Rubber Necking and Brain Picking

This is a series of questions sent to me by Neophyte Comedian Danny Reyna. I posted it here for all to enjoy.

DR: Are you constantly updating new material….& when do you feel u have a gem? How long will you work on that one bit?

TD: I am always reading something, watching something or experiencing something – which is where I get all my material from. So in that way I am ALWAYS working. I feel I have a gem when I feel it. I get happy when I have a new joke that’s funny and works. It validates my existence. So you could imagine how pathetic I am when I don’t have one…

And as far as how long…I couldn’t tell you. I have had jokes that I have tweaked years later. Is that a long time? Longer than most? I have no idea.

DR: Would u agree with the following…the right word can make an ordinary joke….brilliant?

TD: Well the wrong word can’t make a brilliant joke ordinary…

I guess it depends on the joke, at least in theory.

I am under the opinion that if a joke is not working – it’s not because there is a word hanging it up. It’s because the joke stinks. I’m all for tossing out jokes completely and starting over.

DR: When is it best to test out new material?

TD: In theory the best time is after the crowd has decided they like you and before your big closer. Unless it’s a venue for new stuff, then do it from the start.

I get all happy about my new material, so I usually do them up front, because it’s more fun for me. It’s your preference really.

DR: Money….how long did it take until u actually made money off this?

I’m supposed to be making money?!?

I got my first paying gig four months after I started. Doing it full time took a little longer. I make a solid four figures a year now. I won’t even tell you where the decimal points are in that…

DR: Would u agree that self-deprecating humor is the foundation of any comedian?

TD: I don’t think its self-deprecation as much as it is vulnerability. There is a difference. If you are up there being honest and open, that is more of a “foundation” than ripping on yourself.

Personally, self-deprecation looks a lot like self-hate on me. So I opt for vulnerability.

The foundation of all comedy is pain. There is no fine line between comedy and pain. Some could argue with me – but they’d be wrong.

DR: How many hours a week do u feel u write?

TD: Do I feel I write? I feel like I never write. I never feel like I have caught up. I feel like a slug.

The reality is that I write everyday, I am caught up and I am more of a tortoise than a slug.

DR: Do you cater to your audience…meaning…lets say you have a more african american audience…do you tailor your performance to the majority?

TD: Do I pander? Yes. Do I become someone else? No. Would I if the money was right? Absolutely.

DR: Would u say you have had more good performances than bad?

TD: Good? Bad? I’ve gotten laughs yes. Tons of them. And I’ve only gotten booed off stage once. Pretty good stats I’d say.

DR: What do u feel is untouchable? ex. cancer, 911 ect?

TD: George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor made sure nothing is untouched.

I don’t think anything is untouchable as long as it’s funny. If I can’t make it funny (like cancer) then I don’t touch it (like herpes). You know?

DR: Is your material more story telling than joke telling?

TD: I think “joke telling” has gotten a bad rep recently. People look at joke telling like its something that is old fashion – right up there with Vaudeville and Nickelodeons. I think that a good story is awesome. A good joke is the greatest. And fusing the two…really fantastic.

DR: What if your having an awful day does that effect your performance…& let’s say your not feeling it one night…how do u salvage your performance?

TD: Uhm, hmm. Everyone has his or her story about being sick and working. I’m no different. I had a fever of 102 and did my time. I’ve had head colds. I quit smoking and was going through detoxing on stage. You just do it. People go to work having a bad day all the time. If you’re a pro comedian, you tell jokes even when you’re not feeling like it.

The cool thing about being a comic is that if you’re having a crappy day at the office – it only lasts about a half an hour and then you can go get drunk! Good times.

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