Open Mic

Two Shows a Week

Last week I was fortunate enough to do two new open mics in one week for the first time.  And I’m doing two mics this week as well.

Last Tuesday was my first time getting to do open mic at the Helium Comedy Club in Brentwood. It was their first open mic after a hiatus due to a six week long contest so the crowd was small. Helium is nice because they serve food and it’s a very large and upscale place, but they don’t seat people down front and their sound system is a bit muffled since the showroom is so large.

I was having trouble sleeping that week so I had a raging headache that night so I didn’t feel good about my set and left shortly after I was done. It was still a good experience getting to go up on a new stage though.

On Thursday that week I also debuted at the open mic at Hey Guys Comedy Club in Fairview Heights, Illinois. That’s a great venue for that town and only about fifteen minutes from downtown St. Louis. There were ten really strong comics that night so it was a great show.

I also tried out new material, and we each got to do seven minutes instead of the typical four minutes at open mics. The only drawback was the thunderstorms and hail in the area obviously kept people away that night. Besides the comics, we only had three people in the audience.

This week I did Funny Bone’s open mic on Tuesday. I was the next to the last comic to go up, and though we had a nice sized crowd of about thirty people they were a very cold audience. A few comics were bombing so bad that they didn’t even do their full four minutes.  Even the headliners that get squeezed in and do a set throughout the show were bombing. It was a rough night for everyone.

I tried out some brand new jokes that night which did okay.  And I recorded audio of my set to listen to. Playing it back, I was actually surprised at the laughs that I did get so I think I did better than some that night. It just goes to show you never know how the audience is going to be! That’s one thing that makes stand up comedy so appealing to me.

Tonight I’m headed back to Illinois for my very first contest qualifier.  It’s at Hey Guys Comedy Club. Each month they do a contest qualifier. Twenty comics go up and the audience picks the top three or four.  Those who win become semi-finalists in next year’s contest which is held in early spring.

I’ll probably get to do 6 to 7 minutes I’m guessing. I don’t know the details yet.  Even if I don’t make it into the contest, it’s still good experience for me. Most of the clubs hold their contests in the summer.  Helium wrapped up their contest a few weeks ago and Funny Bone is also in the middle of a contest that wraps up next month.  I’ll probably definitely get in on those next year.

 

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Punchline

I watched Punchline this week, a 1988 film starring Tom Hanks and Sally Field. Many years ago I picked up the VHS tape of it in a bargain bin at K-Mart. I fell in love with the movie and it had a huge influence on my decision to eventually try stand-up comedy myself many years later after moving to Memphis.  Since I recently started doing open mics again just a few months ago, I wanted to watch it again. I have no idea what happened to my VHS tape but thanks to Amazon Video I was able to see it.

Surprisingly, this movie still holds up.  Other than how young Tom Hanks looks, the movie doesn’t necessarily have an old 80’s vibe to it. The jokes told in the film aren’t very dated other than one comedian who carries a large boom box on stage. I know the movie inside and out, but I wasn’t bored by it. You get that feeling sometimes when you watch an old movie again and you suddenly realize that you’ve outgrown it or it just doesn’t feel as good as it did back in the day. It wasn’t dated then, but maybe it is now. Not Punchline. Punchline is still funny.punchline

This movie is two hours long unlike most lackluster comedies today that barely clock an hour and a half and sometimes you think that’s too long. Honestly, Punchline feels like one of those movies because it goes by so fast but that’s because it really is funny and relies on true stand up and comedic situations rather that sight gags or lewd humor.  And the plot line doesn’t get dragged down by ad libbed humor or unnecessary characters. It’s actually quite simple.

Sally Field plays Lilah, a housewife who is trying to make it as a stand-up comic. Tom Hanks plays Steven, a med school dropout who is a pretty regular on the comedy scene. When the two cross paths at a club called The Gas Station, Lilah asks Steven for some tips and feedback.

Steven is hesitant because he’s got his own problems, and Lilah has to juggle her housewife roll.  But she finally commits and so does Steven. What follows is Lilah’s epiphany as she becomes more comfortable on stage and comes alive. There’s a scene where he takes her to a club and won’t let her use her regular jokes and that A-ha! moment is a great scene to watch.

There’s a minor plotline where Steven falls for Lilah, and she almost gives up comedy to make her husband happy. By the way, her husband is played by John Goodman. It’s a small role before he stepped into the role of Dan on the hit show Roseanne, but still a very noteworthy role for him!  You’ll hate Steven through most of the movie, maybe even in the very end, but the story lines are wrapped up beautifully.

I doubt this movie would even be made today. It would be considered too long and probably not obscene enough. It’s interesting to see how Hollywood has changed our tastes in humor through the years and Punchline is a perfect example of what “was” funny in the 80’s.

Also, I think this movie would have to turn into a love story to even try to appeal to an older audience because a younger crowd would have no interest in middle-aged stand-up comedy.  That’s why I think this movie is a classic just the way it is! If you enjoy good clean humor, Tom Hanks and Sally Field deliver in Punchline!

 

 

Open Mic

What’s so funny?

This last Tuesday made my 6th STL open mic performance (my 5th one at Funny Bone).  It was the largest crowd so far, but definitely not the best.  The audience was pretty luke warm and the drinking didn’t help as the evening progressed. But, sometimes that happens.  I think most people were having a good time. They just weren’t laughing very loud. There was one woman right down front who looked bored out of her mind.  One comic even called the crowd out and joked about how bad they were!

Most comics that night had a good set, but some didn’t get any laughs at all, or barely any laughs. That’s not good, but that night you really had to blame the audience because the majority of comics were really good. I felt the same way about my set. I recorded audio with my phone and listened to it the next morning and realized I got more laughs that I thought when I was up there. Recording your set definitely helps.

I also had my set video recorded that night.  There’s a nice guy, also a comic, there most nights who will tape you for just $10 and make a DVD for you.  I’ve definitely done better as far as getting laughs goes but that’s a chance you take.  I’ve watched the video a few times now and feel pretty solid about it.  It’s definitely a set I’d do again just as it is.

What do you think?

Another perk about taping (audio and video) is it helps you develop your timing and delivery, while also working on which jokes work and which ones don’t. My “Samantha” joke got lots of laughs two weeks ago when I did it in front of a crowd that was half the size, but on the tape it barely gets any laughs. Another advantage to video is just seeing how you look on stage and how you can improve your stage presence.  I immediately noticed I play with the mic cord too much, something you might not have noticed until now when I pointed it out to you.  But I noticed right away!

I’m also a bit animated on stage and talk with my hands a lot, but that’s just who I am and I’m probably not going to try to change that. I’ll definitely have my set recorded again later on. It’s $10 well spent.  I hope you enjoyed it!

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Lemon Balm Limoncello

Happy Independence Day! It’s been a rainy three day weekend for us here in St. Lou so we’ve been taking advantage of the long holiday weekend by processing some of the summer harvest.

Yesterday I shucked corn and bagged it for the freezer. If you read my Urban Gardener 2016 post from a few days ago, you know we lost our own small corn crop to rats this year so we went to the local farmers market on Saturday and bought some ears of corn. By the way, we’ve caught a rat every night this week in the live trap, but that’s a blog post for another day! We also bought green beans and added those to the freezer today.

We fried some zucchini last night for dinner. The rest also went into the freezer and will be quite yummy in soups this winter. I canned pickle relish last weekend and was tempted to do it again today to use up a small batch of some cucumbers we have left.  Instead, I thought I’d try some refrigerator pickles.

I found a recipe on Pinterest which will be ready to eat tomorrow so if we like it, we’ll probably make another jarful of pickles just to use up what’s left. Our homegrown garlic and dill were also put to good use with these pickles. We’ve canned pickles the last three or four years but we are never satisfied with the outcome though we do like the relish. So hopefully these fridge pickles will be better.

Today the house smells like sage, lemon balm, and vodka. I’m just joking about that last one. Vodka has no smell really. I mention sage because I filled up the food dehydrator with it.  We use it quite a bit in the kitchen and it’s time to start harvesting our herbs and drying them. But we don’t dry the lemon balm. This year we’ve been soaking it in vodka!

20160704_125303 (1)That’s right!  Vodka! We’ve lived here for ten years and our neighbors have had lemon balm growing right on the fence line all this time.  We’ve transplanted some into our yard, mostly around other plants to keep rabbits from eating them. They don’t like lemon balm. We’ve never really used lemon balm for anything though other than enjoying the smell of it in the yard and occasionally adding it to sun tea.

About a month ago I came across a limoncello recipe that uses lemon balm instead of actual lemons. Having made limoncello from real lemons many years ago, I enjoy drinking it but the task of making it is long and tedious. This one seemed much easier and worth a shot.

20160704_125327You start by cutting some lemon balm leaves and stems and washing it. The leaves tend to take on a rusty color the older they are. You don’t want to use those. Try to find the fresh, smaller leaves near the top of the plant.

After you wash them, stick a bunch of stems of leaves into a bottle or jar that has a lid. We have a lot of these jars with porcelain stoppers that we bought to make our own herbal vinegars years ago and they are perfect for the limoncello.

After you’ve put a bunch of lemon balm into your container, you fill it with vodka. Any plain, non-flavored vodka will do. No reason to spend a lot of money on it since you are flavoring it. We use 360 Vodka because it comes in a nice bottle that also has a porcelain cap so it can be reused to make and store limocello as well. One bottle of it filled two of our smaller bottles. Be sure all of the leaves are covered with the vodka.

20160704_131453After you’ve filled your bottles, let them sit in a nice cool dark spot for 30 days. I put mine in the back of the pantry. Be sure to mark your calendar so you don’t forget about it. The vodka will take on a dark rusty color as the lemon balm soaks and ages.

After soaking for 30 days, you are ready to add the next ingredient. Add one cup of water to a pan on the stove and turn your stove on low heat. To the water, add one cup of sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. You do not have to let the water come to a boil. You’ll want one cup of this sugar mixture for about every four cups of vodka.

Next, pour the vodka that’s been soaking up the lemon balm into the water, minus any lemon balm leaves or stems. Stir well, making sure the sugar is dissolved and then rebottle it. You now have limoncello! It’s rusty color will be diluted a bit but it’s ready to drink!

And believe me, hot or cold it is yummy!  It tastes like lemon drop candy. We liked it so much we went out today and bought two more bottles of vodka and started three more batches!

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Blog. Money. Health. Write. July 2016.

Here we are again!  It’s July already and time for my monthly update. I blogged quite a bit in June. There were 6 posts total including my June update. I’m already thinking about some posts I want to write in July.

Money

All of my accounts grew in June except for cash savings. I dipped into it for various reasons so it’s down. I’m really excited about my apps, Receipt Hog and iBotta. They are steadily growing.

I forgot, again, to schedule money to transfer to my Capitol One Money Market account so I transferred a tiny bit a few days ago, and while I was signed in I went ahead and scheduled transfers for the next three or four months so I won’t have to worry about forgetting again. Here are my totals:

InBox Dollars Account: $38.06
iBotta Account: $31.45
Receipt Hog Account: $10.33
Primary Savings Account: $65.00
Primary Money Market: $30.00
Credit Union Savings: $80.00
Capitol One Money Market: $321.52
Cash Savings: $15.00
Total: $591.36

Health

Well, not much to report here…good news anyway. I threw my food journal away. I wasn’t referencing it like I should and just wasn’t seeing the benefit of doing it. So, yep, I pitched it in the trash one day. That means I need to start over and start something new to motivate me.

Haven’t started walking again and now it’s too hot to do it. I haven’t gained any weight though which is good, but I could still stand to lose some. So other than watching what I eat, I’m not sure what my focus will be, if any, during the next few months.

Write

Today marks the Ebook release of my fifth book: Feeling Himself Forgotten. It will be available in paperback later this month.

As I said last month, I decided not to work on any new projects until I got this book done.  I’m still not sure what new writing project I’ll start on, but I’ll know when the time comes.

That’s it for now. See you again next month.  Summer is here! Enjoy!

 

Open Mic

Sunglasses and mic stands

Last night was my 4th time getting to go up at Funny Bone. Only 20 people signed up so they let all 20 of us go up as long as we stuck to our time (4 minutes) and kept a tight show.

Though the show went smoothly overall and wrapped up by about 9:15pm, there was one newcomer who ran way over! He probably ended up doing close to 5 minutes, and none of it was funny. Poor guy. He had not indicated that he was completely new to open mic, but I can’t imagine he’d done it much before, if at all.

He wore sunglasses on stage and didn’t move the mic stand out of the way. Like I said, none of his set was funny either.  I almost felt sorry for him. It was more comical to see the guys in the back waving the light like crazy trying to let him know his time was over. The emcee finally rushed up on stage and took the mic from him. The guy left the club right after.

Other highlights were an 18 year old who also wasn’t new to the scene but this was my first time seeing him. He did okay though his jokes were a bit morbid, and he plugged his YouTube channel at the end which usually gets frowned upon. There were two teachers who went up, both doing teacher jokes which were absolutely hysterical. I was impressed by both. And one female comic who also did very well in my opinion.

It was kind of a stiff crowd, but there were two women down front who were clearly having a good time. They had loud cackling laughter which was a bit contagious and all the comics played to them. They got up to go to the restroom right before one comic and he even commented that his set was going to go bad now because they had left.

I was last on the list so I got to play headliner you could say! I did all new jokes except for my opener. Most of my set was about Taylor Swift and it did okay.  I’ll probably do it again at some point but next I really want to put together a strong set using some jokes from my last few mics that went over really well. I squeezed in an ad lib last night from the previous week that did really well and it got some laughs again, so it’s definitely worth repeating.

The semi finals of the competition at the Helium Comedy Club started last night so it will be wrapping up soon and open mic will return there. I’m still hoping to get time on that stage at some point, hopefully in July!

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The Urban Gardener 2016

You might have noticed I haven’t posted anything about the garden this year. No pics of flowers or summer vegetable harvests unlike years past. Yes, we did plant a vegetable garden this year, but the harvest hasn’t been that big yet. And I’ve just been enjoying it and the flowers rather than posting pics everyday on Instagram or Facebook.

We’ve picked 4 large zucchini so far. No reason to post a pic of every single one of those.  Everyone knows what  a zucchini looks like. I chopped up the first one and froze it and gave another one away.

We’ve had a decent pick of cucumbers and sweet peppers, enough to make 6 jars of pickle relish last week just to use them up.  And they’ve been useful in a few yummy garden salads.

We have not had an abundance of tomatoes this year. The few we’ve picked have been small so we’ve used those up in salsa or salads. I’m hoping we get enough to be able to can some salsa in a few weeks.  The picture above was the first ripe one we picked a few weeks ago.

I also planted garlic last September and we finally harvested it last week.  Yep, it took that long to grow it and this was my first time.  It was worth the wait.  I now have more garlic than I know what to do with!

Besides tomatoes, sweet peppers, garlic, cucumbers, and zucchini, we also tried planting bell peppers again this year. The plants are not producing anything and look horrible in comparison to the sweet peppers. I wanted to try again but can’t say I will next year. Not sure why the sweet peppers perform better.

The corn did so well last year so we planted it again this year. However, our neighborhood tends to have a rat problem in the dead of summer.  The dogs always corner a rat in the yard or we come across a dead one sometimes. This year a rat ate all of our corn! Yep, it looks like we are growing corn cobs. The rats ate it right on the stalks. So, I’ll be buying corn from the farmers market to put in the freezer this year.

Last year we also planted our own thornless black berry bushes. They are doing very well this year and we’ve already picked a few handfuls of berries. We probably won’t have enough for jam this year but maybe enough for a nice cobbler.

So it’s been a tough, and interesting year, for the garden this year.  Yep, all the flowers are blooming nicely.  We didn’t buy as much new stuff this year because there’s no room to plant it. Hard to believe it will already be July next week, isn’t it?  Summer is barely here and it’s already flying by.

 

 

Open Mic

I don’t have any jokes about bikers…

This past Tuesday I was lucky enough to make the set list again at open mic at Funny Bone. This was my 4th mic since returning to the scene back in May. I was the 10th comic on the list but got bumped three times as they squeezed in headliners. Basically, sometimes more experienced comics who have hosted, opened, or been a headliner before show up and they squeeze them into the show. None of the open mics get bumped off the list, but I ended up being 13th instead. It can make for a long night, but you get to see a good show by watching other comics and the audience gets warmed up too.  At least I didn’t have to go first or last!

I had written a set which was all new stuff for this night except for my key opening joke which I use every time. After the sign-up and meeting, I overheard someone say there was a biker convention at the plaza this week. And guess who was in the audience? Yep. Mostly bikers. This was a bit scary at first and for a second I considered changing my entire set, but I decided against it because I’ve done that before and it doesn’t end up being as strong because I either forget stuff or don’t have my timing down. So, I stuck to the plan.

The audience was definitely having a good time, and the bikers were awesome! They laughed so much that my opening stuff ran a bit long because of their laughter. That’s always a good thing. But soon I was getting my first light which means I only had a minute left. You only get four minutes. So I had to cut out a few things from my last bit so that I didn’t go over. It was still funny, but definitely not as strong as I was hoping. That’s okay though.  I’ll probably try it out at least once more to see if I get a different reaction, and so I can at least do the entire bit the way I intended.  If it bombs or doesn’t do well again, then I know it’s time to move on.

That’s what’s interesting about this dynamic. I really expected my second bit to be funnier than the first. Instead, the tables were turned.  But ya never know, it could be completely different with another crowd.  I’ll definitely try out the entire set again either way just to see what happens.

That’s part of the appeal of doing stand-up, particularly open mic night. You can try out new stuff and you get instant feedback, and instant gratification. Being a published author too, it’s like getting a good review or having someone tell you they enjoyed your book. Compliments let you know you accomplished what you had hoped. In comedy, Laughter is golden.

I’d love to be able to do more open mics each week. There’s a strong scene here. You can just about hit one every night here in St. Louis. But the majority of them are in bars and don’t start until 10pm or later. I’m past my prime on staying up that late on a “school night.” Tuesday night is the earliest, but at Funny Bone there’s certainly no guarantee you’ll make the list each week. I’ll be hitting Funny Bone again next week but when Helium Comedy Club starts doing their open mics again next month, I’ll try signing up there too. Unfortunately it’s on the same night and around the same time so I can’t do both, but at least I will have two chances.

Feeling Himself Forgotten: A Sequel to Stealing Wishes

FHF-COVERIt’s finally here! We’re just ten days away from the release of my fifth book, Feeling Himself Forgotten.   I’m so glad to finally be able to say I’m finished with it and to be putting it out there for my readers to enjoy. Despite the story being a cozy little romantic comedy and a sequel to my second book, Stealing Wishes, it’s been one of the hardest to complete.

I originally started writing it back in 2012 but abandoned it when I got the idea to write Dickinstein. I finished writing Feeling Himself Forgotten in 2013 and quickly placed it with an Ebook publisher.  I signed a contract with them in 2014 but that fell through in 2015.

Yep, it had been 4 years since I started writing it. I was just about ready to give up. Earlier this year, I blew the dust off the manuscript and started editing it. When I was done, I sent it off to my editor in April and got it back in May.  And I finished my final revision this month.

I’m publishing it myself through CreateSpace so that I can make it available more quickly. I’ve sat on manuscripts before, but not this long. I wrote Are You Sitting Down? in 2007, but sat on the complete manuscript for 3 years before deciding to publish it myself in 2010, and today it’s my most popular book. I’m not sure why I chose to wait other than I remember thinking it either wasn’t that good or after I had finished it, the book scared me a little.

I’m also ready to start a new project. I’m eager to write and it’s hard to do that when you’ve got a book waiting in the wings.  Think of it as if you were pregnant.  All your attention is on your baby, and it’s hard to think about doing anything else. I’m starting to feel like I can finally start writing something else, a feeling I haven’t had in several years now.

So there we have it. The Kindle edition is available for pre-order now. Just click on the book cover above.  The release date is July 1st.  And a paperback edition will follow sometime in July.

I hope you like it.  I never thought I’d write a sequel of any kind, and I have my friend and editor, Gabriella West, to thank for that.  One day in an email she casually asked about what would have happened to Auden after Stealing Wishes, and that got the wheels turning. You’ll get to read all about it on July 1st!

Dad’s Day

I got to speak to my father this morning. That means a lot to me to be able to speak with him and wish him a Happy Father’s Day and to have him know who I am. I was not that fortunate on his birthday back in April. He doesn’t usually hear his phone ringing, but he checks it and calls you back.  On his birthday, he didn’t know who I was and he hung up on me. I got to see him in May when I visited him and he thought I was his grandson until my sister corrected him. So today was a good day. For him and for me.

It’s been just over three years since we admitted him to the senior center. He went there for physical therapy after falling and breaking his pelvic bone in a drunken stupor. That’s when we also discovered he had canceled his insurance to give himself more spending money, probably to buy beer. The senior center was the only place that would take him. They helped us get his insurance started again.

Dad had previously been diagnosed with alcohol-induced dementia when he was in a car accident.  And yes, his BAL was over the legal limit during that accident. Thankfully, no one, including Dad, was seriously hurt but his behavior brought us great shame and disappointment. Before having to go before a judge, he fell and broke his pelvic bone and more than one person told us that was probably the best thing to happen to him. He probably would have served jail time. Instead, we surrendered his drivers license and decided to admit him as as a full-time resident at the center.

It was difficult at first. His behavior there was very inappropriate because he didn’t want to be there and thought he could get himself kicked out, and they were also trying different medications with him to improve his mood and cognition. He also got physical therapy on a daily basis and was around other people, and he couldn’t drink. But the dementia has still slowly been getting worse.

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He’s also stopped walking. After a double hip replacement, another accident thanks to alcohol, and then breaking his pelvic bone, he didn’t walk well and now refuses to walk at all. Some days he refuses to even get out of bed.  We hate to see him in this condition but we have to accept the fact that at least he is safe and is getting proper care.

It’s not so bad now, but in the beginning neighbors and friends would always ask about him and were quick to judge us for the decision we made to keep him in the center. Some people even said, “I’d never put my mom or dad in a home.” It hurt. It hurt a lot. We didn’t want to put him there either, but had no choice. I live three hours away. My brother and sister both work and have families. And none of us have the money to see that dad gets the daily care and attention that he needs.

My sister got so tired of hearing this that she started saying to people, “Well, I’m glad that you don’t have to work or take care of your family. I’m glad that you have the time and the money to be able to give your parents round-the-clock care and attention. Some of us aren’t that fortunate.”  It made people think.

Prior to my parent’s divorce, my dad and I were not very close. I’m not sure why really. We argued a lot. We didn’t talk to each other. When he left my mom halfway through my senior year of high school, I resented him even more and wanted nothing to do with him. He was a womanizer. He was an alcoholic. He was a thief. But at some point in my life, I started to forgive him and we started to speak by phone every weekend.  It was never a long conversation. Just checking in. But it was still something. We made up for a lot of lost time during those years.  He still called me every weekend for about the first two years since he’s been in the center. Now the phone doesn’t ring as much.

Years ago when Dad was still lucid and could walk, he always wanted to drive out to the cemetery every time I was in town.  So we’d go and visit his dad. It was Christmas Day when I took the photo of him above. Dad is standing where one day he’ll rest eternally, next to his dad, something he was always quick to remind us of and point out every time we went there.

For now, I’m glad he is where he is, and still here in our lives.  Like I said, he’s safe. He gets good care. He eats. He can’t drink. He’s probably ready to go. He’d definitely leave the center for good in a heart beat if he had the choice. Today, he remembered who I was. I told him I loved him. I do love him. He’s my Dad, and the good outweighs the bad. And not everyone can say that about their dad.  But I can. Today is Dad’s Day.