Double Feature Duel: Das Boot vs. Answer Man

Double Feature Duel:

Das Boot vs. Answer Man

New game! I decided in order to help me get the motivation to write on this blog, I’d come up with a little bit of a gimmick. Every time I watch two movies – no matter how long between them or what their genres are, etc. – I’ll rate them against each other in seven categories and rule one as the victor over the other. This will satisfy two of my favorite writing concepts: movies and competition. It’s an experiment and will likely change name and categories a number of times before settling in, but I like the idea, so here goes. And the inaugural two movies could possibly be the most polar opposite of any two movies that I watch in the next 50 entries.

After finally watching Schindler’s List, I got the bug to start watching a bunch of WW2 movies, and one of the most highly recommended was Das Boot. This is a WW2 film shot from the perspective of a German U-Boat. No, it didn’t end well. Up against this film was Answer Man with Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham. It was not as historically significant, but it was about a man who wrote some very inspiring religious books who turned out to be a phony. Anyway, let the games begin!

Funnier: This was a no brainer since Das Boot was shot in German and if it contained any humor, it was lost in translation, possibly under the crushing weight of the impending death of the entire cast. Point, Answer Man. (0-1)

Better Turn: The “turn,” as I put it, is the transition from the first act to the second act, or the tension that must be solved which drives the plot. In Answer Man, Lauren finds out that Jeff has been forcing a small book store owner to take books from him in return for answering a “secrets of the Universe” type of question that he allegedly got from God according to his books, and she stops seeing him. It’s not quite as stupid as it sounds, but just barely. In Das Boot, it was when the entire crew finally docked after almost losing the entire boat only to find out that their request to come ashore was denied and they had to go back out on basically a suicide mission. Point, Das Boot (1-1)

Better Ending: The U.S. bombed the hell out of a bunch of Germans, leaving them all for dead. Point, Das Boot (2-1)

Better Message: If I told you that the God I claimed to have gotten all my answers from was really just my thoughts, does it make the answers you’ve put so much faith in any less correct? Oh. And let’s squeeze in a redemptive love story. OR… the people not actually in the battles are playing this war like a game. Yet the pawns are actually living, breathing people with feelings and a heartbeat. The love story almost lost it for Answer Man, but the point behind Das Boot isn’t anything revolutionary. Point, Answer Man (2-2)

Better Acting: Das Boot was entirely shot in German, but I watched it with English subtitles. So it’s tough to really say. However, Jeff Daniels was pretty good and Lauren Graham was just OK. But Lauren’s assistant had one of the stupidest hissy fits I’ve ever seen. It was probably poorly written plot, but I’m taking it away from the acting score. Point, Das Boot (3-2)

More Creative: Thought I really like the concept behind a man who writes books about answers that he claims to be from God, who he doesn’t actually believe in, the claustrophobic world that Das Boot created was very convincing and interesting. Point, Das Boot (4-2)

Watch again: Though all signs point to Das Boot, that movie was 209 minutes long. That’s one minute shy of 3 ½ hours. Point, Answer Man (4-3)

Overall: Well, the score ends barely in favor of Das Boot. It was definitely the superior film probably by a lot more than a 1/7th margin, but I don’t make the rules. Congrats to Das Boot for escaping the narrow victory over a pretty forgettable Answer Man.

Winner, Das Boot

Inside the Head of a Performer V: The Warm-Up – Part 2

Inside the Head of a Performer V: The Warm-Up – Part 2
Fan-Freakin-Tastic

I was up last in the line-up. The four people who went before intermission got a rousing round of applause. Then all four of them left and took their friends. And the girl who went first out of the intermission flatlined the crowd like Kevin Bacon and Keifer Sutherland would have. The next two performers tried to drag them back, but it was an uphill climb. And this is what I walked (or stumbled) into.

Vijai introduced me and I jumped onto the stage and probably didn’t almost fall, but it wasn’t graceful. This was approximately when I thought “Oh shit, I shouldn’t have had that fourth beer.” Throughout the set, I could feel myself slur some words more than I likely otherwise would have, but even then I knew it wasn’t too bad. Anyway…

I opened with a line about Vijai selling sex without actually having it and asked to applaud her marketing department. “And by marketing department… I mean tits.” I didn’t feel comfortable saying “tits” and I wish I’d have said breasts. But the show must go on. I was given ten minutes of stage time and I would likely go over by a minute or two, but I knew it wasn’t a problem since I was last and we still had some time. I opened with a few one liners to try to predispose the crowd to a stand-up type of atmosphere to get a more honest reaction out of my story, which I knew was not going to be a real litmus test. But it’s the best I could do on this night to try to get the most relevant reaction I could.

See, I am trying a storytelling-proven bit in front of Aries Spears next Friday and wanted as honest a reaction as possible about whether this would convert to stand-up or not. But the truth is that I was giving a crowd predisposed to storytelling what they like. Oh well.
After opening with the Vijai stuff, I went into my Jared joke. The joke is that I wanted to get engaged, so I went to Jared. Then he sold me a Subway gift card. The premise is the bait and switch from the jewelry store to the guy from Subway. But as soon as I told everyone that I got engaged “so I did what they told me to on TV… I went to Jared,” the crowd laughed so hard at the reference that they didn’t even bother to get the punchline. That was disappointing, but a good indication that it may not be the time to try this joke in front of 1,500 people, despite the fact that I was actually engaged and it would be the best time to try it.

Next, I told a joke about being engaged and lasting through one entire football season and how “if you have a boyfriend who doesn’t like football, then he’s obviously gay and isn’t this a shitty way to fine out.” This got more groans than I had planned for, but I’m keeping it in there, though I’m a little nervous about having it so near the top of my set. See, I want to make sure just not to offend people with my set this Friday. My jokes are funny enough not to get heckled for lack of humor, but if I cross the line into offensive, I stand the risk of losing them, or at least one of them who wants to publicly display his or her displeasure.

Then I tried a bit about needing to end things with Logic because I got engaged. I knew this wasn’t going to work and I was right. This was an easy chop.

Then into the story I went. I’ve told it tons of times before and the modifications were so minor that I was able to pretty much coast through the rest of the show. I got the reaction I would hope to get from the Aries Spears crowd. There were some small parts I realized I should condense, but I felt comfortable with the bit for the most part by the end of the show. I’ll have to see how it goes over next Sunday at Hightopps to really get a gauge of whether or not it’s suitable material for that crowd.

After that bit, I ended with a bit that I really want to do on Friday despite the fact that I’ve never tried it on stage before. It’s about homophobia and I want it to be my piece that people leave the Opera House thinking “why didn’t I think of that before?” I admittedly rushed it, but it still went over very well. It was condensed to about 2 minutes and I think I’m going to keep it that way. It got two big laughs exactly where I thought it would. I don’t know if it’s the piece I want to end with, but if it gets a big enough laugh and I’m hovering around 12-13 minutes, I may just cut my set short to go out with a bang.

All in all, this was a decent experiment if I wanted to get some self-esteem going into the Aries Spears show. But what I really wanted to know is whether or not I can make this bit work in front of a stand-up crowd. On one hand, I don’t know that I really got that feedback. On the other hand, I’m now big time enough that Fan-Freakin-Tastic, the show that used to be my biggest show of the year – was now a practice show that I barely got nervous for. This is a little scary. It’s almost like I’m getting to be a professional.

Inside the Head of a Performer V: The Warm-Up – Part 1

Inside the Head of a Performer V: The Warm-Up – Part 1
Fan-Freakin-Tastic

Due to an overestimation of either how easy it is to do stand-up comedy or how funny I am, I landed a gig opening for Aries Spears at the Lyric in front of potentially 1,500 people. Because when you think of who should set up the crowd for some physical low-brow African-American humor, I am the obvious choice.

Anyway, the University’s Student Events Board asked me to open for Aries Spears on May 13th. They asked me to do “10 to 20 minutes,” probably not realizing the vast canyon separating those two units of measurement when it comes to stand-up comedy. We’ve since settled on 15 minutes, but unaffected by the time I will be on stage is the crowd I will be performing in front of. How the hell am I going to appeal to a bunch of his fans? My typical “Hey, have you thought about this?” and “How about this play on words?” is dangerous for that amount of time when the crowd expects to see a dumbed down Shaq impression.

Thankfully, when I told Vijai about the show, she jumped on the chance to help me out and found me a spot in her monthly comedy show, Fan-Freakin-Tastic. I really wanted to practice the only real physical bit that I feel comfortable with, which is the Douchebag Dance. It’s a story that is about 5-8 minutes long that I use in Logic, Luck and Love, but I’ve never tried in front of a stand-up crowd. Unfortunately for me, this crowd is already predisposed to a storytelling style of comedy, which makes them a much more forgiving and patient audience. This is normally a great thing, but not if you want some very specific and honest feedback. Oh well. You gotta play the hand that’s dealt.

First of all, I haven’t performed anywhere since our Valentine’s Day remount of Logic, Luck and Love. And that night was kind of a coming out party for me as a professional. As nervous a wreck as I ever was, about 5 minutes before showtime, a peaceful serenity came over me and I just felt like “I got this.” I never had a confidence like that on stage and I had never had a bigger show. It was almost like I was a professional.

So this night at Chief Ike’s was very similar. I felt a little nervous twice: after my first practice run-through, which I didn’t do until an hour before I was going to leave to get to the show when I realized I didn’t have this stuff memorized like I thought I did yet, and again just as I was getting up onto the stage in fear that I may have accidentally gotten myself too drunk. I stuck to the three beer rule, but it had been a while since implementation so I may have lost some of my tolerance. Plus, I drank four beers.

Before I Begin

Before I Begin

So I’m assuming a lot of you probably got here from the UB online marketing blitz for the Aries Spears show. Which means I probably work with you or for you or against you on some level. This is a concern.

I was a little (a lot) hesitant to publicly divulge this web address on any UB-related material because though most people know I “do stand-up,” most people don’t really know what that means. Four years ago, I didn’t either. But the UB marketing powers that be thought I would look more professional if I had my own website to promote, which I do. So I figured “well, here goes nothing.”

All comics across the country have day jobs, save for maybe 200 people that can sustain a living somehow. And all those people live in New York or L.A. So we all have to at some point make a decision about whether or not to disclose this information to our day job colleagues and how much of it we can afford to reveal. This is based on three factors: 1) the comedy material one may find, 2) the job one has and 3) the likelihood anyone who you don’t want to see it will see it. For example, people who get up and do holocaust and woman-bashing material should probably just not do more than tell people a casual “Yeah, I do stand-up on occasion.” No websites, no pamphlets, don’t ever let your colleagues know where you’re performing. Secondly, if you are a high school teacher, it’s probably best to hide that stand-up info from people. My buddy has a fake name and two facebook pages and I get confused, but I understand. Third, though the information is out there, sometimes you just kind of assume that certain people won’t find themselves to your website. If wrong however, that could get you into lots of trouble. These same rules apply to mothers, ex-girlfriends, and some intelligent pets.

And so, here I am. Exposing my other life to my work life. I’m sure others before me have involved their personal life in their work life. I just ask that you take it with the understanding that it’s stand-up comedy. And it’s not like what you think it is. There is cursing. There are sex jokes. This is necessary to get started in the business, trust me. I don’t have time to explain it all now, but on a scale of local performing stand-up comedians, I’m among the cleanest. Maybe I’ll have time to explain that all soon enough. But for now, I only ask that you turn on your sense of humor and tolerance and give me the benefit of the doubt. Even Seinfeld tells dick jokes in clubs. And what’s good enough for Seinfeld is good enough for me.

In the meantime, check out some of my videos on the right side of this site. You’ll notice a sharp contrast in styles between me and Aries Spears, which is probably not good, but will make for a very interesting night.