Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Sometimes as a working artist, you have a meeting with an Industry Person. This is someone whose job is to buy the work of performing artists. There are plenty of nice ones, so I'm not knocking them per se. Without fail, though, they always ask this question:

"What's next for you?"

They want to know what your next project is, what your next show will be, the next direction for your work. Why do they always ask this? Probably a few reasons. Not being an Industry Person, I have to hazard guesses.

Perhaps one reason is to take the pressure off the work you are currently trying to sell them. Maybe Industry Person feels the truth of things: that selling one's performance work is stressful and it's a buyer's market and that sucks because that's a lot of pressure pressing down on something that just wants to flutter and breathe and be. Maybe the conversation got heavy and the Industry Person likes it light. So they try to focus on the future, hoping it's less confronting to talk about than your current present.

Also, they probably want to know if your next product is something they might want to buy. Either in addition to or instead of what you're currently offering.

Hey, who can blame them? Industry People want what we all want: good working relationships with colleagues. When they find someone who meets the basic requirements for Good Colleague—you answer emails, you can spell, you treat them courteously no matter what's going on in your life—they want to know if they can continue to have a working relationship with you. It's way easier than trying to find someone else who is courteous and can spell. They want the nice option they already know.

The problem is only for us, the artists. Frankly, thinking about our commercial viability, thinking about our work as a series of products, well, it might just kill what we do—kill it dead.

Here's an example I can think of: um, myself! I came up with a good show. It's cheap (solo, with minimal baggage), innovative, and fun. It's led to a lot of touring and performing opportunities all over the place. I did one good one! I win! But of course you never win. The thing is, that might be the only show I've got in me. Seriously. I mean, maybe, at least. I definitely might not have another solo show in me—see every blog post I've ever written about how fricking lonely solo-touring can be. These days I'm focusing more on teaching, exploring local performance opportunities, writing. I've also become way more interested in interactive experience design, escape rooms and games. All of this boils down to me not being able to tell an Industry Person What's Next.

This is what I tend to say: "You know, I still really love doing this character and this show—it still feels really fresh to me, and although I'm interested in a lot of different things, I don't actually know what's next."

Sure, it feels momentarily bad, when you realize that you might not be a viable product, that you may not be an Industry Person's best bet for those long-term relationships, that if you don't have a What's Next, in their eyes, you barely have a What's Now.

But we have to honor where we are, and what the Muses have already given us. We can't get too greedy in this life. We don't have to apply capitalist principles to our art-making, just because other people do. Just because it feels gratifying to our capitalist veins, our capitalist capillaries, to have those moments of capitalist blood beating through the body UNHHHH, SOMEBODY'S PAYING ME MONEY FOR MY ART UNNNHHHHH. Yeah, it's fricking awesome. Does it mean you need to think of yourself as a product farting out products on somebody else's idea of a schedule? Yeah, have fun with that. You see what happened to Season 3 of "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (and if you haven't seen, for satan's sake DON'T WATCH SEASON 3). You see what happens to every artist who has to crank shit out on the regular. Art does not respond to factory conditions. I mean, neither do people, once we start really going for this train of thought. But seriously.

Maybe it's fine to not know what's next. I'm not saying it's fine, like, you'll still get Industry People to return your emails. Most of the time, I have no idea how to get Industry People to return my emails. They do when they want to, they don't when they don't.

I'm saying it's fine like you're still probably a worthwhile artist, even if you don't have another Insert- Artform-Here all ready to pitch. You've made something valuable that gave you and a lot of other people joy. Once in a while, in your dark nights—with the unknown unfolding in front of you, like a ribbon from a future birthday party for a friend you don't yet know—focus fully on what you've already done, and let it surround you, and just sometimes, let it be enough.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Soooooo back in the olden days, right, there was a King, and there was a Jester. The King was a man, and he was the Establishment, the Power, and all the patriarchal Patriarchy you can shake a patrician pater at. And the Jester was also a man, but he was a little man, relatively speaking. He was not the Power, he was the "fool"—and in the fool we see all the important stuff that makes up clowning: high ridiculousness, physicality, willingness to be the joke, willingness to subvert, mock or at least hold a lil' mirror up to the King so that he can see himself. The fool is Humanity: an embodied reminder that the human experience is about more than Civilization and Hierarchy. It is about the madness and glory of just being alive and going through this ridiculous shit called Life!

All amazing shit, and pretty wrong-headed that it's in the "disempowered" figure that all the truest lessons live. But that's the patriarchy for ya. I'm wondering, though, if maybe I can keep the patriarchy offa my clown for a minute.

I'm going to use the word "clown" in this blog entry, even though I try not to use it in mixed company. We're among friends, right? We'll define "clown" as the comedy realm which is without a fourth wall and rooted in vulnerability. And we'll try to go back to Never Using The Word Clown directly after.

In my clown world, I hear the word "stupid" a lot. Clowns call each other "stupid" as a compliment, a signal that a clown is really in the zone, really being human. I hear myself using it too. It's useful; so much comedy is trying soooo hard to be clever. When you see the opposite of that kind of cerebral comedy—body comedy, heart comedy—maybe you have to call it stupid, just to signify the refreshing contrast.

Nonetheless, "Stupid" or "Idiot" never really felt good to me personally. My particular frequency of clown has never been activated by the idea of being a stupid idiot. If I may speak of "my clown" for a moment, ahem ahem, my clown is brilliant, my clown is a mastermind, my clown has lots of determination, my clown will get it done, my clown cannot get it done because the world, man, but hey, my clown abides.

And I've been wondering about that idea of calling on the clown to be stupid—whether it's really a call from one man to another to be anti-patriarchal, to do the anti-male thing and be vulnerable, and fail, and be loved. But here I've been womaning along my whole life and nobody needed to tell me to do all that, or rather, that's what everyone and everything has told me to do all the time. And so to call my clown stupid might be, essentially, in this fucked-up world, maybe a little fucking redundant.

I get activated by words and phrases like Ferocious! Monster! Killin it! Wipin the floor with it! Destroying it! Slayer! Who's a slayer?! You're a slayer, you big slayer! Triumph! Conquest! Roarrrrr!
Big fierce words make me want to get out there and really go for it. Of course I'm still gonna be vulnerable, that's a given. I'm so vulnerable maybe don't call my clown stupid to my face. Maybe that's some locker room talk, some macho shit, maybe some other clowns need that, and I need something else.

And yet, I get that it totally still makes sense to talk about the clown being stupid or an idiot. If only because you're in comedy class, or comedy circles, and those cultures should be funny, and sure you can say "oh, that clown is so HUMAN, so VULNERABLE", but it's not as funny a thing to say as "That's fucking stupid, amiright. That person's an idiot."

So I'm just asking the question. Answer it as you like.  

Friday, November 3, 2017


My first love was a senior when I was a sophomore, and he was really good at Model U.N. He was already in Early Decision to a good college, and he wooed me with elaborately constructed mix tapes and slyly effusive notes done in cursive and colored pencil, and the kind of banter I had only dreamed about and watched on Moonlighting. He introduced me to Elvis Costello and Woody Allen—I mean, my teenage heroes. He had a girlfriend at another school, which was confusing for me—actually, really shitty and confusing—but he was my first love and I didn't know any better. He would take me out and cuddle me and hold my hand but never more. And after months of this, when I was like, what the eff—he cut it off, sort of, but kinda also led me on for maybe another 5 years. It was a bad first love, frankly—and it was made worse because the music and movies he turned me on to became my music and my movies. So it was hard to get rid of him, without that lingering feeling of gratitude which can sometimes be confused for everlasting love.

Elvis Costello, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Philip Roth, Raymond Chandler... I look at these artists who shaped my voice, who helped me understand my voice, my anger, my funny, my clown, my me, and they're pretty much all woman-hating assholes. I remember reading an interview with Elvis Costello when I was 16: "People look at my lyrics and they think, He's a misogynist. But I love women! Honestly." What could be a more misogynist answer than that? Even then I knew, I guess, but what could I do?

That's what I grew up on, artistically: I grew up sucking on the woman-hating teat of angry white male artists. I grew up forming my artistic anger, my existential rage, coloring in the outlines that they had drawn for me—a world in which, frankly, women suck, and men suck too, but maybe not as much or not as cleverly, not as indelibly. My artistic inspirations flowered in the soil of a white male ecosystem, a white male eye.

And sometimes a moment comes along—when you re-read the interview, or you really see the teacher you've learned so much from, or the man you thought you could trust—suddenly you really see them and they are so small and broken—and you realize, whoa, have I been conditioned to see these guys as mentors and leaders my whole life, has my entire being shaped itself around the worship of these flawed, flawed little boys....

And then #metoo doesn't feel enough, because to say #metoo is to say that it happened to me, when what I feel is that, along with and worse than that, it happened inside me, from age 15 and long before, when the art inside me joined with what I thought was the Divine Truth of the art of all of my influences—their words and music promised liberty to me. My soul thought it married a fellow victim-saint, and it really married a perpetrator. And to see that both that liberty and that sainthood are so tainted, to feel how rotten they are—how rotten I am...

That's the problem. That's the moment when you wonder why you didn't stick with the Indigo Girls and Jeanette Winterson. You wonder what was it inside you that picked the wrong men, in literature, in record stores, in life. Or were there ever any right men to pick? I picked men who echoed my sense of powerlessness and anger and urge for personal freedom, men who all would screwed me over had I known them personally, and the ones whom I did, did.

And in those moments when you see them for what they are, sure, it is a growing time, it is a good time to transform and spend more time listening to Bonnie Raitt and reading Zora Neale Hurston. Sure. But in those moments when you long for your past, for those teenage moments in which you fell in love with music and books and movies, and for that matter, men, you realize that those moments are kinda gone for you. And all the little Harveys inside of you don't have a home anymore, but stagger around, lost, plucking at their little-boy suspenders and wondering whom they matter to anymore.

I think it's probably different now, for other women artists. Or it must be. Soon.