Day 4: Rejected by Talent Scout

They say the number one fear in the world is public speaking. I can confidently say that I’m much more afraid of rejection. Particularly the rejection associated with my public speaking. Most comedians are super sensitive about their acts. Many can’t take the slightest bit of criticism. So we constantly live in fear…fear of someone saying something mean about our jokes, and fear of offending someone else by saying something about their joke. Well, some of us have more of one fear than the other. But at the end of the day, we are all comedians, and one’s judgement shouldn’t matter too much. But when an industry person…a gatekeeper…someone who can control your success…rejects your act, its like an arrow to your heart.

Its the last night of one of my first trips to LA. It was a 3 night run, where I managed to do all rooms in the Comedy Store on Monday, get passed at the Laugh Factory showcase on Tuesday, and now for the final challenge, perform at Comedy Juice at the Hollywood Improv. Yea the big 3 clubs, in 3 nights. Nice planning, Sammy. To add to it, I am being scouted by an agent tonight. I won’t say which agency, but our interaction was one of brevity. I am told the scout will be coming to watch me at the West Side Theatre in Santa Monica at 9. I go up first so I can make it to Comedy Juice at 10, I do my tight 7 to a cold crowd of 20, get some laughs, and an applaud or two, but I don’t see a scout anywhere. Now to the Improv on Melrose, where a packed main room awaits me to go up first after the host. In the back of the room I see what looks like a talent scout, she walks in with confidence, schmoozes with other comedians, and carries a clip board. Hmm, did they pull a switcharoo on me? Why would they do that? I just did my tight 7 in Santa Monica, and I also have a girl with me who I want to impress, so I can’t just do that same set that she just saw here at Juice right? I have to switch it up. I’m sure it will be fine. Well, it wasn’t really. I do my lower tier jokes, and the crowd is stiff. I mean I don’t bomb, but I’m not stand out good. Finally at the end, I go into some of my better stuff, close with bear joke and get a full on applause, but it feels too late. This wasn’t really a strong set. After the show the scout walks in my direction, hooks a left, looking down, and walks out of the room. I asked another comedian what that meant. He said, that’s not good.

I never heard back from the agency. Ever. Well, it’s been almost 1,000 days, maybe they are still getting around to sending me that email. I’m still without an agent, and it always reminds me of that day that I had a chance and blew it. This was a big rejection for me, early in my streak, early in my move to LA, early in my understanding of how the industry works. What did I learn that night? If you think you see an agent, do your BEST, your BEST stuff. Go in with energy and make yourself stand out. Or maybe don’t ask them to come see you prematurely…until you understand the crowd at Comedy Juice, or how to stand out in LA, or how to impress a girl in better ways than showing her that you have more than 7 minutes of quality public speaking.

Day 3: Getting Passed at the Laugh Factory

They say third time’s a charm and often that’s horribly wrong, but sometimes it happens to be true. Tuesday December 28th, 2010, I’m beginning my move down to LA and I’ve booked a showcase at the world renowned Laugh Factory in Hollywood, an audition for the owner Jamie Masada. This will be my third time performing there. The first two were at the Tuesday open mic, which happens right before the showcase for a crowd of a few comics. I had gone once in April 2009 and again in May 2009. Those first times I had driven down with my buddy Kabir and we met up with our other buddy Kiel Kennedy. The first time I don’t do so well, but Jamie says nice things. The second time I definitely do well and he says I need work. Typical comedy rub. It was messing with our heads, so we decided not to do the open mic anymore. Plus if I need work, I better take the time to do that.

A year and a half later I’ve managed to get a pre-booked audition for Jamie, using a reference of mine who I met in the comedy circuit. This will be my third try, and I have unlimited guest list and am lucky enough to have 20 fresh faces who’d never seen me before. I’m sitting there watching the open mic and one of the managers comes up and tells me they are going to put me up last on the showcase, since I brought all these people. Nice, I’m headlining. The comics performing are not doing so great, so I’m kind of worried. I go up and laughs start coming faster and louder than I expected. One of those sets where you feel you don’t deserve how great they are being to you. But it boosts my confidence so I put even more into it and now I’m just killing. It’s been 6 minutes and I haven’t seen the light, and I see Jamie watching attentively, so I ask, do you still want me to go longer? I don’t want to run the light unintentionally. He nods, and says keep going! So I do another few minutes, it goes really well, and then he gives me the light, right as I’m closing on a strong joke. People ask me how I got in at the Laugh Factory, I say lots of good luck. Before I left the showcase Jamie said, “I loved your material. All of it.” I was so excited, just one year later from doing that open mic, I’d made it this far. All it took I guess was having an actual crowd there, since I was doing a lot of the same jokes I did last year. Maybe the work I needed to do was making friends.

I head to Three Clubs on Vine afterward to work on some new jokes, bringing some friends with me. I find out later that night that I’ve been passed at the Laugh Factory, and that I’m being booked for their Fresh Faces show in February. What a good feeling. Just moved to LA, and already a regular at the most prestigious club. Well, I didn’t know I’d have a long ways to go everywhere else, and even at this club I was passed, how much I’d have to work to climb the hierarchy just to get a set on a weekend, which finally happened on Day 644, about 1 year 9 months later.

Day 365! I made it! Or did I..

Hark! What’s that the angels are saying? It is Christmas? And on this Christmas Day I will receive the biggest gift I have been awaiting, of setting my world record of 365 consecutive days of comedy?? I put on my Sunday’s best and drive on down to Napa for my private gig at the Embassy Suites. Today we are celebrating not only Christmas but the birthday of this family’s uncle Joe, who turns out is the maker of his own brand of Vodka. The fam turns out to be way cooler than I expected. We have kids, 20 somethings, and old folks, but all like to party and have a good time. They let me do a full hour, and it just might be the funnest show of the whole year. We have a buffet afterwards and everyone gives me their blessings and wishes me luck, congratulating me on my accomplishment of a world record! Yay!

An hour later I’m driving home, and see a comment on my facebook post about setting the world record…a local comic tells me that he heard that comedian Hal Sparks (done a bunch of stuff on VH1) once did 2 years of comedy straight, every night. I instantly shrug it off as impossible. But it begins to eat away at me that maybe someone else might have been as crazy as I am. Most comedians are really. I go home and look it up, and all I find is a blurb by Hal Sparks on his site that mentions that there was a point in his career where he really wanted to get good at standup so he performed for 2 years straight, including weekends and holidays. My initial thoughts were a) he’s lying or b) he’s exaggerating. But say he wasn’t. Then what I just did was not a world record at all. Instantly my Christmas gift was shattered into pieces.

But I’m a rational guy, and I picked up those broken pieces and said ya know what? The streak will go on!

Not only do I have to reach 2 years, or 730-731 days, but I have to beat it. By a good margin too. And so it was born, the route to 1,000 days of comedy. And since I’m Middle Eastern, it must be 1,001 Arabian nights of comedy.

To be continued..

Day 341: Buried by Jo Koy

Have you ever attended a proper burial? Well over 350 people did tonight at the Irvine Improv. First night of the weekend, featuring for my homegirl Anjelah Johnson. Two shows tonight, both sold out. On the first show, the monstrous Jo Koy stops by to see Anjelah, and might as well do a guest set, but instead of going after the feature, the full on national headliner that he is, why not go before? Yea I love the sound of that. I can already hear the dirt being shoveled over my body.

We are back stage and Jo Koy is already on fire. He’s doing Cosby impressions, making jokes about the bathroom in the green room, he has us all dying. He’s just non stop making us laugh. I’m wondering, is that what it takes to be such a successful headliner? Just use all time as stage time? Granted he can get away with it because he has the status, the likeability, and the high energy. I just drove 2 hours in traffic from NoHo, in my head the whole time, and I still don’t feel like talking to any human being. Joy Koy’s back here doing his hour special, live from the green room.

My buddy Kabeezy goes up and gets the crowd going as the host. Then he brings up Jo. Before he even finishes announcing his name, the crowd is already in cheers and tears of joy they love Jo Koy so much. He starts ripping and ripping, as if there was no time in between his backstage set and his on stage set. He covers Mexicans and Asians so there goes half of my jokes. And then if he already isn’t killing hard enough, he closes with his singing bits. Turns out he has an amazing singing voice too. The crowd is just in flames. I didn’t see but they probably gave him a mental standing O.

Now Kabeezy brings me up, and I have to find out how to use my Lebanese hook to grab them out of Filipino laugh lust. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t bomb, but sold out Irvine Improv feature spot is your boy’s playground. That crowd gives me one of the best reactions of anywhere. And I always give out loads of cards and even sell cds. I did guest sets for Anjelah this same month of December last year in this sweet spot an just annihilated, and kind of buried the guy after me, now karma was repaying me.

But I wasn’t going out without a fight. I pulled out all my stops, bear joke n all. By the end of the set I’m doing well, but oh boy did Koy bury me. After the show I got maybe a handful of ‘you were goods’ and no cds sold. I know this was a burial because the next show, no Jo, I murdered and sold 10 cd’s, for $15 each. So theoretically Jo Koy owes me $150.