'm not even in the high risk demographic. I think what clicked for me was people saying stuff like "You might not be worried about getting sick, but worry about the people YOU might make sick." I don't want to infect someone else. And honestly, the regular flu puts me on the shelf with my asthma, I don't have any interest in seeing what this virus would be like. So other than walking my dog, I'm just washing my hands, trying not to touch my face (which is WAY harder than I thought!), and staying inside like everyone else.

Except people that have to go to work. Obviously everyone working in the healthcare world deserve hero cookies, but so do everyone working in grocery stores and retail environments. Some people have bitched about how minimum wage is too high, but damned if they aren't earning every penny right now. I hope they get bonuses when this is over, and people start being nicer to them. If you're an asshole to the person bagging your groceries right now, you should be sent home hungry. 

My girlfriend doesn't work retail, and she isn't a doctor, but she has to go to work this week. Over half of her staff is off sick or at home with kids now, and she's stepping up and carrying the ball. I'm really proud of her. She's a leader, and she's proving it right now when the chips are down. Luckily, she'll be able to work from home starting next week, which is awesome. But we're counting on her job and her income right now, and while I'm stuck at home talking about video games and playing with my dog, she's out there supporting us. She's awesome, I love her, and I'm very lucky she hasn't kicked me out yet. 

My comedy calendar is as empty as every other comic's right now. There's bigger problems in the world than nobody being able to listen to my dumb jokes, but it still sucks. What bothers me the most is that since I quit my full-time day job a couple years ago, I've struggled with the feeling that I'm a dud that doesn't work. And it motivates me to work as hard as I can to book shows, get comedy dates and bring some money into the house. I was finally hitting a point where I was making enough to feel better about not driving a forklift anymore, and now it's all gone. Temporarily, anyway. And that sucks.

I'm fully aware that that's a first world gripe. There are people trying to figure out how to feed their kids, or they have jobs they have to go to when they don't want to instead of being able to stay home and be safe. Every person in that spot has it infinitely worse than I do. I sympathize with them, absolutely. But this isn't their blog to bitch in, it's mine. 

And at the end of the day, I'm not even trying to bitch or whine. I like the hand I've been dealt in life. It just hurts to see your hard work start to pay off and then get taken away, but it's temporary. For me, for you, for everyone. We're all in this together, and when we get through it the afterparty is going to be fucking epic. Until then, wash your hands, hang out with your family, thank the person selling you groceries, and don't be an asshole. 

Shay, if you're reading this, you're the best. Thank you for supporting me and Molly and doing what you do. We love you!

Thanks for reading, everybody. Stay safe!

- Adam