Monday, September 30, 2013

I'll Show You

What is it with stand-up comics these days? Over the past couple years I've been watching a rise in the number of heckling incidents on comedy club stages.

The latest incident comes out of Washington DC. Comedian Dan Nainan was headlining a fundraiser at the DC Improv. By all reports he did his set, came off stage, hunted down journalist Josh Rogin and punched him in the face.

What was it Rogin said to get punched in the face? He must have been the worst heckler of all time! One can only imaging what he must have done to infuriate Nainan. He must have been interrupting his punchlines, yelling stupid things out. Or perhaps he was calling him a stupid hack.

Actually ... Rogin did nothing that interrupted Nainan's show. What did he do? He was live tweeting the event and tweeted the following:

Dan Nainan was funny until he dusted off his 2005 Katrina jokes in a gratingly bad GWB impression.

Now to be fair this was not the only tweet, there where a couple more that but all of his comments had about as much "bite" as this one ... the humanity!

I fail to see the point in what Nainan did. Even if Rogin had tweeted "Nainan sucked" every 5 minutes for a day it shouldn't have earned him a punch in the face. After all, by the time you've made a conscious decision to become a stand-up comic (especially a professional one) one of things you come to realize is that not everyone is going to appreciate what you do. In fact, even the most loyal of your fans is not going to like 100% of your material.

Comedy is a game of percentages. When you write a joke you are going for something you know is going to work all the time. "All the time" meaning that 90% of the people in your audience are going to laugh at the joke when you tell it.

You can argue with me about the percentage but that's the way it works ... period. I can assure you that if a joke isn't working it will be taken out of the act. Sure, there are a few comics out there that will keep a clunker in just because they like it. Even those guys will take that "favorite" joke out of their act when the set is important and something is riding on them doing well on stage.

So to get back to my point when you start out it quickly becomes apparent that you need to develop a thick skin when it comes to criticism, because it's always going to be there. It is a difficult thing to do in the beginning but as the years go by the ability to let the negative go becomes easier. At least it does for most but there are a few hot heads out there that can never let it go.

That's why I am a little confused by Nainan's reaction to what I felt were a couple of stupid criticisms. I don't know Dan Nainan so I can't say he if he is one of those hot heads. He could have just been having a bad day. Even so, he's supposed to be a professional. He should be above doing something like this. It doesn't represent him well and it doesn't do stand-up comedy any good. Behavior like this continues to foster what I'm starting to call a "heckling culture". People that actually enjoy the confrontations that are happening between stand-up comics and the audience.

I believe this to be a byproduct of something that has been happening over the past 30 years. We're becoming a society of unhappy people and it's television and the movies that are the source of this unhappiness. Over the years they have been subconsciously giving us unrealistic expectations of how our life is supposed to work. On television and in the movies things always seem to go the right way. Everything is resolved, everyone is happy and the bad guys always get what they deserve We've watched so much of this over the years our minds are telling us this is the way it should be for us.

The reality is quite different because that's not the way life really works. I would submit to you that we are not supposed to be happy all the time. Things aren't always going to work out, we are not always happy and the bad guys doesn't always get what they deserves. Your life is supposed to have highs and lows; there are also periods of time when our life is just mundane.

That's the way it's meant to be.

These unrealistic expectations are creating an undertow of envy in our society. We're becoming a society full of miserable people because things aren't turning out the way think they should. Instead of being happy for someone's success we are secretly jealous of them. It's a narcissistic view of the world that is unhealthy.

That is why people seem to be gravitation towards all things negative. They seem to take pleasure in seeing other people fail because they want to see other people worse off than they are. It's some sort of sick and twisted way for them to feel better.

I don't see this trend changing. I only expect it to get worse and stand-up comics have taken notice. It's gotten to the point that comics seem to be looking for a reason to "tee off" on someone in the audience. Do a YouTube search for "Heckler" and you will find more than you'll ever be able to watch. One comic after another "destroying" hecklers to the delight of the crowds they're in front of. Sometimes I wonder if people wouldn't be happy if we went back to the Roman days when they fed people to the lions.

Do I have an answer for all of this negativity? Of course not and I'd sure like to write more on this topic but have to stop. My Google Alert for "Lit self on fire" just popped up. I have a video to watch ...

Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Tale of Two Fridays

Today, Friday September 20, 2013 I am in a "Suite" at the Super 8 motel in Macon Missouri. This just adds even more irony to this day. Whenever I hear Macon, I think Georgia. Just like whenever I hear Super 8 I do not think "Suite".

Last Friday September 13, 2013 was in Portage Indiana. When I took this gig I thought I was going to be working in Porter Indiana at a gig  run by a couple I knew to be good people and friends; I didn't think there would be any problems.

So 2 weeks in a row, I think one thing and find out another ...

This Friday's show was in Macon Missouri. A nice town located 3 1/2 hours Southwest of where I live on US Highway 36. I've actually stopped here many times on my way between Illinois and points West. Never for the night but always for gas and/or food. The gas prices are always a little lower than the other towns along that stretch of highway and they have a great variety of places to eat.

Last Friday's show was in Portage Indiana. Located 3 1/2 hours Northeast of where I live. Portage is in the Northwest corner of Indiana just below Lake Michigan and just East of Gary Indiana. It is where Interstates 65, 80, 90 and 94 all meet. it is the busiest and most treacherous piece of Interstate I drive through. I think the only reason anyone would stop there is to take a break from the stress of driving through. I can't get through there fast enough when I'm making my way East, I avoid it any chance I get.

This Friday's show was at a pretty nice place. A restaurant/bar called The Ole Beaumont. Located in an old building in downtown Macon it is easy to tell that the owners have worked hard to renovate it. Beautiful woodwork and brick walls have given the building a great look and feel.

They have menu full of good food that shows they are interested in doing something different and interesting. Appetizers like Shrimp and Bleu Cheese Bread and entrees like a 911 Chicken Sandwich with Chipotle Mayo on a Ciabatta bun.

Last Friday's show was at a trashy bar called Boomers Pub and Grub. Located behind a KFC at the very end a strip mall that only has bars in it the place is like a bad after thought. It's dingy and there has been no remodeling done, with exception of the temporary wall that was put up to split the bar in half for the comedy show. They didn't even bother to cover our side of the temporary wall with anything. They must have thought that bare 2 X 4 studs gave the room "character".

Boomers doesn't have a menu per se; they have bar food. They seem to be especially proud of their Italian Beef Sandwich. Coming from the Chicagoland area I would like to thing I know what makes a good Italian Beef Sandwich and they don't have it. Maybe they were depending on the French Fries with cold nacho cheese to make up the how average the sandwich really was. I also could be being overly critical because that sandwich did have to follow the deep fried Mini Corn Dog appetizer. Certainly youcan understand how an appetizer like that would set the bar pretty high.

This Friday when I came into The Ole Beaumont 30 minutes before show time the show room was completely packed. There was not a seat left. I heard the dull roar of a crowd of people in a good mood conversing with each other. There was some good music playing over the house sound system that was just loud enough for good background.

Last Friday 30 minutes prior to show time at Boomers Pub and Grub the "show room" was empty. There was music; ear splitting 80s rock and roll which included theoccasional screaming from one of the patrons at the beginning of some the songs. Had there actually been anyone in the room conversation would have been close to impossible.

This Friday the show started right when it was scheduled to. Before the show started I was asked by one of the owners if I had anything special I needed for my performance. I thanked him for asking and when it was time for the show to start it was he who went on stage and personally thanked everyone for coming out. The crowd was generous with it'slaughter and our shared experience was a good one.

Last Friday at show time we were still wondering if there was even going to be a show; and if there was would they be turning down the music? We were also hoping that the screaming patron on the other side of the temporary wall would NOT be joining us. There was also a slight bit of indigestion from the food. The shared experience was less than desirable.

This Friday after the show the other comedian and I stood at the door and thanked people for coming as they left. People stopped and shook our hands. They told us they enjoyed the show. One even told us it was events like this that made it bearable to live in Macon. The owners and the staff all thanked us for coming out to perform. They asked us if there was anything else we needed, then they paid us.

Last Friday there was no one to say goodbye to. We just looked at each other wondering what was going to happen next. They didn't wait long to start taking down the temporary wall. The foam sheathing they used on the bar side popped and squeaked as they pulled it off the wall studs. That along with the sound of hammering on the studs as they were removed was their way of telling us there was not going to be a show. The music seemed to get louder. I don't know if that was because the wall was coming down or they turned it up in an attempt to drown out the demolition taking place. We never did meet the owners and when it was time to be paid we weren't given any money; we were just told "We're sorry it didn't work out."

This Friday when I got back to my "Suite" at the Super 8 I sat down and relaxed. I watched a little TV and did a little bit of writing. I went over the show in my head thinking about how what I could have done to make it better.

Last Friday when I got back to the hotel I was stressed out. I had stopped off on the way to get a bottle of beer (something I don't normally do) to help me unwind. I tried to watch a little TV and do some writing but was unable to. I was distracted; I was trying to figure out how I was going to get paid.

Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.