Daily Video Dispatch Reporter Dwight York. Photo by Paul Fitzpatrik
When I tell people I’m thinking of giving up they ask me why I’d quit? Like it was some sort of fickle decision one would make like what color to paint the ceiling. That annoys me so I have to explain further. “Well I guess I’m not quitting then so much as I’ve been fired.” Today I learned that one of the few comedy dates I have on my calendar for September is canceled. At this late date there is almost zero chance I will replace it. Shit happens. That shit happened to me twice this week with zero new dates booked. That’s a sad score.
I started this blog at the suggestion of a friend. That was back when I was full of hope and wanting to believe. His hope was to become my manager/agent and put me on tour. I believed he had a very cool idea and was the person who could make it happen. The idea was to tout my Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, author of The Vile File and Sirius XM Raw Dog Comedy Uncensored credits and produce comedy shows at music venues on dark nights for door deals. We were calling it Dwight York’s Rock Club Comedy Mayhem Tour. And we had a motto: an evening of raucous R-rated comedy for a rollicking rowdy good time. My friend also had a marketing plan which included creating a poster and a WordPress Blog. I put a great deal of effort into making this new project a success. The result was a poster and a blog.
Although no tour dates was depressing, I kept hope alive. I still loved the idea and believed it could be successful. I’d find a better agent or I’d book the tour myself. But first I needed to create some buzz about me and my out-of-the-mainstream style. So I poured my energies into my website. Although I didn’t seem to make much progress in gaining new followers, I felt my work was good and I was laying a solid foundation. The scores of new followers would come. If not before the start of this summer’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, certainly during it.
Last March, I sent Punchline Magazine my manuscript The Big Risk; my mini-memoir about my adventure of doing stand-up comedy at the 2009 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally with the hope they’d publish an excerpt. The editor and chief, Dylan Gabino, wrote back, “i think having you report from the rally this year would be cool….. and if we run an excerpt from your memoir, i think it would make sense to do it around that time. is that cool? as your dates get closer we can chat about what kind of coverage you’d be able to do…. i’m thinking a short, daily blog post with a little flipcam video might be cool for our readers.” I thought that’d be way cool and my hope meter spiked.
Punchline Magazine is not Rolling Stone, but I was thrilled none-the-less. I believed I could turn this opportunity into my career break. I set what I thought was a reasonable goal. Produce good reports and comedy industry insiders and those “powers-that-be” would learn of my exploits and respect what I’ve been able to accomplish and come to share my vision. I also thought that doing daily reports for Punchline would add a legitimate writing/reporting credit to my resume. Maybe I could use it to get freelance work from other publications reporting for other events. At the very least, I thought it would gain me new followers to my blog. Then in the fall I would kick-off Rock Club Comedy Mayhem with some solid steam behind me.
Several weeks before the rally began, I wrote to Gabino to make sure he hadn’t changed his mind. Not only did I want assurance to get permission to film inside the campground, I had plenty of reason to be worried that my daily reports might not happen. Punchline Magazine had gone through major changes. They’d recently been bought by a parent company and were about to change their name to Laughspin. My concerns were put to rest when Gabino replied, ”yes, you can certainly tell [the owner] you’ll be sending Punchline Mag dispatches from the event.”
Although my reports were short, it was brutally difficult to get them produced. I edited and uploaded them on my laptop while working in a crowded bar with concerts taking place right outside my door. I was also managing the comedy club stage which meant I had plenty of other shit to do too. I spent zero time partying and worked every waking moment (sleeping little). I reached inside and gave everything I had. I delivered what I’d promised. It was a proud personal achievement.
Unfortunately Laughspin didn’t publish my daily dispatches. At least not on their site. The last five files that I sent them weren’t even downloaded. Laughspin did post the first four daily dispatches to their Twitvid page and mentioned them on Twitter. Maybe that’s what was intended all along, but it surely wasn’t how I had understood they were to be used. This was a big disappointment and a heavy dose of rejection but it didn’t make me bitter. Instead it broke my heart. I felt I couldn’t blame Laughspin any more than I could blame a woman who turned down my bed. Instead I blamed myself for not being more fuckable. Probably my reports were poorly done. Probably my dispatches weren’t funny or interesting or entertaining. Of course I thought they were plenty worthy of publishing, but maybe I am a narcissistic idiot.
I was majorly depressed in the days after getting home from Sturgis. I checked my YouTube views. I checked Laughspin. Just in case. I tried to spin my failure on stupid “what-ifs.” Maybe Laugshpin didn’t use my dispatches because they’d decided to go in a different direction. “What-if” that was the reason and not that my reports sucked. Maybe they were too serious? Maybe they wanted only funny? Then I read an interview Dylan Gabino gave to Rooftop Comedy explaining the editorial direction he planned on taking Laughspin. That’s when my bitter meter went into the red: We’re very interested in working with comedians and having them produce their own editorial content. We’re not looking to compete with Funny or Die or College Humor; we’re not looking to create funny web serials or that, we’re interested in editorial content. If a comedian is on tour, and wants to do a bi-weekly video diary of life on the road, that would be our angle.
That sounded exactly like the video diaries I produced. So he wanted precisely the type of videos I had done but didn’t use mine. That, to me, was a bitter blow. I didn’t think I could make myself feel any worse that day but I guess I had to try because the next thing I did was visit Gabino’s blog at Laughspin where he’d just published a video that sounded to me exactly like the stuff that would compete with Funny or Die.
The Note (Tommy Johnagin, Joe Zimmerman) is a very funny short film. I think it’s cool that Gabino posted it but seems a cruel twist of fate timing-wise for him to publish the type of video he said he didn’t want to use when he didn’t publish the videos of mine which were precisely the type he said he did want to use. In one last twist of cruel fate The Note is nothing close to a video diary, but it could be very near to a reenactment of a story that plays in my head. It’s one about murder/suicide (that’s supposed to be a dark “Ha! Ha!”).
And that ladies and gentlemen (and young cheerful comics) is how an old road dog like me gets bitter. People like to tell me that you have to take a shot at living your dream because even if you fail, you will never have to live with the regret of, “what if?” I am not so sure I wouldn’t be happier wondering “what if?”
Maybe someday this will be funny to me. I hope it won’t be at my retirement party at the fertilizer factory. Thanks to all of you who have followed my adventure and who read my blog. It means more to me than you could ever understand. I hope you visit again next week. I hope I find something light hearted and funny to write about. Or even better. Something hopeful.
Afterword: I don’t know for sure that I will have to get a “real job.” I know for sure that I can’t continue to be a starving artist if I’m starved to death. I do know I’ll be doing comedy next summer. I’ve been invited back to the Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground for the 72nd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Maybe next year is the year my comedy special happens. Until then I will keep writing. I don’t need anybody else’s approval for that. I have a publisher. It’s DwightYork.com