Friday, January 24, 2014

Crossroads - The Act


I thought I should examine my act first. After all it is the product I am selling. Is it something people even want? In the comedy business model I’m the manufacturer. Just like any other product my act needs to be packaged and promoted. In my world the wholesalers are agents, clubs are retailers and audiences are the consumers.

I will start with what I think my act is, an irreverent look on life. In my act I go out of my way to make light of societal norms. I do my best to point out how ridiculous it is that we deny who we are. I try to do so in an irreverent way. I purposely put my message in a container that isn’t shiny or inviting. I do so because I don’t want you to laugh at my jokes because you like me. I want you to laugh because what I told you is real and true.

I use some curse words so I am not considered a “clean” act. In fact one booker did once tell me he got feedback on me that I was “dirty”. Once in the nearly 20 years I’ve done this and you’d be surprised at how something like that has stuck with me when things aren’t going well.

I will state for the record I do not believe I am “dirty”. I would call myself naughty or irreverent but to me throwing out some swear words and some innuendo is far from being “dirty”. In my mind “dirty” is someone who is leaning on swear words and/or talking explicitly about sex acts. I do neither of those things.

I use swear words as adverbs and adjectives. In other words I use them to put emphasis on what I’m talking about. Can I paint a picture without them? Yes I can, but believe me I’ve tried it both ways and inserting the proper “curse word” at the right time adds the punch that makes the difference.

So you see I don’t think I can do what I want to do by being a “clean” comedian. Why should I conform to standards that were created by people who think they know what is best for us? TV, radio and movies are censored in what I feel is an overly restrictive way. Political correctness is running rampant in our society.

Who are these people anyway? I never run into anyone that seems to be living by the standards these anonymous people have created. I’m not speaking of the people I run into at shows either. I’m referring to the people I run into while I live my life and believe me, that’s a varied bunch. My life is not anywhere near the norm. I think most individuals see the same people on a regular basis. This is by no means a small number but they do spend time in the same places all the time. They go back and forth to work, shop at their favorite stores and entertain themselves at the same places. Sure they run into new people all the time, put I would submit that the core of people they know doesn’t change much.

I really don’t have a core of people I deal with all the time. Everyone in my life changes from week to week. As a rule I interact with people that don’t know me or what I think. So I believe that people in my presence behave in a way that they believe is socially acceptable.

Having said all that I will make this point. People don’t speak with the restrictions that are set for TV, radio and the movies. That is why I have chosen to use curse words. Everyone uses them, so why shouldn’t I when I’m on stage. Besides, there are guys that much dirtier than I am and they’re working a lot more than I am.

So when it comes to my act what should I do? Here are what I think my options are:

I stick with what I am doing now - It’s what I’m happy with. I have worked over 20 years to get to this point. I feel like what I do is unique to me and no one else. I also have this belief deep inside me that if I continue being true to myself eventually I will be noticed. That my audience will find me and once that happens I’ll be able to work wherever I want.

I “clean up” my act - I remove all the language and any materials that is not considered clean. Taking the language out changes the tone of the material. Swearing also is one of the things helps to establish my character. You would expect the person I am portraying on stage to swear. Not doing so would send a conflicting message to those in the audience.

I throw out my act - I abandon what I have worked on for over 20 years. If I were to do something like start over am I doing it for the right reasons? Or am I just doing it to make money or get stage time. Either way I have to write from a different perspective and create a different character. I’m pretty sure it would feel like I was making a huge artistic compromise.

My act is only one of the things I need to consider, there is so much more ...



Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net 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 Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Crossroads


I’ve made it to another crossroad in my career. Stick with what I think I should be doing or bend to fit into what I think the “comedy business” thinks it wants.

So basically after nearly 22 years of being on stage I still feel like I have no idea what I should be doing. I’m getting mixed signals coming at me from different directions. I’ve driven myself to a low point again and find myself needing to figure out what my next step should be.

There are several ways to measure your success in the comedy world.

You are famous - There’s nothing that tells you that you’ve succeeded more than seeing your name blasted all over every kind of media that exists. Look at Larry the Cable Guy, I’m pretty sure he knows he’s a success. He fills arenas every week, had a TV show (he quit for more family time), done movies and has 3.2 million Facebook fans. By anyones measuring stick, he’s successful.

You work regularly - Short of being famous being in demand is a pretty good way to let you know that you are a success. When club bookers are calling you to work their room you’ve made it. Next to that a full schedule, even if you have to work to get it, is still a strong indicator that you are succeeding.

People (lots of them) tell you they LOVE what you do - How many is “lots of people”? Only you can decide. It can be as little a 1 or run into the millions. I will give you that if only 1 person tells you that “they LOVE what you do” that's probably not enough and if it is enough for you to consider yourself a success, you’re a legend in your own mind.

So here it is, January 2014 and not only am I not a success, I can’t seem to figure out exactly why I am having so much trouble getting work. Since people aren’t telling me they LOVE what I do and I’m pretty sure I’m not famous (if I am no one has told me yet) I’m pretty much left with working regularly as a barometer for my success. Using my work schedule as a barometer, I’m a miserably failure.

So I need to figure out why I’m not working regularly. Once I’ve done that my next step is to see if I can adjust what’s holding me back from getting work. To further complicate things ... if I can make a change to help myself will it be one that would compromise my artistic integrity? How far am I willing to allow my career to slide to keep my “artistic integrity” in tact?

It's not just that my 2014 schedule is pretty thin. It’s that and something that happened last month that has put me in this weird place,

In December I was working a club and having what I considered to be a pretty decent show. While I was on stage the booker of the club leaned over to the other comic I was working with and said “I wish he wasn’t so mean”. Later when the comic told me this all I could think was “Mean? What does that mean? I’m not mean?”. My next immediate thought was “will this affect my ability to be booked here again?”. Then “Is this a problem with other bookers? Is this why my schedule is so thin?”.

I’d like to think I am “self-aware” enough to know if I suck. I’ve begged my comedian friends to “tell me the truth” and not one of them has said anything negative, Can I really trust them? Maybe they don’t want to hurt my feelings. Don’t they understand I need to know the truth? If they're not telling me something they’re not helping me by being nice and worrying about my “feelings”?

In some ways I wish I did suck. That would make things easier. After all, if you stink after 20 years of doing comedy there is nothing on the planet that will help you get really good. if I haven’t figured out how to be funny by now, it’s not going to happen. I should just quit.

Lets assume that my comedian friends are telling me the truth and I don’t suck then what? What is it that is keeping me from getting booked? Why is it that clubs don’t hire me? Is it my act? Is it that they don’t know me? Is it that they already have enough comedians and don’t want to look for any more? Is it something I said?

I’m not writing this for words of encouragement either. Think of this more along the lines of thinking out loud. To me putting my thoughts in writing and in public do a couple things:

It might give someone insight - I think there is a common misconception out there that all we have to do is just go on stage and “be funny”. When in actuality being funny on stage is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more happening “underneath the surface”.

It might help another comic - I’m not saying that I’m going to come to any great conclusion here. The truth is, I don’t even know what I’m going to write about following this. Whatever I do write will be my honest appraisal of my situation. It could be that my journey may have some relevance with another standup that is struggling as well.

I might actually come up with a solution - Or not ... but at least I will have “aired out” whatever is in my head about all this. Think of it as a spring cleaning of the mind and soul. It will give me an opportunity to rearrange some things and possibly find something I hadn’t seen in a while because it was buried underneath a bunch of other stuff.

We’ll see ...



Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net 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 Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Always On


I realized just before I started typing this that most of my posts on this blog lately have been serious. I suppose that reflects who I am because I am a serious person much more than I am a "funny guy". Sometimes I wonder if that's a good or a bad thing.

After all, I'm in a business that everyone expects you to be funny all the time; not just when you're on stage. In truth, I find people like that incredibly annoying. Second only to the "I'm always happy and see the best in everything and everyone" people.

When I started when you were working clubs you rarely stayed in a hotel. You always stayed in a house or "condo" of some sort with the other comedians on the show. There was nothing more annoying that being in a week with the "always on" guy.

"Always on" guy made everything into a joke or a bit. Or he was doing his material for you every time there was an opportunity. It was like this guy had something to prove and you know what? He didn't, we already knew ... he wasn't going to be funny on stage. "Always on" guys are never funny, on or off the stage. I don't know what it is but the truly funny people save it for the stage.

I'll admit that I can border on being "always on" guy when I'm with my comedy buddy's. In fact, a couple of weeks ago when I worked with Gabriel Rutledge I had to apologized for going for the joke a little too often. I explained to him what I'll explain to you; I wasn't trying to prove anything to him. I was just happy to be with a friend and I wanted to entertain him.

I suppose I was being socially awkward. Fortunately for me Gabriel is a kind and tolerant man and I was his ride all week. He had no other choice.

I will also admit to being the guy that goes for the joke in the most unlikely and uncomfortable situations. I remember once towards the very end of my marriage I was discussing my soon to be ex's infidelity. We were at a particularly serious part of the fight/discussion and I saw an opening and made a joke about her infidelity. One that had her laughing to the point of tears while my heart was truly breaking.

Why did I do that? I did it because the tension was building up to the point where there had to be a release or things were really going to get ugly. The truth is it didn't help the situation any, it just kept me in check. For me making light of the situation was my way of releasing some of the tension. Had I not done that the pressure would have continued to build until I would have just lost it. My emotions would have come out in the midst of a lot of yelling, screaming and idiotic ramblings.

Losing my temper is something I don't want to do.  I'd like to think I'm a better person than that. Being humorous at inappropriate times is my relief value. The best way I can describe it is once you blow a balloon up there are 2 ways to let the air out. One is to just let go of it and have it fly around the room with no control. The other is to hold on the end and let a little air out at a time. Sure, you may here a squeak or two you weren't expecting, but you have a lot more control over what the balloon (my temper) does.

So as I said in the beginning, I'm a serious guy. I save the funny for the stage. Most people who meet me would/could never image that I am a standup comic. The only time  I will identify myself as standup comic is when I'm in a town doing a show. When asked what I do when I'm not working I will choose something else depending on the situation.

If I'm situation that I will be leaving very quickly, like a line at store. I'll tell people I'm do computer work. Not only is it true, I look the part. I look like a guy that sits in front of a computer screen all day long. When I'm in a situation where I will be next to the same person for a longer period of time and there is the opportunity to have a conversation I'll tell people I paint swimming pools.

Why do I do this? Why don't I just tell them I'm a comic and why is it different?

When I'm in a town doing comedy I want them to come see a show, I'm advertising. If I'm not working I don't tell people I do standup because eventually they all ask the same question. "Tell me a joke". I have an entire story of when I cop asked me to do that after he stopped me on my CD "Road Stories". I have to be honest, it's the most annoying thing in the world to me when it happens.

When I'm not working I don't really want or need to engage with anyone, I get plenty of that being on stage. When I'm off stage I'm very happy by myself, I'm a certified (or certifiable) loner. That's why when I'm not working I do what I can to avoid contact with others. That's why in the situations I'm leaving quickly I'll tell them I do computer work. I'm trying to be polite. It satisfies their curiosity and there's not enough time to ask a real question. If they do manage to get one out I give them one that's so technical they're afraid to ask another.

When I'm in for the "long haul" next to someone I use pool painter because there's nothing interesting about it. What are people going to ask me? What kind of paint? What's the most popular color? If someone does ask me a question I just give them the most uninteresting answer I can think of. It's a one and out. I can spend the rest of my time next to them in peace.

I suppose this is why I've never chased fame. I only want the attention when I'm working I could care less the rest of the time. It also explains my fascination with radio and Podcasting. I wouldn't mind being well-known, I just don't want to be recognized ...



Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net 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 Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

Friday, January 03, 2014

New Years Resolutions


If you have read my blog for any amount of time you will come to realize I'm not much for holidays. I am also not much for the traditions that go along with them.

One of my least favorite traditions is the "New Years Resolution". I'm sure there must be someone out there that has actually managed to follow through on their resolution but I haven't met them. I have only met people who made a resolution and then didn't follow through.

That's why I don't make them. I pretty sure I won't follow through.

So even though I'm not going to make any resolutions I do have a few suggestions (in no particular order) I'd like to throw out there:

Stores actually enforce the "Express Lane" -  There is nothing that irritates me more than being in express lane only to see someone ahead of me that is clearly exceeding the maximum number of items. These people aren't innocent either, they can count. I wish businesses would take a "no tolerance" attitude when it comes to compliance.

What I'd like to see is as soon as the cashier keys in the item that exceeds the maximum number permitted a whistle should start blowing and a light flashing. The offending shopper is then surrounded by 4 of the largest bag boys in the store. The offender is then escorted out of the building and told to never return.

People would learn quickly

States should all go to a "reasonable and prudent" speed limit - I'm all for speed limits in congested areas. The only problem is that better than 70% of our nations Interstate Highways are NOT in congested areas. The "no speed limit" thing works on the Autobahn in Germany so why can't we do it? We beat them in a world war and they still have higher speed limits than us? If we don't raise our speed limits then I guess the Nazis actually won.

The ASPCA should not be allowed to run commercials during the Holidays - A lot of us have our TVs the majority of the time. It's gotten to the point that they're used as background noise. I don't need to be in the middle of a perfectly enjoyable Holiday experience when I hear an ASPCA "you're a piece of shit" commercial. You know, the ones that basically say "Having a good time right now? Well let us show you these poor defenseless animals that are suffering while you are having that good time. You insensitive heartless piece of trash. But don't worry, you can relieve your guilt by sending us a pile of money."

If the ASPCA wants to make people feel guilty any other time of the year I have no problem with that. Most people are already miserable then anyway. When I hear their commercials during the Holidays I want to take up dog fighting just to retaliate.

The FCC should allow people to swear -  It is the year 2014 and well actually ... people have been using swear words since the beginning of time. The word fuck first appeared in the dictionary  in 1775.  So I'm pretty sure people are familiar with it along with every other swear word being used today. So why is it that people are willing to listen to people on TV and radio speaking in a way the rest of us don't.

I find it ironic that we live in a country that fought for its independence because we didn't want to be told what to do. We fought a world war to defeat a lunatic that would have taken it over and forced us live in a way that he thought was right.

Yet we will allow a small group of people to dictate what we can and cannot listen to on TV and radio? What was it we fought those wars for again? Why did all those brave men and women sacrifice their lives?

Sure, that makes sense.

So good luck with your New Years resolutions. Let me know how they work out for you. In the meantime I won't be watching what I eat ...



Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net 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 Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.