Category Archives: Success

Five forces come together to create success.

Eat Pray Laugh Video

Eat Pray Laugh Video

So the creativity coaching work that I do is largely based on the work I’ve done to get through the blocks to being a comedian, solo performer, and artist.  Here’s a little sample of what I’ve been up to in my creative life.  I’ll be performing this show Eat, Pray, Laugh! in San Francisco January 20th, 2010 to February 24th each week with kirtan singer Mirabai.  You can get tickets here.

Paris Hilton for President? Now, that’s comedy!

Paris Hilton for President? Now, that’s comedy!

So here’s what happened: John McCain launched an internet attack ad against Barack Obama suggesting Obama is not a suitable presidential candidate because he’s as empty a celebrity as Paris Hilton.  So, Adam McKay thought it would be funny if Paris Hilton ran for president, with the comedy logic that an intellectually capable Paris would nullilfy and make ridiculous McCain’s attack. (Pardon me for explaining the joke.)

So, Adam wrote a presidential candidacy announcement, got Paris on board and they shot it this week.  It’s the first time Paris really speaks publicly with any substance whatsoever, and she pulls it off pretty well.  But really, Adam McKay?  Your ghostwriting has Paris suggest an energy policy that’s a “combination of McCain’s and Obama’s” in which we do drill for offshore oil (McCain’s idea) “safely” (McKay’s idea) which will sustain us until we sufficiently develop alternative energy sources (Obama’s idea.)

First off, the idea of safe offshore drilling is dubious at best; no oil drilling is free of leaks, accidents, etc, and many of those problems are never made public.  Secondly, any offshore drilling started now won’t yield oil for another twenty to forty years–how does that sustain us or reduce gas prices now?  Thirdly, we’ve already got a host of alternative energies that are ready for development; this is the time to change.  LA Times journalist Carol Williams reported Schwarzenegger as saying, “Anyone who tells you [offshore drilling] would bring down gas prices any time soon is blowing smoke.”

If we don’t shift our energy use to alternative fuels in twenty to forty years, we’ll be much more likely to be gearing up to fight China for the oil left in the Middle East.  Our offshore oil should really be saved for the the next hudred generations of people, or sadly, saved in the case that we end up, say, waring with China for a hundred years, which would undoubtedly be directly or indirectly caused by fear and scarcity over resources.

So, thanks, Adam, for the good intentions, but it’d be funnier if Paris slammed down a hardcore energy policy instead of a hollywood one.

Handy-Dandy Energy Facts that Suggest Alternative Fuel Development is a Better Idea than Offshore Drilling:  US Vehicle turnover rate: 15 years
US Average age of vehicles: 9 years
Soonest possible time we’ll get any US offshore oil: 7 years
Number of oil spills for offshore drilling off the Texas coast: 187 spills of MORE THAN 2100 gallons between 1981 – 2005. That’s AT LEAST 392,000 gallons of crude oil, or roughly 16,000 gallons spilled every year.

With the US average vehicle age of 9.2 years, and average turnover rate of 15 years, in the time it takes to see any benefit from offshore drilling, we could be halfway to a green energy car fleet — which would drop the demand for oil and have the same price benefit for those still driving gasoline cars as increasing the supply of gasoline! (If that doesn’t make any sense to you, folks, please, PLEASE, go take an Economics 101 class at your local community college, or read Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan or Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner.)

W. Kamau Bell Curve: standup comedy turns solo show

W. Kamau Bell Curve: standup comedy turns solo show

W. Kamau Bell‘s solo comedy show, The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in about an Hour*, now in its third or so run at The Shelton Theatre in San Francisco is pioneering work.  Bell, a standup comedian who got his start in Chicago, the improv capital of the States, developed his conversational, yet sharp, poignant style at Cobb’s Comedy Club and The Punch Line.  But rather than tell you a bit about the show, which you can see in SF, Oakland, or Berkeley, I’m going to tell you a bit about Kamau, who you might also see in SF, Oakland, or Berkeley.

I met Kamau in 1998 around the time that he moved to San Francisco.  There used to be something like an “internship” at Cobb’s, back when Cobb’s was located in The Cannery in the Fisherman’s Wharf district.  Every six months or so, an up and coming comic was chosen to host one of the three weekday showcases as well as host the weekend show once a month, which added up to a lot of stage time one of the two best clubs in the city.  Kamau had gotten the prized “internship” just as Cobb’s was getting ready to move to Columbus and Lombard.

On of my favorite bits of his back then was about the omnipresence of African Americans in popular culture.  It went like this:

“What’s happened to black people in the media?  In the 60’s we had Martin Luther King, Jr. we had Sammy Davis, Jr.,  We used to be everywhere!  You couldn’t swing a nightstick without hitting a black person upside the head.  In the 70’s…”

Some time around 2005, Kamau became a sort of mentor in my standup work.  We’d meet every week and work on bits, listen to great comics and talk about different realms of skill and how the greats did what they did.  What we had in common was that we both approached standup with a desire to speak a more complex truth than is sometimes found in standup, which is hard, because funny is usually simple and short.

With Kamau climbing the ranks of San Francisco standup along with fellow comedians like Dan Rothenberg, Joe Klocek, and Dan Gabriel (and many others), he moved from opening, to featuring, to the honored position of headlining at The Punch Line about two years ago.  His first headlining shows were especially packed and full of heat–Kamau, like Robert Mac before him, had gotten a really short hair cut, and almost immediately started headlining.  Coincidence?  You be the judge.  When Dave Chapelle came back from his trip in Africa, he was doing a lot of sets at The Punch Line, and Kamau performed with him frequently.  Kamau also appeared on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and recorded his first standup album One Night Only around that time.

So, along the way, Kamau and Kevin Avery had been doing the movie reviews on the Live 105 Morning Show, putting out a podcast (“Siskel & Negro“), working on a screenplay (Kevin) and an internet cartoon (Kamau) and Kamau directed by Bruce Pachtman’s show “Don’t Make Me Look Too Psychotic.”  One thing led to another, and Kamau started teaching The Solo Performance Workshop for people who want to develop a one-person-show or monologue.  Kamau just won Best Comedian 2008 in the SF Weekly, and I’m hoping he takes his show on the road especially because he’s got a plethora of opinions and insights about Obama that make it a perfect time to showcase this work.

What I have always admired about Kamau’s work is that he articulates the questions of race in a genuine way that’s not clichéd.  Especially in The Bell Curve, Kamau thinks he expresses more anger about race than he actually does; on stage he is affable, engaging, and charming.  Kamau’s move from standup into the solo show is a courageous step.  Not only does he re-write his show each week according to what’s in the news, he also continues to develop both the standup and the theatrical elements of the show.  I look forward to seeing future iterations as they unfold.

Kamau Bell, Standup Comic

The W. Kamau Bell Curve in the East Bay:
Pro Arts, 550 Second Street, Oakland
August 2, 3, 9, 10
Buy tickets here

JCC East Bay, Berkeley
August 16, 17, 23, 24
Buy tickets here

* Directed by Martha Rynberg, The W. Kamau Bell Curve is a co-production of Bruce Pachtman Productions AND Lisa Marie Rollins’ Third Root Production

The Early Bird Gets the Worm.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm.

Ew, who wants to eat worms? If your goal is to get shit done, staying up late at night is the best way to accomplish things.

The night time is full of mania. The moon is out, the raccoons are battling the trash cans like little lumbering Don Quixotes, and all the suckers are asleep in their soft beds, getting soft. Late at night is when you’ll get your best work done. It’s quiet. There are no new emails to distract you. No business calls you can or should make. It’s a personal time during which you can conceive of and hatch visionary and wild ideas and no one is awake to shoot them down. Icarus flew too close to the sun and the wax on his wings melted, but you can fly as close to the moon as you want. Your ideas can be fantastical and completely implausible with impunity.

Try these fun activities after 1 am. Bonus points for drinking coffee, eating truffles , and watching DVDs of Arrested Development beforehand.

  • Write a press release for your book on salamanders (you haven’t yet written) and then write a book on salamanders.
  • Design an outfit for Project Runway and Youtube yourself modeling it on your roof.
  • Write a business plan for your takeover of the glass swan and dolphin trinket industry.  Learn how to sculpt glass.
  • Record an album using only office supplies for instruments and have your computer sing the vocals. Pretend you made it at work, and call it Down Time.

do you have what it takes?

do you have what it takes?

Discipline. Courage. Passion. Gentleness. Persistance. Self-knowledge.

do you posess these qualities? do you have the discipline every day not to get shit done? it takes a lot of work not to write, not to go to the post office, not to set goals. you have to constantly keep anesthetising yourself. the internet, the peanut butter, the room-cleaning, the pushups. the peanut butter.

think big. fail even bigger. do you have the courage to fail? a study found it takes the average person 11 attempts to quit smoking cigarettes. do you have the courage to start smoking again 10 times to acheive your goal of freedom?

are you fierce? can you breathe fire into a goal which, in the grand scheme of things, is utterly meaningless? your dream of building and racing toothpick sailboats will likely be scorned and belittled by overbearing bosses, inane co-workers, bewildered strangers, well-meaning friends, concerned family members, and curious ducks. not to mention the voices in your own head. can you, season after season, oh maker of meaning, draw strength from the goddesses and gods of sailing and toothpicking to find your true path in this watery world?

are you gentle? when (oh, right… i mean, if) your boat sinks, will you push back the tears, or will you let them gently stream down your face, crying, “i have failed miserably and brilliantly, and i am more alive than ever!” or will you do the other thing you used to do (fill in the blank)?

are you persistent? again, with the smoking and the quitting and the smoking and the quitting. are you creative? maybe you start smoking toothpicks? or peanut butter? no, really. persistence is the natural result of all the previous qualities being combined together. have you heard of jacob benson? kelly ambrose? fay grossman? yeah, they weren’t very persistent. not that you have to hear of someone for them to be successful. but that’s another can of worms. mmm, worms. huh?

person, know thyself! i’ve gotten to know myself very well. i know i should go to bed at 10 pm. it’s 1 am now. i get tired. i eat too much. i wash dishes. i start projects. and i’ve got to get up early. however, i know this about myself: i really like to write at night. so i sacrificed a bit of sleep for this toothpick sailboat. and now i am happy. good night.