Jun 23 • 12M

My Sexy Secret to Successex?

Sweep the Goddamn Floor.

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More Carrots, Less Sticks
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Michael Ezell-Poux of San Antonio, Texas, asks,

I’m currently finishing Paddle Your Own Canoe and it has unknowingly thrown me into a deep desperation to pursue stand up and the performing arts. I’m from San Antonio, Texas, and your mention of your friend Bob Byington in Austin brought the question to mind: is that the premiere place to perform in my state/region? If yes, do you know of any good places to start?

Michael, thank you very kindly for this question, which I’m going to open up into a more general response.

I mean, specifically, yes, I believe that Austin is far and away the most supportive community when it comes to the arts in general, and I have had some very gratifying experiences over the last 23 years or so, performing there on stage and in films. That said, I have also had great experiences in Dallas and Houston, and even one time in 2016 when I performed my humorist show FULL BUSH at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in your very town. I also have to mention Marfa as an artistic Tex-Mecca, but the venue/audience numbers there are a bit limited, and I hope we can keep it that way, nice and small and special.

Although I am at times able to make my living by making people laugh, I have actually never really been part of the stand-up scene, nor sketch, nor improv. Just a variety of plays in Chicago and LA, some of which were funny. With the exception of a stand-up festival for Tig Notaro in DC, and playing the comedy tent at a few music festivals, I’ve generally relegated my humor stylings to theatrical/music venues, like Austin’s venerable Paramount Theater.

The reason I was able to side-step the “paying of my dues” and just start playing 90 minute specials at colleges and big theaters was because of how I won the Parks and Recreation lottery. Colleges began to invite me to perform as a comedian, and I was inspired to try my hand at it, and I found that I really enjoy it, and audiences generally do too, even though I still have plenty of room left for improvement. (My last special All Rise is only available here as a top-quality audio book.)

Blouse by Fort Lonesome Photo Credit: Unknown

But, if you’re unable to get cast as Ron Swanson, and have to instead blaze your own trail, the general part of my answer would be to suggest that you first and foremost make some friends, utilizing the internet and whatever performance venues might be convenient to your location, no matter where you live. If you go to a theater or comedy club and just get involved, either by performing or just volunteering to help clean up, or usher, or what-have-you, you’ll soon meet like-minded people, some of whom will know where in Texas to go try stand-up, or whatever else you want to take a swing at.

I feel like aspiring artists have some powerful advantages over the neophytes of my day: namely, the internet, social media, and cheap technology. You can learn about someone like Bob Byington, a very talented Austin filmmaker, and you can find him online and you can make a funny video and tag him, in the hopes that he sees something in it which will inspire a response. At the very least, send up a flare in the form of a message request, letting him know you’d love an education in filmmaking, say, and that you’re willing to work hard at an entry-level position to further cultivate that course of learning. (A word to the wise: Bob is very susceptible to breakfast tacos.)

Thanks for your question.


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