"Here we are again" - tricking yourself into being good at Art

Here we are again. That's an old clowning phrase. Back in the OG days of European clowning, the French government briefly outlawed popular performance mediums. Professional, stuffy shit only for the French People. Rebellious clowns would announce their presence as they walked onto the street-stage by saying, "here we are again." To me, it's a lot like Waiting for Godot . It speaks to the eternal return of the idiotic. And that's how I feel a lot of the time when I'm writing. Today, I am tapping into the eternal return of the idiotic . Often times, you can trick yourself into writing something good by first writing something bad. Trick yourself into writing something creative by first writing something prescriptive. Trick yourself into competence by starting with idiocy. It applies to writing, but also to rehearsing. Also for any kind of improvising. Start with idiocy, advance to competence. Rinse and repeat for 10 years to get to mastery. I hope you li

Free-Writing, Louis CK, and the First Principles of Standup

Just put some words on the page. You have an open mic coming up tonight, and you damn well better have done at least some freewriting before you stand up there and deign to disperse the unstructured shenanigans of your thoughts upon the unwilling crowd of bitter comedians below. Two thoughts then: Louis CK doing hell rooms/bitter comedians, and the freewriting. Freewriting is a little motor that powers me toward the direction of writing in my own voice. Or at least that’s what I would like it to be. And we have determined to do things more simply, with more writing than performing, and with more consideration than determination (it’s not enough to be a disciplined workhorse pushing your way through the human gruel of stand-up comedy - you have to know which direction you’re moving, otherwise you’re just wiggling in the trenchmud). Thinking about Ray Dalio/Tim Ferriss and the concept of deconstructing a craft so that you can discover First Principles - the core concepts of a thing
Experience goes in, art comes out: Wants, Opinions, Emotions I have been pursuing a new style of note-taking in my comedy journal, in which I write down things other than fully written jokes. Instead, I write snippets: flashes of opinions, observations, things I want to express or convey, my visceral emotional reaction to something. The first reason I do this is because, to be frank, the process of "writing on stage" and recording it (aka fucking winging it) has proven to be more uncomfortable but more fruitful for me. But there is another reason as well. When it comes to writing material that people give a shit about, wants, perspectives, and emotions are better barometers. It is possible to write a very well crafted joke, and elicit a laugh. It is more potent, and gets more to the heart of standup, to be as honest and authentic to your experience as you can. But authentic to what? I think most comics, myself totally included, struggle to express a point of view in t
What kind of things do you keep in your notebook? Are they the right things for creativity? I listened to an interview with awesome comic Jerrod Carmichael (check out his 2014 and 2017 specials on HBO, directed by Spike Lee and Bo Burnham respectively), and he had an interesting perspective on what he keeps in his journal. I'm paraphrasing, but essentially: instead of keeping joke ideas per se, he keeps an active but non-comprehensive log of the things he wants, thinks, feels, and experiences throughout the day. It's not punchlines and act-outs and dialogue. It's only little glimpses into the story of his life, as expressed through his thoughts, wants, feelings, and opinions. I think, for a standup comic, this may be a great way to go. Most comedians, in the modern sense, are coming to the stage bringing their perspective and emotional experience of the world. If you don't have some idea of what that actually is, it makes it real hard to bring it. Journaling in th
How to Learn Anything Faster - Standup Edition In case you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of the author Tim Ferriss. Check out his stuff here . His podcast-interviews have helped me with a whole range of stuff, both creative and non-creative. One of his most interesting topics is the idea of accelerated learning. It is a fascinating topic which I won't get into here, but one of his key principles can be broken down with the acronym D.S.S.S. Deconstruction Selection Sequencing Stakes In brief (and I recommend this podcast from his website to hear him talk about it), these are steps you can take to learn something rapidly and thoroughly. With any given topic, skill, or craft: 1) First you Deconstruct it into the smallest possible components, the smallest possible building blocks of the thing. 2) Then, you Select the building blocks which are most critical to learn, using the guiding question, "which of these skills/ideas, if mastered, make the other ones
How to tell if you're an Amateur or a Professional: self-worth and time away from the Craft Heya folks! First off, sorry for going dark on you for a few days. It was a crazy little stretch for me living in New York: having experiences, composting, and generally taking some time to collect my thoughts on my progress in standup so far. I'm almost halfway through my time in New York (I'll have an official "halfway done!" post in a few days), but I wanted to take some time to evaluate my work so far, change course if necessary, and attack once again. I think most artists need time to compost. Even if your conscious mind isn't working on the craft, often times your subconscious mind is. Steven Pressfield offers two views of an artist: The Amateur and the Professional. The difference is more than just that one does it for love, and the other for money. In his view, an Amateur is an artist whose identity, personality, and day-to-day life is too intimately a
Standup Comedy on the Sidewalk I had a successful open mic last night! Hooray!!!!! It was a weird one. The space where the open mic usually takes place is a restaurant a few blocks from my airbnb. But the restaurant's back room was booked last minute by a group of 25 paying customers, so the comedians were promptly kicked the fuck out. Never to be kept down, the intrepid comedians set up the microphone and amplifier on the sidewalk, where we proceeded to accost total strangers and passersby with our dick-jokes, embarrassing stories, and racial observations.  But, in spite of all that, and going up very last, I actually had a decent set? One joke in particular went over well, in which I talk about how a subway patron started throwing up on the platform, but he had strangely wise-looking face.  The biggest take away form that success was that I did a big, but simple and fully fleshed out act-out (sort of). It only lasted a couple seconds, but it was unexpected and