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Favorite Posts

Me, My Book and Colin Quinn

March 29th, 2011

A friend emailed me this morning because he heard my name on the KQRS Morning Show. Colin Quinn was the guest. They were discussing the Minneapolis comedy scene. Colin said I was one of his favorite Minnesota comics and one of the most underrated comics out there. Colin Quinn’s hit Broadway show, directed by Jerry SeinfeldLong Story Short debuts on HBO April 9. I will be watching. I wish him success. I think he is one of the most deserving comics out there.

I met Colin Quinn ten years ago at the Comedy Cellar in New York. I had just self-published my book The Vile File. It was my first time in the big city. I hadn’t much experience at meeting famous people. I have always been socially awkward. A mutual friend of ours, Tony Daro, introduced us. Instead of shaking Colin’s hand, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a book. I wanted to give him a copy. That was a major faux pas – you could tell by the expression on his face. Tony saved my ass. He assured Colin that I wasn’t a whack-job and it was OK to take the book.

The next night I returned to the Comedy Cellar. Colin was standing outside at the bottom of the stairs. He saw me approach and waved for me to come down. Colin had read my sick joke book and liked it. His exact words were, “That’s a funny book.” He said he’d been reading my jokes all day and had been on the phone reading them to others too. He mentioned some famous people. I don’t remember who. My mind went blank when he said that he had shared some with Jerry Seinfeld. I asked, “Did he like them?” Colin shook his head and replied, “Naw.”

It was a roller-coaster-ride of emotion talking to Colin that day. He wanted me to know that I had written some very funny jokes. He wanted me to know that he’d shared my jokes with others who knew a thing or two about comedy. Most importantly he wanted me to know that I should never hand somebody I just met a book. “That was weird,” he said. It was weird. I know that now. Colin taught me something important that day. It was a lesson I took to heart because I could tell he thought I was someone worthy of giving advice. It’s been years since I’ve been back to New York, but it’s nice to know that Colin Quinn still remembers me. Meeting him and talking to him that day was one of the biggest thrills of my career. I hope to see him again. This time I would just shake his hand.


Lady Luck

April 7th, 2011

Laughing Skull Lounge; Atlanta: The quarter finals for The Laughing Skull Comedy Festival continue tonight. I will be performing in the late show; 10:30 PM. Each show pits twelve comics against each other; two comics advance to the semi-finals. There is a lot of great talent at this year’s festival. To give myself a chance to advance, I will need to have more than a great set tonight. I will also need a bit of luck.

I have entered many comedy contests over the years and it has been my experience that certain variables in which the comic has no control has a great deal to do with what determines the outcome (I call that luck). You don’t want to go up too early. You don’t want to go up too late. You don’t want to follow somebody who kills. You don’t want to follow someone who digs a hole. The most important variable is what style of comedy the people judging you favor. Comedy is subjective, after all. Probably it should never be judged. I have mixed feeling about these competitions, but I do know this. Comedy contests are never fair, but they sure are great to win.

Some people do not believe in luck. Some people believe you make your own luck. I don’t know what I believe but I do know this. If I am able to advance to the semi-finals I will consider myself lucky.

I’m writing a novel that explores this “what about luck” theme. It’s about a bitter aging homeless comic who’s about ready to snap. Some might think that this character is based on me. I say that this is a work of fiction. That any resemblance to any persons, living or dead….

What Luck. All rights reserved; copyright 2011 by Dwight York

Every comic believes he has what it takes to be a star. Just as every comic believes that he is but one lucky break away from striking it big. Probably most comics believe that their lucky break is waiting right around the corner. Daryl Carroll certainly believed that had what it took. And he certainly believed that he needed a break. But he doubted that luck would have anything to do with it. For Daryl had come to believe that if there really was such a thing as “Lady Luck” she was working the corner because she was a whore.

Wish me luck tonight. I will let you know how it goes.


Sometimes I’m Funniest When I Don’t Try to Be

July 13th, 2011

Recently I did a comedy show at a multi-plex movie theater, Grand Cinema Hinckley (July 1). Hinckley is a small town in Minnesota about an hour north of the Twin Cities. Once every month, for the late showing, instead of a movie, one of their theaters (they have eight) is home to a live comedy show. A microphone is set up in front of the big screen and the audience sits in comfort as they would when enjoying a film. They also set up a beverage cart so a beer or wine cooler can also be enjoyed.

On account of the weather, crowd size was less than expected. Severe thunderstorms had struck earlier that evening. Many in the surrounding areas lost power. Trees were down. Roads were closed. Structures were damaged. I had a perilous drive through torrential rain and extreme winds on my way up. Additional watches for another band of storms had been issued.

Although my white-knuckled drive took longer than expected, I made it to Hinckley safe and sound. We delayed the start-time thirty minutes to allow people who’d purchased tickets to arrive but eventually realized there were going to be no-shows. The opening act did his thirty minute set, there was an intermission, then I took the stage. Although it felt a bit odd to be doing stand-up comedy in a movie theater, I got laughs from the get-go and settled in to my joke slinging rhythm.

Then about thirty minutes into my set, there was a distraction. In the moments of silence between me talking and the audience laughing, I heard a soft continuous high-pitched whine which I could only assume was a tornado warning siren. I’ve been doing comedy for twenty-two years but have never before been faced with this situation. What do I do? Keep going until someone tells me to stop? I made a snap decision. I had the microphone. That made me the leader in charge. So I stopped joking, got serious and suggested we take cover.

Nobody from the crowd moved. Or said a word. I waited. I had done my part and assumed somebody from management would break in with an official announcement. Certainly they must have a microphone too. After a long moment of silence, I concluded that the crowd felt safe enough, management didn’t care and everybody wanted me to continue. So I explained that I was certainly willing to start telling jokes again, but that — at the very least — I had to address the situation. Right? Suddenly I felt defensive for being such a pussy.

Still nobody from the audience said anything. I could read their puzzled faces. Is this part of the show? What’s he talking about? Maybe, I thought, from were they were sitting, they couldn’t hear what I did. So I asked the crowd if they heard the siren? Finally, after an awkward pause, the young lady selling beverages said, in a voice just loud enough for everyone to hear, “It’s a vacuum cleaner.” After another awkward pause, I responded with my biggest laugh getting line of the night, “Oh.”

Sometimes I am funniest when I don’t try to be.


Courageous or Crazy

May 12, 2011

When I first began my blog, I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t be able to come up with enough cool stuff to write about. Those doubts were put to rest when I realized I didn’t need to chronicle only current events. I’ve been at this game for twenty-two years. I have plenty of stories to tell. Today I’m sharing a favorite from last summer’s adventure at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It’s about a big biker I met named Tiny and his impression of watching me do comedy on the Buffalo Chip’s main-stage between Tesla and Hinder back in 2009.

I met Tiny outside the Buffalo Chip Comedy Club. He and other campground guests were waiting to be interviewed by Pee Wee Herman. I was hanging around just in case somebody wanted to talk to me. Pee Wee was at Sturgis to film a segment for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. It’s my guess that somebody from the front office asked Tiny if he’d stop by. No doubt Pee Wee wanted to talk to some menacing looking bikers.

Tiny has been working backstage concert security at the Buffalo Chip for over twenty years and is one-hundred-percent genuine bad-ass-biker. Although if you talk to him, he seems to have a gentle nature, Tiny is an imposing figure and carries himself like a guy who is used to getting respect. He got it from me. I felt very tiny talking to him. Mostly I just listened.

Tiny sat at a table with me while waiting to be interviewed and shared a few great stories. A couple of these I think it prudent of me not to retell but I want to give a brief synopsis of one because it paints such a great picture. Tiny has a coyote tail attached to his vest. Before wear-and-tear and time had taken its toll, the entire animal’s skin was sewn onto the back, complete with head-baring-fangs resting on the shoulder (great conversation starter). Tiny ran into this particular coyote one night on his motorcycle. He was lucky to survive the encounter. The coyote was not.

When we first began talking, Tiny said I looked familiar but couldn’t recall from where. He mentioned this a few times during our conversation. Twenty minutes later it dawned on him. “I remember you from last summer,” he said. “You were on the big stage. One of the big nights. Telling jokes.” As Tiny spoke he gave me a look of recognition. I’d also like to believe it was one of respect because he added, “That took a lot of guts.” Hearing took a lot of guts from a guy who knew a thing or two about exercising courage gave me such a rush of testosterone that I could almost feel the hair growing on my chest. Of course I can’t really know for sure if he meant this as a compliment. For all I know he may have thought I was just fucking nuts.

To watch that segment filmed for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno follow the link: Pee Wee Herman at Sturgis. Tiny makes an appearance at 2:45. It originally aired Aug 10, 2010.

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