Friday, August 31, 2012

Do me a kindness


When we are stressed it is very easy to be internally focused. Why wouldn’t we be? When I am aggravated and annoyed, it is all about MY needs, after all, isn’t it? If I want to be productive, I’d better rid myself of all hindrances in my way, including pesky people.

Why in the world would I want to interrupt my important project to do something for someone else, when clearly, I am the one in need?

When we first started dating, my boyfriend was leaving my apartment one night. Upon arriving at his car, he saw that my neighbor, Mark, was passed out on it. [I really don’t live in the ghetto].

“Uh, can I help you?” he asked.

“I’ve got the gout,” was the unexpected reply. He mumbled something about, “They say it’s the drinking, but it ain’t the drinking, it’s the gout.”

Knowing that he wasn’t going anywhere with Mark on his car and he wouldn’t feel right just leaving him in the parking lot, he started to guide him back to his place. Except he ended up carrying his dead weight back to his apartment, and he didn’t realize that Mark lives on the second floor.

That is perhaps an extreme case. I don’t know that he felt any better after he helped out. Though, Mark thinks the world of him. Hopefully, you won’t get shanghaied into carrying a 200 lb man to his home, but there are plenty of opportunities to help people out. Most don’t even take that long, and you’ll get that great feeling that comes from knowing you really helped someone.

There was a Friends’ episode, where Joey claimed that there are no unselfish acts, because, in so doing, you end up feeling really good. He was right. It’s a win/win situation.

c. 2012 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Living Your Dream: Interview with stand-up comedian, Sid Bridge

Sid Bridge doing his act
c. sid bridge
First of all, I saw you had a big evening at the Funnybone the other night.
How was it?

It was amazing! The event was “A Geek’s Night of Comedy: Episode III,” the third
in a series of geek-themed comedy shows put together by me and two of my best friends in comedy, Tim Loulies (AKA the Big 44) and Derek Williams. We caught ourselves discussing geeky topics and joke premises after a show one evening. The next morning, I messaged the both of them on Facebook proposing we put a geek-themed show together and it snowballed from there. 

The first two shows were successful thanks to Tim’s tireless marketing efforts, me using my PR skills to help get the word out and all of the wonderful talent who joined us on stage. Episode III was the best yet. It was one of those shows that just seemed to fly by – we definitely left everyone wanting more. What made it so special was the audience. Often, comedy audiences can be hostile or uninterested. The audience at the Geek show was definitely full of appreciative geeks. The deeper the geek reference, the more they laughed. The energy in the room was high, and the comedians put on excellent performances with lots of new material they wrote specifically for the show.

We also continued our wonderful relationship with our area’s chapter of the 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars enthusiasts who wear movie-quality costumes to raise money for charity. They were outside the Funny Bone before the show taking pictures with people in exchange for donations to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and we raffled off prizes to support the cause as well.

The venue was (and will continue to be) the Virginia Beach Funny Bone, the largest comedy club in the area, and they have been incredibly supportive of our efforts – our show is a lot different than the comedians you typically see there.

In short, it was awesome. One of the comedians continues to tell us he wishes he could perform for an audience of geeks exclusively. They were appreciative, friendly, and laughed/clapped at all the right times.

Most comedians find that they have to be raunchy or at the very least, use foul language. Is that necessary?

I try to avoid foul language and suggestive material. It does limit your ability to connect with certain
audience, especially at bars or smaller clubs, but it also broadens your appeal to most comedy venues and other types of events where they don’t want their audience offended. I also personally believe that it’s not necessary. A talented comedian shouldn’t need the F-bomb to be funny and if that crutch is all you have to rely on, you need to reconsider wanting to be a comic. I have an added consideration – as an orthodox Jew who wears a yarmulke on stage (casually, not as a joke), anything I say will be
construed as representative of other Jews. I try to keep that in mind. Most of my material is just amplification and exaggeration of things I encounter in my personal life, and I’m a pretty normal guy, so I don’t get filthy.

You do have a "grown-up job." You are a writer by day, and a comedian by night. Talk some about how the two play off of each other. Do the two converge?

During the day, I’m the Manager of Corporate Communications for a real estate investment company with a $3.4 billion portfolio of investment properties. I love my job – it ranges from setting high-level PR strategy, all the way down to designing and printing presentations. I’m good at what I do and I take pride in my work. That being said, real estate is a pretty conservative industry. A wild sense of creativity really needs to be somewhat restrained in the workplace (don’t get me wrong – it requires creativity, but I wouldn’t suggest including Star Wars references in an investor memorandum). I came back to this position after a 5 year hiatus where I worked in more creative and varied industries. During those 5 years, I learned how much I really belonged in a corporate setting and that those stifled feelings of creativity could be released elsewhere – like on stage at a comedy club. Comedy is a wonderful release and it keeps my creative side sharp as a tack.

How do you handle nerves?
I have never had any issues with stage fright. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be in the spotlight, but was just never popular to get there in school, or emotive enough to become an actor. In the rare occasions that I do feel a bit nervous, I’ve tried two ways of dealing with it  

1) Be nervous. The energy actually speeds up your delivery which can be a good thing in a comedy club if you stay articulate. It helps you squeeze in more punchlines.

2) Have a beer. Disclaimer: Don’t be an alcoholic and NEVER step on stage drunk (Ever notice Ron White doesn’t drink much of that scotch?) One beer can help take the edge off of nerves, but if you’re not careful, the alcohol can also throw off your rhythm and make you a little too relaxed. The crowd feeds off your energy and if you have none, they will tune out.

I’ve heard it said that comedians wouldn’t be comedians if they weren’t “messed up.” Could you talk some about the catharsis effect?

Very true. Most comedians had some kind of difficult childhood or some level of awkwardness. The sharp wit and sense of humor often develop as a defense mechanism for those of us who spent our
formative years being bullied or picked on (or worse). Combine that with a lack of stage fright or a willingness to overcome stage fright, and you have the recipe for a great comic. The underdog is always the hero and the bullied kid is one of the most relatable figures in the world. Most of my comedian friends have some insecurity or foible that they have overcome (or are in the process of overcoming). A great mainstream example of this is Christopher Titus. Google him and see how screwed up his family is. His material rings true and his ability to make such a horrible family situation funny is magical. People want to relate to the comedian as a folk hero – the guy who did something creative to deal with a problem that everyone has to deal with. Often our punchlines serve as a catharsis for a big issue. I have great respect for any comedian who can take a person tragedy, bear it to the world on stage, and make it funny. I have a friend on the local comedy scene (here in southeastern
Virginia) who is a breast cancer survivor. Her comedy career grew out of surviving that ordeal and she can joke about it with the best of ‘em. This type of comedy has the power to help audience members deal with their own personal tragedies, even if that wasn’t the comedian’s intent.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Most of my material comes from my everyday life, just amplified and exaggerated. I have five kids – four girls and a boy, so funny material presents itself daily. I also am a bit of a geek, so I do have fun telling jokes that mock my obsession with Star Wars, Transformers, Voltron or any of the other
geeky things I grew up with in the 80’s. I’ve been a bass guitar player since I was 17, and since I started doing standup I haven’t had time to join a band. Last summer, I started integrating my bass playing into my act, and I now have a few songs and bass-related jokes that I work in, too. This is pretty helpful whenever I’m called upon to perform in a bar – even though I don’t drop F-bombs, the music gives people a reason to pay attention and laugh.

You wear a yarmulke during your shows, do you ever poke fun at religion?
Not much. I will admit that I wear a more noticeable yarmulke when I’m on stage (off-stage, I have my black knit “stealth” yarmulke), but on stage I don’t want to hide who I am. I enjoy wearing it because it reminds people that I’m different and actually helps connect me to the audience – everybody’s different in some shape or form. It’s also a neat way to throw people off a bit. I wear it, but I don’t talk much about being Jewish. It kind of messes up their preconceived ideas about orthodox Jews. Occasionally, I have done short sets about that very topic, but I don’t tend to do that often. On the flip side, I will say that the yarmulke is a bullseye for other comedians. They often take the easy way out and pepper my with Jew jokes to get that cheap laugh. I go into shows expecting that and do my best to laugh and let the world know that we can take as many jokes as we dish out.

What sorts of stressors do you encounter as a comedian?
There are lots – none of it kills my love of the stage, but I’ll try to name the top few:

a. Inattentive/Uninterested audience: Sometimes they just don’t want to hear your jokes and no matter what you do, they aren’t going to laugh. It happens and when it does, you learn from it, but that doesn’t make it less stressful. Sometimes you just need to understand that even your best stuff doesn’t make
everyone laugh – humor is very subjective. Finish the set, sit down, watch the other comics on the show and see who does get laughs, then figure out why.

b. Approval from the important comics: Every town has that clatch of comedians and/or bookers who decide who gets to be on what show and how much time they get. Some of these guys are lifelong comics who have lost their wives, families and just about everything else to comedy as they sacrifice everything to travel from city to city and earn $100-$300 for a feature or headline spot at a small
club. It’s not an easy life, so a guy like me with a good day job can’t really act the least bit arrogant around someone like that. You have to play the politics – show respect, do what they expect you to do and ask for their guidance.

c. Competition: The first time I performed in the VB Funny Bone’s Clash of the Comics amateur competition, I tied for first and ended up second after a run-off. The second time, I placed third. I haven’t placed since, and it’s quite a frustration. Competitions are often judged subjectively and depend sometimes on a crowd who loves you.

After your honeymoon phases (first 1-2 months), your friends stop coming to your shows since they’ve seen your material so much. With your own personal audience gone, winning competitions is difficult. It takes the ability to be technically perfect and to appeal to people who don’t know you. It’s a huge
source of frustration for me, but also a huge motivator.

What do you do when a joke falls flat?

Finish and move on. It happens, you recover and hopefully learn from it.

Sounds like a great lesson for people in all trades. Thank you SO much, Sid. This has been awesome!!

You can hear some of Sid's comedy by looking up sidbridgecomedy on Youtube.     


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Reptilan Rant at Chic-fil-a
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last couple of weeks, no doubt you’ve heard of the Chic-fil-a heckler, Adam Smith and the more cerebral response by Rachel, the clerk .

Without going into the politics of this all, I wanted to discuss what can happen physiologically when we get passionate and angry about something. I think on some level, we can all relate to him.

Just in the interest of full disclosure, I have not spoken to him, these are my own musings, based upon the two Youtube videos he posted.

Upon hearing the owner of Chic-fil-a’s controversial stance on a hot issue, he was  indignant about what he saw as an injustice. It was something he felt he couldn’t or shouldn’t be silent on. He was acting on Jackson Pierce’s suggestion to order a free water, and make a video, as a way of taking a stand.

“I planned to peacefully participate in the Aug 1st You tube post where Jackson Pierce ask people to simply order a large water to show support for the gay community, but when I got to [Rachel’s] window and after seeing all the people I lost it, just lost it. I couldn’t believe the number of people who came out to support Chic fil a.”

Losing it, resulted in allowing his reptilian brain take control, and taking his anger out on an innocent clerk [who handled herself so much better than I would have] on camera. Unfortunately, thanks to the internet, the video went viral within a matter of hours.

Rachel, on the other hand, didn’t let herself react to him. Rather, she responded, which requires higher brain functions. [It’s hard. I would have been tempted to be snarky, which wouldn’t have helped matters at all]. She didn’t feed his fire, and it quickly died out.

His actions were powered by emotion, fueled by adrenaline. Very little thinking was involved. After he had time to think about the ramifications of what he had done, he made a second video with an apology.

“I’m sorry for treating you so inhumanely….While I might not agree with everyone’s views, I want to always treat the other person with respect. I didn’t do that with you.”

“You handled my frustrating rant with such dignity and composure every time I watch the video I am blown away by really the beauty in what you did in your  kindness your patience….”

He apologized for his behavior, while not backing down on the issue that he was passionate about. He realized that belligerence rarely solves anything, and admitted, “We have to start seeing people as people. we aren’t ever going to make social progress by attacking people.”

He told Rachel, “Your peacefulness will take you a long way.”

c. 2012

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Living your dream: LuLu Schwall Make-up artist

c. Lulu Schwall, Makeup Artist
I’ve known Lulu for what seems like forever. We became great friends later in life. Ever since I’ve known her she’s had a passion for fashion and makeup. 

Lulu was born with a rare facial anomaly, and had many painful cosmetic surgeries at a very young age. As a result, she learned all sorts of makeup tricks and became very adept at covering up the scarring. She always looked great!

She had been a psychiatric counselor for years, but she always had an eye and a heart for the glitz of the runway. When she married, they moved away and started a family, but she also launched another segment of her dreams. She became a professional make-up artist and painter.

What made you decide to take the plunge and start your own business, Lulu Schwall, Makeup Artist ?

 I was on the phone with my sister, Lynette and she was talking about what she would have done with her life if she had to do it over. She said she would have been a lawyer. Then she asked me what I would have done (this was when I was at home after the birth of my daughter, Fiona). Well...I told her I would of been a makeup artist instead of a Counselor.  She replied,

Vogue Italia 
"Well, what's stopping you?"
"Nothing!“ I said,  “I am going to do this!!!!!!!!."
 ...and so it began.......

Ever since I've known you, you've always loved make-up and high fashion. Could you talk some about your love for it? Did you ever in a million years think that the techniques you used to cover your facial anomaly would, in essence be training for your dream job? 

c. luluschwallmakeupartist
Somewhere deep down inside, yes!  I love the "boom pow" that goes along with being a makeup artist I get all "school girl giddy" sometimes as I am working on a face.  That's how I know I am doing the right thing!!!!!  Its so awesome watching a person transform before my very surgery needed!

You've done some impressive work! Could you give a run-down of a typical day for you? 

I arrive at a shoot ...usually with friends...(made in the industry)...I unpack my makeup and start working. Models are truly some of the nicest people you will ever meet, contrary to popular opinion.  Models are people too!

Sometimes the shoot is more relaxed so we can small talk and sometimes deep convo's happen too. Other times, there is a time crunch and I have to just concentrate on the vision the photographer wants and get it done quick.  

Before any successes, what was the reaction from your family, your parents having somewhat of an investment in your counseling career?  
c. luluschwallmakeupartist

They were supportive...but they did not know that I would be on Vogue Italia's website only one year in. (neither did I)

How did you make the necessary connections?

Social media forums with all professions in the industry helped. If I see work from a photographer I like...I ask to work with them...then relationships are formed 

Any naysayers? 

Some catty people in the industry...they are just jealous and see me as competition...rightly so...

Tell me about your previous career. You liked counseling, no?

I did...but I was suffering major burn out!

In a sense you went from working on the psyche, or inside of people, to the outside. Can you talk some about the philosophy behind your company?

As far as my company philosophy it can be summed up in my tag line, "know your pretty.", and brains.... A woman can possess both at the same does not negate the other :)
c. luluschwallmakeupartist

What kinds of stressors do you deal with in your job as a make-up artist? 

Diva attitude, pressure to do a precise cat eye; Just pressure to get better and better at applying makeup and in different genres; vintage, pinup, editorial, commercial, special name it...I want to be good at it.

Do you deal with them differently than the ones in your previous job?

Not really I still talk things out when I have a problem. I have a makeup mentor who I get the best advice from. She has been in the industry much longer than me.

Lulu is much happier with her life now that she is pursuing her passion. She exudes it. It is very inspiring.


c. bsm '12