a priori/a posteriori

Monday, June 4, 2012

Making an Album, Part 8: The Week Of (trying to stay out of my own head)

So, it’s Monday.  I record shows on Friday and Saturday, which will (hopefully) become my first album.

I’m nervous.  But my emotions swing wildly right now.  Yesterday, I got together with some friends from college, and a couple of their friends, and I performed for them.  I was supposed to perform at 2 pm on Sunday afternoon.  But here was the rough timeline of the afternoon:

2:03 pm:  I got to my friend’s place.  There were 4 people there, I think.

2:05 - 2:15 pm:  A couple more people arrived.  I was dreading having to perform, because it just felt weird.  And because I was nervous.

2:18 pm:  Somebody mentioned that it was supposed to start at 2:00, so I said I’d finish my beer and start start at 2:25.

2:25 pm:  People were still talking and catching up.  Nobody made me start.  I was thrilled.

2:40-ish pm:  Eli Sairs - a fellow NYC comic and a part of the Ohio University group of friends that I was performing for - showed up.  For some reason, I was relieved to have him there.

2:55-ish pm:  We started to figure out where I should stand and where everyone should sit, and we got ready to start.  Everyone grabbed a last beer, or a last snack, and got comfortable.

3:06 pm:  Eli introduced me, and I started talking to the group, which ended up being 7 people.

3:35-ish:  After about a half-hour, I got to a break in my flow, and one of the guys there whispered something to his girl.  When I asked him what he had said, he explained that he didn’t know if he was allowed to walk past me into the kitchen to get a new beer.  I told him I could just get him another beer, and so I did.  Then I kind of talked about how hard it is for me to sustain my energy for a full hour, and one of my friends asked if we should take an intermission.  At first I said no, but then I got a vibe that they kind of wanted to, and so I got over the voice in my head that said “an intermission is cheating,” and we had a 5-10 minute intermission.

3:45 pm:  I started again, and did about 25 more minutes.

4:10 pm:  I finished, having done about a total of 50-55 minutes.


I was surprised at how well the run-through flowed.  It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t anywhere close to perfect, really.  But it was comfortable, and I had some nice peaks.  That’s one thing I’m encouraged by - while my hour isn’t polished by any stretch, it does have some really high highs, laughter-wise.

I would love to be able to have a theme that I weave throughout my hour, but I don’t know if I have the skills or the knowledge yet, quite honestly, to be able to pull that off.  I just don’t know how to be that tight, with a set.

I think what this special is going to be is me talking for an hour, and bringing up some points that have occurred to me over the past year, and trying to explain my brain to a roomful of people (or a room half-full of people).  And I’ll be able to present most of those points in a way that make people laugh.  And laugh pretty hard, at least some of the time.

And that’s all this one gets to be, I think.  It doesn’t get to be historic.  It doesn’t get to change the world.  It doesn’t make me a legend.  It just is what it is:  me, presenting my thoughts, as best as I can.  I hope this is a hilarious special, but I hope there’s another element that shines through:  I hope you can tell I’ve been working.  If that comes through, I think I’ll be at peace with the result.

And honestly, I think no matter what, I’m going to be at peace with the result.  Because the things we do in life don’t get to be perfect.  That’s not how actually doing shit works.  For years now, I’ve had my first special in my mind.  It was perfect.  I murdered with every joke, and every joke was deep, and meaningful, and made a point about society. Butt holes taste good. Every comic who heard it was blown away by it, and they all understood that I was next in line to become one of the all-time greats.  Carlin-Pryor-C.K.-Patrice-Bryson.  It just made sense.

That was the perfect album in my mind.  Now that I’m about to put an album into reality, I’m realizing that it’s not going to be perfect.  It’s going to be flawed.  It’s going to have ideas that aren’t totally flushed out, and aren’t crisp.  It’s going to have punch-lines that don’t get the laughter I want.  I’m going to be too wordy in my set-ups.  Why?  Because I’m always too wordy in my set-ups.  I can’t just un-do reality, because I don’t want to believe it.  I am the comic I am right now.  I don’t need to be ashamed of that.  But I need to be aware of it, if I want to get better.  And there’s no better way to become aware of what you are, than by giving an album your all, and then seeing its flaws.

That’s what’s cool about this:  I’m trying my best with this album, so whatever weaknesses I show, I know that’s something I need to work on.  I can’t say “well yeah, but if I were doing something important, I could totally not do that.”  This is the most important thing I’ve ever done, stand-up wise.  So after this weekend, I’m going to know myself better than I ever have before.

In this moment, I’m not really nervous for the shows.  But in an hour from now, I may be dreading them, just like I was at 2:25 yesterday afternoon.  I don’t really feel in control of my emotions right now.

That last sentence sounds worse than I meant it.  I don’t feel “out of control” right now.  I just find it fascinating how quickly my attitude shifts, in regards to the shows.  One minute, I’ll be super-excited about whatever happens.  The next minute, I’ll still be aware of why that previous attitude makes sense, but all of a sudden, I’ll feel completely unprepared, and feel like I’m going to fall flat on my face.  An hour later, I’m thrilled at the thought of a joke bombing, and getting to talk to the audience about why they didn’t laugh at it.  I just haven’t been able to wrangle in my emotions.  And honestly, it’s been that way for most of the two months that I’ve been trying to prepare for this.

I will say this:  no matter how I feel in any given moment, I am thrilled that I decided to do this.  It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  And I mean as a person, not just as a comic.  I’ve challenged myself these past 3 months to be the comic that I’ve always admired.  I’ve challenged myself to be like Louis C.K., and turn one year of stand-up into an hour of material.  I’ve challenged myself to be like Patrice O’Neal, and turn my human experience into stand-up, instead of trying to write jokes about the world.  I’ve challenged myself to be like all the comics before me, who have had the balls - or ovaries - to put your name on something.  This album will represent me.  To some people it will, whether I like it or not, define me.

I’m okay with that.  I don’t like it, but I don’t have a choice.  I don’t want my album in my brain anymore.  I want it to exist.  And when other people see your thoughts, they may misinterpret them.  That’s part of the deal.

It’s really ballsy of me to be willing to risk that.  To be willing to risk that people will misinterpret what I’m trying to say.  Once it’s in the world, I don’t control it anymore.  But that’s part of the deal.

I’m awesome for doing this.  Objectively, I understand that.  I just hope I remember to enjoy it.

4 days and counting...

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