Archive for Life on the Road

What I’ve Learned So Far While Touring

I like to think of myself as a great comedian. I work hard, I always try to improve myself and write better jokes, learn from my peers, and not take it too hard when the audience doesn’t laugh at my jokes sometimes. Every comedian has their good and bad days, including me, it’s what you do about it that matters. Touring is hard sometimes, you don’t get to see your old friends for a long time, but then, on the road, you make new ones, and there’s always someone else to talk to, besides your small crew.

I like keeping myself inspired while I’m touring. I try to read books in the van and maybe watch some TV shows on my laptop to take the edge off and keep me entertained. But I also like to write new jokes, or at least practice the old ones and come up with new ways of saying them. Being a stand-up comedian means that you should find your own jokes funny, and if you cease to do that, then that means you should change something up!

We were staying at a hotel in Ohio last month and I realized that a lot of my older jokes were becoming stale to me, like I’d outgrown them, and we were only a day away from the show. My confidence started to wane, it was like I didn’t believe in what I was saying. And one of the crucial things is to believe yourself to make others believe you. I thought, ‘I’m gonna improvise and try and write something new for tomorrow, just to see what comes out.’

Then I remembered our little incident a couple of weeks prior when Brian, my driver, who’s a big guy, broke the faucet at a diner’s toilet, and in trying to repair it, he broke the plumbing, a pipe and the water heater as well, all hell broke loose when the staff noticed. Wasted a ton of water, it was hilarious. Though I felt sorry for Brian because he’s so tall and broad, and people have prejudice about him that he’s mean, but he’s actually very sanguine and clumsy with little objects.

And that’s how I perked myself up, I decided to try telling this story, not turn it into a typical joke, but just make some observational jokes and see how the audience responds. Sometimes you have to try new things when you’re on the road!

How to Keep Your Cool On Stage

The definition of panic and anxiety: you start to feel a bit faint. Your knees are weak and begin to buckle slowly. Your breathing is shallow and feeble. The room reels as you enter the dangerous dizzy zone. Your mind goes black and takes your best jokes along with it. Your body temperature soars as you sweat droplets of dew that falls into your eyes from your forehead. Your pupils sting with surprise and widen. You scramble to get ahold of yourself and reach for a cool glass of water. You could be taking a final exam, sitting before a trial judge, getting married in front of 200 people, giving a speech at work, or performing at a local comedy club.

If you are still alive and are a comic, you sidle over to the stage turbo fan – something like the best floor fans featured here. It’s no prop, but a rescue machine for those in distress. (Tip of the week: turn it on before your act.) Comedy club newbies are prone to wander over a little too fast and too soon. Above all don’t give yourself away. Get a grip on yourself. (Let’s stop here a minute. Don’t let me scare you. Comedy is a challenge but ever so rewarding. There is nothing like it in the entertainment field. My story is here to let you know that you get can through the worst of times to face the best. Just get out the mental fan and use it when you feel stressed.)

Panic (terror for some) doesn’t happen to everyone, especially the old pros, but it can afflict first timers and the timid. If you don’t fear it, it won’t cripple your show. Comedy is a tough row to hoe, even with the best of original material. Keeping your cool takes strength of character and a good plug-in fan. Michael Richards lost his verbal cool before an unforgiving audience and it hurt his career. Hopefully you will only lose your normal body temperature at best. It is par for the course and nothing to be ashamed of. When you are down, get up fast and furiously. Act like nothing has happened and march on.

If you have good jokes and funny or witty lines, your audience will respond and your fears will fly away. Somehow, you are somewhere else altogether, on a cloud called “a roll.” Once you have experienced the heights, there is no going back. This is why we do it. It is a high better than any, a legal drug you can have whenever you like. Who goes into comedy? Every personality type from introverts to extroverts, wits to clowns, mockers to zingers. Men and women love it alike. So many styles, methods, approaches and ways to incite laughter abound. The joy is in finding your own voice and believing in yourself. Confidence is the key. I can’t say enough, and I encourage those who aspire to this profoundly exciting art form to push forward and meet your success head on with gusto.

Bathroom Humor – The Right & Wrong Places

Bathroom humor is always good for a few laughs. Belly roars and bursts of cackles can revolve around personal voiding habits and certainly toilets. Device malfunctions are all in fun, and animals using the loo are pretty amusing as well. Not much is funny about taking a shower, however, or using state-of-the art equipment. Shower heads are functional but glorious ways to indulge in a water cleansing fest in the privacy of your own home.

As I look for humor in all the right places, I also find it in some wrong ones. Places that are less likely to engender smiles and guffaws. Places that are just not funny to begin with. It just takes a willing perpetrator to bring a normal situation to a boiling point of laughter.

Traveling in the third world is a font of opportunity. Americans are so cleanliness conscious that they require a daily bath or shower to feel human. Their foreign counterparts find it wasteful and time-consuming. You can take a sponge bath if you feel that dirty in between your must-have days. I heard from a friend in Morocco about public baths and odd equipment. I have been to Japan and have seen some rather unusual methods of ablution. There is one that takes the cake I read about in Ethiopia. You don’t get to enter some of the smaller villages on your own. The writer was with a film crew that had permission to go deep into the hinterlands for footage, and the adventurers were expected and welcomed.

Bathing is top of the mind when it comes to US travelers. No matter where they are, they want to see the bathroom before even their bed for the night. Horrors if they have to use an outhouse. This film group, however, expected the worst and were not disappointed. If plumbing did exist, it was old and a hybrid of mix and match parts, some left over from World War II. In one area, the writer had use a shower toilet concoction. You never knew if they used filtered shower water was or if it straight from the bowl after use. The pipes could just have been old, but the color of the liquid was mighty suspicious. If you were lucky enough to use the “device” in the daytime, at least you could see before proceeding. If it was outside in a shed or shelter of some kind, you had to take your chances on what was coming out of the holes – it certainly wasn’t the best shower head and the holes in it were big enough to let anything and everything through.

It was worse if you had to take a colleague to save water which was scarce at even a mild warm temperature. Hearing such stories, I do think twice about where I go on vacation or what countries I choose to visit for recreation. Over the years, I find that fussiness is not a sin and convenience is a blessing. Basic human rituals are not to be taken for granted in many parts of the world.

Why I travel with a backpack instead of rolling luggage

As you’d expect, being a stand up comedian I spend a lot of time on the road – which always ends up with people asking me about my choice of luggage. Unlike many people who like rolling luggage, I’m a backpack kind of guy. The nice thing about traveling with a backpack is that it forces you to not take yourself as seriously as you normally would in your daily life. With a small bag on your shoulders, you literally have to take an assessment of what’s really important to you. What items will you allow to take up some of that precious space? Things you thought were critical when you’re home may be necessary for just that place… your home.

Because I’m always staying in hotels on the road, I can eliminate a whole heap of those little travel sized toiletries and the insane rules that go with carrying them on board a plane with you. All I take is my toothbrush, some toothpaste, my notepads for my routines and a minimal collection of clothes. Also a big bag of sweets for a quick energy boost if I’m feeling a bit tired.

I bought the SwissGear Travel Gear ScanSmart backpack after seeing it on a list of cool backpacks and deciding that it was perfect for my needs. I liked the idea of buying a backpack from a brand that also manufactures traditional luggage. I also looked at a lot of the backpacks from The North Face before deciding on this bag. I’m not going to go into a full review on this blog, but I will tell you that it is one of the best travel hacks I’ve ever made.

I avoid checking my bag whenever I travel as much as I possibly can, because it speeds up the travel process. I can get to the airport later, avoid queuing up to drop off my bag and it allows me to fly cheaply on budget airlines like Southwest… after all, being a standup comic doesn’t pay that well for each gig.

I like that the bottom is rubberized since you never know where you’ll need to put your backpack down. There’s three large pockets with double zippers to make it easy to get into the bag from any angle, as well as a little pocket on the front that is perfect for stashing your boarding pass or a snack.

The back straps have an anatomical design that are designed to make it comfortable to wear the bag, and there is an “Air Mesh” backing that is designed to stop your back from sweating when you’re wearing the bag. Also, I find the design of this bag is neat and compact. Above the wet pocket is an organizer space where I can easily reach the essentials, say for instance, a granola bar. But there’s also room for lots more.

There’s also plenty of room in there to store a laptop. Depending on how long I’m going to be on the road for, I’ll sometimes pack it in there – it’s got a nice secure spot to keep my Macbook.

This is the backpack of of my dreams, that is if I was some kind of backpack nerd who actually dreamed about finding the perfect backpacks.