Comedian’s Journey – My childhood was spent in Sacramento, California, and in Detroit, Michigan, home to Motown, the Redwings, the Pistons, and my paternal grandparents. My parents split up when I was five, and that’s when I began traveling back and forth to see my family. When I was visiting, it was usually the summer, which is likely the best time for a Californian to visit the “D,” otherwise the temperatures get extremely cold. With that being said, a lot of my experience out there shaped my sense of humor, sociality, and ability to cope with change. The two contrasting cities provided valuable lessons and insight on how people live and what they value. Part of being a comedian is to observe others and interpret what you see.
Detroit is a colorful city with expressive culture, so you can imagine all the material I get from there. Being my grandparents are both from Alabama, we would travel down there and visit extended family. In the south, the speed of life is slower, and people are generally happy. In my experience, they have prioritized social gatherings, Bar-B-q’s, and bantering with one another. It was with my Great Uncles, Great Aunts, and cousins that I learned to be quick on my feet (also, my Grammie from Memphis, Tennessee, contributing to my quick-wittedness). I was criticized for not playing dominoes until they taught me my California accent or lack thereof and my weight because I’ve always been a bit petite like my mother until I was very active in sports. What I’m getting at is that these memories and moments in my life were setting me up for an entertainment career, whether I was aware of this or not.
My university years were spent studying economics, marketing, and business strategy courses while running Division I track & field. At this time, I was focused on working in marketing and management while also holding the Vice-president of student athletics at my college. There I learned how to network, self-motivated, and be adaptive to change. Let me back up a bit. Since junior high school, I’ve been a student-athlete. Also, I enjoyed theatre courses. However, without much direction, I leaned toward sports, where I eventually got an athletic scholarship. Running track was a full-time commitment and job while enrolled in a full load each semester. I quickly learned to be a bit more organized. It also became clear. I was a speaker as well as a leader. Soon I was the captain of my track team. Over the years, I learned to incorporate my sense of humor into all areas of my life, not foreseeing how imperative this skill would be in my future.
After graduation, I started supporting co-workers who were either actors, comedians, and/or performers during what some may call the second recession. Emerged in this world, I started to see myself enjoying these people and the field. I was the Rally Commissioner at my high school, so I was the VJ at the rallies and the organizer. The rallies promoted school spirit through comedic skits, music, awards, performances, and more. In a way, I was a host and comedian even back then. However, it wasn’t until after I had my daughter that I jumped headfirst into comedy.
Once I gave birth to my beautiful baby-girl, I no longer had any fears or guilt about pursuing what interested me at that moment. In fact, during pregnancy, I had gone back to school, but this time for a fashion design degree. Having always loved fashion, I jumped into design school. However, it became clear during my pregnancy that this would not be sustainable for a healthy pregnancy, so I had to drop out. Bummed out by not going to school any longer, I focused on being healthy for my firstborn.
Once I had my little girl, I felt lighter in thought (but heavy in breast-milk, LOL). I had immense humor and lots of time, just me and my newborn. After you give birth and all your privates are in the open, you lose that sense of humility. For the first time, I realized I was a vessel of life and that I could feed that new life with the same body I had filled with booze, partying, and more debauchery in earlier years. That’s the miracle. I also began to adapt to my new body that wasn’t as tight, my belly button had moved, and my knees were wobbly for a bit. What I am saying is I grew physically and mentally, and finally, I had time to think somewhat and write down my thoughts because I couldn’t go many places starting. I had to ease into things.
Eventually, after a year, I started attending open mics. Let me be specific, in three months. I averaged four to five open mics a night Monday through Friday and some weekends. And, from there, I was booking shows. At the same time, I took sketch writing, characters, and other comedy/acting classes. This was vital to immersing me in the comedic entertainment world. For the first time, I was spending most of my time outside the home with creatives. That’s a BIG recommendation for newbies. You want to surround yourself with the energy you want to receive and give. Although being a comedian can sometimes feel misunderstood, lonely, or like you’re climbing the untamable mountain, you realize quickly that it’s all a part of the journey.
Man, everything and every occupation I’ve ever held prepared me for my life in comedy and acting. Honestly, your journey is the very reason you sit where you do. Obviously, the discipline I attained from sports, the ability to be curious, and research were aided by getting a degree in Business and Marketing. The call center job I endured taught me to be patient and sales. What I’m suggesting is there is no right way to get where you want to be. However, all the skills you built will serve you in this career because you have to be self-motivated and realize there is a comedy and the business of comedy. They are two essentials for growth in this field. Also, if you love to write, then this is a wonderful career for you. There are many positions for comedic writers and performers. Thank goodness there is room for everyone!
I got up early at 5:00 am so I could have an uninterrupted quiet time. I made some coffee and played some background music, and got on it. I have done a few interviews throughout the year, and I find, being myself and not preparing is the best preparation. Sometimes overthinking it can become an obstacle and prevent the creative juices from flowing. Not to mention, I actually enjoy interviews as it’s an opportunity for me to connect to a community or new people.
For aspiring comedians and/or actors I recommend the following:
- “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff
- “ A Practical Handbook For The Actor “ by Melissa Bruder; Lee Michael Cohn; Madeleine Olnek; Nathaniel Pollack; Robert Previto; and Scott Zigler
- “ The Four Hour Workweek “ by Tim Ferriss “ The Power of Now “ by Eckhart Tolle
- “Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual ” (Books) by Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, Matt Besser, Unknown
- “ The Comedy Bible: From Stand-up to Sitcom–The Comedy Writer’s Ultimate “How To Guide” by Judy Carter
Taking Improv Classes Taking Acting Classes
Well, you have to be active in this highly sought-after field. A comic by the name of Ed Galves told me,” Live a life worth talking about,” something along those lines. And, I do. While this year has closed some doors, it has opened others. I recommend reading about history and questioning everything. My favorite approach to history is from a fashion and style stand-point. What I’m doing is examining life through someone else’s lens then breaking it down. Also, take workshops for anything; Harvard offers free courses online. Join a group of like-minded people on FB or slack or The Clubhouse. Set up a ping for news regarding comedy, acting, specific actors, producer, etc. Read or listen to biographies about people you are drawn to. And, write, write and write with a pen and paper (because you can remember more easily).
Suppose you are looking for a job, search indeed or Linkedin. If you are looking for a comedy career, search for an open mic and work on your craft. Write bits, jokes, stories with a punchline, etc. Flexible jobs tend to be suited for comedians and actors/entertainers. Be honest, and don’t try to be anyone else but you. That will shine through with your cover letter. My resume and cover letter get you an interview, and the interview is where you shine.
I’m especially honored and humbled to be chosen to share my journey. Although I’m still in pursuit of my goals, I enjoy helping others. I suspect my accessibility and activity online and a presence on apps have made it possible to get a hold of me. I recommend having a personal website and separate email for business. This will make it easier to prioritize events, opportunities, and your time.
Hmmm, the best lessons come from the bombing on stage, not getting a callback, and not getting booked. It provides valuable insight into what the industry is looking for and where you stand. Not to mention, without failure, there is no real growth. Remember, you are interviewing them while they interview you. Know your worth and what you bring to the table, and always be you because everyone else is taken. I learned to apply myself and self-motivate while accepting that what’s meant for you no one can’t take and that what’s meant to be will be, and if it’s not what you want, then go after what you do want. Break a leg, and Cheers!