Hackneyed New Year!

31 Dec

Hey, Mexicans! Looks like it’s December 31st, which means it’s time for the lazy, uncreative blogger’s best friend: the “year in review” post!

Mentally I have already divided 2010 in half, and pretty much consider everything in the first half, before June 14th, to really not matter at all, at least when compared to the latter half. It was the last half of my senior year of college. In my memory it’s all become a mish-mash of frustration, depression, and anger that came from me realizing after four years I had barely made any lasting friendships, never found a space where I truly felt welcome, and was constantly paranoid because of the duplicitous Dartmouth culture of being nice to your face and then talking shit about you on BoredAtBaker.com, a website where Dartmouth students could freely digitally discard their spines and testicles.

Whereas I had come to Dartmouth expecting a haven of like-minded people free of the previous social stratifications and cliques of high school, I left realizing that, in reality, even when all the nerds and valedictorians from high school get together in their own place, they simply resume the same hierarchies, with nerds becoming nerd-jocks and nerd-bros to make the even less fortunate nerd-nerds aware that they were still dead last in the pecking order.

Then, finally, June came, and instead of feeling any kind of sadness or feeling that I would miss my alma mater, I felt relief. Complete and utter relief. I was relieved to know I would be forever gone from the judgment, the suffocating power of the fraternity system over social life, and free from walking on eggshells around the liberal arts hyper-militants who would deconstruct every word you would say until you were thoroughly convinced you that you WERE racist, homophobic, and misogynist, a terrifically agonizing environment to be in as a comedian, especially.

After I had my diploma and was on the plane to Miami, it felt nice to be able to dismiss every bit of the last four years as not mattering. I was taking the best memory of college, my girlfriend, along with me to New York in the Fall, so there was no reason to maintain any attachment to anything else from that period of time at all. So I was able to move forward full throttle.

The summer is when I started this blog, so all twenty of you who’ve been reading since then are pretty aware of the things that have happened since then. After failing to get a timely response about a summer job in Miami at Gameworks, I decided to be with my girlfriend in Albany, where I learned, once and for all, that when my girlfriend says “my mother is crazy,” she means “my mother is CRAZY with a capital ‘YOUR FAMILY HAS CONNECTIONS TO DISNEY AND YOU ARE REALLY RUSSIAN!'” And I also learned that she is better at bowling than me, which is fine, because in the grand physical scheme of things, if she punched me in the face, she would break her hand.

After spending what was probably a longer-than-comfortable time there, and after three long trips between Albany and NYC to search, we finally found an apartment and began our life in the REAL WORLD. And after about four months living in it, I feel like I am not half-bad at being an adult. I cook dinner for myself and my girlfriend with real vegetables and healthy foods, I keep my apartment reasonably clean, I brush my teeth, we pay our rent on time, and I make it on time to class and work on time every day.

As far as work goes, my job history in the last few months has been like pairing black against white. There was the horrendous few days I worked selling comedy tickets in Times Square being one of THOSE people, and being asked by tourists how to get to “Harrock Cafe,” and then the even more horrendous month or so where I worked tutoring kids all day every Saturday and Sunday while their parents judged me and told me I should cut my hair so I’ll look “more like a teacher.” Then, after all that, I score a job as a writing tutor for my university, helping out freshmen, and it’s like the complete opposite. I am now surrounded by good vibes. My students tell me what I say is helpful, my boss compliments me for making my students say I’m being helpful, and I feel like my creative skills are being engaged as I help people explore the craft of academic writing, a craft for which, seeing this week that I got an A- on my final paper for one of my classes, I must have a pretty good knack.

Oh, and I forgot, my classes. Grad school, the whole reason we’re supposed to BE in New York in the first place. Frankly, I’m glad that grad school doesn’t have the same mental and emotional grip on me that college had. I have class, but class is class and not something that will make or break my life based on how well I’m doing, mostly because class is only two days a week and grades don’t really matter that much anymore.

It has been hard work, though, to have to build an entire TV series from the ground up as a group effort. The thing about this TV writing program is that every single person in it is really a talented writer, so I can’t even be afforded the petty-but-satisfying psychological outlet of having the one guy who you can hate and justify hating because you think he/she’s not talented enough to be there. Everyone can write and write well, and the thing is every good writer is very confident in their own ideas because, well, they are good. But then when one person’s good idea is not exactly in line with another person’s good idea, you have a gigantic collision of the unstoppable ego versus the immovable ego, and just from this experience alone I know for sure that TV is not an industry that’s friendly to ego.

But what IS friendly to ego is stand-up comedy (since one can argue it’s all driven by the ego’s need to express itself ). That has really been the center, effort-wise and emotionally, of my mental universe, because, ultimately, going to grad school in New York was just me being able to justify to myself and my parents being in New York to try and do stand-up. Despite a lot of my whining and self-pitying, for being here only four months, I can say I’ve had a satisfying amount of progress and achievement in every facet of the comedy game.

I’ve been telling friends that my development as a comedian has been a lot like a video game. Level 1 was Dartmouth, where I started off easy in front of my friends and peers who were helping me learn the basics of joke-writing and looking for punchlines. Level 2 was Boston, my first time going out on my own in front of real audiences, and I did have a spurt of development where I started to write a lot more. It was like a switch was flipped, and I began to find funny things in the world around me, however, they usually came out as simple one-liners or jokes that seemed very obviously like “So I was setting up a premise the other day, and then here comes this humorous deviation or twist, and when I saw that deviation, I was all like ‘punchline!'”

So level 3 is New York, and the switch got flipped again when, after one open mike, I just sat and watched the other comedians go after me, and realized I can’t just stick with one-liners anymore, and I don’t need to feel compelled to stick with them because they’re safe. This is a big city where I can try things and fail, because if I do, I won’t see the people I failed in front of in the dining halls the next day glaring at me over their Chicken Monday specials. I have started to really approach joke writing less from the “joke” angle and more from the “writing” angle. I’m trying to see what kind of IDEAS and OPINIONS I can express while also getting my punchlines out there, and it’s worked. Every new set I put out, people keep telling me it’s better than the last.

I was afraid that New York was going to be real cut-throat, and people weren’t going to be friendly because everyone is competing for attention and recognition, but really it hasn’t been that way at all. Most comics I’ve met have been really nice and supportive of each other and surprisingly so towards me. It feels reel validating for me, someone who is in a constant, excruciatingly persistent struggle to be liked, that most of the comedy acquaintances I have made this year seem to like me, and have a nice word to say about me and my material. Vinny K, a guy who’s been in the game for decades and has probably forgotten more jokes than I’ve ever written, told me he thought I was hilarious and that he’s a fan of me. Guys will come to me when I get offstage and say “Hey, I really like ___ joke” or “hey, you could say ____ or ____ to add to this joke premise you’re working on and make it better!” it’s tremendously edifying. It got even better when someone finally said “I’ll tell you what, you flyer for my shows, I’ll put you up in front of a real audience every week.”

So, 2011, we are going to be starting with me coming at you full on in real world adult mode, so get your helmet strapped on tight. Maybe some elbow pads and kneepads. And a reflective orange jacket so I can see you at night. You don’t have any of those, 2011? Here, let me give you all of those things that my Dad gave me in 2006 when I began college, because he thought every time I got on a bike I would need to become Iron Man. I foresee this year being one of constant development and improvement in every part of my life, and continually, inexorably moving towards satisfaction.

And, because America loves broken promises, here are my resolutions for 2011:

–Start working out at home and finally move back towards an acceptable fitness level

–Take an oral storytelling class

–Write more poetry

–Try to find some musical people and try to turn some poetry into songs

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