The woes of a guitar comic
The woes of being a guitar-playing comedian
Recently I did an industry showcase in L.A., which means I did a set at the Hollywood Improv on a night when casting people, talent scouts and producers were in the crowd evaluating comics. These types of shows are very nerve-wracking and we comics prepare and stress out over them for weeks.
I have to say I was really happy with my set and the crowd reaction. I got them on my side doing material that I’m proud of, intelligent and at times personal without sacrificing the funny. After the show I was on a high, having done well in a high-pressure situation, and I got a lot of nice compliments.
I talked Joey Edmonds, who put the show together, and he was telling me how great the tape looked and how much he enjoyed my set (I love it when agent/managers pump up your ego); but he was also able to slip in the fact that one of the industry people left the minute I pulled out my guitar.
“He’d seen too many terrible guitar acts” Joey said.
I’ve gotten used to the looks of disdain from other comics whenever I walk into a comedy club with a guitar case in my hand. I’ve gotten used to being introduced to industry types and seeing them check out of the conversation the minute the introducer mentions I play guitar in my act. I’ve gotten used to being thought of as a lesser member of the comedy world, in the steerage section with prop comics, magicians and ventriloquists. All of these slights and snubs have become part of my existence and I’d like to think I carry my burden with a touch of grace and some level of class, so I didn’t get angry when Joey told me that someone walked out. I just said to myself, “this is the way things are.”
On the upside, Joey said another industry type asked the guy who left if he had seen my act, and when he replied that he left due to the guitar he was told that he should have stayed, that he missed a really good one.
If it’s true it’s a nice story. If it’s not I’ll believe it anyway.
It’s really all I can do. I’ve been a musician all of my life and music will therefore be a big part of my comedy. Giving up something I feel I’m really good at just because it will cost me opportunities just doesn’t seem right. And I feel equally strongly that it’s wrong to do a song for the morning radio/blue collar comedy crowd just because that’s what’s expected of me and that’s what’s seen as the best way for me to break out.
I would simply like to ask the guy who left if he had ever seen a bad standup before, and if that kept him from watching other standups in the future. If I ever become an industry guy that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to shut out stand up comedians from every project I do, all with the excuse “I’ve seen a lot of bad standups, there’s a chance you could be one of them.”
“What, you just stand there and talk? We already have a guy that does that. We can’t have two people that stand and talk on the same show.”
“Oh jeez, here comes the guy with the notebook. I bet he’s going to do a lot of material about public bathrooms, and farts, and how he hates to go shopping with his wife.”
So yeah, I’ll just keep doing my thing. And if you someday hear me on syndicated morning radio doing a song about a dog pooping in my living room or how fat my wife is you’ll know that I’ve truly sold out. Pray for my soul.