On Comedy, Immersive Research, and the Underrated Value of Experience in 2019
“During one of my first open mics in New York City, the comic running the mic tapped me on the elbow after my set and said, “Hey, you’re funny!” She sounded surprised.
I was, too. Being funny wasn’t my main goal. I was there to spy on comics, trying to experience the highs and lows they faced while chasing their dreams, while doing standup as research for my forthcoming novel, No Good Very Bad Asian, which features a famed Chinese American comedian.
After writing a first draft in 2010, I wanted to validate what I had written and go beyond what I could learn from reading standup memoirs and listening to WTF with Marc Maron. I started with classes. But the first thing you learn from comedy teachers is that if you’re serious, you need to write jokes constantly and chase stage time (anywhere: open mics, bar shows, birthday parties, bar mitzvahs, subway platforms, you get the idea) several nights a week, if not every night, for years on end—it’s the only way to get better. Comedy can’t easily be taught; it must be done.”
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Where we go deep on Survivor…
“The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.”
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“Oh-em-gee, you have to try the Okay Spa,” said my editor friend Nicole as we left the coffee shop. “It’ll relax you like never before. It’s…beyond.”
“This isn’t a prostitution sting, is it?” I joked.
She slapped me playfully on the arm, sending spasms from my shoulder blades down to my kidneys. I was in bad shape. Working 100 hours a week just to make rent. I could no longer vouch for the quality of my story pitches. For a men’s publication: thirty-seven reasons why it’s healthier to pee sitting down. For a literary magazine: you’ll be shocked why bookmarks are bad for books. For an Asian arts review: why so-and-so is the next great Asian, middle-grade, steampunk autofiction novelist. Each a thousand words for $10 a piece. I was beginning to think that my chosen profession was an elaborate way to commit seppuku without having to sully steel.
Nicole handed me a gift card. “Trust me,” she said, “you won’t regret.”
Read the rest over at Bending Genres.
“Many world leaders…have chosen to leave these most difficult decisions of geopolitical and economic import to pure chance, the result of a single, simple game.”
“Leo’s security camera app shows the black car pulling up to his colonial home. The contingent is early, and Leo still has much to do. In the game cellar, the board has been laid out on the polished oak table beneath spotlights. The tiles rest in silken sacks. A single gold-plated armchair faces a giant curved screen mounted to a wall. The chafers have been set out. The caterers are about to bring out the food. The freshly laundered red carpet runner needs to be unfurled to mark the path from the foyer to the cellar. The lavender and rosemary misters have yet to be activated. Mercy, the scent is called.
Leo equips his earpiece and instructs his assistant Dana to bring the glass-bottled water. He drags the red carpet from the closet and unrolls it as he heads upstairs. When done, Leo walkie-talkies the kitchen, announcing that the contingent has arrived. The doorbell rings. Leo turns on the misters, buttons his blazer, flattens his hair, opens the door to two dark-suited men wearing sunglasses. Leo nods and steps aside.
The men conduct their security sweep of the cellar and the ground floor. Leo informs them that his wife is sleeping upstairs, a statement that only reminds them that they need to check the second floor as well. Twenty minutes later, two more besuited men, one obese with a graying mustache, enter the house. “Welcome back,” Leo says to the large man—the player for tonight’s game. The client acknowledges Leo with a guttural squawk, and he and his security team trample the rug, leaving hefty clods of dirt in their wake as they head downstairs.
As he follows them into the cellar, Leo pauses over the shoe-prints, sad he’ll have to launder the rug again, before its next use.”
READ THE REST OF “THE GAME CELLAR” AT COSMONAUTS AVENUE
Meet Sirius Lee, a famous Chinese American comedian. He is a no good, very bad Asian. If you’re a fan of the work of Paul Beatty, you’ll enjoy this novel.
Read more about it here.