©2012, Mirror Image Presentations
AUTHOR’S CAVEAT: This piece has not been edited since 2012, and it looks like it will have to wait. Nonetheless, it is an interesting story of my standup experience, worth reading, especially if you are considering doing standup.
Two weeks ago I had the luck of securing myself a future spot on the following Tuesday night’s open mic at The (world famous) Laugh Factory. I had shown up just in time for their 5:30 deadline and was given the last spot in line. Only later did I learn that they had sent away eighty people and one of the first 15 they had chosen was called to an audition. Was it luck or was it labour under correct knowledge? I could have just stayed at home. A week later on the eve I was to appear, two hours before curtain, I received a voice message that the show had been cancelled until next week. Frantically, I rushed about to inform everyone I had asked to show up, asking them to reverse the pull of the earth’s poles and not show up. I missed notifying one of my biggest supporters, Kubi. I didn’t make the association with his e-mail address name; Harold.
After getting to The Laugh Factory, paying to park blocks away, then showing up at the door, Kubi was told that there was no show — no more explanation than I got. They didn’t even have the common business sense to offer him tickets for the next performance – or better yet, free entry at the moment for having been at the door and obviously anxious to pay to get in. When I saw that Kubi had called and left me a voice message, all I could say was, “fcuk! fcuk! fcuk!” At least you could have called me,” he said. And he was right. I had so frantically called, visited, and e-mailed everyone I could think of, that I had overlooked him. Though he was understanding, his presence in the audience was missed the following Tuesday. I don’t blame him for choosing to do something else with his time. I wouldn’t have shown up either and
now I know why.
It had been a tense week. So many kind spirits had helped me along my path; Lisa at my cleaners arranged to have my boots fixed without charge. Savan arranged for me to pick the boots up two hours later. My case worker Mario said to me, “I didn’t know you do comedy.” Dominique said, “Merde!” which apparently, in French translates to “break a leg.” Steve told me he thought my comedy was funny, Dr. Vitero told me, “Alan, you were made for television,” and Jeanesta Abrahamson of the LAGLC said to me, “You always did make me laugh.” My high school friend Sylvia wished me well and my friend Angelika in the old country wrote me, “ich verstehe nicht… translated: I don’t understand what you’re standing up for but whatever it is I support you.” I was hoping that I would live up to any of these blessed comments, touching enough for me to lay down my bong and breathe.
Last Sunday, Father’s Day, between noon and 6 p.m. I called my mother seven times. For one who has such a difficult time hearing, she’s comfortable spending hours on the phone – as long as it’s not with me. When one engages the tongue more than the ears, hearing is no longer a necessity. As usual, I never did get through to her and she prefers snail mail to anything electronic.
I thought Father’s Day was an appropriate time for me to acknowledge the part that my father played in my life. I wanted to thank my Mami for having chosen him (and for keeping him around long enough for me to (try to) grow up. But once again, my Mami wouldn’t have it. Of the three or four people she may have been talking with on the phone with over those several hours, one of them was not me – or should that be I? I needed my mother, if only to reassure me I would not die on stage; of only to hear her voice – interrupt me.
I realize, she is doing me a favor by preparing me for the day when she really won’t be around. I just wanted to hear her voice reassure me that she’s still there to complain, I mean reassure me, but alas, no matter how I’ve looked at it, my dream is destined to die unfulfilled. In the past, my mother was always there, religiously, for her colorist. But I don’t expect she will be there for me and that is what my comedy is about. This week’s topic: “Forgiveness Heals”, as presented in SNIP, the 12 Step recovery program, Survivors of Nervous Interrupting Parents, is the message I wish to convey. We have to forgive, for things can always be worse –
All day Tuesday before the performance, I was feeling anxious. It had been twenty-two years since I had done stand up. It didn’t help that I awoke at 7 a.m. to a leaf blower outside my window. I left to get out; taking Poki to the park. Then, the trash trucks followed me all around the park. Then, just as it got quiet, the city maintenance lawnmowers arrived and began making noise, interrupted only by police sirens. I left the park to find peace elsewhere, forgetting that peace is within me and nowhere else to be found – except maybe Kauaii. I arrived back home, thinking it would be quiet but what was I thinking? Foreigners who call themselves gardeners had chopped down the top half of the trees that provided privacy (and air for me to breathe) between my neighbor and I.
Just that morning as I looked out over the leaf blower, I remarked to myself how beautiful it was that the trees had filled out so majesticly. I felt violated that the trees that I have been secretly watering and nurturing were certainly put into shock. I am much better now. I am learning, with study, that getting mad only creates more madness in the world. I had to forgive them for not being Japanese for a Japanese gardener would certainly have known that the time to prune trees and bushes is in the fall. The haircut is needed after the growth spurt. People as so self-centered.
They just see something green and think, “Kill.”
It’s illegal to kill animals (or maybe not and I am completely wrong here but anyway) so a tree will do. Should a gardener not be educated on the relationship between plants and humans before he is given license to kill? The more coffee I drank, the more cannabis I smoked, the more cookies and chocolate I ate, the more I tried to nap, the more anxious I became. I stood on my head for five minutes but the rush left me minutes later. I couldn’t allow myself to lie down, lest I might oversleep and not show up for my own performance. If I did, nobody else would ever show up again! Then, at 5:30, Alka Selzer, with a lime twist, miraculously came to the rescue and I was on my way to the (world famous) Laugh Factory in my pseudo-luxurious white charriot.
Fast forward to the performance: not cancelled. I arrived early and standing in line, I listened in on the conversations of experienced comedians Numbers 10 and 11. The Laugh Factory won’t do anything without monetary gain,” said 10. “This,” added 11, “includes their holiday feast for the homeless.” I made note, as I had attended one such holiday “feast” many years ago. Suddenly, my illustrious friend Steve Lubin appeared before me.
I was happy to see he had driven all the way from Sun Valley. I didn’t see him in the audience and later learned that they wouldn’t let him into their sandbox to play because he didn’t have enough money. The half price tickets that I had been told guests could expect was not a reality in the mind of any one of the (world famous minimum wage earning) Laugh Factory employees. The fifteen of us funnybones were asked to sit in the front row.
The show began.
I was elated when during Number 3’s routine on how much he likes pussy, my new found friend Sayuri tapped me on the shoulder from behind. “Wow! She came!” I thought. Sayuri is a very sexy, all real, 30 year old looking 46 year old. The comics had been told, and reminded several times, that material was to be geared toward a “G” audience. I must have been distracted; certainly Nr. 3 was talking about how much he loves to lick his pet cat. But then, Numbers 4, 5, 6, and 7 did their routines (with visual aide) about their dicks, vaginas, masturbation, vomit and farts. I was puzzled.
Then #8 stood up to tell us how “we should never, ever, ever use the “N—–” word,” I knew I had heard wrong. As one of the (world famous) Laugh Factory’s favorites, he got not 3 minutes, but 6 minutes, which seemed to me like 30. I am not easily offended but then he went on to use the “N—–” word (the one he told us we are not supposed to ever ever use), umpteen times. I imagine he wanted to be sure we understood who he was and where he was coming from. I got it. Numbers 8, 9, and 10, stepped into his foot tracks, followed by pretty Number 11 who talked about how her pregnancy has affected her digestive tract. My new found friend (on Facebook), whom I had met in line a week earlier, comedian # 12 Sam Shepard, didn’t show up so I was to take his place as Nr. 12. I’m still waiting for his call.
Alan Obermayer took a stand and boy did he learn. Right there on stage, I coulda died but then, I was resurrected 3 days later — I mean minutes. I keep forgetting (no more now) that from the stage one can see nothing but lights and a few eyes in the front row. The best for me was when I read announcements, “We have another bith-day! Is Sayuri in the house? Give it up for Sayuri’s three years of sobriety. Good years, eh Sayu? – 1998, 2007, 2012!” Sayuri stood up and with a big smile, she took a large curtsy first to the left, then to the right. She lit up the room – maybe it was the lights reflecting off of her hair. I knew she was in the house, I expected her to raise her hand or even stand when I called her name, but she really surprised me by playing it for all it was worth. Thank you, Sayuri!
Then, expectedly or unexpectedly, the fat, toothless old fart at the control buttons cut me off and blared loud disco music just as I arrived at my last lines: “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m not waiting for your order. I’m waiting for your acceptance. Before you overwhelm me with your love — by cutting off the mic — a quick joke for those of you with mental telephathy –.”
I was so close but missed the mark by just 8 seconds. These next 20,176 minutes, I’m going to be working to slice off those eight seconds from the three minutes I am allotted next month or sooner. That is if, rather when, I get selected in next Tuesday’s (world famous) Hollywood Imrov, or the other (world famous) Citizen’s Brigade lottery in Hollywood on the last Friday of the month. Come see how I (may have) improved! I’ll even write you into the script!
While waiting between shows for the prefeshional comics to appear; this time Tim Allen, I excused me while I excused myself to go speak with Sayuri. Evidently, she thought her twenty dollar entrance fee included a drink. Sayrui said to me, “I’m going to the ladies’ room.” As soon as she was out of sight, the cocktail waitress approached me. “Where is the Asian girl you were talking to?” Girl? She’s 46 and just looks like a girl and well yeah, she is Japanese. She went to the restroom,” I replied. “She didn’t pay for her drink,” the waitress said.
“How much?” I asked.
“Four dollars.” I handed her four one dollar bills. Any tip other than telling her that trust in a smile might help to pay for the braces she needs, was unwarranted. As I walked out to escort Sayuri to her car, I took the last swig of her cranberry juice. Until we walked, I had no idea she had parked four blocks away! — and paid ten dollars to do it! I offered to refund her but Sayuri would not have it. But she took me up on lunch on Friday. Unusual, she said she would call and go to lunch. She did call and we did have lunch; I cooked and it was actually very good, or so I said.
I was glad that others who had expressed an interest did not show up. I would have been embarrassed that they had been asked to pay full price to see non-professional non-paid comics like myself when I told them it should cost ten dollars (or may even be free as at The Hollywood Improv or The Improv Space). Sayuri makes an entrance, in or out of her new car — or dress. I can see the box office bit girl saying, “this Asian b—-, I’m gonna make her pay full price – and maybe even pocket the money.” Miserable people like to take advantage of others. The Course In Miracles says, “Deprivation breeds attack, being the belief that attack is justified. As long as you would retain the deprivation, attack becomes salvation and sacrifice becomes love.” After 30 years of study,
I’m beginning to understand a little better.
Before leaving, I went to the girl at the box office to request a ten dollar refund for Sayuri but three employees kept passing me back and forth between one another, with various excuses. I had been told mention of my name would warrant half price but the person who had said that two weeks ago was not around. It very quickly became clear to me that that cash register was not going to open unless money was being deposited. Then, in the darkness, the bit, I mean girl finally handed me a coupon – as if a paying guest who had been so unwelcomed would ever want to return. When I later examined it in the light, it was half price for one, expiring July 31st — 2012.
The Laugh Factory obviously makes no laughing matter of understanding good business practices.
Nor do they know how to keep people happy, ordering from cocktail waitresses and their overpriced bar. She was just plain nasty and would have done better working for TWC. Keeping the customer satisfied and laughing (inside their establishment) is all that it should be about. Like the cobbler who sends his children to school in worn out shoes, the best audience members (and sometimes those who may need it the most, (like Laugh Factory employees)) sometimes don’t get to laugh because the (world famous) Laugh Factory doesn’t get what comedy – and laughing with (paying, drinking) guests is all about. Fie on them, until I am invited to return again, I forgive them, and myself and
I won’t take this personally.
Last Tuesday was my first time standing up in a “professional” venue since 1990, when I referred to the collapse of the Soviet Dis-Union and the Fall of The Berlin Wall falling down with me on the other side – in Mummy’s family room. Last Tuesday I learned just how cold the business (and too many mean people) can be. I saw how some people are driven only by money and how their faces show it even when they force a smile. How hard one has to work to make one’s life work work! I am learning, how the hardest part about getting to the top is rising above the crowd at the bottom. And along my way I forgive myself.
I know there is one life.
This life is God.
This life is perfect, flowing through me, through everyone I meet.
This God wants success for all who believe that they can succeed.
I claim this success now for myself and for all whom I care for.
I accept this and all things better to manifest itself in my illusion of this world.
I let it go, knowing that my word is Divine Cause.
¡Y asi es!