Comedy Mentors

Hi. Y’all,

I’m standing outside the Comedy Store where the door guy, Steve is chatting with me. He’s also a young comic and we are discussing our messed up sleep patterns.

“Oh, I’m up every night until 4,” he says.

“Me too!”

An established comic (not sure he’d want to be mentioned so let’s just call him John) comes out after his set, a ball of excited energy, and launches into a story as Steve attempts to listen while also checking IDs.

It’s about how another comic once said something rude to him a long time ago and now they are good friends. Steve asks, “Did you ever bring up that conversation?”

“Of course not…Listen….when you’re young and stuff happens, you don’t EVER get pay-back. It doesn’t work that way…You move on. And you let it go. You do the work. I once wanted to punch a guy who pissed me off in the past and instead…I hugged him. That’s what you do.”

I admire this advice.

Steve and I both say we take things personally. He says, “Don’t. It’s never personal.”

John leaves the Store and Steve and I both sit absorbing this helpful gold-nugget of wisdom. Then we launch back into our conversation about our sleep patterns.

“As soon as the sun comes up, that’s when I can fall asleep!”

“Me too!”

This week I want to talk about mentors.

Comedy is tough. It’s lonely. It’s a solo art form. You travel alone, you perform alone, you kill alone, you bomb alone. But in between sets, you talk to other comics about comedy, dating, tofu, sanity, and life. And there really is a community there of like-minded people. Comedians tend to be highly observant, intelligent, sensitive people.

The other thing I’ve noticed of late is that they are generous.

As one of my friends and someone I consider a mentor, Kirk Fox says, “We’re all in this together, kid,”

Just to name a few (I hope they don’t mind my calling attention to them since it’s just in a positive context) I have been offered support, friendship, and guidance in the past few months from:

Dana Gould, Kirk Fox, Orny Adams, Allan Havey, Josh Fadem, and Jeremy Hotz. All great comics whom I look up to and greatly admire. They have taken the time to pass on valuable knowledge and encouragement without my even having to ask. They know far more than I do, not just about comedy, but life.

Kirk says I should be less hard on myself and also put the audience first, not myself.

Jeremy says to not give up on jokes. Keep tweaking them if they don’t work right away and to never ever give up on comedy either.

Josh Fadem told me to produce my own show, which I have now been doing for 6 months. And encourages me to keep experimenting on stage.

Orny says to bring more energy on stage, but to always be me.

Dana says I’m “solid” and pointed out what he liked from my set and how I can make a particular joke tighter. Then asked me to be on his show next week. (Come! It’s Sept 15th at the Meltdown…nice plug, eh?)

Allan gave me a ride home once when I got a flat tire and shared his incredible ‘Mad Men’ experiences with me. He also made me laugh so hard making jokes about a guy who broke my heart.

Last night, I had a show at the West Side Comedy Theater in Santa Monica. Before the show, a young comic, Felicia, came up to me and asked, “Can I ask you something? How did you get an agent?”

I told her I got my manager first. I explained how I reached out before even starting stand-up and said, “I’m a young Maria Bamford.” Then he got me my agent. “Always say something about them first. Like you admire their roster or know their clients.”

“Oh! So you reached out first?”

“Yes! You have to let them know you exist!”

“Oh…I was waiting for someone to find ME!”

I gave her more advice about how she can get credits without reps and build her resume. She was so grateful and wrote down everything like a driven, conscientious student.

Then she leaned over and told a friend, “I’m going to make it because of Erica.” I said, “No. You’re going to make it because of YOU.”

I then realized, “Oh. I have stuff to give too.” And it felt so good to pass on information the same way my mentors have done for me.

No matter where we are in our journey, we always have something to give to someone.

Just gotta look around.

(Sorry if this wasn’t that funny a blog entry. I’m so exhausted from writing jokes all week. Sentimentality feels like a vacation)!

Find someone to give to this week, yeah? Even if it’s just half of your tofu wrap (tho who wants that)!

Let me know how it goes. And yes, I took today off social media again. Feels great. Did you?