Thursday, June 9, 2016

Standing up

 "I loved to make people laugh in high school, and then I found I loved being on stage in front of people. I'm sure that's some kind of ego trip or a way to overcome shyness. I was very kind of shy and reserved, so there's a way to be on stage and be performing and balance your life out." -Steve Martin

Between 1989-1994 you could often find me coming home from school, grabbing a snack, and sitting around with my hilarious friends. These friends were stand-up comedians and I would catch their "bits" on The Comedy Channel (the precursor to Comedy Central) show Short Attention Span Theater. I've been enamored with stand up comedy for about as long as I can remember. I remember renting Comic Relief VHS tapes, and being exposed to the genius of Steven Wright. I can remember watching Eddie Murphy's RAW and laughing, although I now wonder if I even understood what I was laughing at. I bought Bill Cosby and Jeff Foxworthy cassette tapes, Jerry Seinfled, Ellen Degeneres, and Jack Handey books. My uncle Darwin and Aunt Betty introduced me to Foster Brooks one Christmas and I listened to Bob Newhart on an airplane trip to Orlando when I was very young. I had a fascination bordering on an obsession.

It's been on my bucket list for a while now to perform at a stand up comedy open mic. However, the idea has always been a terrifying. I've always had people tell me I'm funny and I've always been able to make people laugh. For some reason, the idea of going on stage to do it intentionally, seems exceedingly daunting. Why?

It's a matter of self confidence. An attribute I've always lacked. I never excelled at sports because I lacked the confidence in myself, I never believed in my abilities or felt that I was good enough. That idea of "I'm not good enough", has always echoed in my head. Even at the age of 37, I still lack the confidence in myself that I should have learned somewhere along the way. At this age it shows up differently then when I was a kid. I remember once as a kid going to my brother's soccer practice, my parents were the coaches (which is odd because neither ever played soccer to my knowledge...but then soccer was a relatively new sport to our small Indiana town at the time), they had me do one of the drills the team was doing. Instead of kicking the ball, I swung my leg and kicked nothing but air and then fell down. I was so embarrassed. I didn't touch another soccer ball for years. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, my parents enrolled me in 4H, because that's just what you did. I was a trapezoidal peg in a round hole, to say I didn't fit in at 4H is like saying Hitler wasn't fond Jews. I was once asked to say the pledge of allegiance, and I cried and refused to do it. I couldn't go up in front of these strangers and do it. I was so embarrassed. Similarly, I experience a slight variation of those same feelings today when I wonder if I am a good enough teacher, or when I don't feel like a man when I can't fix something around the house or I have to admit I don't know how to change the oil in my car. I get so embarrassed.

Perhaps soccer and 4H would have given me self confidence had I stuck with it, and not been so embarrassed to try. Maybe I should have tried other sports, clubs, or activities to develop my confidence. Perhaps, had I done those things, today I would spend less time wondering if I'm good enough or if people like me. Perhaps I would not have waited until I was 37 to do my first stand up comedy set.

Last week I performed for 14 minutes at a local brewpub, and it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. It was a rush like none I've experienced before, this is coming from a guy who has jumped out of plane, bungee jumped, and rock climbed in the PNW. I have to be honest and say that it went extremely well.  Admittedly the room was full of friends which helped, and I know there is much room for improvement. But, my first time doing stand up... was great.

Here's what I learned:
1. Fake it till you make it. I faked the confidence that is so crucial to stand up comedy. I had to, at first. As my set continued, it got easier to be confident and eventually I felt quite comfortable.
2. Confidence is a muscle that must be exercised regularly. I did something that scared me, I I thrived. Now, I want to do it again. Am I still scared? Heck yeah! That's part of it though, the truth is I might get back up there and tell the same jokes and completely bomb. That doesn't mean I'm not funny or that I can't do stand up. It just means I need to keep working on it.
3. Failure isn't fatal. Not all of the jokes in my set worked, there were at least 2 places where I thought I'd get a laugh that I didn't get anything. Those jokes didn't work, but I kept going and eventually, like Stella, I got my groove back. I now know to either not do those jokes or re-work them.

So my goal now is this: Apply those lessons to all areas of my life and develop a confidence that allows me to be comfortable with who I am. So, I must do things that scare me. Also, I want to instill these lessons in my kids so that I can help them be confident in who they are.
As a postlude, Wednesday June 22nd I will do my next open mic at an actual comedy club as a part of a contest called the The Great Indiana Mic Off at Morty's Comedy Joint in Indianapolis. This is the real deal. I have 6 minutes to fill with my best stuff and I need to kill...and have supreme confidence. If you'd like to support me it would mean the world to me. I would love to have a fan base there, I can literally feel the positive vibes from you when I'm on stage. Plus, the winners are decided based on the volume of audience applause, so the more fans I have there supporting me the better my odds are of winning. I really do hope to see you there.
See me at Morty's Comedy Joint on 6/22 for only $5!

Below is footage from my first show:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Father's Day 2015

"It is a wise father that knows his own child"- William Shakespeare 

It is 7pm on Fathers Day, and I'm sitting on the back porch enjoying a cigar and stout ale...very manly, I know.  Jami has taken the kids to her grandfather's farm for a bonfire. Thus, my Fathers Day gift has been some peace and quiet, which in turn has given me time to reflect on being a father.

First, a few memories of my own father. My father and I are quite opposite in personality. I would describe my father as conservative, reserved,  and intellectual. On the other hand, I'm fairly liberal, artistic, and prone to flights of fancy. This disparity in disposition, resulted in neither one of us "getting" the other when I was growing up. What does a shrewd business professional say to his son when the latter informs his father that he intends to go to the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning and Graphic Arts, to become a comic book artist? The father sees this idea as unrealistic, or a phase. When the father encourages the son to save his money and to never accrue credit card debt, the son sees the wisdom of the elder as being overprotective and an unwillingness to "carpe" the "diem". There was a disconnect.

The son does recall watching the father run down a country road carrying a torch, that as the son understood would eventually be carried to the Pan Am Games in Indianapolis circa 1987. In the son's eyes, his father was an olympian, the son's heart swelled with pride. The son remembers a Christmas when he received fake razors, and the father slathered the boy's whisker-less face with Barbasol and proceeded to shave the boy's face. The son felt like a man. The son reminisces about the time the father put up a basketball goal, and brought home a new bmx bike. The father often showed his love and selflessness in his provision for his family. 

In recent years my father has from time to time lamented over the fact that he had a short fuse and a quick temper when my brother and I were younger. And yes, I suppose I could tell a few stories of when that temper reared its red face and pursed lips. But why? That's not how I choose to remember my father.  I see my father as a man who loved his family dearly and wanted the absolute best for his family, sometimes to a fault. He worked his ass off to provide for his children, perhaps to give them the things he never had when he was growing up?

I choose to remember my father in snippets of memories that play in my mind like an old 35mm family home movie. The scene of him embracing his boys at his father's funeral, unaware that this was the first time his sons had seen him cry, plays in the theatre of my memories. The time I saw him head laying down on his crossed arms as he sat at the patio table, trying to compose his emotions after packing up my brother's Camero and watching him drive off to his freshmen year at college; this picture of love is nestled into my memory. I can easily picture my father choking back tears as I handed him my boy, and he held his grandson for the first time.  

This is the father I tenderly remember.

For my own children, I hope I can provide for them the way my father provided for me, my brother, and my mother. Also, I hope that I know them. That I can understand, appreciate, and encourage their personality quirks. For all os us, I hope that we can guide our children and help them become who they were meant to be, and not try to mold them into who we would have them be. 

Easier said than done.

Update: my daughter came home and saw the cigar that I was 3/4 of the way done smoking.  She picked it up and threw it into the yard and told me, "you shouldn't blow smoke."

Summer movies

I've been negligent in my blogging duties, it's summer...sorry. In the meantime here's a new Cecil Kids Movie Preview for your enjoyment