I just performed in front on 23 people. No one sat up front. They each sat along the walls like boys and girls at an Eighth Grade dance. There was a large group of ten that was easily distracted. The rest of the crowd was too far away to get a sense of their enjoyment. All I had to go on was the response I heard (and often didn’t hear – occasionally they choose to laugh on the inside.) Continue reading
I’m in Warwick Rhode Island performing at a multi-plex movie theatre. One of the plexes has been converted into a comedy club. Tonight is sold out, 240 people!. Our numbers are better than “Mall Cop.” the largest grossing movie in the nation, but I’m number one in Rhode Island! If I could perform in 24,000 movie theatres each weekend I would be rich! Or I can keep performing in one theatre at a time and by 2099 — I’ll be rich.
All day I am nervous. Lately, my shows have been inconsistent. I’ve been focused on results, not joy, focused on the negative, not the positive. On a late night show rather than paying attention to the people laughing, I put my concern on the guy who was sleeping. I know what you focus on grows, and I could have focused on the people laughing. I could have focused on having fun, not finding a reason to be upset. Bill Cosby says that he doesn’t know the definition to success, “but the definition of failure is trying to please everyone.” You’ve got to please yourself.
Earlier in the day I went out for a walk and talk to myself, going over material. I cam up with a new joke , crack myself up. I am inspired. I go back to the hotel room.
Then panic came back. I recall the advice Kevin Brennan gave me, “You can’t doubt yourself. You’ve got to do what you do and trust that it’s funny.” I’m not going to let myself worry. I am only going to stay in this business as long as it is fun.
That night I follow Mimi Gonzalez another headliner. She kills. They love her! I get intimidated, then recall a favorite quote. “The spirit only want that there be laughter as to who provides it, it only has a passing interest.” The audience just wants to laugh. My apprehension turns to excitement. On stage I come to life. I surprise myself. Not an ounce of insecurity. Every laugh gives me permission to play further, be silly. I had been holding back lately, not trusting my silliness. I listened to what I was saying. I was moved. My act is all about what I really need to hear — “look at what you can do.”
I look at myself moving onstage and say, “Look what I can do. I can put my left foot in. I can put my left foot out. That’s what it’s all about.” Afterwards, the audience applauds. I’m being silly and they applaud. We all need permission to play.
Someone in the audience then asked what part I played on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” First I say, “I was Raymond. That’s why I’m telling jokes in a movie theatre,” then I adlib some more, “Actually, you now Ray’s brother Robert? Well, do you know he a friend named Peter?” Well, I was a friend of Peter’s. I never appeared on the show, they just mentioned my name.”
I cracked myself up. That’s what it’s all about.
My dad reads every medical journal there is. He knows everything. The other day he says, “Paul, you know, most strokes happen on the toilet.” What am I supposed to do with this information? Go in the yard? Continue reading