Five Reasons Standup Comedy Sucks When it Sucks

In an incredibly helpful video posted by comedian Ari Shaffir last year, he dropped an asinine amount of valuable info at LA’s Comedy Store, to baby comics like myself.

He said a lot of great stuff, but one of the things that stood out to me the most is that, until you bomb countless times, you don’t know anything.

Now I’ve bombed my fair share, and even got booed off stage once, but it looks like I have a healthy amount of bombing left to do before I smarten up. Most of the time, when you bomb, it’s because of the WAY you’re presenting yourself, and not so much the joke itself. Of course, unfunny is unfunny, but I’ve had stuff kill one set, and then bomb another set.

Thankfully, standup comedy, as with life, has lessons with every failure. In my couple of years doing standup, I’ve noticed five definite things that myself and other comics do, or don’t do, that can make or break a set.

Speak Up!

When I first started doing comedy in Blacksburg, Va., this was my main issue. I’m a naturally laid back dude, but the host and my first comedy mentor, Anthony Quinn Robinson, told me that I needed to speak up. Matter of fact, he said I sounded like I was trying to be a midnight love radio DJ. I’ve gotten better at it and don’t think it’s my Achilles heel anymore, but no matter where I’m doing time, I still hear those words echo in my head sometimes before I go on.

Reason being?

You have to control the crowd. You don’t have to be a loudmouth, rah rah type comic, but you have to speak with authority, especially when you first go on. Even if you’re a lazy, stoner type, your voice is your instrument, so you have to draw the crowd in, especially if alcohol is flowing and waitresses are milling about taking orders.

Shut Up!

Not literally, of course, but new comics are too verbose. I cringe looking at old videos, because I’ll kill with a setup and punch line, but then ramble for a minute and a half before saying something funny or interesting. Writing is in my blood, so I learned a long time ago that most of the time, tight is right and less is more.

The same applies with comedy.

I’ve learned to trim the fat with my sets, cut out any words that aren’t actively helping the joke and not ramble when explaining things. This makes your jokes stronger, especially when, if telling a long joke, you GET THERE with jokes, rather than empty explaining.

Don’t Waste Time

The biggest thing I miss about doing comedy in Virginia is that I could do 15+ minutes whenever I went on. In Hollywood, you’re doing 5-minute spots mostly, and if they’re crunched for time, you might get cut to three minutes.

While I have the luxury of doing open mics 7 nights a week, multiple times per night, I don’t have a chance to do as much time, so I don’t have time to waste. I was at a club a couple weeks back, where a comic had a 5-minute spot, and pulled out, (I am NOT making this up) a sword, a stick of dynamite and other assorted items.

There was a lineup of 10 comics or more, along with some musical guests. For someone going on with limited time, you can’t waste a second.

Fear of Silence

This past weekend, I took Mrs. G out to Inside Jokes on Hollywood Boulevard to support a fellow comic, Julian Michael, I met a little while ago. He had a great set, but though the jokes alone were funny, he added so much to it by taking a little moment to let it breathe.

Having that little moment of silence draws the crowd in, so that they want to laugh, even before hearing what you’re about to say next. I practiced this more in Virginia, but in Los Angeles, find myself sinking into bad habits of fearing silence, based on a joke not hitting, or talking too fast after watching comics bomb before me.

Which brings me to…

Fuck ‘Em

There really is absolutely no other way to put it.

Offstage, I’m the most chill, friendly, people loving person you’ll meet, but before I grab the mic, I have to go up there with the mindset that I’m better than you, and even if you don’t love me, Jesus does.

The split second you find yourself holding back, acting out of character, trying too hard, fearing rejection, wanting too much to be liked or letting them judge you, you already lost. If I’m going to bomb or offend, I’m going to bomb or offend, but it’s going to be on my terms.

When I walk out with that kind of confidence, no matter what comes out of my mouth, it’s usually a pretty decent set. When I let those doubts creep in, I usually bomb, or have an awkward set.

Confidence is king in all aspects of life, so I try to walk with these tenants daily on and off stage.


Mars and Venus: She and I Are Not the Same

I’ve been married for a bit, and would consider myself a pretty OK person.

For example. When my wife and I argue, and it gets really intense, every part of me wants to take a step back to lull her into a false sense of security, only to turn my head hop forward and catch her across the jaw with a Shawn Michaels super kick.

Now while that would feel good, and while it would feel even better to stand over her unconscious body doing the “suck it” crotch chop, I don’t do that. Do I deserve a medal for that? Absolutely. Do I expect to get one? Maybe if we move to one of the few states that still lets you beat your wife, but I love sunny California too much.

So I just take my L and keep it moving.

Some arguments provide growth, while others are just annoying. After having a good mix of both over the years, I threw it all under a microscope and came to a conclusion—we’re not the same.

I’m sure you didn’t need to log on to my silly blog to find out that men and women, especially in relationships, are different, but there’s a very important difference to keep in mind when it comes to flaws and arguments.

It goes like this:

In relationships, my ego is my strength, but it’s also my biggest flaw. In relationships, her emotion is her strength, but it’s also her biggest flaw.

What do I mean by that?

We all know that women love a man with confidence, and in some situations, having a ridiculous amount of confidence, bordering on cockiness can actually be attractive.

That’s the good part of it. The bad part?

Nobody likes an a-hole. When confidence gets out of hand, someone can get hurt. Since I don’t publish this just to pick on people, I’ll put myself in the crosshairs.

When Mrs. G and I were about to get married, we underwent a series of counseling sessions from the pastor that was to officiate our wedding. We had to list the biggest flaws we see in each other, along with our greatest strengths. I don’t remember which flaw I named about Mrs. G, but I won’t forget the one she said about me, because it’s somewhat been a theme in our marriage on and off.

She says that I don’t apologize enough.

Now, I’m not perfect by any means, though I am pretty close to it. But I suppose at times I don’t realize it, or let my ego get in the way, instead of just apologizing. We’ve been married for four years, and while I don’t spend every single day starting trouble and not apologizing for it, it’s come up more than once.

This is what we call a recurring issue, and when there’s a recurring issue, it’s going to take patience on both sides.

Every relationship has them. For some people, it might be smoking, messiness, or overspending. These are the ones that you deal with over the long haul, with the hope that they become less of an issue, or go away forever over time. With recurring issues, you sometimes have to take the L and learn to be patient as they work through it.

Now, certain issues have to be nipped in the bud right away. If you get cheated on 57 times, it does neither of you any good to hold each other’s hand and work through it.

So while Mrs. G loves my audacity to say certain things and be playfully full of myself, it’s not so fun when it’s used against her.

A man’s strength is his ego, and it’s also his detriment.

Now in terms of Mrs. G and her sisteren, as I said, emotion is their strength and a detriment.

I happened to have married an incredibly emotional woman, which, at times, makes you want to go on a killing spree. When dealing with certain ladies, you might be on an all time high one moment, then the next moment, she’s on the couch crying, shivering under blankets and blaming you for it.  

A woman’s strength is her emotion, and it’s also her detriment.

You might wonder, how could being emotional possibly be a strength?

I didn’t know it was possible until I got married. Surely you’ve heard of women’s intuition. That’s not just some old wife’s tale, it’s super real.

Women have some kind of weird radar that they can use in a thousand different situations. If you approach a woman and in your heart, feel like you’re going to get shot down, she’ll sniff it out unless you’re an incredibly good actor. They can sniff out emotional climates with little to no words exchanged.

There have been plenty of times where Mrs. G knows something is wrong before I even realize I’m in a bad mood.

I’ll wrap it up with a great example of how her feeling was incredibly beneficial.

We moved out to California with the clothes on our back and the bags in our car, and in terms of income, we’ve had to depend mostly on me working from home on a strictly freelance basis. It gets incredibly stressful, and lets me know that I’m stronger than I ever thought.

I’m typically cool and laid back, and it takes a whole lot to get me too high or too low. When I’m not running my mouth on stage, on this blog or over a beer, I tend to keep my thoughts in my head. People tend to turn to me for advice rather than vice versa, so if I ever hit you up spilling my guts, know that shiz got real, because I typically handle my problems in house.

But one day, when we first moved out here, I had a moment of feeling sorry for myself because the day job was getting overwhelming, and it felt impossible to do that and have any time to myself or to do standup or work on my TV scripts.

Without asking if I was OK, Mrs. G sensed it. Her response? She downloaded some cheap audio editing software and spliced together a high energy motivational clip, with sound bites from some people dropping real jewels.

Now men don’t cry, and I didn’t cry in this situation, but I did have to take a few deep breaths because someone must have been chopping onions or something.

I’m always even keel, and it’s usually her getting emotional, but in my once every blue moon moment of getting weak, she was on top of it and right there to give her knight in shining armor that boost in the back to get back up, dust himself off and go slay those dragons.

If she wasn’t in tune to the emotional climate of the relationship, she might have misplayed it, or been completely unaware.

So for that, I can work with her when she’s curled up on the couch with a carton of ice cream. 


The Hump Day Feast: But Are You Happy?

Happy Hump Day.

As I reach the midpoint of my week, having worked an incredible amount of hours since March 1, including no days off Saturday and Sunday, I realized that I haven’t come up for air much lately. While that would seem like torture for some people, I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.


Because I’m not working a job, I’m living a lifestyle.

We all have our different paths in life. While I don’t think you can truly tell someone what they’re supposed to be doing with their life, I feel like everyone should strive to be a little selfish and figure out what makes them happy.

When we’re 5, we dream big dreams, the days are long and we’re not worried about the time on the clock. By the time we’re 25, we still know what we love and have big dreams, but we put them to the side because of life.

Oh man, I really love to play tennis, but I haven’t played in three years because I’m tired when I get off work and just want to rest on the weekend.  Oh man, I always wanted to be a juggler, but they don’t make any money and my family will look at me funny. Man, I’ve always wanted to visit Brazil, the big booty capital of the world, to lust after the deliciousness that graces the beach, but it’s a hassle to go apply for a passport.

Whatever your internal dialogue is, don’t ignore it.

I’m not suggesting you quit your job tomorrow and throw caution to the wind, I’m just saying to be real with those thoughts in your head, because they’re not going anywhere. In fact, they’re probably going to amplify the older you get, and when life really, really, really does start getting in the way.

I left a newspaper job to move out west and do what I’m doing now. Everything happens for a reason, so I know the great times I had in those 4 years will fuel me with stories and perspectives that will make the funniest, most creative m’fer you’ve ever seen.

But to be real, and Mrs. G and I talk about this all the time, there came a point in my life that I began doing what I call scared dreaming.

All throughout college, I was writing comic books and graphic novels, and wrote my first TV script. That TV script placed me in the semi-finals of the International Page Screenwriting Awards. While working at the paper, I dusted off my Final Draft Software after shutting those dreams away for a few years, and surprise surprise, the very next script I wrote placed me in the finals of Bill Cosby’s TV Writing program at USC, and in the Top 5 percentile with a Warner Bros. program.

I don’t regret anything in the course of my life, but if I wasn’t scared dreaming, I might never have even become a newspaper reporter. I’m super glad I did, because it makes me more well rounded, but at some point while at the paper, those thoughts in my head became more amplified, to the point that I knew I couldn’t lie to myself anymore.

Either I was going to move out to Los Angeles and make this thing happen, or I was going to stay in a job I was good at, but one that was a backup plan in the grand scheme of what my heart wanted.

Thankfully, I married someone who is just as big a dreamer as I am, or Mrs. G and I would have had to go our separate ways, if she wasn’t willing to pack up and move with me.

Sure, that would suck, and sure, she would have had a case to call me an a-hole for the rest of her life, but if I didn’t make this move, I was going to die inside.

I like to joke, but I promise you that I’m not overstating that.

So now, here I am in Los Angeles, not staffed on a TV show and not selling out arenas with my standup, but dude, I am HAPPY. I still work crazy hours freelancing in order to feed myself and finance the dream, but it’s to the point that it’s not hard anymore, because I’m where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

I have love in my heart for anybody that reads this, which is why I feel the need to take time out and tell you to do what makes you happy.

It doesn’t mean you should do anything remotely close to what I did if it’s not in your heart, but realize that all we have is our happiness, and even if it means sneaking a couple hours per week to do what gives you those giddy feelings, make sure that you do it. You schedule enough of your life around what other people want you to do with your time, so be selfish for once and do something for you.


The 'L' of A Thousand Truths: "He's Too Nice"

Back in the day before you could send 140 characters to holla at a girl, you had to earn your stripes by running up your parents phone bill and talking until the wee hours of the morning about nothing.

I, like a lot of dudes, put in work learning how to hold a phone conversation with the opposite sex. I’m still taken aback by how open they’d become when comfortable, and in their young and dumb way, drop some information that still puts things into perspective for me today.

If you know a guy that’s any older than 12-and-a-half, he’s heard an all too familiar phrase that either pertained to him, or some other sap that was the topic of conversation. There are a lot of variations of this rite of passage phrase, but we’ve all heard it.

Goofy Girl:

He’s a good guy, he’s smart, he’s well dressed, he has everything that I like in a guy, but he’s too nice.

Sound familiar?

I used to be the captain of the hard on hoes movement, waving the flag for good men everywhere who have had to hear this phrase, either in reference to them, or one of their comrades.

That is, until I did the knowledge and actually thought about what it meant.

First, I’m not letting women off the hook for this silly, over uttered phrase, but I think that in a lot of situations, they speak in a way that only makes sense to them. They know what they mean when they say it to each other, but to everybody else, it sounds masochistic, and it sort of is.

But for the soldiers in the field who find themselves lost, rejoice—Loretta Graham’s miracle baby is a beacon of light to set you on the right path of understanding this woman speak.

Rather than sum up what “too nice” means in a sentence, I’ll use examples that will paint a clearer picture.

Have you ever played someone in something, anything, Madden, basketball, bowling, darts or whatever, and you KNEW you were better than them, but for whatever reason, they had your number, and eternal bragging rights? We all have.

It’s infuriating, to say the least. The ego kicks in and you’re seeing red, overthinking and forgetting the fundamentals, only to keep calling for rematch after rematch, just to lose every single one. Some lesser being, no, some mere mortal got the best of you, when you KNOW that you’re better than them.

Well multiply that by about 10 or 15.

In a relationship, a woman naturally gravitates toward a guy that she can look at as a winner. In life, she could recruit an army and take over entire continents, ruling them with an iron fist, but when she goes home to her man, she, at some point, wants to be able to look at him with the googly eyes and say, man, that is my GUY.

To get a bit more raw with it, romance movies aside, the very act of the birds and the bees is like controlled violence, with the man using his sword of a thousand truths when waging that sweet battle which allowed all of us to be born.

Now let me ask you something. How would it feel to have someone funny bunny clownish mere mortal enjoy the benefit of attacking your castle without being worthy?

If the knight bludgeons her in battle, no pride is lost, because hey, he’s the knight, right? He earned that by his own merit. But if the lowly cook sneaks in and does the same, she doesn’t feel like he earned it.

Now this means a lot of things for a lot of people. If you’re Michelle Obama, a highly educated, charismatic woman, you’re probably going to feel like you’re settling for less unless you have a guy with the confidence of Barack. Status isn’t everything, but if she’s telling you you’re too nice, it doesn’t mean that you’re too polite or thoughtful, it means that she feels like you're not on her level, and you don’t have that masculine edge to make her OK with you expressing any kind of dominance in her presence.

With all that said, there are some women who are just damaged goods and want nothing better than to get treated like a dirty diaper that was left out in the sun, but I would bet that the majority of the time, they more or less feel what I described, but don’t express it the right way. 


Winning Time: Wise Words Spoken by a Loser

The Super Bowl is around the corner, and yet another team will reach greatness. All they’ve worked for, from Pop Warner to now, will boil down to 60 minutes of hard work to make their wildest dreams come true.

After the NFC Championship game that led to this moment, something stood out to me. While we were all talking about Richard Sherman’s outburst and the fact that Pam Oliver allowed a blind hairdresser on prison work release to handle her weave, something prolific got lost in the mix.

The losing 49ers coach, Jim Harbaugh, stood with Pam outside of the locker room for a quick post game interview. He had tasted a chance at greatness last season, when they lost in the Super Bowl, which was just one step further than the 2011 season, in which his team lost in the NFC Championship game. So for the third year straight of coming so close, yet so far, Jim Harbaugh had to stand in front of the camera and tell the world how he felt. He looked disappointed, but just as resolute as ever. When Pam asked the obligatory postgame questions, he offered a quote that struck a chord with me.

“A man can be destroyed, but he can’t be defeated,” he said.

I didn’t check, but if I had done a Twitter search, I’m sure at least a dozen people responded with something along the lines of: You got tha quote backward dumass. #readabooklately? #losersgohome #GoSeaHawks #LOB

But if you think about what he’s saying, it wasn’t backwards at all, and is a mantra that we could all take something from. Pam didn’t help much, as she looked at him with a deer in the headlights look and just asked “Is that a quote?”

Bad hair day reporting aside, the quote resonated with me. It’s actually an Ernest Hemingway quote, and one Harbaugh also used after getting knocked out by the Giants in his first NFC Championship game as the Niners coach.

You might have the capability to destroy me… Beat me in a game, fire me from a job, put a gun to my head and fire off all 15, knock me out in front of my wife, kids and grandkids, but you will NEVER defeat me.

You won’t take my pride. You won’t take my dignity. You won’t take my manhood. You won’t take my fighting spirit. You won’t take my tenacity. You won’t make me doubt myself as a human.

If my spirit drifts off to another plane somewhere, I’ll be floating and looking down at you with two Stone Cold Steve Austin middle fingers, saying that I won’t lose and I’m still better than you.

It made me think about my favorite ESPN 30 for 30 film, Winning Time, about Reggie Miller and his battle to beat the New York Knicks in the playoffs after always being bested by them. Before he ever thought about hitting game winning shots and grabbing his nuts in front of Spike Lee, he was getting beat down in the back yard by his big sister Cheryl, the greatest female to ever touch a basketball. Anyone who grows up with siblings knows that you learn how to play by taking your lumps and constantly losing in the back yard.

Well, Reggie was losing to his sister, a girl, and I’m sure that didn’t feel good.

Of course, she wasn’t just a girl, she was a raw athlete who put up 100 points in a high school game, but you can’t explain that logic to the ego.

In the documentary, Cheryl said she would be dusting the court with him, not letting him score a point, and the entire time, Reggie would NOT stop running his mouth. Fast forward to his NBA days, and anyone who watched basketball knew that Reggie Miller did NOT stop running his mouth, but he’d also shoot your eyes out. I hated him back in the day, but when it’s all said and done, I respect him more than almost any NBA player in history, because dude had that much heart.

He only got that way because even when his sister was destroying him, she was never able to defeat him. Neither were the New York Knicks.

With a Hall of Fame basketball career in the books, millions in the bank and a job on TV providing basketball analysis, it’s a good thing that he never let life defeat him.

I’m sure nobody reading this is playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday, but we put it all on the line every day just to get what we want out of life. We’ve all taken L’s and will continue to do so, but bouncing back from them is the mark of a true champ.