Tuesday, April 14, 2015


Evidently, Eddie Murphy once said something to the tune of, “If you get another job (besides comedy), chances are you'll wind up doing that with your life instead.”

Eddie Murphy touched on a very real fear that comedy artists have: the fear that, if we spend any of our energy and/or talent on something OTHER than art, then we will clearly fail at art, that we will never make money from our art, that we will end up giving up our dreams, and being just like the man who measures our feet at the shoe store, mumbling “you want jokes? I used to tell jokes” all the while moving that metal geiger-counter thing up and down our arch to check our foot length.

Fuck this fear. Fuck it right now.

Here's what this fear produces, more often than not: sad, poor comedy artists. These are people who have to do something to pay bills, because comedy isn't doing that yet, so they get shit work that doesn't fulfill them at all, and isn't skilled in any way, and they probably have to work long hours doing that shit work, and then they get home at night and are fucking tired because they worked all day at a job they hate, so obviously, not much time for comedy art at the end of a day in which you got your soul sucked straight out of your nostrils.

Let's return to Eddie Murphy, and his theories about being an artist. Just to refresh everyone, Eddie Murphy was a star by the time he was nineteen years old. Not just a working comedian, a fucking star.

SO, given Eddie's career trajectory, I would say that it was smart, on his part, not to pick up another career, say, in the ice-cream coning sector, before his testicles descended and he found himself selling out stadiums. And, by extension, I would say to you, that if you are nineteen years old, or, hell, let's take inflation into account and say twenty-two, and you are finding yourself paying your bills through art, then you really have no need to figure out anything else to do. Mazel tov.

This is a message for everyone else. (Or for you, twenty-three-year-old, once your baby fat melts off and the Disney channel is done with you.)

Consider an alternative: you know you want a career as an artist. You know, like all wonderful things, that it is worth waiting and planning for. You want to last. You find something else to make money: a job that utilizes skills you enjoy using, something you are good at and makes you feel productive, something that gives you some satisfaction and rewards you financially. Even better, you land on something that can ultimately become a freelance operation, so that you can set your own hours, work less than full-time, have some flexibility. And meanwhile, you can afford things. Classes and workshops, rehearsal space, tickets to shows that will inspire you, taking role models out for coffee, a gym membership, organic produce, quality footwear.

You know what happens to a lot of poor, sad comedy artists who work shit jobs because they don't want to "give up their dreams"? They give up their dreams. They get tired, they poop out babies, they drink too much, they tell themselves it was never what they really wanted anyway.

You know what else happens to poor, sad comedy artists? They don't get better. I hear so many artists say that they cannot afford classes, or tickets to shows. How do you expect to get better at your craft if you do not invest in it? Are there ways to get good as an artist without spending money? Sure, probably, of course. But that hasn't been my experience, so I don't know how it's done. What I know is, you spend money, you take classes, you pay people who are better than you, you see shows that are better than your show, so that you can be inspired. And get better.

The model of Making It As An Artist Right Away, Or Starving Until You Do Make It, is not the only model you can choose on your artistic path. In fact, there might be a model that is healthier, a path that is strewn with quality-of-life things: a cute dress now and again, a trip abroad, kale. These things do not just make your life livable, they support the body that gives birth to all that art.

So I say, consider another career. Yup, I said it, a career. Nothing that takes too much time or energy. But something that makes you a specialist, with skills people want to pay you for. And during "work" hours, you can keep that secret artist identity of yours on the DL, under your trench coat, and that can be fun in its own way.

You may never make your living solely as an artist. There are gazillions of super talented people who do not make their living solely as artists. If you ever make money as an artist, celebrate it. Then celebrate it some more. Then next year, raise your rates.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


I for one like to straddle the twin horses of theatre and comedy. I have no idea why those two disciplines have been so separate lately; or rather, who decided that comedy training was all about writing jokes and not about physicality, presence, use of space? 

Comedy was always what I was most attracted to, although I had a lot of acting and physical theatre training. And when I left the bubble of academia, and went out into the grownup world of comedy, I noticed something very weird. People were performing IN JEANS.

Jeans mean something to me, and I for one dont like what they mean. Jeans mean, Dont pay attention to my body, because its casual Friday, man. Jeans mean, I just rolled off the couch and am here to entertain you, dude. Jeans mean, There is no difference between my eating-a-taco uniform and my performance uniform. I might as well be eating a goddamn taco up here. Jeans mean, Fuck you, audience, fuck you, fellow performers, fuck all yall. I dont give a good goddamn shit-fuck. THAT IS WHAT JEANS MEAN.


Go ahead and argue with me! Comedy is like rocknroll, Deanna! youll say. Comedy is supposed to be rebellious and dont-give-a-shit-y! Comedy is cool, and cool people wear jeans!It makes perfect sense for Chrissie Hynde to wear jeans. Know why? Because she is playing a guitar and singing. Her instruments of entertainment involve her mouth, hands and arms. She can shake a leg and/or tap a foot, but she doesnt need to communicate anything with that leg/foot besides Im Chrissie Fucking Hynde.Chrissie Fucking Hynde is not about to wear gloves or a surgical mask when she performs, because those would prevent her from effectively communicating with the instruments of her art form.

When you wear jeans or dresses or heels or any clothing that is restrictive and/or bulky, you limit the creative potential of your greatest instrument, the one everyone is looking at. And while we may think you look cute or cool, we will not believe that you are a shape-shifting comedy juggernaut who can make magical imaginative worlds blossom in front of our delighted faces.
Dressing upwhen performing could be okay, but less so for ladies in dresses, unless theyve got underwear that they dont mind showing, and womens underwear on stage is a whole other blog entry. Burn Manhattan, my improv gurus back in the late-90s New York, used to improvise in suits and ties. That worked…and those were some sweaty-ass suits and ties at the end of an hour.

Clothing one plans to sweat inis generally a good rule of thumb when performing in the comedy arts.

I dont care what your body type is, if you do not approach your comedy as an athletic activity, you are missing out on the good stuff. Any type of body can give an amazing, physical performance. But not if youre constricted by your own goddamn clothes.

Do comedians have an inferiority complex? Are the Comedy Arts taken less seriously than the Other Performative Arts, hence the ubiquity of jeans? Chris Rock once called comedy the lowest medium in all of show business, in levels of respect. What is that? FUCK ALL THAT FUCKING SHIT.

Take your comedy seriously. It is our weapon, our instrument. It is what we use to synthesize and criticize and reflect our world. So let us wear neutral, flexible clothing. Let us be ninjas, clad only in our comedy skin. Dangerous, versatile, ready. Animals making loony music in the night.