I have been doing stand-up comedy since about 2001. The first couple of years were scattered open mics and fundraisers. I officially started about mid 2002/2003 and went hard till about 2004/2005. In 2004/05 I basically stopped only doing about 4-5 shows till 2007. In 07′ I started back pretty much full speed ahead with a couple of weeks/months of inactivity. However since 2009 I have been nonstop.. I do shows almost every night.
I said all that in order to explain my journey a bit to non comics but mostly for comics figuring shit out in this game. You will hear a lot of comedians share this type of journey. I always feel better when I hear a similar story to mine.
When I started comedy I had no idea what I was doing or why I was even doing it. I really enjoyed watching people laugh and being responsible for that was pretty cool as well. I started because my sponsor at the time suggested it. He said “you should do comedy, you are very good at making everyone laugh at messed up shit.” Up until that point I never even thought about it. I had been making friends, family, co-workers and customer laugh for years, I loved doing it but as far as doing it on stage it NEVER EVEN ENTERED MY MIND. My take on standup comedy was EVERY person that does it was already a celebrity that just happened to be funny too.. I didn’t realize that it was the funny that made them the celebrity.
My sponsor at the time (Lou) was a blues guitarist. He played a ton of open mics every week. When we started hanging out I tagged along a couple of times. He would hit all the bars in NYC and we would hang out between sets , drinking coffee and eating different stuff. Until then I had NEVER hung in NYC..I was a jersey guy, never really ventured into NYC unless I was buying crack back in the day..Back then I was a Harlem regular (2-3 times per night). I never really did the city dinner/bar scene so hanging in NYC at the age of 30 was new and pretty cool. One night we were getting our eat on at a place called the Olive Tree Cafe which is located on MacDougal St in the West Village. I really like that neighborhood..it had a cool little coffee shop where a ton of recovering alcoholics hung out so I felt like I was in a good area. As we were eating my sponsor brings up the “you should be a comedian” suggestion. Like I said earlier I had NEVER even considered that. I said maybe. He had to go to the rest room which was located downstairs. When he got back he told me to go check out what was downstairs..as I opened the door I heard loud laughter, I walked down the stairs with tons of comedian headshots on the walls. When I go to the bottom I turned to walk in and it was a SOLD OUT PACKED comedy show with either Marc Maron or Greg Giraldo on stage. I recognized them as a CELEBRITY telling funny stories and I was like “WHERE AM I..WHY IS THIS CELEB HERE?” I took this as a sign, I mean someone suggests FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE mind you that I do comedy and it happens to be upstairs from a comedy club not to mention the best comedy club on the planet (Which I didn’t know at the time). So I decided to take the suggestions and do an open mic.
Two months later I did the mic..It was addicting. I then a month later I did a fundraiser..then three months later I did a special New Years Eve show for a NA New Years Eve Show (two months after 9/11)…I only did good at those two events because they were recovery based shows and I did ALL inside stuff..very easy crowds… since 9/11 happened I really didn’t want to go back into the city, I felt they had enough going on and didn’t need there getting in the way. So the next time I did comedy was April 2002… I did a bringer for the AWESOME Jessica Kirson at Gotham Comedy Club. 8 minutes and it was so so addicting that I wanted to quit my job right then and just do this every day of the week.. It was this night that I learned about the Olive Tree Cafe’s comedy club..The Comedy Cellar which is the Mecca of all comedy (in my eyes). After my bringer we went to the west village and I sat out front of the Cellar with my coffee and cigar. I felt like I had made it. Yes I know I just did a bringer for FREE but it felt amazing. That became a tradition of mine after every show I did (mostly bringers) I would go to the cellar and hang out front. I saw so many greats walking in and out of that place it made me feel like I was very close to the inside. Seinfeld, Rock, Romano , Louis CK, Bobby Kelly, Patrice O’neal, Bill Burr, Steve Byrne, Nick Dipalo, Keith Robinson, Jim Norton , Rich Vos, Ben Baily and so many more great comics filled the place. This lineup was hands down the best in the city. I just started doing comedy but I knew this was the place I wanted to be. I also knew it was gonna take a lot of time and a ton of hard work.
The Comedy Cellar is the place where most comedians want to work…at least for me it is. It’s not only because of the reputation or amazing audiences for me it was because all of the greats have been there, all the comedians that inspire me to be better…they’ve all worked that stage. Getting the opportunity to grab the same mic as Rock and CK on any given night is an honor..these men work at this craft and inspire me to work hard as well.. Its easy to get laughs, thats not a challenge. The challenge is to stay relevant, original and true to yourself..thats the challenge and those guys do it year in and year out. I wanted to surround myself with hard working talented people..thats why I wanted to be aport of The Comedy Cellar’s lineup.
After years of chasing my dream it was time to focus on a goal..thats my biggest problem I am focused on the material and the dream but I rarely work on a particular goal. It takes many many small goals to reach the larger ones and one of mine was ALWAYS getting into the cellar. After my little success on Last Comic Standing my industry exposure was heightened and with the help of comedian Lynne Koplitz who recommended me to the Comedy Cellar booker I was given the opportunity to earn my spot on that world class lineup. I am forever grateful to Lynne for the selfless act of helping a fellow comedian. She is a power of example, I hope to be able to pass it alone one day.
I did my very first set Wednesday 10/29.. I was extremely nervous. Chris Rock (my comedy creativity and work ethic idol) was there, he was gonna go on before me but I believe the club manager told him that it was my first night and I was EXTREMELY nervous so he must have said “let him go first”.. I am very grateful for that but on the other hand I think the pressure would have been next to nothing because what could the audience possible expect from me after just seeing CHRI FRIGGIN ROCK? I went up second on the show and I started out a little nervous but I was able to shake it off about 2 mins in.. Jessica Kirson was upstairs before I went on and gave me a great pep talk..she said “get out of your head and into your heart” thats what I said over and over again. I had a great experience. The audience was so easy and loved me..it was almost like someone told them it was my first night so be extra nice to him..no one did but it felt like it.. I was given another spot the following night Thursday 10/30 and it was a lot less stressful. Since then I’ve gotten two more spots coming up this week so I almost feel like I belong.
Point of this whole rambling post is to let you guys know that I am grateful for my career path…it takes years and I knew that coming in. I kinda believe in the old format of it takes about 5-7 yrs to figure things out then another 5 or so to get good at it..things don’t happen right away thats why I’m so grateful that I enjoy the ENTIRE journey not just the pay offs.. the pay offs are few and far between but the grind now thats where my soul is.