Life from the Perspective of a Security Guard

Aside


guard

While I’m in between jobs, I got a gig as a security guard. I basically stand around all day and watch people come and go. At a recent post, at a grocery store, who’s name shall remain nameless but rhymes with Galbertson’s, I learned a few things:

  1. The reason kids leave the store empty handed is because, as their moms put it, “You see what happens when you don’t behave?”
  2. Wearing pajamas to the store will never be in the “In” thing to do. No shirt, no shirts, No DIGNITY.
  3. You’d better take a cart or a basket in with you. If you don’t, you’ll eventually stumble back to the front of the store with your arms full of groceries you didn’t intend to pick up but now need a cart or basket to carry.
  4. You can’t tell which employee is the manager? It’s typically the one with the tight pants and brightly colored shirt, carrying a walkie talkie, which nobody else apparently carries; not even the security guard carries one!
  5. No, that donut display is not fresh. Those donuts have been sitting there the last 3 days I’ve stood here. But they’re on sale, so you can’t beat that!
  6. No, I don’t care that you’ve worked as a security guard before. Judging by the grocery cart full of food, I can tell you’re doing much better for yourself now. Why are you even talking to me? Can’t I just enjoy my miserable job in peace?
  7. There are more men than women that buy a bouquet of flowers. Most of the men buying these bouquets always have a guilty look on their faces. Sorry to break this to you man, if you think apologizing with flowers is gonna get you out of the dog house, you might as well give ME the $6.99 you’re going to spend on flowers that your lady will throw away the instant you give them to her.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST

Yoga pants are not for everyone. I know it should be obvious, but some things just are not. Yoga pants should come with an obvious label much like a bottle of bleach that warns you: “Don’t ingest bleach”. It should be something along the lines of: “Objects in these pants may be stranger than they appear.”

The Evolution of the Stand Up Comedian


Image

I’ve noticed an evolution of sorts, in the way stand-up comedy is honed. I suppose that you can say the same thing about most any occupation? If we all have to “Start somewhere”, then it stands to reason that, with the passing of time, you are never the same as when you started. For those of you that have taken an interest in performing stand-up comedy, or know and support someone who does, then read on as I explain what I believe to be a decent interpretation of the evolution of a stand-up comedian:

Starting Out

This period can last for quite some time. Every aspiring comic will start out at an Open Mic show, where a club, promoter or bar venue will offer an opportunity for anyone to get on stage and try out a set of stand-up comedy material. Anyone who has dared to attempt this feat will undoubtedly agree that, putting together a 3 to 5 minute set seems easy at first, but soon becomes incredibly daunting as the premises and jokes, that have been playing in our heads for years, all of a sudden don’t sound as funny when said out loud. But, we’ve committed to perform, so we will write and rewrite our little 3 to 5 minutes. Taking the stage for the first time is as nerve raking  as having the police run your driver’s license during a traffic stop. You’ve memorized the order of your set. You’ve memorized each and every word and have rehearsed your set in the shower, over and over again. Heck, you’ve probably showered at least 6 times on the day of your first gig!

This is actually  the way things will go for a while. Every set will sound rehearsed. The success of every set will hinge on the memorization of the order of your jokes and heaven help us if we have to deal with a heckler! That will throw us completely off! It’s not until you’re set sounds less and less rehearsed that you will be able to take the next step; Thinking you’re funny…

Thinking You’re Funny

Oh yes, you’ve perfected your 3 to 5 minute set and have increased your time to 10 minutes now! You’re on your road to stardom! How is it possible that other people aren’t jumping on your fan bus yet? You’re only a few months in, but how much longer is it going to take before the masses recognize the prodigy they see before them? You are now confident enough to invite your friends and family out to a show and you’ve even updated your Facebook occupation to “Stand Up Comic”.  Never mind that you have a degree, licenses, or a job that would make others salivate, stand up is what you’re proud of! It won’t be long before the comedy clubs hear about you and burn up your phone for booking information!

Then comes the “bomb”… Yup, that bomb that is in everyone’s deck of cards. You can’t avoid it. It’s there. It’s the card that no one wants, but comes with the deck. Ironically enough, it’s the “Joker” card. Oh, and you will soon come to find out that there are plenty of those in your set. This is the time that you realize, there are no short cuts in stand up. This is also the time when some comics face the reality that it is just too hard to continue and certainly not worth the heartache. Some “Jump the shark” here and others keep plugging along to the next step; Punching it up

Punching It Up

You’ve got your nice, little 10 minutes of decent material. It’s funny, but it could use some more laughs. By now, you’re about 1 to 2 years in and you are now starting to realize that you might need to put in a little more work before you’re invited to the Conan O’Brien show. Although you have several ideas to other premises, you realized that you need to work a little more on the material you have now. You reluctantly go the open mics around town but you are still being humbled a little more often that you would like to be. It’s tough to do the same 10 minutes in front of the same audiences night in and night out, but you continue to do them in hopes of saying something off the cuff on stage, that will result in a new punchline or new bit. It’s about this time that co-workers, friends and family ask you, “Are you still doing that comedy thing?” Endure this level and you’re ready for the next one: Learning to Write.

Learning to Write

You’re going on 2 to 3 years now and you’ve realized that there is more to stand-up comedy than just writing a clever one liner. In fact, you now realize that you still have a lot of work to do. You’ve learned about “Act Outs” in the past, but have been too hesitant to do them, after all, your jokes are great without the need to make a fool of yourself and act anything out on stage, right? Well, after a few years of watching other stand ups and comedy shows, you now see how the Act Out portion of a joke is the real money-maker! That’s where most of the laughs happen. But, where can you find places in your set to act things out? It’s gonna take a lot of trial and error, but what the hell, you’ve already bombed enough times to really care about looking bad on stage. “Efff it!”, you say. All of a sudden, something magical happens; as you’ve been working on your act outs, you’ve stumbled on other premises and other jokes that you know will go great on stage! Shoot, you’re getting almost 20 “Likes” on Facebook every time you post one of your witticisms! Now that you’re getting it, you’re ready to move on to the next step: Getting paid to perform.

Getting Paid to Perform

Chance are, by now, you may have gotten an opportunity to host or open a show at the comedy club or other venue. You’re not quite where you want to be yet, but you’re making progress. You have a nice, tight 10 minutes and maybe a few minutes to sprinkle around. There was a time when you actually claimed to have 30 minutes to an hour worth of stuff, but if you’re really honest, you’ll understand that only 8 to 10 minutes of it is actually funny. You’re 4 to 5 years in now and now realize that you were way off thinking you were ever ready for stardom. This may take a decade or two! At this point, you’re getting really annoyed by other young comics, who are just starting out and think they’re the next Richard Pryor, Louis C.K. or Bill Bull. You have promised yourself that you would not get too cocky and that you will always be realistic about what you’ve accomplished so far. When you think you have an hour’s worth of good material, you really only have 15 minutes. When you think you have a half hours’ worth of good material, you actually only have 10. Once you have decided to be completely honest with yourself, you can then take the next step: Learning to sacrifice your children.

Learning to Sacrifice Your Children

Don’t let the title of this section fool you. I’m not saying you’ve got to abandon the real children you took part in co-creating. It’s bad enough you’re already having to pay child support. That investment may pay off one day when one of your kids makes it big while you’re still plugging along at open mics. What I’m referring to in this section is learning to dump the material that is just not working. Sure, you got a few chuckles that one time at a bar called Ernie’s, but it was from a couple seated in the back that was laughing at a meme on their phones. You should be a good 6 years in by now and are starting to realize that not everything you write is gold! In fact, what makes you laugh, isn’t necessarily funny to your audience. By now, you’re learning to read an audience and are taking more risks now. Some of those risks pay off and others crash and burn like the dude from “Jackass”. (No, it’s not too soon. It was only a matter of time before one of those dudes earned the Darwin Award.) You are now very realistic about stand-up comedy and are in no hurry to get famous anymore. As long as you’re constantly coming up with new material and honing and developing your set, you’re happy. People are taking notice that you are not only a good comic, but you can actually write a joke! Now that you’re no longer self-deluding yourself, you’re ready to move on! Showing them the real you.

Showing Them The Real You

When you get here, man, you’re just scratching the surface! But, it feels great! This is when you are about 7 to 8 years in. Now, you’ve been on stage so often that you are not afraid of being You. Many young comics don’t realize this, mostly because no one ever tells them to their face, but, there was a time when you weren’t you on stage. That’s right, you weren’t. You were Dane Cook, Bill Bull, Bill Hicks, Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K. You were anyone but YOU! This happens without much realization. It’s just that you were influenced by those comics mentioned above and others. It’s almost like a husband and wife when they start looking like each other and acting like one another. It’s almost inevitable. But, now, you’re being You on stage. The real You. The You that your friends and family like. Your personality is really pouring in to your jokes like never before. No longer does your set sound rehearsed. It sounds smooooth! Even when you are trying out new stuff, it’s almost as though you’ve been doing it for years. If a joke tanks, you just plug along and your personality wins the audience over in the end! Some comics may reach this level sooner than others or even later. Whatever the case may be, once you get here, the journey has just begun. Hang in there and keep plugging along!

George Carlin Was Not Funny To Me


George Carlin was a good performer. He was a good orator. He was a good and creative writer. But, to me, he was not particularly funny. I know the comedy world at large may frown upon that statement, but who in the world said I had to agree with everyone! I’ve listened to Carlin. I’ve watched some of his specials and have even watched his Tonight Show appearances. On one particular appearance, he rambled off a long list of items as part of his set. None of these items were particularly funny to me. In fact, during the 5 minute rant, I giggled once. Then again, the audience didn’t laugh much either. But ohhhhh, the fact that he was brilliantly able to ramble off a 5 minute list of cleverly listed items got his fan base’s full attention. Then, at the end, a rousing round of applause. I sat there thinking, “I thought this was supposed to be a stand up comedy routine?”

I will never reach the level of fame or recognition that George Carlin reached, but it does not mean that I have to admire him for his stand up comedy. What I do admire is, his ability to write, perform and create a fan base that was clearly devoted to him, even in death. I feel the same about Bill Hicks. Sure he was a ground breaker in the stand up comedy scene, but I didn’t find him funny. And I’m not obligated to. Here are a list of comics that I think are much more brilliant than they were:

Brian Regan
Jim Gaffigan
Mitch Hedberg
Nick Swardson

(Just to name a few). YouTube them. Then, YouTube Carlin and Hicks. Form your own opinion. I’ll respect it either way.

Oh, and if you are, by any chance, a rock & roll musician, you do not have to like “Stairway to Heaven” or even give a crap about Led Zepplin or Rush.

What ever dream you have, follow your own inspirations and don’t be scared to admit that you don’t follow the general consensus about anyone! After all, isn’t that what George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Led Zepplin and Rush did?

By the way, I loved George Carlin in the role of Popeye’s long lost papi in the movie, “Popeye”.

Look At Me!!


me

When a comic gets asked, “Why did you want to do stand up comedy?” The majority of the answers you’ll read will be, “I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh.” And to that, I’ve gotta say “B.S.!” Although that is a nice “pie in the sky” answer, it comes no where near the real reason. I will admit, my answer to that question cannot be meant to apply to EVERY comic, but I believe my answer is perhaps the most honest approach to that question. As a comic, who tries to share real life experiences with complete honesty, I would think you would expect nothing less from me. So, why have I chosen to do stand up comedy? Here it goes…

I do it for the attention. I do it because I enjoy when all eyes and ears are on me. I don’t seek this attention in any other setting. At the workplace, or at a party, you’ll swear I’m the most quiet individual. I allow others to get the spotlight. I don’t try to stand out anyplace else. But, if I am to be recognized for anything, I want it to be for something that no one else, or very few people can do. Yes, I appreciate the laughter but more so, I enjoy making a room full of complete strangers take notice of me. I enjoy them identifying with the words that I’m saying and I enjoy watching the affect I have on them with the orchestrated way I have put my words together. Knowing that I have planned out my set in a strategic way and watching the resulting laughter is exactly why I do this. The crowd watches me hit the stage and I know they’re thinking, “I dare you to make me laugh!” Then, within a few words, BAM! They’re mine! They’ll hang on each word until I tell them I’m done. You will never understand the rush that comes from that until you’ve done it. It’s not only on the comedy stage that you can accomplish that. Do it in everything you do that no one else can claim to do better and you’ll understand exactly why it is that I have chosen to do what I do. I’m seeking the admiration of the audience, the respect of other comics and more significantly, the satisfaction of my own selfish nature. I’ll go days giving others the spotlight they seek, but when it’s my turn, when the spotlight is on me, when the words from the PA system say, “Please welcome to the stage, Omar Tarango!”, that is MY moment and I’ll be taking you on a ride you’ll be glad you got on. And when I’m done, all I want is to be remembered as the comic who deserved and earned your attention…

Hacks, Stealing Material and Carlos Mencia


Image

What is a hack comic? Simply put, it is a comic who chooses to use the “same old” topics that have been used over and over again by other comics in hopes of getting an easy laugh. All comics fall prey to this. It is the comic that recognizes the hack premises and immediately dumps them, that will eventually grow and succeed. It’s all part of the learning process. So, although it may be really easy to pick on the Kardashians, it is simply too overdone to continue doing it!

Many famous comics have been accused of stealing other comics’ material, and while I completely detest the practice, I have got to play the devil’s advocate on this. It used to really upset me when I heard, as most stand up comedy fans may have heard, that Carlos Mencia regularly steals jokes. The problem is, some of the jokes he was accused of stealing were jokes that were really easy for anybody to come up with! Does this mean he’s not a talented and funny comic? As a comic, I dissect the methods and strategies used by comics. For me, it is the comic that completely pulls me in unexpected directions, that I really admire and try to be like. I feel that’s the case for every audience when they have chosen to follow any comic of their liking.

Let’s get back to Mencia. As a comic, I recognize that Mencia has been performing for many years. He has performed in front of bar audiences, quiet and subdued audiences in charity events, audiences that were less than friendly, audiences that were more interested in drinking than to listen to the guy on stage with the mic, audiences that preferred to watch the sporting event on the bar’s TVs than to deal with the talking distraction in the spotlight, and other audiences too various to mention. He has endured the horrible experience of completely bombing on stage. He has had to endure the unrelenting heckling that can throw any comic off their game. He has offended people that did not understand his humor and those people have let him know about it. He has had to endure the negative comments of people around him that try to hold him back. He has even had to hear those same negative comments from those people he considered to be friends. He has put up with having to pay a fee to get himself on stage. He’s had to pay for his travel and finance his hotels before anyone knew or cared who he was.

Yet through all of this, audiences took notice. They liked him. They appreciated his humor. They wanted to hear more from him. He was THEIR comic! Do you think he did that by stealing jokes? Do you think he got there by being unoriginal and a hack? No. He didn’t. He put in the work and can now enjoy the fruits of his labor. To every comic that has reached that successful point in their stand up career, I salute them. They did it. Audiences are not stupid. They recognize original talent and they reward it with their undivided attention…

The Long and Winding Road


Image

In the world of Stand up Comedy, you can literally write tons of new material and maybe only a few of those jokes survive! I recently wrote 10 minutes of material and only 25 seconds of it made the final cut! It’s a long road, but the laughs are worth it!

I personally like to write down some of my material as a Facebook status update. Depending on the responses I get, I can gauge whether or not I want to keep working on them. The following are just a few of some of those status updates. Some of them have made it to my act and others are still sitting on the back burner. What I really enjoy about this process is that some of these bits will actually evolve into a great bit that only leads to other great bits. I hope you enjoy them! And remember, you can go to my Facebook fan page and ‘Like’ it to keep up with whatever I’m writing at the time….

 A new billboard sign in town reads, “You Text, You Drive, You Crash”. How about adding, “Reading Billboards Won’t Help Either.”

Found a condom wrapper in my teenage son’s backpack. I don’t know whether to be upset that he’s having sex at an early age or jealous that they’re Magnums.

“Why can’t I buy a car? Your commercial said you accept Bad Credit.”…”Yes sir, but you have crappy credit. You need to improve your score by 200 points to have Bad Credit.”

I have dreams of becoming famous. I also dream that a giant tomato eats me….

Big Brothers of America has canceled my participation. Apparently, my assigned little brother did not appreciate the teasing, wedgies or bullying.

Having a cold for longer than a few days can make a person so paranoid that they start thinking crazy stuff; “Crap, this is EXACTLY how Magic Johnson found out he was HIV positive…”

As a Christian, I know I’m not perfect. I believe in the rapture, but as a stupid teenager, I sure wish I hadn’t thought the things I did….(under my breath) “Please, please, please, don’t come for your people today. This girl thinks I’m YOU!”

I just now realized why the Flinstones were happily married for so long. Twin beds…

 

WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!


Image

Getting started in stand up comedy is pretty much like being a kid again. You’re going to mess up and sometimes, you’re going to get scolded. In the six years I’ve been doing this, this has happened to me at least twice. I’ll share one of those experiences with you.  While opening at a well know comedy club, I ended my set too short. I was given 10 minutes, however, I never got the light, (every club gives the performer a light from the sound booth, when it’s time to wrap it up,) to end my set. Considering that I was still in the beginning stages of my stand up career, I didn’t exactly have more material than I had been rehearsing for, so the fact that I didn’t get the ‘light’, sent me into sort of a panic. Rather than stay on stage, I said thank you and went on to introduce the Feature performer for the night. Unfortunately, the owner had not been in the sound booth, which is the reason that he didn’t give me the ‘light’ so, the next comic had to go on stage with absolutely no intro music. I then left outside of the showroom where the owner greeted me with not so kind words. I didn’t want to admit to him that I had completed my set and had run out of material to use so, I simply stood there and got an earful!  I should have been prepared with more though. I did have other stuff I could have used but, I had not rehearsed it and it certainly wasn’t immediately available in my mind while on stage.

A quick word of wisdom, to any beginning comic out there; Always be prepared with enough material to fill the amount of minutes you are given. Do NOT plan to go over that BUT, always, ALWAYS, have a few more minutes ready to go should the owner, sound guy or manager not be ready to give you the ‘light’! Hey, for all you know, you might be getting more time because you’re simply killing it out there! Before too long, you’ll be wishing you would always get more time!

One Day Away!


Image

Tomorrow, I’ll be taking to the stage at Laffs Comedy Caffe’ in Tucson! I’m incredibly excited about it and can’t wait to use my material on a professional stage! I’m desperately trying to find a ‘clothing style’ for my appearances. After a 12 year marriage and 4 kids, I think I’ve lost all sense of fashion. I’ll be doing a little bit of shopping in Tucson tomorrow and I’m hoping to find just the right clothes. I personally think that when a comic is still trying to make a name for themselves, it’s important to try to stand out from the crowd. Kinda like watching an 80’s Glam Metal band. Remember those guys?They stood out! They didn’t look like everybody else and we were hooked not only to their music but their look!

I’m certainly not saying I want to be THAT outrageous, but I do want to stand out somehow. If I ever make a splash in this business, then I can tone it down and maybe take the stage wearing basketball shorts and my favorite t-shirt. By then, my jokes should be enough. 🙂

You’re so Vain!


Image

At the risk of sounding really vain, I realized that as a performer, it is vital that I put my best foot forward. And considering that I am the center of attention when I take the stage, I want to make sure that, besides being funny and entertaining, I must do what I can to look good up there! Over the past year, I have neglected my physical health and have not worked out much, gaining at least 10 pounds in the process. With 2 comedy club gigs coming up, I have hit the weights again for the past 4 weeks and have been extremely strict with my diet. In that short amount of time I have gained some lean muscle and lost a few inches around my waist.

I realize that in stand up, the content of the performer’s material is more important to the progression of their comedy career, however, as conceited as this may sound, I want to appeal to as many of the audiences’ senses while I’m on stage. If anything, looking good gives me more confidence to get up on that already frightful stage and I’m looking to get an edge on every angle of this business. There are so many things that are out of a comic’s control but, I feel that it’s vitally important to quickly get a grasp on those things you do have control of.

I’m at the age where health is more important than looks, so I know I’m killing two birds with one stone. I either get myself back in shape or start writing new material about diabetes and high blood pressure.

Tucson, Here I Come!


Image

I’ll be opening this week at Laffs Comedy Caffe in Tucson, Arizona! If you live in Tucson or know someone in that area, let me know so I can shoot you and them an invite! The club is great and it would be awesome if I could generate a good following there! I’ll be performing 2 shows on Friday, March 30th and 2 shows on Saturday the 31st. I’ll also be polishing some of my newest stuff this Tuesday night at Coconuts at 10pm with the El Paso Underground Comedy group!