Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Giggling and Wiggling


Swung by the Smitten Kitten – Uptown’s resident sex-toy shop – to pick up a prop for a comedy bit yesterday. I’ve only been in there once before, for an item for, er, recreational use, and I have nothing but positive things to say about the staff – they’ve been consistently cool, collected, and professional.

Here’s the thing, though – I haven’t been. Not consistently, anyway. When I was there previously, to pick up something fairly innocuous, I reverted to a stammering wreck of a bashful Catholic schoolboy. This time, when I was picking up something much more unusual, I was totally cool and collected – because it was for a professional purpose.

Later that night, I swung by Target to pick up a supplementary item for the bit, and was a stammering wreck again. Because at the Smitten Kitten, they’re prepared for unusual requests! Why, the clerks at Target might think I’m some kind of deviant!

…one of these days I really need to sit down and figure out exactly what social conventions my subconscious is apparently selectively observing.


So most of my energy this week has been going towards a pair of burlesque shows I’m hosting, both a bit out of my usual stomping grounds: one in Rochester, one in St. Paul.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lucky DeLuxe last year in Kansas City. The Festival has a number of hosts they cycle through for their late-night events – I’ve been one for a couple of years – and she was the clear standout in 2012. She’s a crazy skilled lady, with equal parts loquacity and, er, curvacity, and it’s an honor to share a stage with her again.

Particularly because the last time was not exactly a slam-dunk. The venue was less than ideal, taking place in a bar in which the greater portion of the audience was actively disinterested – my impression of the crowd was that of a dull roar which we were often trying to shout over.

She was interviewing me with a series of playful, random questions, one of which was “Do you do any impressions?” I had a split-second of panic (“Fuck no I don’t do impressions, I’m hilariously bad at them”), followed immediately by what I have come to regard as my best and most valuable friend onstage – anger (“Why am I wriggling like a goddamn fish on a goddamn line for a goddamn audience that’s not even paying any goddamn attention?”).

At which point I grabbed the mic and said “Sure, I’ll do an impression for you.” I leapt to my feet and bellowed incoherently at the crowd for several seconds. When they stared at me in bafflement, I concluded “…and that’s my impression of you motherfuckers!”

…anyway, I guess she thrives on audience hostility, because she asked me to warm up the crowd for her. So check out the Wiggle and Giggle Burlesque Comedy Night this Thursday-Friday – we can call it a “professional suicide watch”!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Fearful Productions

A heads-up that I'll be hosting the Word Ninjas open mic again this Tuesday, for the first time in a while. I've written at length about my deep and abiding love for the local open-mic scene -- it was my introduction to performing in the Twin Cities, my first foot in a lot of doors -- I still rely on it heavily, and it's exhilarating to see old friends, as well as first-timers taking their own anxiety-ridden baby steps, week after week.

I don't really think in terms of "contribution to the community" -- I generally find such claims dubious, difficult to quantify, and reeking of self-justification -- but having been a part of establishing Word Ninjas, even in small part, is one of my great points of professional pride.

Also been trying to pick a piece for the upcoming Fear Itself, a collaboration between the Rockstars and Fearless Comedy Productions, a new company founded by some old acquaintances.

I've been doing this long enough to have built up a pretty large library of sets and routines, and I've found that the greater part of success for me these days is picking the right piece for the right audience. This is often complicated by trying to weigh what percentage of any given audience will have seen a piece before.

I'll confess that this is a trend that I acknowledge, but don't fully understand -- the degree to which audiences actively resent hearing a set more than once. I interface with storytelling in much the same way that I interface with music -- if there's a single that I like, I'm happy to listen to it over and over.

Comics don't seem to have this problem, which gives them the luxury of working and polishing their routines at greater length. And as I write that, I think, no, the greater issue is that there's a larger number of comedy-oriented mics in this town. I've often bemoaned the lack of storytelling mics, but the fact is that even the ones that exist tend to have a lot of audience overlap -- I'm likely to keep seeing the same people at most of them.

(This problem is often exacerbated by the fact that when I have a larger gig or a show coming up, I want to work the individual pieces as much as possible. Though it pains me to say it, it's entirely possible that the local audience pool for storytelling is too small to sustain this kind of process.)

That's why getting booked at places like Patrick's and Sample Night Live is such good fun -- because I perform there more rarely, it's an audience that hasn't seen most of my material.

So have I chosen wisely? Find out next week -- different Verbosity-Time (Wednesday March 13th at 7:30pm), different Verbosity Channel (at Honey. Honey? Seriously? Just "Honey? I'm both bewildered and vaguely aroused).