Thursday, August 10, 2006

In my "In Box" • From Peter Gross


Brave brave brave. Moving to a new town, breaking in a new pitch and then announcing your difficulty ON LINE! I just hope the reactions you get (mine and others) help you through the transition.

1. As another old dog who has spent a long time at one pitch, there is almost nothing that I fear more then trying to make my show work somewhere new (that's not some place easy like a festival). A new pitch can make you feel like a real Piker (no pun intended). Jokes don't work, timings all wrong. It feels like your first day all over again. The good news is it happens to all of us. Sometimes it even happens to me when I am on my home pitch. For me it's the nervousness and worry coming through. Remember, you got to do shows like you don't need the money. Neediness breeds desparation and desparation makes people keep their difference.

When I feel that I am stuck in a bad place I always follow this tactic: I tell my self that for today, the shows are 'just for fun'. I don't expect a dime from the audience I just focus on relaxing, having a good time and making people laugh. Even if they never stop.

I will just stand there and talk to the crowd and if people want to see a trick I will do ONE trick and then excuse them. Sometimes I do it for an hour sometimes more, but I try to break my own expectations about how I build a crowd and how soon I can start a show.

Eventually I find I adjust both my rhythmn and my own expectations to get a show off that feels good. Maybe not a huge hat but still a show where I don't feel rushed and nervious and like I am fighting with the crowd to stay. I'm sure you know all off this stuff and I feel weird giving you advice since I feel you and I are equals, but sometimes you just need someone to remind you of what you already know.

2. LA is culturally very different from Seattle. In LA entertainment is an INDUSTRY. 'Magic' and "Charm" (in the most general and literary sense) are commodities and people don't trust them unless they are packaged and pre-judged as good by someone more important like HBO ( ie, you can't be good becuase if you were you wouldn't be out here on the streets). One of the strange trends I have noticed recently is TV actors headlining at Stand Up Clubs. And not even from sit-coms. Just Soap Opera stars or game show hosts. Why would I trust that these people are funny? But people go because they have the TV stamp of approval.

3. Working across from break dancers...SUCK! You are competing against 12 guys all who are younger and have more energy then you, and all who are quite happy to work for a 1/10 of what you normally make and instead of doing one big show, plan on doing shows back to back to back all day. Yuck! They invaded Boston about 2 years ago and they are among the things that got me to skip the whole season this summer.

Finally, I have been thinking a lot about the value of venue. I have been coming to the opinion that my act is viewed completely different based on the venue. That means that routines, jokes and ideas that are quite worthy, often can't survive the up hill battle of being presented in a venue that informs your whole show ie standing on a street corner.

In LA, maybe it's a question of finding a different area of the city to work; Maybe it's a case of finding club work or restaurant gigs. I just worry that in a jaded town like LA any street venue and any street artist is going to be considered a 'struggling artist' at best, which makes it an uphill battle to present something full of charm and sublety.

Just recently I watched "America's Got Talent" and they had a juggler on who is a full time performers with a resume that includes Cirque du Soleil and Vegas and after he finished a flawless routine, David Hasselhoff said something like "Well it may be a good act for Venice Beach, but it's not really talent, right?" Not like a rapping Grandmother, or whatever other freak show/Gong Show act he was judging it against.

So Tom, keep on plugging and keep the faith. We're out there chearing for you.


Peter Gross
Funny Magic

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