I Can Go the Distance(?)
“Fuck your jokes. Who are you?” — Roy Wood Jr.
Earlier this week, after having not touched it since June, I reopened the Google drive that contains the drafts for this blog. In the midst of clicking I got excited at the prospect of returning to regularly performing stand up, and all that comes with it. In that moment my excitement began to overwhelm me, as I became filled with sense of gratitude: an acknowledgement of the immense privilege it is to live a life where I can afford, financially and otherwise, the opportunity to try my hand at writing/performing/bombing jokes across the city.
And with this opportunity, I thought, I really want to nail it — to take advantage of being an energized 25, with a steady, fulfilling day job (helping kids write and get into college,) “reasonable” student debt (comparatively,) and a happy and healthy family. “This is it,” I thought. “Now’s the time to make the stand up I want to see in the world.”
In the Disney version of my life, this is the moment where “I Can Go the Distance” from Hercules would start to play…
But in the actual version of my life, I started to hum AC-DC’s Back in Black, which, by all accounts, is a stupid song. If you don’t believe me, look at this lyric…
“Forget the hearse ’cause I’ll never die
I got nine lives
Abusin’ every one of them and running wild”
So, I’d hate to be a (..sigh..) literalist with this lyricist…but I’m confused. First you say, “forget the hearse ’cause I’ll never die…” which is a fine lyric about not dying, I guess. But it’s immediately followed with “I got nine lives!” I don’t get how you can say “I HAVE INFINITE LIFE,” and then immediately be like “I HAVE PRECISELY 9 LIVES!”
That seems pretty ridiculous…
The reason I feel “back,” and why this song about “being back”came into my head is because I’ve been away from my creative goal for a little while. In fact, after 3 months of diligent work, I spent 3 months away. Which, as far as I understand, is not the advice the great comedians give. (Just like Seinfeld and Louie always say, “once you start stand up, make sure you take a 3 month hiatus, that’s how you get good!”)
But, and I wrote about this at length in my last post, I feel like I did it for the best possible reason, which I’ll address once-again, in the following subheading.
Last June I decided that, in order to live the full and complete life I wanted to live, I had to take the summer off from my creative goals and return to my summer home, a camp upstate for kids with life-threatening illnesses. (In order to not associate my shitty jokes about Ted Cruz and sweating from my ass, with the incredible work this charity does, I’ll keep the name of the camp out of this blog. But if you want to know more, you can G-chat me!)
And so, just as I suspected in the last post, I made the absolute best decision. Over the course of July and August I met incredible children who face unrelenting challenges, and it was my JOB to make their time as fun, joyful, and safe as possible. (I also supervised a small staff, got to be a primary contact for camper-parents, nurses, and volunteers, and generally set the tone for how camp, and my cabin, were run.) I could fill this blog with stories and moments of kind, silly, and brave children who filled my summer with laughter, surprise, and delight, but I’ll save that for another time. (My big-picture plan for stand up includes meaningful camp stories in relation to other things going on in my life, but for now, trust me, the summer had great moments filled with better people.)
Now, just to clear the air, the summer I just spent wasn’t 100%, pure, altruistic bliss. I also enjoyed the thrills of a summer as a veteran Unit Leader at camp — complete with nights out at the local bar, trips to Saratoga racetrack, late nights by the fire, a romance, a minor league baseball game (Go Valleycats!) and hundreds of homemade meatballs. It also wasn’t always easy, as the social aspects of a summer at camp came with their own challenges: fatigue, the impending “end of summer goodbyes” to your friends who live in every corner of the world, and the general sense that a day at camp feels like a week anyplace else.
But with all that romanticism of a summer at camp now in the rear-view mirror, (for 2017, at least..) it’s time to get back to the work I set out to do last Spring:
Perform and write about 100 sets of stand up
My plan is to reach this goal by following my patented (it’s not patented,) 5-step process for success in comedy.
- Write jokes, in notebooks, in coffee shops (or other places)
2. Tell said jokes, on stage, anywhere that will have me
3. Listen back to sets, while cringing, probably (definitely)
4. Write indulgently long blog posts about steps 1–3
5. Drink seltzer/eat pizza throughout steps 1–4
Sets completed: 41
Sets left: 59
Sets blogged: 15
Sets to-be blogged: 26
What this means is that I need to write about the 26 sets of stand up I’ve already completed, in order to catch-this-blog-up to the sets I’ll be doing now. One reason, (the only reason,) I fell so far behind is because my posts were pretty verbose and meandering . (Writing about 3, two-minute comedy sets could sometimes turn into 2,500 words, which, I mean, c’mon, that’s clearly a cry for help.)
The next two posts, therefore, are going to be catch-up posts where I quickly (for me, at least) outline what Sets 16–41 looked like: the super-quick high-lights, low-lights, and random stuff from those performances. That way, I can be caught up so I can blog about the sets I’m doing now! That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it, dorks!
So now that I’m back in New York, I’m looking forward to being caught up and I’m even more excited to be doing sets regularly. Consistency is the ONLY way to get better, and my commitment to that makes me feel good about the future. (I know what I must do, now I just gotta do it!) I have some new ideas for jokes/bits that excite me, some old jokes I want to keep working on, and I’m pumped to see how MOVING TO ASTORIA, helps me as a person and a stand up. (Yeah, that’s right, people. I’m moving to Queens. Just like the song says, “It’s a concrete smog-hole where dreams are made-up! There’s nothing you can’t juice!”
Until the next post, enjoy some pictures from this summer. It’s against the rules to post anything with a child’s actual face, but here’s a visual representation of why I temporarily gave up on a dream in order to live the dream.
- My “going away (to camp) party,” a Fudgie the Whale Cake that was decidedly not a Cookie Puss.
- My trip to a southern wedding. This photo of a UVA license plate from the SPRING of 2017, you know, before Nazis existed.
- My experience at the southern wedding, wherein I pledged a frat and founded a tech start up to replace bodegas.
- Here’s a picture I took of counselor Vin and one of our Raccoon campers. The camper communicates non-verbally and uses a wheelchair to get around, so putting him on rides and seeing his smile made Vin and I, two gruff-looking Italians from Staten Island and Long Island, respectively, cry like little boys.
- Here’s an old camper we ran into at the Valleycats game at Joe Bruno Stadium. Once he found his favorite counselor, he ditched the wheel-chair. It was sweet.
- Here’s Paige and a dessert we found!
- Here’s a British person I found!
- Here’s me and KR at 1am after I pretended to drive back to camp and instead went to the video casino! (We lost whatever cash we had on us, about $18, and when we stopped at the McDonald’s drive-through on the way home, the woman goes “we can take your order, but my computer’s down so we can only take cash!” We laughed a lot, having just lost all our cash on video roulette. As soon as we recovered, we found the nearest ATM. Sometimes you need that McChicken, you know?)
For me, this is the photo of the summer. The camper in the middle doesn’t speak verbally, but somehow always makes it very clear to the adults in her life that she prefers when they all lay on the floor with their shoes off. (She’s pretty insistent!) This was a Unit Leader meeting that, um, let’s just say “didn’t go according to plan,” but made us all very, very happy.
And here’s me from last May, telling a camp story during Set #41. It was at a Magnet Theater fundraiser called Molly’s Guilt-Free Ice Cream Social, run by the incomparably funny Molly Kiernan. (Straight-up the best improviser I’ve taken a class with.) If I were you, I’d follow her on social media now, cuz she’s going places! I’ll write more about this set and this story at a later time, but it’s shows and stories like this one that attract me to spending all my available time telling jokes in the city: To share the joy (and sometimes pain,) I’ve been able to experience working with kids, and living a life that I hope is full, with loving, silly, and empathetic audiences like this one.
You can follow me:
@Gjmollica on Twitter, for 140 character tweets
@Gabemollica on Instagram
And you can sign me up for more information about the Shake Weight at my e-mail address, Gjmollica@gmail.com