Hope you are all holding up! I hope all of my East Coast fans and friends are doing all right considering what that side of the country went through. I hear some of you got your power back and some of you are still a bit fucked. I’m just sending some WTF love your way.
I will be at The Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia, PA December 6th through 8th. I’m looking forward to the grit and edge of Philly. Come out if you can.
On a side note, vote. Be a grown up and go do it. If you don’t like the candidates, vote on the props. Vote for stuff that will make a difference in your community and/or state. Don’t ditch the whole process. Some of it works.
This week I bring you an interview with Shelley Berman. He’s an old timer and a very important comic. His seminal work was done in the late Fifties and early Sixties. He was contemporary of Lenny Bruce and a unique voice. I went to his home to talk to him because I felt like he had gotten short shrift in the history of comedy. He was the first comic to win a Grammy for one of his three gold records and also the first comic to play Carnegie Hall. He was huge. I didn’t really even know about him until a few years ago when I bought one of his records because I had heard his name and he was sitting down on the cover. His bit ‘The Department Store’ changed the way I viewed stand up. It was so well paced and timed. It was long and beautifully constructed. I’m sure his sitting influenced my desire to sit lately.
At some point his career took a turn. I didn’t confront him with the story of him losing his temper on national television. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. He was trying so hard to be even tempered. He was very revealing about how he came into his act and point of view and also about the person he thinks became an obstacle to his success. It was a tough interview because it was really the first time that I felt like I was talking to someone who had profound disappointment but still persevered and did what was necessary to keep moving forward. I didn’t realize these things until the drive home from his house. Show business is brutal and so much of it hinges on the fickle turns of cultural relevance and shallow popularity. That, mixed with a volatile personality, could kill a career. When I spoke briefly to him about his tenure as a teacher at USC I didn’t realize until I left that that was what kept him alive and relevant. I’m sure it wasn’t his plan but it was where life took him. It was also interesting to hear his side of working with Larry David. I am a romantic when it comes to comedy. I never want to believe that it’s just casting.
On Thursday, the author Daniel Smith talks to me about anxiety. We are kindred spirits and his book, Monkey Mind, is a beautiful thing if you have the anxious bug and even if you don’t. He’s a funny smart dude.
Be well. Stay dry.