Sunday, February 26, 2017


Imagine the biggest bed you've ever seen, a California King next to a California King next to a California King and so on and so on. It looks amazing, this bed, you've never been in a bed so expansive—a field of daisies and clouds for you to rest upon, an endless relaxing silken desert of dreams. Why wouldn't you get into this bed? You deserve it, right? Of course you do! 

Just watch yourself. Because once you start climbing into this bed, the edges blur and disappear, and then it's just you and bed and bed and you, for all eternity. You may never get out, and no one else may ever get in.

Consider deeply before you make a solo show. 

What is it about solo shows? A shit-ton of performing artists either have one or want to make one. I  see it in their eyes when they come up to me after a show. 
Oh I have an idea for a solo show... 
oh there's this SOLO SHOW I want to make...
Wow... you have a solo show, I WANT A SOLO SHOW...


Is it the obvious financial advantage of not having to split your potentially-paltry monetary compensation? Is it the ease of not having to work around anyone else's life choices but your own? Is it some sort of marker of total success—if you can get 'em to stand up just for you, then you're REALLY THAT GOOD and maybe the WHOLE WORLD WILL WAKE UP AND SEE YOU FOR THE MESSIAH OF PERFORMANCE THAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS SECRETLY KNOWN YOU ARE... 

Those are all reasons why I made a solo show. Here's another one: ever since I was first getting on stage as a little kid, I have always felt more connected to the audience than whomever I was on stage with. There have been moments where I felt connected to a fellow performer, certainly, but for whatever reason, I have always felt some sort of film around myself when I'm on stage, a thin filmy membrane that feels like it is directly flowing into the audience's membrane, like we're in the membrane together... we vibrate together, the audience and me, and thus forms a weird gelatinous force field that prevents me from feeling something as deep with other people on stage, because I don't need it somehow, because when it's me and them I'm already whole...

How did that filmy membrane develop? Who knows. All sorts of ways. It could be a pathology or a virtue or none of the above. But it's for sure that filmy membrane that really propelled me to go it alone, and still does, more than the finances or the convenience or the imagined glory. 

Do not misunderstand me. It is profoundly lonely. It is, possibly, unsustainably lonely. If we are thinking of the Artist Life as a marathon and not a race, it may not be the right call in the long run. Difficult to say. 

It's worth considering deeply what your reasons are for making solo work, and understanding what the bad parts are going to be upfront. 

Here are the bad parts, bullet-numbered for your ease of reference:

  • You're alone.
  • You're alone.
  • There's no one else.
  • There's just you.
  • It's lonely.
  • It's isolating.
  • Do you hear me? Total Solitude. 
  • And no one else will really understand, not really. Other solo artists, sure, but they are so busy with their own bullshit that they don't have time or energy to absorb yours. You're on your own.
  • You're by yourself. 
  • Is anyone else there? Anyone at all? NO! 
  • Just you!
  • Do you get what I'm saying?
  • ALONE! 

And yet, maybe it's going to be great! I have great experiences all the time. 

You know what's great? That feeling after a show that has gone well. It is the closest I have ever come to utter peace. It's better than a day at the Korean spa. It's the absolute best. You're high on life and nothing at all. You're utterly centered. 

Maybe you're wandering around in a park you find near the venue, because you're too jazzed to go home but there's nowhere else to go, so you just wander around this park in the dark and the drizzle and you watch the city lights twinkling not so far away, and in the park there are some young men playing some sort of role-playing tag-game with their phones, and you think that's cute, and you eat the two chocolate turtles that an audience member gave you, and you don't need a thing, no-thing, not one thing. You are complete and you are with the world and the world is with you and you're not lonely in the least because you are with everyone.

But technically speaking, let's be honest, you're still by yourself. 

My opinion is always the same, when it comes to figuring out if anything performance-related is going to work for you. Build a 10-minute solo piece and perform it a lot and decide if you love it so much you wanna marry it. Because that is the only reason to make a full-length solo show. You gotta be willing to marry yourself over and over and over again. Does that sound nice to you? Have at it. 

Consider your options, that's all I'm saying.

If you actually like performing with others, if you feel unity on stage with others, then for satan's sake go with that. Go with it despite your ego's calls for more attention. If you feel really good and connected on stage with other people, you will probably prefer that to solo performing, and the audience will probably prefer you that way as well. 

More people make solo shows than should. That's okay. Just the same, does the world really need your solo show? Do you need it? Just think about it, that's all I'm saying. 

Once you get into that big empty bed, there's no guarantee you're ever coming out. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Accidents make me proudest. Of course, accidents shouldn't make me proud because they are, after all, accidents. So maybe pride isn't the emotion. Gratitude. Accidents make me feel gratitude. But I'm proud of my gratitude for those accidents. All very non-Buddhist, probably, but anyway.

Regardless, lately I've been feeling especial pride about a part in my show. It came from a rehearsal, years ago, back in the Early Years of Butt Kapinski. I was trying to make sure the people watching the rehearsal understood what I was saying, and I asked them if they were clear, but because of Butt's speech impediments, it came out as "queer." And it was funny, but it also ended up being incredibly important thematically, as the show developed to be queer, the character is queer, the audience is queered.

So at every show there's a moment early on when I ask the audience, Is everyone clear (queer)? And I wait for everyone's delightfully-multilayered affirmation that yes, they are clear, and also, yes, in a way, they are queer, or willing to be for the course of the show.

It's not unusual that someone pipes up at that point and says they're not queer. It feels defensive, but not necessarily aggressively so, just testing. So I clarify for that person that I'm really making sure that they are CLEAR, as in, comprehending what is going on (but yes, it still comes out like "queer"). And at that point, they tend to give in (or on rare occasions, realize that this is the wrong show for them, and duck out, god bless).

Lately I've been thinking a lot about consent, and I realized recently that the reason why I love that Is everyone queer moment so much, and why I'm so grateful I accidentally found it so many years ago, is because that is a moment that seems to get consent from the audience. It's not conscious on their part, necessarily, but I do think this moment is one of the reasons why everyone gamely plays along. They just feel asked, somehow. And they feel like they've said "yes."

Now, just because they've said that they're "queer" does not mean that they have given consent to do the other crazy things that I ask audience members to do. They have not agreed, in that moment, to hit or kiss me, to sit on other audience members, and so on. I have to get consent for those things too.

That's more complicated. That's about sensing, hinting, approaching with caution. If you're paying attention, you can tell who's up for it. There are those who are sitting there looking delighted, those people are definitely up for it, and maybe too up for it, depending on what you need from them. There are those who are really focused on you, you can feel their intense level of presence with you, those people are up for it too, but they may not be as crazy-from-the-word-go as the first category. Sometimes this second group is the best group, because their level of playing along is a bigger surprise. Then there are those who are kind of with you. They might give you what you want, but they're more of a gamble. And of course there are all the shades in between these groups. Audience members are individuals. I have to treat them as such.

"You also get away with doing what you do because you're a woman," a male comedian friend once said to me. "I'm so jealous of you because of all the things you can do to audience members that I can't."

And he's right about that! Ha ha ha, patriarchy! When it comes to getting away with unbelievable levels of audience interaction, female performers can wipe the floor with their male counterparts! We win in this arena, girls! Centuries of being oppressed has made it far easier for us to dominate our audience members and have them like it! It was all worth it, after all!

But really, it's also about the fact that if there's one thing I would like to believe I do, I pay attention to my audience members. It is the most important thing I do. It is the most political thing I do. It is the only way I can combat the gazillion performers who have given audience inclusion a bad name with their tiny-ego-inspired abuse, their wah-why-aren't-you-laughing-audience-it's-your-fault, their conception of their audiences as authorities to be undermined. It's not that way anymore, bros! Your audience is not your parents who didn't love you enough! Your audience wants to be your friend, and you who bulldoze and energetically-assault because you think it doesn't matter or because you think it makes you a big man, you scar audiences for the rest of us. You make them all afraid when they don't have to be. 

It's not just a gender thing (even though it often is). A woman could still be a bulldozer, hypothetically. It's just that she usually isn't. Because consent is something a bitch knows in her bones. So female performers do tend to naturally be more gentle in this way. And men can be subtle if they want to. I've seen plenty of that. They can't do all the things that a woman might be able to do, true, but they can dance along that spectrum, they can flirt with the same boundaries. They just have to be cautious motherfuckers. In this and all things, dudes!

There is a mistaken assumption among some performers who interact with the audience that by buying a ticket and sitting down, audience members have given consent. But they fucking haven't. They agreed to sit down and passively absorb entertainment and clap at the end. They did not give consent to be hauled up on stage or to be made fun of or to any way be a part of your show. That's not to say they won't, I'm just saying, they haven't yet.

There are loads of ways to get consent, right?

Just get it, that's all I'm saying.