Actor Steven Seagal Not Dead. Also, Not An Actor.

You know how they say a key step to having a successful blog is to write haphazardly & on a catty-wompus schedule for several years, and then go COMPLETELY DARK for almost two years while you go off and actually live a more interesting life? And then when you come back to the blog you’ll try to write about the goings-on of the extended hiatus, but then you’ll sit down and have no clue where to start? And that this all makes your blog the Most Awesome Blog?

You know how they say that, right? They do. I heard ‘em. They talk loudly in small spaces.

It works just like in the movies. They do an amazing first run of something, then go completely silent with no rumblings of ever coming back … and then, when they surprise everyone with a sequel, it will be even more amaze-balls (to wit: Rush Hour 2, City Slickers 2, Look Who’s Talking Too, You’ve Got Mail (c’mon, that was basically Sleepless in Seattle 2: Sponsored by America OnLine)… but somehow the sequel ALSO makes the first one that much more enjoyable?

So… welcome to Most-Awesome-Blog: Back From Action And Back In Action!

… we’ll be right back, after we’ve written a decent treatment for what may sort of be good enough to at least be the first eleven minutes of the first act, including one exciting incident.

Let’s All Go To The Lobby!

Psssst… you just missed the exciting incident! Now it’s all just exposition & deep background! Hope those nine dollar Twizzlers were worth it!

As I was saying.

I spent 9 months in action, completing the exaggeratedly-named One-Year Program at the American Comedy Institute. Over the course of those 9 months, I finally did stand-up. Several times. I co-wrote & co-starred in a pilot for a web series. I co-wrote & produced a spec episode of a late night talk show. I performed in three scene nights & three improv shows, and a sketch comedy showcase. I learned audition techniques. I learned on-camera techniques for commercials. Oh… and did I mention that all of this took place outside the ol’ day job? and in New York City? while also still being a decent-but-with-room-for-improvement father to a five year old & husband to a three-peat entrepreneur?

In short, while the hiatus was long, it was nothing if not action-packed, and I’m certain this is the place to return to for an in-depth analysis. Like when Steven Seagal took a hiatus from being Buddhist – he made a shit-ton of amazing (for their time, for my adolescent perspective) action films with the perfect amount of gratuitous nudity, but when he was done, Buddhism was so glad to have him back. Buddhism was like, “Okay, did you get all that out of your system? I sure hope so because your pillow is getting cold & the monastery needs a good sweeping. Yes, yes, we all want to hear what you learned, but you’d better have a push-broom in your hand the whole time, Brother Ponytail!”

Over the next umpteen posts, I’ll try to explain the what & the how of all that action, as well as try to summarize it in some scholarly fashion so that my kids (both of them – R is due in Feb with a baby boy) can learn from it before my still-nascent-but-looming dementia robs them of the whole shebang.

But for now, let me leave you with this: I spent a year exploring various comedic pursuits, and while I still don’t know what the future ahead will look like, I do know that it’s highly unlikely that any one thing, role, or job is going to define that future. The number of people that can fill a lifetime being only one thing is ridiculously small… and the ones I’ve met that have relegated themselves to that goal are mysteriously unfulfilled and SHOCKINGLY UNINTERESTING.

Along the way I’ll try to weave in other source materials – as much content as I’ve created since my last post, I’ve also consumed a whole bunch – to fill in some holes & round out some analogies. In essence, then, the blog itself will cease to be ‘just’ a door found on your way down a rabbit hole, but it will become a rabbit hole itself.

… Okay, okay, I hear the pretense. I’m just saying there’s a shit-ton of stuff that I’m going to shoehorn into your peepers, so if you’re here with the expectation that this is the same blog it was two years ago, well, think again, Watson. More info, more insight, but still the perfect amount of 90s pop culture references and 80s-level gratuitous nudity.

Because boobs.

But up next will be a post on tonight’s show at the Schimmel. I will be in the audience. Will you?

Not Just a Hat Rack, My Friend

Last weekend, on the flights home from Choi’s stateside wedding reception, I had the surprisingly pleasant experience of watching ‘PS I Love You’. (SHUT UP. I have already heard every possible joke or insult about being a dude who sometimes enjoys chick flicks, so save your breath – it won’t change anything.)

… puts down his hackles …

Anyway, Hilary Swank loses her husband & basically starts her life all over based on letters her hubby left for her before the tumor got the better of him. One of the new parts of her life is actually being the creative, productive artist she wanted to be, working for herself as a shoe designer. Of course it goes perfectly well and she doesn’t have any problems at all getting the business off the ground… that’s not what the movie’s about, so they sheen over it. But it did get to me… you sometimes need a kick in the pants, mortal or not, to get your sh!t started. Between that part of the movie and our recently accumulated collection of entrepreneurial magazines, my sh!t got started.

I made a list of all the possible sources of revenue that I think would be a) fun to do; b) less than a full time job taken one at a time, but certainly a full day’s work if all of them ran simultaneously; and c) NOT require me to work in a cubicle & use words like ‘go-getter’, ‘the net is…’, and ‘let’s not get lost in the sausage-making.’

Taken piecemeal, NONE of these are fully able to support our current lifestyle (at least I’m not letting myself think that they could). However, if I get a few of them moving, if I stop spending my spare time on ‘non-contributing’ activities (such as making lists of things I’d rather be doing & then not doing them), one or two or three of them COULD actually become substantial, and the sum of their substances COULD, in a few years time, get me close to the bi-weekly payments I currently receive for small parts of my soul.

One of these ideas is blogging (surprise!). You probably ignored them on purpose, but hopefully there were one or two text ads from Google on the banner above my Twitterbox. I am aware that ad revenue requires eyes on pages and, more importantly, clicks to other pages where consumerism takes over… so I figure I need to:
1. Blog more often
2. Blog in a voice that’s my own – not that I use anybody else’s, but I mean a voice that’s distinct… signal, not noise
3a. Consider ‘re-branding’ the blog, or basically just change the name to reiterate the voice I’m using; and
3b. Promote the ever-loving crap out of it without pissing people off. I already link to it at the bottom of every Gmail I send, and it’s often in my GChat status window, and I do update it on Facebook using MirrorBlog… but those are all fairly passive. Once I’m satisfied with my frequency & the voice I’ve created, I’ll probably need to be A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E (whoo!).

The rest of the list is below, with a pittance of exposition on each one.

Idea 2: Create my own Improv group/troupe/trifecta. I seriously love doing what I’ve been doing on the improv tip. I think I’m actually fairly decent at it. I know at least 3 other people who are fairly decent at it but are better at things that I suck at and vice-versa. So I think I’ve got the raw materials, just need to put the product together and get out there with it. Worry about finding a stage & all the business pieces after we test the product out a bit (market research, folks… who says Penn State only teaches you to drink?)

Idea 3: Launch my own t-shirt shoppe, a la Busted Tees. This one’s easy & would take next to no time but might actually produce revenue. If you’ve known me at any point since I got to college, you know I enjoy me some funny t-shirts. Well, I’ve got at least a dozen ideas for new ones that I’ve never seen online or on you, and all it takes is putting some graphics & text together and either a) send it to an online insta-fab shoppe to have them made & sent to me to sell myself; or b) sell the designs/ideas to an already existing shoppe, i.e. Busted Tees or Snorg Tees or whatever. YES, this idea is simple and easy. NO, not everyone can do it, because not everyone is funny, and those that aren’t funny are sometimes also not clever, and those that are neither funny nor clever are also sometimes too lazy to do sh!t like this. You need to be funny, clever, or at least not lazy to make your own t-shirt shoppe. (BTW, I’m bringing back the unnecessary e’s at the ends of words. Kickin’ it Olde Schoole.)

Idea 4: Start a corporate presentation consulting firm. Hear me out. This is not me continuing to sell my soul behind a cubicle, but it IS more focused on dolla-dolla bills y’all. This is a hybrid idea of what I currently do and Idea 2 – basically it would be me teaching other people presentation skills. I went through 4 days of this training with my first company fresh out of school, and I know they a) make mucho dolares, and b) have almost NO capital invested in their business. While I don’t know as many fellow corporate slaves that would be interested in doing Improv-ish type stuff every day, I do know that, at the very least, I rock the presentation scene like whoa. I’ve gotten VERY comfortable in front of crowds, and am most fluid when I’m just talking about general crap… that is, when I’m not trying to justify my decisions or make a numbers-based recommendation. And maybe you’ve never seen a corporate presentation consultant speak, but these guys NEVER have to get into decisions or numbers unless they’re selling their own services. (At this I might suck… but probably not, because I have a 90% chance of never seeing the rejecting people ever again, so what’ve I got to lose? Plus, if I brought R in on this, she could sell girl-on-girl porn to a British nun, so I’d be solid.) AND, even better than getting to ‘sort of’ act or improv all day, I’d have more time & freedom to do the recreational acting or writing stuff after work. All good things, friends, all good things.

So there’s a lot more, but this 20 minute post has turned into about 70 already, and lunch is ready. Guess you’ll just have to come back for more at a later date. Oh, if you happen to be interested in joining me on any of the above forays, you know where my Inbox is.

Happy Saturday, people.

Events Like These

Last night our friend Mary Schaefer brought us along to a benefit dinner for 826 Valencia:

From their website:

Simply put, 826 Valencia is dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their writing skills, and to helping teachers get their students excited about the writing. Our work is based on the understanding that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success and that great leaps in learning can be made when skilled tutors work one-on-one with students.

So, last night we had three hours of sushi, wine, and an unexpected “field trip” experience in which all 70 of us collectively composed a short story. The short story was typed up on-screen as we went, as well as illustrated on the fly courtesy of Lisa Brown, author of Baby Mix Me a Drink and wife of Lemony Snicket (Dan Handler). We all left with a bound book, a decent wine buzz, and feeling like we had contributed to an important, nay.. VITAL .. community organization.

I, however, left with a serious jones to be a Volunteer Leader within this organization, joining the ranks of Jory John (website, which is funny but not about him) as a Field Trip leader. Jory & his leaders basically do the highly-improvisational work of leading a classroom full of kids through the highly-improvisational process of highly-improvisational story creation. The work is improv because he can’t possibly plan how things will end up, the process is improv because each class will go about it differently, and the story is improv because, well, they’re making it up. You can tell that he really loves what he does and that it’s highly rewarding for him. I’d love to take some of the burden off his shoulders. 826 has like 1,600 volunteers on its rosters in the Bay Area, but only six.. SIX… of them share the Field Trip leader responsibilities with Jory. I’m hoping to be lucky number seven.

Now, most of you don’t live where 826 Valencia makes a difference… but you probably do live damn close to one of the other 826s.

826NYC
826LA
826Chicago
826Seattle
826Michigan
826Boston

If you’re at ALL intrigued by the concept of empowering our future through the thoughtful donation of time & resources to help children/students write sentences better than this one, I urge you to investigate this organization. It was founded by Deggers, one of my favorite authors, and has been helping students around the country based solely on support of donors (of both money AND time). It’s an AWESOME endeavor, and I really can’t wait to play a bigger role in it.

Now it’s just the issue of figuring out how to sell the boss (& her boss) on me taking 3 hours every other week to lead a Field Trip. If anyone is an expert at getting a small-to-medium corporation to release you from business needs for volunteering opportunities that aren’t organized by same corporation, please let me know. Jory has offered to write a very nice letter to those who need to approve my departure, but I’m still nervous – any tips/tricks would be helpful. (I would’ve been happy just participating in the company’s Junior Achievement program, but they totally dissed me – I signed up to volunteer and haven’t heard diddly-squat back – so now I’ve got 826 as my avenue to give something back.)

Anyway, back to work. The pressure’s eased a bit, hence the blogging over an actual lunch period, but I still have crap to do.