Monday, April 10, 2017

Nashville, Now

I do stand up a lot.

I do stand up more now than I ever have at any point in my ten years working in the entertainment industry. I moved to America on a visa that only permits me to work as an actress or stand up comedian. I can only work as an "entertainer" which basically means that I dream of being a waitress.

I live in Nashville because I fell in love with a southern man, who is also a comedian, and he sold me on the idea of moving down south and doing stand up together. I accepted, because every Canadian moves to LA or New York, and I like to be different. When I see pictures of Canadians in LA, all hanging out with each other on the beach, I'm like, oh gosh, I really dogged a bullet, but then I look out my window and see a confederate flag, and accept that there are lots of different ways to be an embarrassment.

I can only work as an actress or stand up, but there is very little acting work in Nashville, plus I'm not a good actress, so I am relegated to making a living in stand up, something I never had to do until I moved to America. There is one club in Nashville, which is very good to me, but in order to pay rent and buy weed, I go on the road. I am road comic, and believe me, it is as sexy as it sounds.

My life for over a year has been nothing but stand up.

I think about stand up all the time. Since I'm a girl and Canadian, I also think about how to sell myself to southern audiences, and it has been a series of trials and errors. Whenever someone tells me to "just have fun on stage", I wanna say fuck you, which is probably not the healthiest response. I will clarify, stand up can fun, but I didn't get into show business to have fun, I got into it to prove myself, to who or what, I'm not quite sure, and if anything has remained constant over ten years, it is that insecure driving force.

When I first moved to Nashville, I tried to maintain the routine I had in Canada. In Toronto, I would wake up around 10am, write for a few hours, go to the gym, read, and then go out and do shows at night. But when I moved to the States, I quickly learned, that that routine was impossible, as was any  routine, of any kind.

I wasn't able to write the way I wrote in Canada, which frustrated me, because also in my first few months in America, I discovered how little stand up material I actually had, and what jokes did work had no through line. I didn't have an act so much as 4-7 jokes I'd accumulated over five years. I had writers block and ten minutes to try to make a living off.  I could showcase well, but anything more than hosting and I was essentially screwed.

It wasn't until Zanies gave me a month of work hosting last July that I actually came up with new material. They gave me permission to experiment on stage, which was awesome. I learned that I don't need to write, especially over write, before trying something on stage. It taught me to just have an idea, the funny part, maybe a tag or two, but to just test the idea first, and play with it, and don't worry about nailing down the exact wording right away.

After a month at Zanies I had a couple of new bits and decided to not quit comedy yet. I wanted to retire all my old jokes, but I had nothing to replace them with, so I was still doing four year old jokes about getting gang-banged even though sometimes I was on the same show as my real life boyfriend.  I had a few new bits, but bits don't mean anything if there is no personality behind it. 

In the fall, I became preoccupied with what I looked like on stage. I was very self conscious of how I was coming across to the audience, and for a while, I was sure that if I looked super hot, this would help me. It was mostly insecurity. In my own estimate, I was doing really poorly on the road. I got polite laughter mostly every where I went, or I would bomb. So I thought, well I might as well look great if I'm gonna bomb. I started wearing heels on stage, full make-up, lipstick, hair done, nails. The full effect. I always hear "dress on stage how you would on a first date" but let me tell you, I've put more effort into what I look like doing stand up than I ever have for a man.

This approach lasted for a few months. Working weekends at clubs, Thursday through Sunday, two shows a night, is a long time to wear heels on stage. By the time Saturday night hit, my feet would be killing me, and I still wasn't doing any better on stage.  I became disillusioned again. I don't doll up in my real life, so I went back to jeans and t-shirt, and attempted a more Louis CK, schlubby approach. I never looked bad on stage, but I was over being glamorous, because all I really wanted to be was legitimately funny.

Then, I went on the road again.

One show, I left the mic in the mic stand, and just stood on stage, not moving very much. This made me feel really grounded, and I had a good set, just standing in one spot telling jokes, so I thought, ok, maybe this is my thing. I'm the "leave the mic in the mic stand comedian", and for a while, it really helped me focus on saying my jokes in a funny way. Instead of yelling my jokes and feeling like I had to be a circus-ring leader or weird hype woman, I could just say what I wrote, you know, just be funny. That was the idea, the execution of this theory was not so flawless. I worked with Wendy Liebman, who I love so much, and she's a petite woman and also very much her sweet self on stage, and what I love about her is that she never jumps around or is loud on stage. Her skill and jokes speak for themselves, and she draws the audience into her and crushes. So I thought, ok, that's what I'll do. I'll write really good jokes, be chill, cause I'm chill, right, and then my skill will be so good I won't need to be energetic at all.

I did this for several months.

I never took the mic out of the stand, and I was like, ok cool, this is what I do now, but then I worked a weekend performing for a mostly black audience and changed everything again.  I was like oh shit I need to move around, these audiences don't like "wry". So, I fundamentally changed who I was on stage for an urban club, which is a hack and terrible thing to do, but I'm out here trying to work and get hired again so I just need to make people laugh and I can't worry about appeasing some UCB rule book of what is cool.  UCB doesn't do comedy in the fucking Bible Belt. So I got hacky, and I got hacky fast. I took the mic out of the stand, and I moved my eyebrows around a bunch, and I strut around stage like I was on Comic View and I never said anything bad about the Clintons and I didn't die on stage which was all I was trying to do. I learned that it felt good to be goofy on stage, and that maybe trying to be cool and chill wasn't really me, so I was like, ok, I'm gonna move around on stage again.

Then I went to a festival and there was another comic there, a super hot black guy, and I thought he was amazing, but then I thought about him later, and thought, was he really funny or did he just look cool? He had great style, and a cool hair cut- he looked like the kind of guy that is way to cool for me and I respected that. So right now I'm on this tip where I need to look cool on stage. Not hot, cooooooool. I bought a pair of white converse shoes, I'm wearing black tank tops, and a lot of dark eye make up. It turns out that it is expensive to look cool, and try as I might, I still know that everything I'm wearing is from Target.

I was working at a club and a male comic discussed with the owner how he likes woman to dress like woman on stage. He said it so matter of factly, like woman should take advantage of being attractive, like it's that simple. Just throw on some blush and I've got an hour. Wow. Thanks.

I'd rather be a beast than look pretty on stage, and I would hope, club owners would rather me do a great job for their paying audience, than be mediocre and look like a day time talk show host.

But hey, if someone knows how a Canadian female road comic can crush audiences in the south, then please tell me. I need all the help I can get.

No comments:

Post a Comment