Twice a month, WitOut digs through its virtual piles of old columns to repost something great you may have missed.
This post was written by formerly Philly-based comedian Luke Giordano, who currently lives in L.A. and is working as a writer for an upcoming Nickelodeon sitcom. Luke is also the creator and writer for the comedy website Everything You Like Is Stupid.
I am a bad human being at heart. More often than not, when a friend sends me a Facebook invitation to an event for a comedy show, the first thing my mind goes to “Why’d they book him on the show? I should be on this show. Why not me?” I feel like I’m not alone in my bitter jealousy in this regard among comedians. The fact is that I have not been doing comedy long enough nor have I reached any sort of level of success to justify bitterness or a negative attitude. Not even a little.
I’ve been doing comedy just under four years now. My position in the Philadelphia comedy scene or lack of one is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done to this point. No matter how much it pains me to admit it or how much I dislike confronting the fact, I am still in the position where I have to prove myself to people. The existence of my ego is poisonous to myself as a person and to my continued success in comedy I’m on the lowest end of the lowest totem pole, I have no right to believe I deserve anything in comedy in this point. No one owes me anything. I might sound like I’m beating myself up, but I feel like admitting this is a healthy first step. I have to remove the arrogant negativity and replace it with something positive.
When I’m not booked on a show, there could be a lot of reasons for it. I might not be right for the line-up or the audience. The audience might not like the style of comedy that I do. I might have booked on that show already in a previous month. The host might be keeping me in mind for a future show. The host might have had a very specific line-up for the show when getting the idea for it. There are a hundred things I consider when I book a show myself that I should probably understand these things. There is also another possibility, and here’s the big one — there is a good chance that if I’m not getting booked as much as I would like, I should probably work harder on getting better so people would want to book me more often and pay me money. The easy thing is finding someone or something else to blame for my failures. The hard thing is taking ownership and making a point of getting better.
Nobody is going to hand me anything. Nobody should hand me anything. The magic answer to every problem I have is “work harder, get better.” That’s all I or anyone can do. Instead of poisoning my mind and the comedy scene in general with my envy and negativity, I need to keep my head down and do the work. The sad fact that there are thousands and thousands of comedians across the country and the world who are equally as or more successful than I am at comedy. How far will I get by being lazy and negative and complaining?
If you put the work in, you’ll create your own opportunities, just by the virtue of people that will see you more often. And you will only get better at your craft by working harder. It’s hard to admit to yourself that any lack of success or problems you might have are probably your own fault. Sure, I might not be the most mainstream comic in the world and that might eliminate some mainstream club and suburban opportunities. But that only means I have to work that much harder at getting better, exploring other opportunities, and creating other opportunities myself. I need to work on getting so good that I can’t be ignored. And until that point, I have no right to whine. Am I good enough right now not to be ignored by people who matter? No. So what right to I have to be negative?
Philadelphia encompasses a large metropolitan area. There are four and a half million people here. Out of those millions, there has to be a couple thousand of them who would come to comedy shows on a regular basis. How many of those people are we tapping into as a community? How many people do you think are interested in coming to a local comedy show but don’t want to take the risk or are afraid it might suck? This is a growing comedy community and there are more people to perform in front of than are actually coming out. There is a lot of great comedy in this city and there could be a lot more opportunities for comedians to get up in front of real people if we all take it on ourselves and put the work in. Basically, if I want to be on more shows, I’m going to have to create these shows myself. Instead of going to the shows that are here and waiting for people to hand me things, how about taking things into my own hands?
There is a big crowd of real people at the Center City Comedy open mic pretty much every single week. It’s not just because it’s in the right place at the right time, it’s no fluke, it’s not just a restaurant in a good location. It’s because Chris Cotton, Conrad Roth, and H. Foley put the work in. They’ve spent a lot of time and hours and care promoting it and cultivating it and it paid off. The question we all have to ask ourselves is can we put the work in like they have? And if not, how can we get better and grow as a community and as individual performers? There’s room for a lot more shows in this city. There are a lot of people who would come out to see them. The only problem is we’re going to have to work hard for their time and money.
My default as a person is a swirling black hole of loathing and negativity. It’s going to take a lot for me to eliminate it from my system and stay humble. But I’m willing to do that and work harder and get off of my stupid ass to better the scene and myself as performer. My motivations are selfish — I want to get on stage more often and get more bookings. But if everyone else is helped by my efforts as well, then even better.
…but we’re still not happy with ourselves!
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Love and #friendship,
Everyone bombs at some point. WitOut’s “Where Jokes go to Die” is where you can put your worst bits down for good.
by Aaron Hertzog
The internet tells me that Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. If Einstein’s idea of insanity is correct, then most comedians are insane. We try jokes over and over again, hoping that an idea that failed at one open mic might catch on at another, and that what we thought was funny in our own heads will be validated by someone else’s laughter. I’ve tried to cut back on doing this, and will only try a joke a few times before scrapping it or trying to rewrite it completely from another angle. But this is a story about me telling a joke over and over again about something stupid that I do over and over again, even though I never get a different result from either the joke or the something stupid.
My friends and I like to go to the Chinese Buffet. The Ruby Buffet, to be exact. We usually go, act like animals, and then somehow drag our bodies two blocks to a movie theater where we sit and try to avoid passing out into a food coma while watching something horrible. It’s a lot of fun. I noticed something about our trips to the buffet, and when I actively notice something, I try to write a joke about it. Every single time we go, we are excited. We get there, full of hope and cheer, eagerly waiting to stuff as much food into our faces as we possibly can. We get escorted to our table, give our drink orders to our waiter, and don’t even bother to sit down at our table before we attack the buffet with a learned, professional technique. Before too long, we feel awful, and promise ourselves we will never, ever do this again—kind of like someone who drinks himself sick, and from his hunched position over a toilet seat, vows to never again go anywhere near rum/whiskey/tequila/appletinis. But we always do it again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
I tried to turn this ritual into a joke about everyday life, relating the process of going from excited and hopeful for the day (pre-buffet) to feeling demoralized and sleepy soon after waking up (post-buffet). I yelled about being the King of the Day (or, the King of the “China King Buffet”), and having a seemingly infinite amount of life choices (buffet chicken choices) ahead of me to grab hold of, then becoming overwhelmed by the amount of choices, making myself sick, and just going back to bed and napping. It was a not-very-straightforward, manic depressive metaphor.
Looking at it now, there are a lot of reasons why this joke never worked, despite how badly I wanted it to. It’s hard enough to find people who can relate to one half of that metaphor—you’d have to be a special breed of crazy person (re: me) who could understand both. Both waking up excited and wanting to grab life by the balls, but then falling into a state where you can no longer stand to face the day; and walking into a Chinese restaurant excited and wanting to grab the Chinese chicken by the drumstick, but then falling into a state where you can no longer stand to face the buffet.
Talking about this bit and how it constantly failed now makes me kinda want to try it again, because I still think it should work. Louis CK hit this same idea in a much more concise, relatable way, and nailed it, because he’s Louis CK, and I’m me. His “Eating Habits” bit makes me stop everything and think, “why can’t I just express things that perfectly?” Hopefully, after another twenty years of doing comedy, I’ll be able to do that. And hopefully I won’t insist on failing the same way, over and over again, for that entire time.
Aaron Hertzog is a WitOut editor, stand-up comedian, improviser (Hey Rube, Hate Speech Committee), sketch comedy writer (Tap City) and friend.
Got your own bad joke story? Email email@example.com.
Once a month, the WitOut Caption Contest will give you the opportunity to win two free tickets to a local comedy show. This month’s prize tickets are generously being donated by Philly Improv Theater.
To enter, submit a caption for the photo below in the comments section of this post, and check back on October 30th at Noon for a post revealing the winner and runner-up. The author of the winning caption (as determined by the editors of WitOut.net) will receive two free tickets to a Philly Improv Theater show of their choice.
Photo courtesy of Philly Improv Theater
Photographer: Tom Lovelund
Pictured: Jessica Ross and Brian Ratcliffe, during PHIT’s Fringe Festival production of Myths & Monsters
Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) is a showcase for Philadelphia comedy shows, including improv, sketch and stand-up. In addition to presenting more than 300 popular and affordable BYOB shows at The Shubin Theatre each year, PHIT’s Training Center is the largest of its kind between New York and Chicago. For details on upcoming Philly Improv Theater shows and classes, visit phillyimprovtheater.com/.
Is your theater interested in providing a photo and prize tickets for a WitOut Caption Contest? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your sponsorship!
This Tuesday Rittenhouse Comedy at Noche will put on its final open mic at the Chestnut Street bar. The night will be a celebration and a good-bye to the Tuesday night stage stand-ups have been testing out material on for the past two years.
This Thursday, Philly Improv Theater will host the return of Bing Supernova’s Cavalcade of Fools, a stand-up comedy showcase hosted by the legendary comedian himself. This time around Bing will share the stage with guests Brendan Kennedy, Juliet Hope Wayne and Mike Rainey, with more surprise special guests promised.
The First Ladies of Comedy Fundraiser will take place this Friday at PHIT. The show will feature jokes performed by the significant others of some of Philly’s best comedians. All proceeds will go to Angel 34, a charity set up by Michelle Somishka, whose 2-year-old daughter Aubrey recently passed away from neuroblastoma. The show will be hosted by Mary Radzinski and jokes will be performed by Jaime Mulhern (Mike Rainey), Timaree Leigh (Carl Bocutti), Shannon Brown (Brendan Kennedy), MaryJo Butterly (Tim Butterly), Kim Broadbent (Chip Chantry), Lorraine Dean (Darryl Charles), Dennis Nguyen (Steve Miller-Miller) and Samantha Russell Craig (Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez).
This Saturday, Rookie Card at The Raven Lounge will return with a show featuring stand-up comedian Brandon “Ketchup” Wilson, opening improv group The Self-Esteem Motivators, and Rookie Card will headline with a set inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. Rookie Card will also be saying goodbye to founding member Jake Alvarez, as it will be his last performance with the group.
Tickets are now on sale for Marc Maron’s return to Helium Comedy Club. The comedian, known for his WTF Podcast, will be performing at the Philadelphia club December 6-8. Get your tickets now, as the shows are sure to sell out.
Follow Witout on Twitter for updates from our site, as well as retweets of more of the best 140-character-or-less jokes from Philly comics.
Tig Notaro released her special, Tig Notaro: Live via LouisCK.net. The set, recorded at Largo in Los Angeles, covers the very personal material of Noraro’s recent breast cancer diagnosis (and, as you’ve probably heard already, is amazing). You can purchase the special for $5 online.
Comedian Rob Riggle released this video offering his special services as part of the lead-up to Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars.
Amy Poehler revealed the six bizarre habits of her Parks and Recreation co-star Adam Scott.
Heres the story of how SNL won a bid to have the one and only Big Bird as a guest on last week’s show.
Splitsider shared everything there is to know about the new season of Arrested Development.
Comedians Bill Burr, Joe DeRosa, and Robert Kelly released their book CHEAT: A Man’s Guide to Infidelity this week sharing the wisdom, advice, and humor they picked up through their romantic indiscrecions. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
GQ posted this oral history of Cheers for the 30th anniversary of the show’s debut.
Fans of FX’s Louie (and who isn’t) will have to wait until the Spring of 2014 for Season 4.
Tonight, Center City Comedy at The Raven Lounge is celebrating its fourth anniversary. The open mic has consistently provided a full room for comedians to work on their acts and test new material in front of always-eager crowds. The spot has earned a reputation from out-of-town acts visiting Philly as a place to hang out with local comics, or even get a late-night set in after their shows. The Center City Comedy crew (Chris Cotton, Conrad Roth, H. Foley, Tom Cassidy, Ryan Shaner, Kevin Ryan, Chris Whitehair) have branched out to working on producing online video content (Babe Ruth Time Traveller, We Rent). We asked H. Foley, one of the early members of Center City Comedy, some questions about the past four years, and the future.
WITOUT: At a time when open mics come and go within a few months, you have kept Center City Comedy at The Raven Lounge alive and kicking for four years – what do you think are the keys to your success?
H. FOLEY: Well, we always put the audience first. We promoted the show as much as possible and we were very lucky to be surrounded by so many talented comedians. It was really built on a lot of hard work and dedication, not just from us but the community as a whole.
WO: What are some of your favorite moments from the open mic over the past four years?
HF: I asked the boys this question, and everyone said all the anniversary shows really stuck out in their minds. Plus, the night Patrice O’Neal came by, and the night we had to pull Conrad from hosting because he got so wasted and took his balls out.
WO: Do you think Center City Comedy has had an influence on the Philly comedy scene? How do you think you’ve left your mark?
HF: That is a tough question. I hope so, but you would have to ask the comedy community that. It was never our intention though. We just wanted to create an environment where the city could see how funny the Philly comedy community is, and it worked because it is.
WO: You’ve passed the hosting duties of the weekly mic down to new groups of comics a few times – how do you decide who you’d like to take over as hosts and when do you feel like it’s time to bring in new blood.
HF: We look at who is working hard, and who really wants it, and who we think would fit into this little dysfunctional family. Right now Ryan Shaner is in charge, and we recently brought Kevin Ryan into the mix, and it is really working out. Tom Cassidy has ran it for the last year and did a great job. Tom has been a big part of our group, and he is someone I love and consider to be a part of our family.
WO: How did you transition from hosting open mics and shows around the city to producing comedy videos for the web?
HF: It was always our plan, we were never just about running an open mic. We know what we want to do and just keep taking steps to make it happen. We now film all the time and are writing scripts and trying to just keep moving forward.
WO: Since the show has started, some of you have moved to other cities, but have stayed loyal to your roots, what keeps you coming back to Philly for more?
HF: I mean that is what it is all about, remembering who we are and where we are from. We love Philly, and realize how lucky we are to be a part of the Philly scene.
WO: What’s next for Center City Comedy?
HF: We just want to keep working hard and chasing our dreams. I do want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has performed with us over the last four years, and especially want to thank Alex Gross of Superdps.com who is helping us to take the next step. I also want to wish you, and all of our friends who have the heart to push to the next level, the very best of luck.
The Center City Comedy Four Year Anniversary Show is tonight, at 9:00pm, at The Raven Lounge (1718 Sansom St. Philadelphia).