"Don’t get a nosebleed, don’t get upset. We can’t be naked and famous just yet. There’s a big old dollar sign on the Sunset Strip. You can send your friend a postcard, it ain’t worth the trip."
Whenever I feel a little bit down about living in Los Angeles, struggling in Hollywood, and all that cliche whatnot, I listen to this song and I feel a lot better. I know it’s not the most pro-LA song in the world, but it’s just so goddamn catchy it always seems to recharge my batteries. The Presidents of the United States of America are a very underrated band.
On a couple recent occasions, I’ve been put in the awkward position of having a young, fresh-off-the-bus open mic comedian ask me for advice. It’s awkward because I’ve only been doing comedy for a few years and I’m pretty sure that I don’t know shit about dick, but you can’t say that to a stranger with a hopeful look in their eye, so I mumble something about getting on stage as much as you can and then I find an excuse to walk away.
I’ve given it some thought though and I realize that I do have one piece of advice that I think needs to be seared into the brain of every starry-eyed would be comic who sets foot in an open mic. It’s simple, but I promise you that it will serve you well for the rest of your comedy career. <Drum Roll>Are you ready? Here it is</Drum Roll>: Always carry a pen.
Always have a pen on you at all times. You’re going to need it. You’ll need it to sign up for the open mics, you’ll need it to write down jokes that strike you out of nowhere, you’ll need it to write down times and locations of other open mics you hear about, and the phone numbers of attractive comedians that you meet. Comedians need a pen on them like a carpenter needs a hammer, like a cowboy needs a six shooter, like Batman needs a batarang. It is the indispensable tool of your trade and if you don’t have one, you are not a serious tradesman. It seems insignificant, but believe me, asking everyone around you to borrow their pens all the time gets annoying real fast. You’re trying to ingratiate yourself to a insular community of judgmental, capricious dickheads. It will be hard enough to get them to respect you for what you’re doing on stage so the less you can do to draw their ire off stage, the better.
It’s a simple thing, but it will make your life as an open mic comedian 10% easier. I promise. This is the sum total of the comedy advice I feel qualified to give anybody. I hope it helps.
PS - Everyone likes to use the fancy Moleskin notebooks to write their fart jokes in, and they are very nice (there’s a reason they’re what Hemingway wrote his fart jokes in), but they are way overpriced. At a Barnes & Nobel in California, a medium sized Moleskin is close to $20 with tax. I highly recommend that you buy the knock-off brand Piccadilly notebooks (http://piccadillyinc.com/products/notebooks). They’re indistinguishable from the Moleskins (they even have the pocket in back) except that they cost like $9 less. You can pick them up at Borders. Take the money you save and buy some nice pens. I like the Pilot G-2 Gel Ink, but your milage may very.
I would be totally psyched if you knocked on my door and told me you were a registered sex offender moving into the neighborhood. You were hilarious in Ferris Bueller’s Day off, you were great on Deadwood, you were even good in Howard The Duck. Not even Tim Robbins can say that. He was fucking awful in that movie. My point is, I can’t be the only one who feels this way, so you shouldn’t ever be afraid or ashamed to update your sex offender status. If you move into a new hood, you make those court ordered rounds and knock on those door. You never know who’s going to answer. It might be the best friend you never knew you had.