I’ve Been In Three Fist Fights


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I’ve spent most of my life trying to keep fit and remain athletic, but that doesn’t mean I know how to fight. Maybe I’m a little wiser now and might be able to handle myself better. After all, I was 13 years old the last time I fought anyone, so who knows what kind of power I harness now?

I remember my first fight, which turned out not to be much of a fight at all. I was twelve years old and joined the rest of my 7th grade friends at the school gym, preparing to sign up for the upcoming football season. It was just a bunch of us boys waiting for the coach to make an appearance to tell us what we had to do to try out for the team. The anticipation was palpable and was evident by the noticeable excitement of all of the boys in attendance. One kid in particular, had begun tackling people randomly and knocking them to the floor. Those that were tackled simply got up and accepted it as a playful thing and didn’t do much in retaliation. I knew this kid, but I wasn’t friends with him. I didn’t think we got along well enough that he would want to goof off that way with me. He did anyway. Before I knew it, he blindsided me by rushing towards me and knocking me down to the gym floor. I was wearing my back-pack at the time, with both straps draped over my shoulders, so when I hit the floor, I fell back-pack first. The weight of the books in my back-pack momentarily kept me pinned to the gym floor like a turtle turned on it’s shell. I just teetered there for a few brief moments. Rather than let it go, I got up and rushed my assailant, who quickly went into a boxer’s stance. I hadn’t even reached him before he threw a jab at me and knocked me to the floor. I still had my stupid back-pack on so again, I teetered there like a cockroach who had fallen on its back after attempting an ill advised leap. I got up again and ditched the back-back and again rushed towards my aggressor. Again, he throws a jab and I hit the ground. I get up again and repeat my vain attempt at a counter attack, but it only brings back mental images of Rocky Balboa going up against Ivan Drago in Rocky IV where Rocky gets dropped over and over again and they’re only in Round 1! By the time I get up for the fourth time, the other kid loses interest in me and stops the assault. I gather my things, walk out of the gym and head home, never joining the 7th grade football team.

My two subsequent fights were not as eventful and don’t even bare recounting, but here we go anyway. I fought a kid by the name of Joel, (which, by the way, is the name of one of my sons now). He was a chubby kid who, for some reason or another, picked a fight with me by taking my back-pack (freakin’ back-pack), and throwing it up a tree. I faced him head on and took on a boxer’s stance, much like the one I saw that school gym kid take with me. I threw jabs at Joel, striking him several times on the shoulder. He didn’t fight back. He literally stood there and absorbed my punches. After about six or seven punches, I realized, “This kid’s not gonna fight back? I think he’s in shock?”. I stopped throwing punches and grabbed my cursed back-packed off the tree, and walked home.

My third and last fist fight of my life happened at the age of thirteen, on the school playground. My friends and I had begun teasing a much taller older kid about his slanted eyes, constantly referring to him as “chino”, which was quite a racist, derogatory term typically used to describe anyone of Asian origin. And the kid wasn’t even Asian! He just looked Asian! Anyway, having reached his boiling point, he attacked the closest of his instigators which just happened to be me. He threw a few punches, which I successfully dodged and countered with a punch of my own, one of which grazed his forehead. Feeling he was wasting his time, however, “chino”stopped throwing hay-makers and walked away, leaving the victor of the fight in question.

That’s it. Those are all of the fights I’ve ever been in. I’ve shied away from a couple of other fights, but those are left for another blog.

 

 

Here Are The Things That Make Me, Me…


 

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  • I used to stare at the sun only because my mom told me not to. I ended up having to go to the eye doctor who proceeded to laugh when I told him why I did it. The real reason was because I thought that if I stared at the sun long enough, I may develop Superman laser vision.
  • I was in an elevator as the door was closing. A woman came running up to the door and yelled for me to hold the elevator. I didn’t think I could hit the button in time, so I let it go. In the process, we made eye contact with each other, kinda like when the mom in the movie, ‘The Good Son’, looked at Macaulay Culkin when she let go of his grip and he fell to his death off a cliff. The other person managed to hit the button on the outside of the elevator and the door opened back up. I looked at her and said, “Sorry, I didn’t see you.”
  • I faked a leg cramp during my first kiss.
  • I spilled a full party bowl of macaroni salad that a co-worker brought to work. He was way too proud to have me ruin it for him, so I scooped it all back up and never told a soul.
  • When I was 7 years old, I started a fire in my mom’s bedroom. My little brother was the only witness. I told him not to tell and blamed the baby sitter. She had screwed up enough already.
  • I used to work as a prison guard. Scary, huh? Working around all those thieves, drug dealers, and violent offenders. And that was just the other guards.
  • I had extensive schooling and actually attended school for 7 years. It was high school.
  • I started losing my hair at the age of 13. I had long, wavy hair at the time and I got my mom to apply hair relaxer to it, cuz I preferred straight hair. She rubbed it all over my hair and scalp. When it was my brother’s turn, (he was also growing his hair out), she read the bottle aloud, “Hmmm, it says here, ‘Do not apply directly to scalp’.” Thanks, mom!
  • There’s a mugshot of me out there, somewhere. If you find it, I’ll give you $50.

 

 

How To Tell That You Are Still A Momma’s Boy


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I’ve always been a Momma’s boy and I’m not ashamed of it! I remember that my friends used to make fun of me when they found out that I would shower with my mom. I remember the last shower I took with my mom. I got out of the shower, all upset and was like, “Mom, I don’t think it’s a good idea that I shower with you anymore. My friends are making fun of me!”

My mom was like, “That’s okay, mijo, I understand. You’re getting older. Now hurry up and get dressed or you’re gonna be late for work.”

Here is a top ten list on how to tell that you, or someone you know, is still a Momma’s boy.

10. Mom not only still irons your clothes and lays them out on your bed every morning, she chooses what you wear.

9. Your mom parks her car by the curb because she’s converted her garage into your bedroom.

8. Your Mom calls your boss when you’re feeling too sick to work.

7. Mom Still gives you an allowance at the same rate it was when you were a teenager; $20.

6. Mom still buys your concert tickets to go see Motley Crue and drops you off at the show.

5. You’re using mom’s second car so that you don’t have to buy your own.

4. Mom knows your Facebook login information.

3. Mom refers to the woman you’re dating as your “little girlfriend”.

2. Mom accidentally walks in on you and your “little girlfriend”, while in your garage/bedroom and rather than walk out, says, “Do you have any dirty clothes or underwear you need me to wash, mijo?”

1. You blog about your Mom.

Headlining a Comedy Club


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It took 8 years for me to lock in a headlining gig at a comedy club. I won’t go into detail about what a great night it was, or how every joke got huge laughs or how half of my set was getting applause breaks. What I will write about are the bumps and bruises I went through to get my first club headlining gig.

  1. After contacting a comedy club booker, I was told, “I’m not willing to bump any of the regular feature acts for you. You can work here every now and then but you’re just not strong enough.”
  2. I went up as the headliner at a restaurant after 5 other comics had already performed. By the time I went up, all of the other comic’s supporters had left and I performed in front of my 4 kids and 3 other people.
  3. After a tough day on the job, I took to the stage at a local open mic. Still angry, my set was delivered with that same emotion and brought everybody down. Not one laugh was uttered.
  4. While hosting a professional comedy club show on a Wednesday night, I decide to do all new material. Half the audience was deaf and every comic was accompanied by an interpreter on stage. For 8 minutes of my 10 minute set, the listening audience became as silent as the deaf audience. Lesson learned? Never do all new material on a pro night!
  5. While hosting for the 1st time ever, I cut my set before I was given the “light” to wrap it up. Since the guy responsible for giving me the light was not in the sound booth, I ended with no ending music track and brought up the feature act with no music either. The club owner chased me down to the green room and gave me an earful, “Why the hell did you do that! That was fucking unprofessional! You left the stage without music and the Feature Act was brought up without music!” Lesson learned? Always have  a few more jokes in your pocket in case you get more time than you expected.
  6. Before hosting at a new club, I checked in with the club manager and told him I’d be ready to go when the club was. I, however, did not wait for the show to start in an area where the manager could see me, so he assumed I was  M.I.A. After about 15 minutes, past the time that the show was supposed to start, I went up to the manager to ask if we were ready. His response? “What the fuck is wrong with you! We’ve been looking for you all over the fucking place! This is no way to make a good impression at a new fucking club! FUCK!” Then, speaking into the sound booth mic, with a smile on his face, the manager got the show started, “Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to laugh? Say ‘Hell yeah!'”.

The list could go on, but digest some of the above for a while. If you’re on the stand up comedy journey, understand that there will be more horror stories than there will be success stories for years to come. Stick with it and you will eventually start scratching the surface to getting the recognition you deserve. I’m still a long way off but my stubbornness will keep me around for a very long time.

Carryon, my wayward sons & daughters!

Stand Up Comedy Inspiration From an Unlikely Source


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This past weekend, my beautiful better half, took me to a Tegan and Sara concert. Tegan and Sara are a Canadian sister group who started out simply as a guitar playing duo. Now that they have achieved a certain level of mainstream success, they are certainly poised to get even bigger.

During the concert, which we attended in Flagstaff, Arizona, Tegan took a moment to speak to the audience and reflected on their last trip to Flagstaff, pointing out that they were so happy to be in town playing for a sold out crowd. During their last stop there, they were touring with a more well known group and performed for 10 people, as the opening act. She continued to speak about how they were able to sell enough merchandise at each show to continue to tour from city to city. At the end of their tours, they would often go home in less than perfect shape. Often heading home, skinnier than usual, malnourished, diarrhea plagued and financially broke, they appreciated every minute of it and could not imagine that life could get any better. After all, they were doing what they loved, performing across the country and gaining more and more fans along the way. Tegan and Sara have been playing together for over a decade and are now achieving the level of success they never dreamed of.

Rather than go in to specifics on how this applies to performers in stand up comedy, I will leave you to apply this experience to your own life. The road to success comes at a heavy price and is never an overnight occurrence. The question is, how long are you willing to wait? How far are you willing to go? How long are you willing to hang on while your efforts are recognized by only a few people?

There are no short cuts..

After telling their tale of the long, hard road, Tegan and Sara performed the following song, written about coming home to a less than enthusiastic partner, who refused to hang around during their musical journey. Enjoy!

Think Classy, You’ll Be Classy


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“Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back on your shower shoes and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you’re a slob.” – Kevin Costner as “Crash Davis” in the movie “Bull Durham”.

This is perhaps one of my favorite movie lines of all time. In context, Kevin Costner’s character has been given the task of mentoring a young pitcher in baseball’s minor leagues. Crash Davis often teaches young “Luke ‘Nuke’ Laloosh”, played by Tim Robbins, lessons about life and how those lessons are vital to a successful baseball career. In this scene, Crash calls to attention the pitcher’s slob laden approach to his hygiene and appearance.

I believe stand up comics can take this lesson to heart as well. At least, I do. I have always made it a practice to look my very best when I have been booked for a show that will be presented in front of a paying audience. It has become quite the norm to watch comics take to the stage appearing as though they just got off their couch wearing clothing that seemed like an after thought. I am not suggesting that one should dress up in a suit and tie to tell jokes on stage as though appearing on the old Johnny Carson Show. What I am saying is that we need to make an effort to put our best foot forward when performing in front of a live, ticket paying audience. This allows you to appeal to as many of their senses as possible.  Through out the night, you will have the opportunity to appeal to 4 of the audiences 5 senses, (I don’t see how it would be possible to have them taste you, unless things get pretty wild), and the better impression you make on each of their senses, the more they are likely to remember you.

A few weeks ago, I attended an open mic, here in El Paso, Texas. I was wearing a very loose t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I hadn’t shaved in a few days and I looked rather raggedy. I have always dressed up for all of my paid performances, but this was an open mic, so I really thought is was no big deal. Right before I took the stage, I noticed two individuals walk in to the bar. I recognized one of them as the headliner appearing at the local comedy club that week. A comedian from L.A., he had recently appeared on Conan O’brien and was currently embarking on a national tour across the country as a nationally known “Headliner”. The fellow he was with, I assumed was his feature performer, who was also performing at the comedy club all week.

I went on stage and had a great set. I even noticed that my material was even making the L.A. comics laugh. At the end of the night, I made my usual rounds of the tables, thanking all of those that attended and gave us their attention. I really wanted to meet the L.A. star and just shake his hand, but I was intercepted by the other guy that walked in with him. He went on to tell me how I had impressed him and his friend so much during my set. Although they came to watch an open mic show and expected to see the same type of “hacky” material that typically accompanies such shows, they were pretty impressed at the originality of my set. He then said the following: “If you ever go to L.A., I think you would do great, but let me give you a little advice. When you appear on stage, try to look your best. Bookers and agents are looking for talent all of the time, but they are also looking for talent that they can market. They want to see comics that are pleasing to the eye. When they see someone like you who has talent and looks good, they will be lining up to offer you the fruits of your labor.” I thanked him for the great advice and completely forgot about meeting the “Headliner”. I don’t think I could have asked for better feedback!

Check out the Bull Durham clip below!

Bombing; When Being in a Room Full of People Makes You Feel Alone


Bombing, (not getting any laughs while on stage), is not only a learning experience, it is an absolute certainty in the business of stand up. Last night was one of those nights for me. I will not make any excuses about why my set did not do so well. I will attempt to describe the environment I was in and feelings running through my head at the time. Here we go:

The stage is set at a local bar, which has made Tuesday nights a regular stand up comedy night. For the most part, the audiences can be 50/50 when it comes to being receptive. Tonight, the show is delayed as U.S.A battles Mexico in a soccer World Cup qualifying match. The game ultimately ends in a zero tie. A few people have left at the conclusion of the game, but most have stayed. Some of the patrons are regulars and some are fresh new faces. The bar can occupy at least 100 people. By the time the show starts, everyone has settled in to their socializing and drinking and the show begins 30 minutes after the soccer game has ended. The promoter of the show, and fellow comic, asks me if I am willing to go on first to “break the ice”. I reluctantly agree. I say that because I am accepting the daunting task of trying to get everyone’s attention with some humor while they are all enjoying their drinks and camaraderie. Being the first to take the stage is perceived as a losing effort. The assumption that you are funny and going first is at a negative rating. The way I see it, however, I am now a semi professional at this. I can “break the ice!”

My name is introduced, then my “Jump Around” intro music is played. No one recognizes my name and my out dated music does not seem to resonate with anyone in the audience. I take the stage to the sound of continuous chatter and absolutely no applause. No biggie. I will get them with my first joke. I get up, I greet the crowd and get in to my fist joke. I use a joke that gets laughs 100% of the time. It works, but only 1/3rd of the audience is with me. I can tell that continuing at this pace, I will end the show with the same 1/3rd of the crowd. I decide to “riff” (talk directly to specific member of the audience), in an effort to get them more engaged. I select to speak with 2 black guys, the only 2 black guys, seated at a table a few feet away from me. I make a joke about black people living in a predominately Latino town and the joke goes over well. But it goes well with the same 1/3rd of the audience. At this point, I think I can now take these people by the hand to my prepared material. I go for it! I go in to a bit about annoying people in Mexican parties. The bit is fairly new but did incredibly well at the comedy club where I hosted 7 straight shows last week, and I am being modest about it just doing “well”. It actually did way better than that! I get to the first punchline of the joke…nothing…I move quickly to the second punchline…nothing but blank faces. I move on to the 3rd punchline and get a few laughs, then a huge laugh when I describe the creepy family member that checks out all the women at the party. Then I get to the funniest part of the joke AND….nothing. Absolutely nothing.

At this point, I am sure you are asking yourself, “Why would anyone put themselves through that? If it were me, I do not know what I would do!” I am on my 7th year of doing stand up and only 4 years in to doing it as aggressively as I have been. I can now go on stage and handle the silence and the blank stares. Often times, I will even let the silence linger long enough for someone to feel the need to laugh! It is a technique that comes with time and patience. I realize that a complete “bomb” on stage is when a comic gets no laughter, but for me, if the laughs are not consistent and sincere, I have bombed. Pure and simple.

What keeps a comic like me going back to the stage night in and night out despite episodes like the one I have described? It is that stubborn feeling that I can still do better. I can learn to win over an audience like this one. I can take the few laughs that I did get and use those bits again when in front of a similar crowd. Yes, every audience is different, but just as you may have learned new techniques or procedures at your job, a stand up comic learns and applies those to each and every show.

If you ever meet a comic that has not been in the business for too long and boasts about how they will soon rise to the top, rest assured, “soon” really means 10 to 15 years. Most stand up comedians have quit way before then.

On to the next show tonight!!

A Joke in its Infancy

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It always amazes me when a new joke comes out of the gate and works! This bit has a lot of the joke writing elements to it that are crucial to its success. Rather than get in to the technical aspect of the joke, I’ll let you just enjoy it!

Doing the Same Jokes


One of the biggest obstacles facing a stand up comic is the constant repeating of the same material. It’s not much of a big deal when you are performing your set in front of a different audience every night, but it becomes quite a dilemma when performing in front of friends and family that have seen you on stage before. Those that understand the evolution of a joke know that each performance is a step in the process of perfecting your material. Although the audience may be hearing the same “bit”, they may not realize that you have added something different to it. Maybe it’s a word, a phrase or a facial expression. What ever the addition is, it is a step toward getting the joke “just right”. Personally, I’m still working on jokes that I wrote 7 years ago! Here’s one that evolved over the years:

Original version: Mexicans love to party. They have quinceaneras, weddings, baby showers…and all for the same girl.

Evolution: Mexicans love to party. In the last 3 months alone, in my family, we’ve already had a quinceanera, baby shower, wedding… and all for the same girl.

Evolution: instead of “and all for the same girl”, added, “That was a BIG day for my little cousin!”

Evolution: After adding, “That was a BIG day for my little cousin!” added the tag, “She’s a slut!”

After 7 years, the joke as it stands today: Mexicans love to party. In the last 3 months alone, in my family, we’ve already had a quinceanera, baby shower, wedding. That was a BIG day for my little cousin! She’s a slut! Ladies, that’s 3 parties and 1 dress! We put that sucker on lay away when she was 6!

Most jokes like these may start on a “hacky” premise like a Mexican 15 year old who is pregnant, but it’s what the comic does to it to make it more original that matters. In this joke, I took something familiar to my culture and added to it to make it more personal. The laughter comes when a connection to the audience has been made on a level they can identify with.

Here’s a toast to those that go out and support your friends or family on their stand up comedy career! You attend the shows expecting to hear some of the same jokes and fully understand why it has to be done, and you still support us! Without you, an audience is just not the same!

THANK YOU!!!!

MC Etiquette. Advice from a Stand Up Comedy Pro and Club Owner


The title says it all! The following advice was given to me by a club owner, and comic, who gave me an opportunity at an open mic, then eventually gave me my first paying gig. If you have been hired to MC a night of comedy or are ready to take that plunge to ask for an MC opportunity, then this blog is for you! Even if you’re just interested in a behind the scenes look into the business of stand up comedy, read on!

1. Should I be doing the same set, (which I have cultivated at your club, picking the bits that got the most laughs,) on every show? I will be performing 7 sets throughout the week.

You should do all your best stuff.  Ask “how much should I do upfront?”  STICK TO YOUR TIME – you are a PART of the show, not THE show.  DON’T ask the audience questions (you will get someone yelling out the answer) just do your stuff.  Watch your pace, if they aren’t laughing, pickup the pace, if they are laughing, slow down and LET THEM LAUGH.

2. Any tips about my etiquette as the M.C.?

arrive early, don’t ask for any comps, your wife, girlfriend, friend, ride, nothing.  DON’T drink, just water.  Don’t try to “be on or funny with everyone”  Save it for the stage.  These people see comics every week that try to be the funniest, just be pro.  Remember, your there to do a job, not be Prince Charming to everyone.

dress professionally, make sure you ask all the comics for the intros and how they want to be brought up.  As the MC – YOU are responsible for keeping the show going and the enrgy UP.  YOU are he shows cheerleader.  If someone doesnt do so hot, YOU gotta bring it back.  Have at least 1, 2 jokes prepared for in between comics, not that you have to do them, just in case.  Ask the comics, “do you want mt to do any time before I bring you up?”

3. About how many more minutes should I prepare after the feature act has completed his set. (The performances will follow the traditional lineup; Opener (M.C.), Feature, and Headliner.

I would have 2-3 jokes prepped, but ASK the headliner.  A lot of guys want to just keep the show going, don’t do anytime, just bring me up, kinda thing. 

4. Would it be appropriate for me to suggest the opening music to the night prior to me taking the stage?

NO – let the club decide, they could put you up to orchestra if they wanted, just listen for your name and then go on.  Its their club and their thing, THEY will decide.  Remember, YOU are the shows cheerleader, so BRING it.  Go up and clap and say “come on guys – let me hear ya!”