Tag Archives: Comedy

#46 – Start A Podcast

Everyone has a podcast.

I usually hate doing what other people do, because it’s harder to stand out amongst a group of people all doing the same thing.

But I started a podcast.

I didn’t start a podcast for the usual reasons people start a podcast. I am not trying to get attention. I am not trying to get advertisers. I don’t even care about how many people download the episodes. I mean, it would be nice if you listened to it, but really I don’t care.

My only goal: to get people jobs.

Last year I was passed up on a gig that I should’ve at least been interviewed for. I had recommendations from network executives and friends of the showrunner. Even people the showrunner reached out to said I should be considered. The gig was to book comedians for a show, something I have done before. Despite all the recommendations, I didn’t get a phone call.

I wasn’t bitter. It’s part of the game. I took my misfortune as an opportunity to examine myself. I recognize that about every four years I have to alter my career path just a bit to maintain relevance. Show business is fickle and if you stick with the same methods for too long you become stale and people stop caring. All the biggest stars recognize this. That’s why you’ve been witness to so many versions of Madonna and Bowie.

Even mega producers like Judd Apatow have a few flops in a row before switching things up. Do you remember what followed “BridesMaids” and “Get Him to the Greek?” Some stinkers like “The Five Year Engagement,” and “Anchorman 2.” Then he came out with “Trainwreck” which most people loved before Amy Schumer started her path toward becoming the next annoying Dane Cook. OK, I’m getting off track.

I was strictly a journalist from ages 18 to 21. I switched gears a bit and became a TV producer and journalist from ages 21 to 25. From ages 26 to 30 I have strictly been a TV producer and all the other things that come with that like writer and casting director.

During each of those transitions came an influencer to lead the movement in a direction. What launched my last four-year run of non-stop working on TV shows was this blog. It got me a lot of work, because it showcased my writing and that I was hustling on my own. It got me one show, which led to another show, which led me to another show. At the time, everyone had a blog. Hell, everyone still has a blog. But I didn’t care about how many readers I was getting. I have a formula to look back on that did me well.

Now back to the podcast.

I listen to only two podcasts. “WTF w/ Marc Maron” and “The Industry Standard w/ Barry Katz.” By this point, most people know “WTF,” since Maron interviewed Obama last year. His motivation for starting his podcast years ago was that he had nothing of extreme relevance going on in his career. He knew he could talk to people and that he had famous friends, so why not start something that he could control, unlike the inability to acquire a show on TV, which requires an infinite number of executives and people to say, “yes.”

For me, the gig I was passed up on was not the first, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it was the first time I got passed up when I had so many people speaking on my behalf. It got me motivated.

It was easy to come up with the concept for my podcast. I know so many comedians who make a living in comedy, but don’t get the recognition they deserve. They have so many stories to tell, so many questions unanswered about where their path is heading, and so many battles to appreciate the present while keeping an outlook for the future. Also, they all have uniquely different paths to how they got involved in comedy. I have conversations about all those topics with so many of them at the Hollywood Improv, the Comedy Store, the Laugh Factory, the Comedy Cellar, and every other comedy club that starts with “the.” Now, I just record the conversations.

The goal of the podcast is simple. I wanted to get these people work, and in turn get me work. My whole network of people is all in show business. I don’t have normal friends anymore. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and my responsibility in my career has been to find out what a person’s story is, and tell it.

IMG_3099

I’ve recorded some episodes in some less than ideal situations like in my old apartment on Hollywood Blvd and this hotel room in San Luis Obispo.

I also didn’t have anything to lose in starting the podcast. In today’s world, everyone tries to stay as private as possible for fear of saying something that will offend others or perhaps be portrayed in an unflattering light. I have always put myself out there and shared more than a safe amount of information about myself. You simply have to read early posts of this blog to realize that fact.

In order to be taken serious about the podcast I knew I had to get some episodes up, and not just do like 20 of them. I have seen podcasts come and go, but the ones that have an impact are the ones that stick around and produce a lot of episodes. My thinking was that if I released two a week I could get to over 100 episodes in a year, which in television is the old syndication model that 100 episodes of anything is significant.

The other aspect of television that I took when building the podcast is that I told myself I have to release every Monday and Thursday no matter what. I took that from the Maron format and decided I would release an episode on the same days at the same times of each week. People told me I was crazy to put those expectations on myself. But just like TV shows, people need to know when to find your show. You don’t see “Modern Family” changing its air date and time from week to week, but so many other people record and release their podcasts with no set schedule. I refused to be like that. Well, at first I refused to be like that.

As of this publishing date I am at episode 47. I kept up with the two episode a week model all the way until episode 43. Then I hit a wall. It wasn’t a creative wall, but rather one of time. I was producing “Hellevator” on GSN 15 hours a day, got hired by Just For Laughs for the Montreal Comedy Festival, pitching my own shows, and trying to maintain the podcast. There’s only a certain amount of hours in the day. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

I didn’t think it was insane for someone like me who is typically behind the camera to start a podcast. I know how to interview because of my prior career as a journalist and in casting you have to conduct interviews in auditions on camera all of the time. I also know how to book people and tell stories, and I have a seemingly endless pool of talent to pull from.

People started telling me that I would run out of quality people to interview at a certain point. Quality is relative. I have taken criticism in the past because I am pretty positive with comedy people. I believe there is a position for everyone in this community. Not everyone should be a stand-up comedian. Not everyone should be a writer. Not everyone should have a sitcom. Not everyone should be a producer. But I believe everyone can find a niche, so that is what I intended to do with my podcast, encourage the person in comedy to find their niche.

My next step was to figure out how to record the podcast. I am not a tech person. I sit behind cameras. I don’t shoot them. Same goes for audio equipment. I asked friends of mine what they record with, did my research online, and decided if I was going to do this then I would buy the best equipment possible. Fortunately, it was November and my birthday and Christmas were coming up, so my Mom asked me how much money I needed to get the podcast started. I told her $700 and she said Merryy BirthMas.

After that, the only things left to do was come up with a name for the show and some cover art for iTunes and the other podcast outlets. I was going to call it “The Grass is Greener Podcast” but I didn’t want people to think it was a show about weed and also that’s a really long name. I like having the medium in the title of all my projects hence why “Blog” is in the title of “The Discomfort Blog,” so “Podcast” had to be in there.

I liked the idea of talking about how everyone in show business thinks the grass is always greener. No matter who you are, you think someone else has it better, easier, or is more fortunate. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, you have that in you. I was playing around with the title and realized that “Grass is Greener” has the acronym “G.I.G.” and gigs, aka jobs, is exactly what I would be talking about with all these comics, since everyone in comedy is constantly obsessed with getting the next gig, getting to a gig, working toward the dream gig, and all of us have a different version of all of those. “The G.I.G. Podcast” just seemed to be perfect, because it could also simply be just “The G.I.G.” for short.

GIG Logo Lib

I took this picture back in 2012. Who knew back then that it would end up being useful?

With the name set, I just needed comedian guests. The first ones I wanted to sit down with were people I had conversations with all the time already so the tone would be natural and not forced. Nick Guerra was someone I always chatted with about how there is no rhyme or reason to anything we are shooting for in show business. He was essentially my muse for this. Other people I had these conversations with were Shawn Halpin, Taylor Williamson, Jesus Trejo, and Sharon Houston. I got them all in on my first few episodes.

It has been remarkable to see some of those people go on to do great things like Nick Guerra doing “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and Jesus Trejo getting New Faces at Montreal Just For Laughs. My podcast definitely didn’t help them get those things, but our conversations discussed their goals, and to see them go on and accomplish some of those goals is pretty special.

Some of the more recent episodes have been with comedians I didn’t know well but met at different events or venues and have since become friends with like Daniel Weingarten, Briana Hansen, and Ron Josol.

I don’t know what will come of this. I don’t know if I will get work from this or if any of my guests will. I think we all will. I wouldn’t spend my time on it if I thought it was a waste of time.

If anything, everyone who comes on the show for a conversation at least appears to leave with the sense that they’re not alone. The hour I spend with the comedian is a time for deep reflection. Some have left with some self-realizations. Others have felt like it was a therapy session. Some are just happy to find out they’re not alone with what they’re dealing with in their personal and professional life. I know they feel that way, because they tell me…

And because I feel less alone after our chat.

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#24 – Start Fire With Two Sticks

I spent most of May away from Los Angeles, and when I was in town I was pretty much just working. Last Monday, however, on a rare occasion I made it home during the daylight hours. And this is how my roommate Jason Hadley greeted me.

Look at that focus

Hadley had a bow, some sticks, a rock, and a fire pit with the intention of trying to start a fire, caveman style. Hadley is a comedian, so I immediately thought he was considering a transformation into a prop comic. Most of the time I don’t question the motives of people in my life, because I have a pretty strange cast of characters orbiting around me. Hadley is no different.

I had no intention of questioning why he was trying to start a fire with two sticks, which is why he offered up the fact that he was just cast in an upcoming reality show titled, “Are You Smarter Than a Boy Scout?” I’m not even kidding.

In order to not look like a fool on TV he was practicing to defeat some 10-year-old boys. Fortunately for me, attempting to start a fire with two sticks was on my Discomfort List of things to do. I say “fortunately” because his casting meant my lazy ass didn’t have to compile the necessary supplies.

My first question for Hadley was how long he had been working at it before I arrived. He said it had been three hours and counting, which meant I had enough time to go workout and not be concerned that I’d miss a bonfire.

When I returned from my workout I examined the set up and noticed that Hadley grabbed some dryer lint and dry grass to use as an igniter underneath his sticks. I don’t know too many deer or owls that utilize a washer and dryer in the wilderness so I think that finding some lint out there may be problem number one if placed in the wilderness and expected to perform the same function. So, the authenticity of any fire we may have garnered could have an asterisk adorning it, simply because of the dryer lint.

After watching Hadley work up a considerable pool of sweat, I tried my luck. I got just about as far as he did. We were both able to garner smoke, but never a flame. Your arms get quite the workout in the process. My attempt was fruitless other than strengthening my jerk-off arm.

I kind of already figured my eventual Cause Of Death would be freezing to death in the wilderness, but this experiment certainly proved that accurate.

In concept, it seems pretty simple to think a fire can be started with two sticks. I’m here to tell you that it is not. In order to create some friction you have to pull and push on the bow with a nice rhythm and you have to keep the stick in place as much as possible. Then when you see smoke rising from your efforts you tend to get a little excited because you think you are close, so you start pushing and pulling harder on the bow, which causes you to lose rhythm which forces the stick to break loose.

I need to shave around my neck.

I gave up after spending about two hours outside. After Hadley attempted for a couple more hours he gave up as well, to be continued at a later date. I thought the endeavor would have ended in one of two ways. We either would have set the block on fire or not even a spark would be generated. I’m not shocked, however, that it ended in the latter.

I contend that our efforts weren’t successful simply because we had nothing on the line. Tom Hanks was able to create fire when he was abandoned on a lonely island because he needed it for survival. All he had was a volleyball and some ice skates. We were in the comfort of our backyard with full stomachs and beverages in hand. For God’s sake, Hadley took a few smoking breaks. I believe we could have created fire if our lives were on the line.

Hadley seems optimistic about his efforts to beat a boy scout, so much so that during the practice session he set up a water hose next to the fire pit, in the chance that he created a scene reminiscent of “Backdraft.” I on the other hand will now always be carrying a lighter with me in the off chance that I end up lost in the wilderness or on a deserted island one day…and knowing my luck, that will happen one day.

To follow Jason on Twitter, click here.

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#5 – Bake Cookies From Scratch

I am an excellent cook…if you count microwaving canned soup as fine cuisine.

What else would you expect from a 26-year-old bachelor?

I haven’t really tried to make too much food from scratch, because I don’t have patience. Plus, it’s so much easier to purchase food from people who are professionally trained to make it.

There are excellent cooks in my family, however, like my Mom who is extremely adept when it comes to baking. Every Christmas when I was younger, she used to make an assortment of different types of cookies, cakes, and desserts. People from around the neighborhood would visit to indulge in her artistry.

I never learned from her how to bake, simply just taking the time to slip into the kitchen to lick the leftover frosting on the spoons. Despite my rogue expeditions for frosting-laden spoons, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Last week, however, I felt a bit of a craving for chocolate chip cookies.

Because my car was having battery issues at the time, I walked to the grocery store with the gumption that I could bake cookies from scratch. I just as easily could have purchased the standard plastic wrapped Chips Ahoy, or the pre-made dough that you simply pop into the oven, but instead, I showed some patience and texted my Mom for her recipe with the necessary ingredients. She texted back saying chocolate chip bags usually have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies on the back. Who knew? Since I utilized all my patience in not buying already made cookies, I didn’t wait for her recipe.

Nestle is quite presumptuous that I will be using their chips in their recipe.

(On a side note, I’m still not used to my Mom utilizing text messages more than actual calls. I find it miraculous when the elder generation adapts to the times. It’s quite awkward, however, when I’m texting a chick and a message from my Mom pops on my iPhone. It’s like the technological equivalent of your Mom walking into your childhood room when you’re with a girl.)

Check out my unfinished countertops.

Upon my return home I realized I didn’t consider that I didn’t have a mixer. So, I grabbed a wooden spoon and by hand I mixed 2 sticks of butter, ¾ cup of granulated sugar, ¾ cup of brown sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract until it was creamy. Since the butter was relatively hard my right arm got quite the workout. I then added two eggs, and mixed those in.

If you like cookies, you probably shouldn't know what goes into making them.

I then added 2 ¼ cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking soda, and 1 tsp of salt and mixed it with the appetizing image from before.

It's starting to take the form of dough...I think.

After that, I added a bag of chocolate chips, which equals 2 cups, and also 1 cup of chopped nuts.

I think I invented a new form of trail mix.

From there, I put chunks of the dough on the trays. The fat kid in me was very tempted to just stop and eat the dough out of the bowl.

This looks appetizing...No wonder I used to weigh 300 lbs.

10 minutes later…voila. About half of the cookies came out slightly burned on the bottom, but the ones that came out right, were absolutely delicious. I had no idea they only needed 10 minutes in the oven. For some reason I figured it would take longer to transform from larva into butterfly form, but it took longer to mix the ingredients.

Masterpieces.

I guess my Mom did pass her baking genes on to me. I’m now curious what else I can cook or bake from scratch and actually make it edible.

It actually does taste better when you make it yourself.

Before I started this experiment I expected a scene straight out of I Love Lucy, where flour would end up all over me and the kitchen, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know how often I’ll bake in the future, considering I don’t see many circumstances which will call for it, but it’s good to know I have the capability to do so.

Cleaning is what will prevent me from baking in the future.

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#4 – Fix Car Battery

Since I got my license on December 2, 2001 I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life when it’s come to my vehicles:

  1. 1985 white Ford Ranger – My first car that I owned for a week before trading it for my second car.
  2. 1995 red Ford Escort – Owned from December 2001 until April 2004 when my Grandparents bought me my current car.
  3. 2004 silver Nissan Xterra.

This was a smart car to buy when gas wasn't $4 a gallon.

The week I got my Xterra was one of the greatest weeks of my life. I earned a college scholarship, and drove my brand new car to my first paying writing gig. It has been with me for every non 9-5 job I’ve had over the past eight years. Given my heavy driving schedule of over 20,000 miles per year, I’m quite lucky it hasn’t required major repairs. I should probably knock on wood.

On Friday of last week I visited my friend and colleague Trevor Wayne in North Hollywood to discuss our yearly business goals. Before I left his place, my car battery had a slight hesitation when I turned the ignition. The next morning, I tried to start my car and the battery was dead. I knew I should have knocked on wood.

It shouldn’t have been dead after purchasing it in May 2009. I replaced the factory battery then just to be safe before I went on tour from Los Angeles to Portland with professional wrestlers. That’s an entirely different story, which you can read here if interested.

To this point in my life I’ve never had battery trouble, so I opened the hood with no idea how to fix the problem. Going under the hood for the first time by myself is not much different than going under a girl’s shirt for the first time. Both involve a lot of fumbling around. But after only trying three new things for this blog, I’ve already felt the inspiring effects, because I felt I believed I could solve the problem.

I opened up the hood and went back into my memory bank to think of how I witnessed my Grandfather and Uncle fix car battery problems in the past. The first thing I noticed was acid corrosion on the battery’s nipples.

I forgot to take a picture of the acid corrosion, but trust that there was so much green foamy stuff coming from the battery that I looked something like this.

I'm still waiting for Flubber 2.

I grabbed some baking soda, water, and some assorted tools to clean off the residue. My Mani Pedi from two days prior was immediately ruined. Once the residue was cleaned, I tried to start the car. No response, just more clicks than a tap dancer on speed.

I asked my Uncle for advice and he said it could be the alternator, which would mean something if I knew what an alternator was, but that most likely the battery just needed to be charged. He allowed me to borrow his battery charger, and an extension chord.

Once the charger was plugged in I grabbed the black and red clasps attached to it, and rather than guessing which one was for the + and – I asked my roommate. He came outside to call 911 if I electrocuted myself. I attached the nipple clamps correctly and let it charge for a couple hours.

If I was kinky, I might have alternate use for those clasps

The car started right up and I thought that was going to be the end of the story. My confidence was high, but just like the water heater, my victory was short lived.

Later that night I got ready to go to Beso in Hollywood for Trevor’s birthday. I was going to drive the crew, since I don’t drink at all anymore. But the clicks of the tap dancing speed addict paid another visit to my battery, and my car wouldn’t start. I couldn’t help but feel that my Mom was back home in San Diego with a pin needle and a Hot Wheels car, preventing my departure through voodoo, since even though I’m an adult she still worries about me in the Los Angeles nightlife.

Since it was too dark to work on the car, I said “screw it” and waited until morning. Around 8:30AM I put the key in the ignition and the engine immediately turned over. My car didn’t start the night prior, but immediately started the following morning. It was more passive aggressive than my ex-girlfriend. Nonetheless, I charged the battery for the next nine hours just to be safe. Since that time, the car hesitates for half a second and then turns over…also not unlike my ex-girlfriend.

I am thoroughly shocked I didn't electrocute myself.

The fact that the car runs is victory in itself, but I do need to get a mechanic to look at it, since that half a second hesitation frightens me and we all know there is no such thing as public transportation in Los Angeles.

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#3 – Get a Mani Pedi

My fingers and toes are pretty jacked up.

As a child I had severe problems with ingrown toenails on my big toes. It got so bad that I needed multiple surgeries on both sides of each big toe where the whole nail was removed more times than I can remember. Eventually the roots were burned on each side so the nail can’t grow on the sides, resulting in extremely narrow toenails. On top of that, I’ve run 20 miles a week since November 2011, which has callused my feet. If feet disgust you then my size 13’s are your worst nightmare.

Soak 'em in.

As for my fingers, in addition to 14 years of being a type 1 diabetic and pricking my fingers 3-5 times a day with a needle, I have also broken the majority of my digits through playing sports as a youth. I have a lot of scar tissue on my fingertips.

Look how crooked my fingers are.

After all those years of damage to my appendages I figured it’s time I take better care of them. I’ve heard a therapeutic procedure for hands and feet is the notorious manicure-pedicure. The only problem with that treatment is that it’s a practice associated mostly with women, so I have shied away from ever getting one.

I am quite comfortable with my manhood, but I can barely say Mani Pedi without feeling a bit awkward. It’s a hard thing to say without sounding effeminate. Plus it’s especially foreign in the Latino male community, like my comedian friend Alex Reymundo jokes, “Mani-Pedi sounds like a Mexican NASCAR driver.” Regardless, I set out to get my first ever Mani Pedi. I knew I would need some assistance getting through this new thing, so I enlisted the help of my friend Samia Khan.

Quite frankly, Samia was not surprised to hear I had never got a Mani Pedi before, so last Thursday she invited me to get one with her.

Prior to our adventure, I told her I didn’t know if my fingernails were long enough to get it done. Part of me was probably trying to back out at the last moment by finding an excuse not to test my manhood. She told me to send her a picture. After examination, she said they were short but they could work with it. That was definitely the first time I “sext” messaged a girl a picture of my fingers.

When Samia and I arrived at the whole-in-the-wall nail salon in Culver City she told the head lady that we had an appointment for two. With Samia’s statement I noticed a wave of heads lifting from the steady position to examine what I was doing in a nail salon.

You could really hurt someone with those nails

The head lady sat me down and got to work on my fingernails while another lady grabbed my feet and plopped them in a bucket filled with warm water and got to work on my toenails.

If you read the definition in my calves it says "manly."

Before Samia sat at a station across from me she picked out a nail polish color. I know you’re probably wondering what color I chose. To answer your thoughts, I got a fluorescent pink. Not really. I didn’t go that far with the Mani Pedi.

It was hard to get comfortable in the open room. I couldn’t escape the thought that all the lady employees were talking about me, since they were speaking a language I couldn’t understand. It’s usually every man’s fantasy to have a room filled with women all staring and talking about him, but their looks were out of curiosity rather than infatuation. I tried my best to ignore the older white lady sitting diagonally from me who stared with an obvious look that said I was intruding in a club reserved just for women.

Samia’s presence definitely made it feel less awkward for me, and as I turned to my right I relaxed even more because I saw a woman who resembled and sounded just like my old friend, comedian Marilyn Martinez, who passed away in 2007. We eventually struck up a conversation with Marilyn’s twin. She couldn’t have been nicer with a wonderful sense of humor, just like Marilyn. I don’t think Marilyn would’ve came down from heaven just to get her nails did, but it certainly felt like one last hang out sesh with an old friend.

Marilyn's twin and I getting photo bombed by the lady in the window

I was getting comfortable with the somewhat flamboyant body positioning a Mani Pedi requires when I heard Samia giggling. I asked her, “what’s so funny?” totally thinking she realized me getting lost in the enjoyment of the hand and feet massage I was receiving. Turns out she is quite ticklish and the lady was scrubbing the bottom of her feet with a sponge type thing.

My paranoia was just Samia being ticklish.

The stares from ladies continued, but they eventually got better. One cute blonde girl even gave me a smile like, “how you doin?” I returned her glance with a smile and she blushed a little. Good to know I still exude some masculinity while participating in an act associated with females.

Clearly I am the definition of a man.

I finished before Samia so I approached her station while the lady painted French tips on her toenails. She asked me what I thought of the experience. I could notice the major difference in how much cleaner my finger and toenails looked.

Can you see the difference in "Palmela?" That's what I call my left hand.

My hands and feet unquestionably felt healthier. Incorporating a Mani Pedi into my lifestyle probably won’t happen, but I can see getting one again in the future, even though it still feels awkward to say Mani Pedi. Most importantly, the experience allowed me to develop a newfound respect for what women do to look good.

Ladies, I appreciate what you do.

While I was giving the post-mortem, however, my eyes must’ve wandered because Samia told me to stop looking at her feet. I by no means have a foot fetish, and was just trying to see what was going on. But if I ever develop a foot fetish I now know the perfect place to hang out.

To see Samia’s manicured nails you can check out the adventures of her on-camera career via her wonderful blog KHANversation Pieces or follow her on Twitter.

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