Sam Howell, not liking the matchup he sees on the field calls timeout, heads to the locker room and drives straight home.
"I think it was halfway through the game, I was getting ready to snap the ball, I saw the defense in man coverage when I realized their guys were wayyy better than our guys. I mean we had NO chance out there. So instead of taking another sack I could go home and have an extra long bye week." Sam credits his coaches with giving him the confidence to make that judgement call. "You know, before the game EB reminded me that if you see something you don't like, you can always audible out of it." Although this move has drawn some criticism from around the league, it seems to be popular with veterans in the Commanders locker room. Terry McClaurin applauded it, "Now that's playing like a savvy vet, you don't see moves like that until year 4-5 in the league, so in my humble opinion he's lightyears ahead." Jonathan Allen chimed in, "We've been running the same plays week after week so it's nice that the kid tried something new, I just wish I thought of it after Tyreek scored his 3rd touchdown." The only Commander who didn't love the call was veteran backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, "Until we get a better Oline I'm much more comfortable giving advice and holding a clipboard, what was I supposed to do when we were down by 30 points at half?!" So how is the team going to respond during the BYE week? Head Coach Ron Rivera says, "We're gonna do our best to try not to lose during the bye in case we can still make the playoffs."
I think most of us can agree that this year was long and tough, yet it flew by. The “story” of 2020 was that it was miserable for everyone, which in a lot of ways it was. Personally, I lost my job, got covid, lost touch with friends, and had a close death in the family. However, I am also thankful for some of the great things that happened - I got married, got healthy, enjoyed being creative again, and am starting a new job. In putting this year behind me I’d like to give myself a scorecard as I look ahead to 2021… It’s been over 10 years since I’ve received a grade so why not?
Job 2020: D
Job 2021 outlook: A
In March I lost my job and spent 9 months fighting to get a new one in a field that I had been out of for the past few years. Prior to the pandemic I was gaining ground in comedy, doing longer/better sets, putting on higher quality shows, and making more money. Because of the pandemic I shifted gears and tried to get hired using my technical/business skills during one of the worst times to get hired. I spent my days reading job application rejections, with a handful of prospects looking great to just fall through at the last minute. You can hear more about these struggles in my most recent podcast episode Letting Go of 2020 and Career Changes. HOWEVER, amazingly I did land a job before the end of the year that ticks a lot of my boxes. I’m excited to be making money, learning, solving problems, and spending less time with the angst of unemployment hanging over me. I’m a little bit worried that having a traditional 9-5 will affect my comedy/creative projects as I’ll have significantly less time, but I’ve always been more efficient and focused with less time on my hands. I believe that as long as this job isn’t overwhelming or toxic, it will prove to be a huge net positive in 2021!
Health 2020: A+
Health 2021 outlook: A
A nice side benefit of losing my comedy job was I was no longer spending nights at bars/clubs/restaurants indulging in alcohol and bar food. This, along with diet and exercise, my wife and I achieved our weight loss goal by our wedding date (and kept it off!). Pre-Corona I was somewhere around 225-230 pounds. Today I am 190. Definitely slacking a bit in terms of healthy eating this holiday month, but I plan to get back on the horse after the new year.
In terms of setting this kind of physical goal, in the past I’d typically race to the finish, overworking myself doing some kind of crazy regime, and potentially get injured. My approach this time was way more steady, my exercise breakdown was roughly 80% walking, 10% yoga, 10% tennis. I also counted calories. I still ate some guilty pleasures, drank some beers, but a majority of the time kept myself to my calorie limit and it worked!
In a year of isolation we did a small wedding with a few friends and family. It was a beautiful day of celebrating the commitment and love my wife and I have for each other. The asterisk is there because my wife and I (as well as her parents eventually got Covid). Not sure if it was from the wedding itself but the timeline overlapped. I also recognize that this was a bit risky but we really wanted to do it and still don’t regret it.
A false negative test made it seem like an okay idea to fly for our pseudo honeymoon. A couple days later I had a fever for 102.5. I would battle this fever for 12 consecutive days before it went away. Body aches. Chills. Sweating through the bed multiple times a night. No energy. Plenty of bathroom trips. No enjoyment of life really. I fell into a depression that took weeks to come out of even when “healthy.” Only reason I didn’t give it an F was I’m still here talking about it!
Comedy 2020: B-
Comedy 2021 outlook: B+
I stopped doing stand-up, had the desire to do video sketches but lacked the execution. It’s definitely harder to do by myself. Kind of beat myself up over this, but ultimately I put a few out before the end of 2020 year and look forward to creating more.
A big positive is I’m 95% done with a joke book I’ve been writing. I’m really excited to release it in early 2021! I also look forward to doing stand-up again once it’s safe.
Relationships 2020: B-
Relationships 2021 outlook: B+
I’ve definitely lost touch with folks and I’ve found some people to be distant/bad at responding/making digital plans. Doing my digital board games and video games has helped me stay in contact with people. Hoping this improves as well as seeing some more folks socially distanced in the near future, and post vaccine.
Overall score: NA
I think I’ve grown a lot in the past year and I look forward to meeting the challenges ahead.
Thanks for reading!
It’s been awhile since I last shared something on social media. While most creators went HAM on social media during quarantine (a wise decision) I deleted the apps off my phone. I needed to get away from it all. I've always hated it to some degree, but begrudgingly participate because it’s “required." For the life of me I’ll never understand why anyone who isn’t a comedian/musician/boss babe peddling products would want to participate in this mess. Personally, I’d much rather send content directly to a friend which hits their particular funny bone, that way we both can take that moment to really enjoy it. A single, “Lolololololol" via text message counts for something right?!
I almost came back many times. I’d have an idea for a skit/show, get excited, then procrastinate just long enough for the motivation to go away, and the idea to feel foreign. It became my process. I want to work on this, along with hating social media a little less (maybe even liking it a little more?). Viewing it as a platform that allows me to share something that I wanted to create, and connect with creative folks. Not a weapon to beat myself up every time a post flops and some tween gets a millions of likes for doing the dance of the week. Focusing on the negatives has prevented me from creating, and the only thing that makes me more miserable than the success of trendy garbage, is not creating at all.
I miss the stage, I miss performing, I miss great shows and the horrible ones. I’d take those anxieties over my current ones in a racing heartbeat. I miss connecting with the community- seeing friends, enemies, and everything in between. I miss shows that never start, and ones that never end. I miss bracing for a punchline I’ve heard 100 times, and them doing the same for me. I miss nights where you get nothing from the audience then afterwards they tell you, “hilarious, great job!" Welp, those things nights aren’t coming back anytime soon, so I might as well make the best of it. Here’s to a little less overthinking and a little more participating!
PS - Here's a picture of my new kitty!
A week of self-isolation with no job has given me a lot of extra time. Time to think, time to reflect, time to work, and time to fuck around and do absolutely nothing. Before I continue my musings I must express some gratitude, a big reason I’m not freaking out is that my fiancee is able to work 100% remotely and can support us while I bring in zero income. Also, my Mother, she jumped through a ton of government contractor hoops - sent many emails, made many calls, but she is working from home for the first time in her career! Considering her condition - elderly, diabetes, emphysema, it was not an option for her to go to work. She would be screwed if this didn’t happen. Now, back to my musings on comedy in this weird time we are living in.
Initially, it took some convincing for me to cancel my shows. Roughly half of the other comedy shows were still going on. My rationale was people are still going to want to do stuff, why not keep that option open?! I very much felt like, “the show(s) must go on!” AND “I need money to pay for things.” After reading up and talking it over with some folks it was clear that this was a selfish stance, I’d likely be creating a breeding ground for the virus to spread so I pulled the trigger. I knew it was the right decision. This was further reinforced by the immediate relief I felt. For each show I canceled and deleted off my calendar I felt a little dose of satisfaction. Ultimately, having an empty calendar every night this past week has given me a sense of ease I haven’t felt in years.
I find it amusing that my last blog post was about FOMO, which Corona has pretty much wiped out. I love stand-up, but I also love no longer feeling the pressure to go out and perform, to do more, go network at this show, to keep going. This honestly feels like the first vacation I’ve had in years. I looked it up and it’s been 3 years and 18 days since I quit my lucrative 9-5 job to become a full-time, grinding, struggling, and now out of work, comedian-producer.
I lie to myself a lot, but what did you expect I’m a comic! Did you notice I put comedian first in the comedian-producer title? By putting it first I can pretend to myself that my focus is on the comedy craft. Well, I’ve spent some time this week going over my notes from the past few months and can no longer avoid reality. 80% of my notes are related to producing - business meetings, bookings, promotions, strategy, updates, more updates, another set of updates, only leaving me with a measly 20% to focus on jokes and personal stuff. I think its time to admit to myself that all this behind the scenes work along with showing up, setting up, and tearing down, requires a ton of time and energy. I wonder if it’s easier for me to admit now that Corona has temporarily killed my business, giving me back a ton of time and mental space.
With this new influx of time on my hands, I’ve been mostly playing games and watching TV, but when I feel like being creative I’m working on some of my solo projects that I never find time for. Also, I’m taking the time to organize and revise EVERY JOKE I’VE EVER WRITTEN (that doesn’t suck) to strengthen my hour. Luckily I have an electronic paper trail that’s captured a majority of these as it’s impossible to remember all the jokes from the past 6 years. It’s been fun finding them and some of them are gold! (That I completely forgot about) You know that joke you told for a month then one night it didn’t go well, you put it on the back burner then never used it again?
I’ve heard some comics are getting more active on social media, that’s probably not a bad idea. I haven’t made the leap to tic tock or instagram comic, but who knows, if we’re trapped at home for another 11 weeks that might be my next step. Comics often tell me, “Allan you work so hard!” and I’m like “pshhh I could be working so much harder!” But actually it’s my dream to be a lazy creative. I want to write tv shows how Larry David does it, whenever he wants. I want to tour the country with my stand-up sets then take months off and chill with friends and family, but until I have the money and success to do so I have to normally work this hard. So me? I’m gonna take things week by week and enjoy this taste of the lazy creative lifestyle, while I still can.
My first experience with FOMO was in pre-school. The teacher said it was nap-time and I wasn’t tired! I didn't see any point in napping. (Now I know it's to give the teachers a much-needed break) 25+ years later I still have trouble with naps. If I'm napping I'm probably feverish and close to death. Otherwise, I lay in bed, frustrated, healthy, and stare at the ceiling for awhile before inevitably pulling out my phone.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of being on two great stand-up shows with polished comics. Hilarious folks who I believe are killing it in the DMV and beyond. Before show #2 started I was feeling chatty. A heart to heart was had, and my goodness, EVERYONE is perpetually frustrated with comedy! All. The. Time. Even the killers.
That revelation was depressing, yet reassuring. For those who feel it, the pressure is very real. Whether it’s pressure to succeed, do better than your peers, get on bigger stages, or finally get local validation, it can push us forward to the brink of insanity… A part of me likes those insane weeks where I’m going HAM on comedy, I become very joke-focused. I cut out all the distractions. All that matters is my material and the audience(s). Then I go on this wild ride where my self-esteem ping pongs back and forth as I refine my jokes. It’s a great short-term plan, but in no way sustainable for me.
This past year I discovered I need stability outside of comedy. As important as it is for me to get up 5 nights a week, it’s just as (or even more) important to see my family, play board games with my friends, have quality time with my partner, and have fun relaxing and not being the center of attention. Because honestly, a majority of the time I feel like I’m living on borrowed time, burning the candle at both ends. It can really be so exhausting, but I know a great night will give me a couple extra days of energy. Most nights, before I leave the house I play this pessimistic FOMO game in my head, "If I stay home it will be a great show, but if I go out the show will suck and drain me even further!” I’m usually wrong in a way that I didn’t imagine.
When I’m feeling crazy, tired, or not in the mood, I remind myself that the average social human in their 20’s-40's goes out one, maybe two nights a week, but the average ambitious comedian is pushing 5+ nights a week while neglecting other parts of their lives. It can be easy to look up and see young comedian X being famous, but I can almost guarantee that somebody who put their whole life into comedy isn’t happy. They are famous, but miserable. We see their Netflix specials but we don’t see their mental problems building up. Their growing trust issues due to fame. The loneliness.
I have some ridiculously aspirational goals, but one of the things that keeps me grounded is I'm in it for the long game. Who knows, maybe I'll "make it" doing Being A Dad Comedy, if not then maybe Grandad Comedy. Ultimately, I think my point is you can totally push yourself past the human limits, but also consider balancing that out by taking a night off when you're feeling fine! (I know crazy idea) But you can totally go hang out with a friend, or call a family member, or binge Netflix in lieu of performing stand-up, even when you're not feeling like total dogshit! Or maybe if you want a little extra rest you can just lay in bed, and stare at the ceiling for awhile before inevitably pulling out your phone.
Two years ago I attended my 10-year high school reunion at Tyson’s Biergarten. In between reliving the glory days, awkward small talk, and complaints regarding no open bar, I was scoping out where I would be spending 2-3 nights a week for the next couple of years... In that time, and many hours behind the scenes, we transformed a cool basement bar into the Northern Virginia mecca of comedy, Tysons Comedy Cellar.
We built something great, and as a result, had a loyal fanbase, hosted hilarious comics, and had a small but steady stream of beef, drama, and bullshit. We gave local comics a platform and brought much-needed laughter for over 150 stand-up comedy shows. In my reflection, I’ve chosen to focus on the positives- my emotional state, gratitude, lessons learned, and musings on the future. (I’m saving the negatives for my mixtape).
I had no choice but to quickly process the venue closing down. Within 24 hours of being notified by the GM, I messaged 40+ comedians, emailed my distribution list, and shared the news on all the social media. Imagine you and your significant other broke up, and it was your job to tell everyone you knew about it right away. It really makes you embrace the truth.
The truth is, I’m feeling bittersweet. It was a great place, and I really loved what we built there, but I’ve also been burnt out for a while now. Taking time off to rest, recover and reflect sounds amazing. One weekly show is a ton of work when done right, and at one point I was running three! The work behind the scenes to manage TCC gave me a taste of what it’s like to run a comedy club, something I’d love to explore. I picked up skills in marketing and communication, audio and sound, booking strategy, talent evaluation, and how to run a show well. I learned a lot about my own preferences too- anything ranging from how to pair comics to what’s the best backpack pocket for each sound plug (yes it matters!). Regardless of what’s next for me, these skills are invaluable. As a comic, I gave myself a ton of stage time and continue to grow. In two years I went from an unsure comedic voice to headlining shows. I want to take a moment to thank myself for giving me these opportunities. ;)
Tysons Comedy Cellar was my baby, but it took a village to raise her. I want to give an extra special thanks to those folks who shared the burdens and successes:
What’s next for me? I’m looking into working with TBG owners’ new locations come springtime, but in the meantime, I want to focus on being a comic again. Instead of waking up and obsessing (or avoiding) marketing, booking, or thinking about shows I want to jump back into the deep end of my material. I want to wrap up this phase of my life (and the associated jokes) and throw a pretty bow on top so I can move onto the next phase. So keep an eye out for my album in 2020. If anyone’s got some stage time (especially some longer sets) in February 2020 and beyond, give me a shout!
I honestly don’t know how to wrap up this post, or even want to. There’s a million thoughts swirling through my head, and once I hit post the ride is over. But, I think I’m ready, I said my goodbyes and thank you's last week on three separate occasions! Twice while closing out two great final shows, and another trip while retrieving my equipment.
This trip turned out to be surprisingly nostalgic because it was during a private event, a high school reunion. My high school, two classes behind mine. With my backpack on, a mic stand in my hand, I grabbed one last drink while the reunion folks wondered who I was and why I was down there without a name tag. Then, I said goodbye and walked up those stairs one last time. And just like that, at a high school reunion in a basement bar carrying two wonderful years of memories, it was over.
P.S. - Three hyperbolic lessons as a room runner:
If you’re doing comedy to “get paid” I suggest you try a different art. The pay in stand-up comedy is laughable. The average trivia host makes way more than we do in a night. So what do we do about it? Fight for fairer pay? Go on strike and stop doing open mics? Demand money from bookers upfront?
In this chaos a new formula has emerged, whispering its way into the ears of every comedian who’s performed on two or more shows. As long as the show is free you don’t have to pay anyone, but if the show has a cover, then “experienced” comics expect to be paid. This approach sounds fine on paper, but in reality it’s just checking a box. There’s so many different levels to payment. With this attitude you’re saying you’re fine doing a free show where the booker takes home $450, but the second they charge $5 at the door you have a different attitude? You suddenly stand up straight and ask, “is it paid?”
The thing that bothers me the most is comics aren’t consistent with this. At all. They’ll pay their left nut (or labia) to do a showcase for Funderground Comedy or the DC Improve, but go after indie show bookers that are just trying to cover their costs?! And in the event they get paid from one of these clubs, its such a small fraction of what the venue brings in. Hosting a club is the hardest job of the night. Where are the pitchforks calling for better pay?! The DC Improve could pay you $1 for 10 minutes of stage time and you’d still do it. Hell I know I would.
Many don’t realize that on any given show, usually only one of these people is taking home money.
All these glorified open mikers are worried about getting screwed over, but what about the screwed over booker that paid a stellar comic $150 to do material and instead sexually harassed an audience member for an hour? What about the venue’s staff busting their ass to serve 50 people water on the rocks all night long?
To the people reading this that think I’m siding with the sleazy bookers, hell no. I pay a lot of my expenses from working road gigs. I know that some nights I’m gonna collect, and some nights just the main talents are gonna collect. That’s how it works, and hopefully I do well enough on stage to be brought back as that main talent. Just because a few millennials start having opinions doesn’t mean the fundamental rules of the game have changed one bit.
I’m running out of steam here so let me get to my final point. I think if you host you should get paid. Hosting is WORK! I think if you headline you should get paid. However, if you’re doing 8 minutes at a show where you show up late, don’t promote, don’t draw, don’t social media circle jerk after, and just do an average set on stage….I’m not sure about that.
The unofficially official booking policy:
Criteria for judging a performance - I take the overall audience into account each night. If the audience is "hot" and everyone kills it, that's great but means a little bit less than killing it on a "warm" audience where comics are hit or miss. If you crush it on a hit or miss night, or when most people miss that helps you stand out. If you miss on a night where most people miss I don't judge you cuz that would be dumb. If you bomb on a "hot" night I'm probably still judging you to this day.
P.S. I'm like Santa, even if I'm not there I'll find out if you were naughty or nice.
I thought it might be interesting to last week's highs and lows through this medium.
My GF had the day off, she dragged me to the mall in the morning to do some shopping! She had a vision. To get started we went to La Madelline to order coffee & quiches, me spinach, her ham. The quiche was rather disappointing, not negative yelp review disappointing, but close. The crust was dry and hard, we'll get panera next time. Also in a strange turn of a events the ham quiche was better than the spinach one (I really hate ham) so there’s that. We popped into a lot of stores to pick out gifts for her family. Women really love masquerading blankets as regular clothes (apparently they are called ponchos). She bought a few of them. I didn’t get anything, for anyone. A great success if you ask me.
That night I got asked to perform at the State Theater in Falls Church. (Thanks again Jose!) I can’t emphasize this enough, but my anxiety is almost nonexistent in front of large crowds (AND when its not my show) The crowd's energy flows through my veins making me feel comfortable, like I don't have to do anything. There were 500 people in the audience and it felt easy… I’m just humble enough that I don't brag after a great performance. My fellow comedians asked how it went and I said the, “the crowd was great!” (which they were!) Not that I got 4+ applause breaks during an 8 minute set. Maybe if I openly bragged more I’d get booked more? I really don’t know. I was also stone cold sober. I think I might try that more often. I’m definitely slower when I’ve been drinking.
I didn’t get my performance on video so I spent late Friday night kicking myself and watching Mars Attacks on Prime.
In the morning I took my Mom to her doctors appointments. We grabbed lunch after. She got a good report so she was in an especially pleasant mood, and I enjoyed our time together.
Running shows is stressful. There are so many moving variables that it’s hard for me to keep my head on straight. On this particular night a company had reserved the entire venue from 530-730. This meant no regular after work humans were allowed in. I was worried that we would lose our audience because we grab a lot of curious people the night of. I was then concerned that our audience was going to be flat since they all worked for the same company. That's where power dynamics come into play, people don’t generally feel comfortable laughing at inappropriate things when surrounded by their bosses & coworkers. We had to work them a bit, but they came around and overall I think the night went really well!
My GF works from home on Wednesdays so we get to spend the day together, working. It’s nice. I went to the grocery store in the AM and began making some chili in the slow cooker. I’ve been getting back into cooking recently, my new thing is to make food so delicious that I can tolerate anyone’s company. It was da bomb! I hope there are still leftovers tomorrow.
HaHa Hannukah: A Jew-ish Comedy Showcase at Tysons was pretty good. I somewhat stumbled through my hosting set (I really don’t like hosting my own shows) but I did my job by engaging the audience and getting them laughing. During my set I pivoted into telling a string of white supremacist jokes. They kind of worked. Here's one,
"I know a guy that raises chickens just for their white meat. Breast and wings. Dark Meat? He just throws it out. Doesn't think its equal, won't even feed it as scraps to his pigs. So I wasn't surprised when I saw a picture of him attending a rally for the Klu Clucks Klan."
The show didn’t go how I envisioned in terms of jew-ish-ness, but the talent did well enough. On the downside one comic got uncharacteristically annoyed at the crowd. The crowd was a bit light, but 15 people (not comics) is enough to do well in that room and they were getting lots of laughs! I assume they must have had a bad day. Comics are human too... Also apparently the girl that was being rude and "talking out of turn" was deaf. That’s pretty damn funny if you ask me. Headline: Comedian yells at audience member, falls on deaf ears.
I was feeling low in the morning, but things picked up when Scott came over and we recorded the first episode of the Tysons Comedy Cellar Podcast. I think it's got great potential. Scott and I lean very differently on political and social issues, he's a bit of a bigot and I'm not so our discussions are fun. (Just kidding Scott, I’ll leave that up for the viewers to decide)
The show at Tysons that night was great, I was average (I got a little messed up). We had an awesome crowd, and the comedians really delivered. The only negative was I had THREE comics no-show. I usually don’t care, but the audience wanted more comedy and we couldn’t give it to them. They audibly went AWWWW when we announced that the show was over. It happens. Overall great night though!
I took my Mom to appointments in the morning and felt like crap so I got really stoned and played video games all day.
Comedian, Author, Improviser Producer, Sketch Writer and Teacher living in the Baltimore, MD. Likes sharing his thoughts on things.