Burst your bubble. Enjoy the process, the experience and the balance.
First, for the sake of contributing something educational, here are some simple tips for standup comedy beginners.
My first time on stage was at the sixth-grade talent show. I lip synced Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock”. I even jumped off the stage, walked down the aisle singing and dragging an unplugged microphone cord. We came in second place. First place was a couple of guys dressed in grass skirts with fake balloon tits. I got 10 bucks and my dignity. Not to mention my first interview. It was for the school newsletter. My story made top left corner. Yeah, the sweet spot. From that point, I knew I had to be on stage.
By the time I was in high school, it was the mid-80’s and I was well immersed in the B-Boy scene. Breakdancing was the norm in the neighborhood. Rapping was my forte. One of the craziest things to happen with the rapping was the time I talked my way onto the roster as an opening act. It was at Ft. Stewart in Georgia, the headliners were M.C. Rob Base (“I wanna rock right now, I’m Rob Base..”) and M.C. Shy D. (Miami rapper). My younger brother and I put on our ‘stage outfits’ and went down to the small arena, I literally just told the security we were there for soundcheck, but he said we weren’t on the list. No kidding. I told him my manager said we’d be able to do a sound check and he vanished for about five minutes. He came back and told us to go in and see the engineer, but I didn’t even have any music with me! Fortunately, the actual opening band was there and we connected with the drummer. He was quickly inducted into my newly formed group and by the time it was all said and done, we pulled off a ten minute improvised, freestyle rap show in 1989.
The music would eventually expand to include live bands and demo’s, studio time, gigs for beer and then someone made a music video. That sparked my interest for the acting and performance of the words. Before long, I was studying the craft, getting involved in the local scene. I landed quite a few local and regional commercials overtime. In 1999 I ran out of money for acting classes, so I decided to go to some open mics and workout. It was a defining decision and I’d have a couple more, but this was a moment that you realize the puzzle pieces are beginning to fit. This felt right, this made sense. Every other aspect of performing would become informed and enriched by my experiences to come from standup comedy.
It takes years to develop your persona as a comedian. It takes longer if you don’t take chances. I learned that lesson from the legendary Jackie Mason. Another defining moment was deciding to tour with him. I had only been doing comedy a couple of years and was working as a door guy at the Tampa Improv. Jackie Mason was headlining the comedy theater for two weeks, working on material for a new Broadway one-man show. We spoke a few times since I was also handling sound booth duties and media runs. Two days before his final show, Mr. Mason approaches me in the hallway at the club and asks, “Do you know anyone that maybe, can help me out on the road? “ (Use your Jackie Mason voice…the aardvark from the Pink Panther cartoons, btw). In about a split second, everything runs through my head. How much money? What kind of help? Can I afford to lose this job? By the time he was done talking, I was done thinking. ‘I can do that”, I said.
Over the course of two years, I would tour across the United States working with a comedy legend. I would learn a lot and earn a lot. It was like going from community college (which I’ve attended, not graduated) to Yale (which I’ve been to the bookstore at Notre Dame). By the time we reached the second city on the tour, Mr. Mason would begin allowing me to open the show with a ten-minute set. I can assure you, the show did not need my ten-minute set. Eventually, I would extend that to a fifteen-minute set that the show would still not need.
We were playing theatres with anywhere from five hundred to three thousand seats each night. The man put on a two-hour show to packed houses and he was in his late seventies at the time. He took the time to watch me perform each night and we would later discuss the show. "Why did you leave this out?, Why are you saying this?” Question yourself. Make yourself accountable. Be prepared to be challenged.
Not only did I learn to be a better writer, but I learned a lot on the business end. Dealing with the merchandise, press, travel, hotels, tipping. Don’t forget to tip! Especially the concierge.
On the flipside, there have been a lot of broken down cars, delayed flights, double-booked gigs, cancelled shows, short payments, non-payments, etc. These things are all part of the process.
Learn your craft the best you can. Explore the parts that interest you the most. The experiences you may have are amazing if you let them happen. I’ve gotten to share the stage with some incredible comedians that have been nothing but supportive and honest. Enjoy YOUR creative process and the experiences, both positive and negative. Find the balance of your life as a whole. Burst your bubble.
About Tony Gaud:
Tony is a comedian/actor/writer. He started stand-up in 1999 and sharpened his comedy chops as house MC at the Tampa Improv for seven years and toured nationally with some greats, like the legendary Jackie Mason. Tony toured most recently as the opener for the hilarious Harland Williams. He was a Semi-Finalist in Yuk Yuk’s Great Canadian Laugh Off (2007); Regional Contender in Comedy Central’s UP NEXT Talent Search; appeared in numerous commercials including: The Melting Pot, CBS Sportsline.com, Hungry Howie's, Baynews9, Reeve’s Import Auto, Sonny’s Real Pit BBQ; he also appeared in the Award Winning short film , 'Mic Check' (the 1st San Diego Best Fest); co-starred in the Award Winning short film 'The Limbo Kings', (Telly Awards - Non-Broadcast Production Lighting & People's Choice).
His festival and competition experience so far is in comedy. It includes: Oddball Comedy Festival (Red's Apple Ale Stage - 2015), Comedy Central’s Open Mic Fight – Regional Contender (2007), Comedy Central's "Up Next" Talent Search - Regional Preliminaries (2013), Comedy Network – Yuk Yuk’s Great Canadian Laugh Off – semi-finals (2007), Comedy Time.tv – Miami Taping (2012), Tampa Bay Comedy Festival –“Letterman Audition Showcase”(2009), Cleveland Comedy Festival - Semi-finals (2010), Laughing Skull Comedy Festival – Festival Alternate (2011), World Series of Comedy (Satellite Showcase) (2013), Ventura Comedy Festival (2013).
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