Thursday, July 26, 2007

Live and Alive, Live!

I’m back on the standup trail again, after a long hiatus spent writing and having various surgeries. It’s different this time around. I’m ten years older and my hair is “executive blond”. I am no longer the fresh young face on the circuit. Instead, I am the battle-worn 45 year old face on the circuit. I’m lucky though, two litres of water a day has kept this battle-worn face baby smooth. So has not smoking and quitting drinking. I look like I’m in my thirties. Just ask guys in their 20s I’ve courted. Why am I back in the clubs trying to make audiences laugh, when I should be home curled up in front of the TV watching gruesome footage of the latest suicide bombing in Iraq? Because if you watch enough footage of suicide bombings, followed by stories about celebrity misbehaviour, juxtaposed with commercials for banks and skin crème and pizza pops, you’ll go mad. Doing standup comedy is like being a part of a fight club. You feel every joke bomb like a blow to the head, and every bit kill like a sweaty embrace. You feel. I’m learning that in middle-age, having brain and body totally engaged at once is a rare and pleasurable sensation. I am greedy for it now. I have been reborn.

Yes, the standup world has changed. Audiences are younger. My frame of reference may need sharpening. I don’t have a cell phone, I don’t have cable, I don’t have a satellite dish, I don’t have high speed internet. I am on Rogers Most Wanted list. It takes me 25 minutes to download four pictures. Why am I not more wired? Simple. I don’t want or need these things. Yesterday’s convenience is today’s necessity. Tomorrow we may find robots essential. But for today, I prefer to give the kid down the street ten bucks to mow my lawn, rather than a cyborg. Come to think of it, with his IPOD taking permanent shape in his ears and his trigger-happy text messaging fingers, the kid down the street is already a cyborg. Get a jump on the competition, Billy! Why not.

It is hard for me to relate. I like listening to birds.

But I persist. I’ve enjoyed riffing on middle-age, how I used to line up for Clash and Sex Pistol tickets and now I line up for a two dollar box of Bran Flakes at Price Chopper. There’s quiet satisfaction in saving a dollar fifty on cereal. That ought to stick it to the man! No need to protest at G8 summits. Younger audiences intimidate me a little. They can be quite conservative. What I may lack in celebrity knowledge they make up for in ignorance of world events, politics, science, religion and anything that doesn’t revolve around their own precious selves. In short, nothing much has changed since I was a pus-filled youth. The only thing different now is the accelerated speed of stupidity and lack of regard. Plus ca change and all that.

I’m not interested in playing only to the Bran Flake set. One of the hippest comics out there is George Carlin. At 70 he’s as relevant as ever, a sharp social satirist who’s not afraid to tear into American culture (or lack thereof). No subject is off limits: suicide, genocide, natural disasters -- all are fair game. Age shouldn’t matter when it comes to comedy; voice and originality should.
So come to the cabaret mein chum. Check out some live comedy. You never know, you may see someone in your demographic on stage, live and alive.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Diary of an Insomniac

July 5, 2007. 3:45am.
Dear Diary. Or should I call you a journal? I think journal sounds more mature somehow. What do you think? I can’t decide. Why don’t we just leave it for now.

My bedside clock says it’s 3:45 A.M. Wait – now it’s 3:46 A.M. I’ll have to be awake in another three hours. I’m debating whether or not to get up and do something productive like vacuum or drywall. I’ll debate another hour and exhaust myself into a twitchy semi-consciousness. Sounds like a plan.

I know why kids are afraid of the dark. In the void they see the spectre of their future as monsters and goblins. Adults know these spectres as loans officers and employers. Fear looms larger in a darkened room. Your own inevitability is clear.

Maybe I should have some milk.

July 6 2007. 4:25 A.M.
Dear Journal. Hmm. I kinda like “Dear Diary” better. “Dear Journal” sounds too 1984ish, too bureaucratic. What ever happened to the Orwellian predictions of 1984? I suppose brutal conformity did happen. Everyone wore pastels.

Mortimer at work said I did a good job on the report. What did he mean by that? What was he getting at? I don’t trust him. He has crystals in his office. He has an office. It’s all a ruse to trick me into a false sense of security. I’m on contract for God’s sake, I could be out the door in a second, panhandling on Yonge street with punk kids from Richmond Hill. Or worse, I could be doing amateur night at a stand-up comedy club. I have an idea. I’ll smile more often. I’ll walk down the corridors, smiling. All the time. My co-workers will either think I’ve been promoted to a staff position or I’ve gone insane. Flip of the coin.

Maybe I should have some warm milk.

July 7, 2007. 5:12 A.M
Dear Journal/Diary. Can’t sleep, but for a solid reason. The people upstairs are blaring techno and “whooing”. ‘Tis the season. Then again, every couple of nights is the season for them. It sounds like one of the party guests upstairs is either throwing up or having sex. It’s been so long for me it’s hard to tell the difference. They say having sex helps you sleep. That’s the way I used to sell it to my ex-husband. Maybe that’s why he’s my ex.

Maybe I should go knock on the neighbour’s door, not to tell them to keep it down, but to be louder. If I’m up, I’m up.

July 8, 2007. 2:57 A.M.
Dear Diary/Journal. Sometimes you just can’t sleep. They say women are biologically lighter sleepers that men. We always have an eye and ear open in case a baby cries. I have an eye and ear open for my own crying. My eyes feel like they’re calcifying. I’m so tired I can feel my skeleton turning to wire. Electricity darts under my eyelids. When I do manage to fall asleep, it’s invariably on public transportation. A passenger usually jostles me because I’ve drooled on their shoulder. Maybe that’s what I should do now – get on the streetcar! The mundane anguish will lull me.

July 9, 2007 3:54 A.M
Dear Diarnal. Get it – Diarnal? I’ve mixed Diary and Journal to form a Diarnal. Sounds like a sleeping pill. July 9th sounds like a sleeping pill. My adrenal glands must look like pillows by now. How can one person have so many stress hormones. And what’s with my pituitary gland? Isn’t it where melatonin is produced or whatever the hell hormone helps you sleep? I can’t keep track of my glands. Mortimer at work suggested I do yoga. What’s he getting at? What does it matter? The earth is scorched, the sun is angry, the environment is turning to dust. Then why does it feel like winter? Am I hot or cold? I’m confused. Screw people and their cars – they’re killing the planet. I don’t want stuff – I want other people to have stuff I can rent. My brain is a centrifuge of obsession, an amusement park ride that won’t stop.

July 10, 2007. 4:21 A.M.
Hey. Monday, or Tuesday morning. No, Tuesday. Good news. I’ve been let go from the office and my new landlord is moving into my apartment. Most people would lose sleep over this, but it doesn’t affect my nocturnal habits one bit. This news would kill a person accustom to eight hours of uninterrupted slumber, but not me. I feel great.
I’m hoping this crisis will have the reverse effect on me. Maybe the enormity of the stress and my chronic insomnia will cancel each other out. Maybe I’ll fall into peaceful, fretless sleep and have sweet dreams. I’m only losing my livelihood and home, it could be worse. I could have the flesh-eating disease. As far as bad things happening, this is bad, but you know, uh, I could have the flesh eating disease.

Maybe I should have some warm milk with a shot of rum. Wait - I don't drink. Remember that.

June 11, 2007. 11:55 A.M.
Dear Diary. I just woke up! I went to bed at midnight and slept solidly, the whole night through. Without meds! So this is what it’s like to be clear headed and rested. If I could manage a coma like this once every couple of weeks, I think I’ll be fine. I have nothing else to lose. But sleep.