16 Lessons From A Long Beach State Spoken Word Event

1) Poetry is not concerned with fiction or nonfiction

2) If it’s a good poetry reading there is always one person that stinks, like literally one person that smells really bad, halitosis or otherwise.

3) If the super hip dudes who play bass and drums between sets look like they want to slit their own throats you are not doing well, and you probably shouldn’t read a third time or a fifth time for that matter.

4) College kids often think they’re being profound when they are really just being annoying.

5) Vulnerability is underrated, especially when it comes to pseudo-insensitive males ages 20-25.

6) There is something beautiful about the trembling hand of a reader who is simultaneously spitting on mic with supreme confidence

7) It’s not a joke if there’s no punchline.

8) Maybe don’t use things that you just learned a week ago in your set.

9) Feel the room. They don’t want you to freestyle. I don’t care if we’re in Long Beach. (Unless freestyling is one thing you do.)

10) Poetry is no different–like most good pieces of writing emotional resonance is everything (though yes there’s a lot of other stuff too)

11) Zip up your fly homie.

12) Especially if you’re wearing camo pants.

13) Nobody is born with poet voice, it’s something you learn in college.

14) Keep forcing yourself to share your work. This loving environment and kind audience are both finite.

15) Slow down

16) Breathe

Sit Down Vs. Stand Up

I love stand-up comedy. It’s my absolute favorite form of live entertainment. I’m much more willing to pay to see a badass comic then a play or sporting event or concert.

A couple of years ago, the American Red Cross had this promo where if you donated blood you got two free tickets to the Laugh Factory. My boyfriend and I took full advantage of this and went to the one in Long Beach a few times. Eventually the promo ended and now I never give blood, which is selfish and sad.

Since this “blood for comedy” deal ended my boyfriend and I have paid seen Bill Burr, Daniel Tosh and Chris Tucker live (not at the same time).  Each performance was amazing, but Bill Burr was especially awesome, we saw him in Vegas. He got into such a great rhythm with the audience, the waves of laughter were so big and consistent it was hypnotizing.

bill-burr

Bill Burr eating a dinosaur

My boyfriend and I don’t really watch TV shows. Not like we’re snobby or anything we watch sports and Jeopardy but we don’t really watch TV dramas.

And yes, I’m aware of the TV renaissance upon us but no I have not seen Breaking Bad or Mad Men or Game of Thrones or House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black or Girls or Duck Dynasty or Downton Abbey (though I do watch Louie, SNL and Portlandia). It’s not that I don’t like TV I just love movies—in 2013 I watched 67 new theatrical releases 50 of which I saw in theaters thanks to this Moviepass thing.

Instead of shows, we watch a shitload of stand-up. Then we re-watch it and re-watch it again until we’ve memorized entire sets.

I do not think that my boyfriend and I are particularly funny. I can make my dad and brother laugh but that’s about it. But even though we’re not funny we both have the same sense of humor and all this stand-up has given us our own language.

Like if I say:

“I’m in the garage!” he knows I’m quoting Dove Davidoff.

ccsu_davidoff_filthy_gay-300x168

“why do gay guys always look like they just smelled some cookies…”

or if I say:

“but it’s the good kind of fat…” he knows it’s Gary Goldberg.

or if I say:

“I played a sloppy first half” he knows it’s Billy Gardell

or if I yell

“I say it! I say it!” he knows it’s Bill Burr.

Or any of these:

“You hope it was a miracle…” – John Mulaney.

“Denise? Have you ever done any security work?” – Aziz Ansari.

“You know, good livin’, good livin’…” – Bernie Mac.

“Now ritch around…” -DL Hughley.

“My rooms got rooms!” – Hannibal Buress quoting Young Jeezy

I could go on forever…

Hannibal

Hannibal Buress = the Lenny Bruce of grocery store and mustache humor

If I had the balls I would try stand-up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in the audience, mostly while intoxicated and felt a sort of pull, like I could figure out how to do it if I tried. But maybe everybody feels that way…

I know the closest I’ll ever get is probably reading my work in front of people which is so not the same. Two people from my high school are just starting out as stand-ups. I look at how they’re doing it and am so curious as to what it would be like but ultimately I’m a coward. Plus I have bad anxiety and a fear public speaking and even if I’m not speaking I don’t like groups of people looking at me in general.

Sometimes it’s nice just to be a patron of an art form though. It’s nice to be a consumer of stand-up and movies and paintings instead of constantly having to break them down and analyze each one the way I tend to do with books.

But I still think there are a lot of parallels between writing and being a comic. Comics are of course writers and most writers have to consider rhythm and audience and end up reading their words out loud to themselves to get a feel for their material. So in that way some of the preparation can be similar.

The performance element is obviously a key difference. So is the feedback loop. Comedians can try out material in front of an audience and instantly see if it works or not and then edit their material based on the crowd’s reaction. In writing it’s not really like that. The initial “feedback” on a draft comes from the same stupid mind that created the thing in the first place.

Writers also don’t have much interaction with their audience and when they do so much of it is negative. Think about it: an author writes a book, say 250 pages and that takes years. Then they go on a book tour and maybe have what? Twenty stops across the country most of which are less then ten people events. Then when that’s over the primary audience interaction comes from places like Goodreads where people are more awful then they are nice. As an author there is no instantaneous outward expression of satisfaction from an audience but on the other hand there is more intimacy between an author and their audience or at least there can be.

This is not to say that comics have it easy, at least writers don’t have to face the unsatisfied/disapproving audience. Which version of disapproval is more grueling? I’m not sure. Public humiliation is swift and strong but then it’s over. Hateful words on the internet can last longer, even if the reaction doesn’t have the same edge as a face to face encounter it still sucks. Bottom line is this: writing is far less brave and therefore far more suited to people like me. In the end I fall into the category that the majority of people probably do; I’d much rather sit down then stand up.