Lessons in Comedy
March began with me doing three shows in a week! I loved how busy it all felt. On Tuesday, I was invited to do a showcase at the VFW, on Thursday I performed at Bryant Lake Bowl for the LOL/OMG show, and Friday I had an awesome time slot in the Die Laughing marathon, where I got to do a half-hour set (that's the fundraiser for which I did "Brunch with Jakey" last year).
Show business, it seems, is kind of the devil. Yet you are always learning when you are in the trenches, and that is what I love.
First of all, the VFW show is really fun because they have a DJ by the stage and you can kind of riff with him and it's like having your own Paul Schaeffer. Bryant Lake Bowl was fun because I got to work with my friend Chris again, and Jason Schommer always puts together an eclectic and fun group. And Die Laughing was fun because of what I made out of it.
Other than my mom coming to the Bryant Lake Bowl show (which I really appreciated), nobody else I knew came to any of these gigs. Which is fine because no one owes you anything. I always believe that! But when people on Facebook insinuate they're going, and say they're gonna bring four of their friends, and then they don't, it becomes kind of a letdown. It especially felt his way at the Die Laughing Marathon, because I was led to believe that several folks from my high school were coming. I even brought my old yearbook! Also, the room was held in a HUGE banquet hall, so the audience of less than 20 looked even smaller.
But right before I got onstage, I realized the lesson. It does not matter how big your audience is, or who necessarily is in your audience. I mean, work certain angles if it makes the show better, but don't obsess over it being all women or all dudes or young/old whatever. It matters that you do your best to better yourself as a performer but more so for the people that are there. I let go of my disappointment that none of my friends showed up and had a damn good time on that stage. I was happy to learn that Fearless Comedy Productions achieved their fundraising goal over the weekend. Without them there would have been no Fringe Festival show for me, and I will always be grateful.
I walked to my car and made the drive back downtown. I realized it was a Friday night at 9 and were this just a week ago, I would have called Sean. We would have pre gamed at his apartment and maybe done Jetset or Saloon. Later in the month, Entertainment Weekly would do a full-length article on Delilah, the sappy radio DJ we both admired. It was an abrupt loss that, while certainly not romantic, was nonetheless difficult to process.
I had a paid gig that was cancelled a week later when I was the one who noticed the venue was advertising a completely different show for that evening. The booker felt bad and I didn't take it personally. Still. Show business is the devil.
I did the Tuesday Night Showcase the following week. I didn't do as well as the previous week because I was arriving right from work and was all frazzled and didn't have a clear routine. The crowd was still really cool. After the show, Gabe Noah, Isaac Witty and I went to The Saloon and drank Fireball and watched Latina drag queens and judged everybody doing karaoke. Life does not always have to suck.
My friend Sarah McPeck was the first ever female celebrity guest on Drag Queen Game Night! I was so proud of her. My friend Markie noticed my gut on this evening and later in the month an acquaintance grabbed a fat roll and on Easter Markie (again) would tell me to "suck it in". As stressed out as I have been lately, I am hoping some of it will lead to accidental weight loss.
Roll with the Punches
I lost my wallet for the 890th time. I didn't even lose it being drunk and stupid. I lost it while running around at work! It was so frustrating, especially because Jared and I were looking at new apartments. I mean, there's no good time to lose your wallet, but this occurrence especially sucked. Also, I got rid of most of my credit cards and I now bank with a teeny-tiny credit union. It's great except it is in the basement of a hospital, which is fitting in how bleak and depressing the whole thing is. My online banking doesn't work so I have no idea how much money is in my account, which might explain part of how my financial situation got so messy in the first place. I now send all financial correspondence to a lady named Karen who has an office in Jupiter, Florida. I find it no coincidence that the woman who deals with my financial recovery is in the same city that was the setting for a season of American Horror Story.
Jared and I looked at a place that was still in Loring Park. "It's good for the right person," said the leasing agent. By right person I think she meant Hobbit. The bedrooms didn't have closets! No self-respecting homosexual could have lived there! The reason Jared and I found a place we weren't terribly happy with was because we chose the first place we looked at, and we were determined to not repeat our mistake. A week before this, we found a beautiful place in Northeast Minneapolis that we couldn't afford but we were still devastated when we got there and found out it had been rented that morning! This may have been exacerbated by the fact that the most beautiful man we had ever seen had stepped out of the car in front of us. To think we would have been neighbors! It is all a mixed blessing because Tina Fey and Amy Poehler said the reason to their long-lasting friendship is that they have never liked the same man, and this currently is an accurate summary of the union I have with my nonsexual life partner.
We did have a horrific blow-up fight. I blame the moon. I can count on one hand the number of fights we've had, and this one was a doozy.
We had been at The Saloon the night before (I know, what a shock). I had made out with somebody who Jared likes -- not so much for himself (that would completely go against the Fey/Poehler thing I just talked about), but Jared really likes him for me, because he's actually nice. Yes, occasionally I hang out with gentlemen whose lives are not hot messes and are not as emotionally unavailable as a feral cat.
I say all of this because it is important to understand that this what Jared's intent was when were yelling at each other that morning.
In explaining my promiscuous behavior, I said, "I was being charitable," and I meant it rather flippantly. I have hardly had any actual sex partners. I just like making out. I'm a fake slut. I am the girl in eighth grade who everybody called a slut but was actually a virgin.
This set off a fuse, honeychile.
"Charitable?!!" he cried. "That's worse than anything [redacted] has ever said to you!"
"I don't know why you are bringing him up," I said. "This has nothing to do with him." I used to always be the one that always brought him up. We could be looking at Monet paintings and somehow it would remind me of him. Don't ask me why we would be looking at Monet paintings. That was a hypothetical.
"Charitable!" Jared repeated. "I can't believe you! Y'know, that's all Casey was to you! He even told Joey that! Why don't you ask him?!"
What I meant to say was, "This has been an illuminating way to look at myself and my behavior from an outside perspective."
What I may have said was, "Why don't you start looking at studio apartments, you fucking bitch?!"
And then we had to work together a few hours later. And, strangely, we were fine. I knew he meant that I should focus my heart and energy on nice guys. He just could have said that instead of bringing up two other dudes who had nothing to do with the current situation, especially one that was such a definitive part of my life (by my choice and no one else's) that he's damn near an Achilles' Heel. It felt like an ad hominem argument.
We went out one night and Joey got PUNCHED IN THE FACE. Can you believe it? We later found out who it was and it was miscommunication and nobody is suing anybody, but I was mortified. The poor boy had a fat lip for an entire week. Joey is beautiful and so it still looked okay, but I can't imagine how shell-shocking an unexpected physical assault would be.
Throughout this month, I learned that I had to pull a Joey and roll with the punches.
We ended March with a fantastic Flip Phone Event! I love Flip Phone! The theme was Aaliyah's Resurrection, but I never heard them play my favorite Aaliyah song, "Miss You" (which strangely is not on iTunes!)
DJ Fancy Restaurant graciously put me on the guest list because I partook in his musical chairs charity event (so fun!), but I was still nervous because I had no ID, but rather an expired passport and yellow papers. Joey and I were sure to arrive early.
"I'm on the list," I said. "Jakey Emmert."
The bouncer looked at the list and was confused.
"It might be under Jake," I said. "Or Jacob."
"Fuck it," he said. "I don't care. Just go in."
It wasn't quite a hot shit moment, but I'll take what I can get.
There are always so many cute boys at Flip Phone!! There's a boy who I only see at Flip Phone and i always want to talk to him but then I get nervous. Two young gays I know were there and they had a sexy friend visiting from Nebraska.
"They said you're an entertainer," said Nebraska.
"I'm a stripper," I joked.
"Me, too," he smiled. I don't know if he was kidding or not.
I mingled with friends that I had met at the musical chairs party and then I ran into Under Armour, Miles, and their bromo friends! A bromo is like a broski but slightly different, but a broski might not be gay (or at least open about it), while a bromo is openly gay but also very much a broski. They are broskis that happen to be gay. I follow a bunch of anonymous bromo accounts on Twitter and I shouldn't because I am 5-10 years older than most of them are, but they're always up at 3 A.M. tweeting and so am I.
Anyway, I learned I have no clue how to interact with bromos. One of them was named Hunter.
"Oh, like a bow and arrow?" I asked, trying to flirt. And then I pantomimed what I thought was a bow and arrow but the fourth bromo made fun of me and I think I ended up pantomiming writing calligraphy or something.
We ended up going to The Saloon later. I had fun while feeling slight pangs of an existential crisis. Hunter was there with his boyfriend, Joey and Miles were hitting it off, and Under Armour has a boyfriend but I still like awkwardly flirting with him because then there is no pressure. I am the funny one and not the sexy one and this isn't necessarily anything new ... I was first cognizant of this three years ago. But now I'm a little bit older and a little bit fatter and a little bit balder. And I resent the idea, perhaps in my head, that Joey is "the pretty one" and I am "the funny one" because we wouldn't be friends if that was the only thing he is. Joey is deep, intelligent, thoughtful, kind, funny, et cetera. But men do interact with him in a way different than me, with Jared being the wild card.
"He will never be you and you will never be him," Erin told me the next day. That was an important, calming perspective.
Sean and I made up. He cold-called me, took me to dinner at The Local, informed me that he had apologized to Joey and we were all going to carry on as normal. Then we went to his apartment, had mimosas while listening to sad music and playing Nintendo, and nightcapped at Jetset in a night full of laughter and whimsy.
Oh, wait. That was a dream I had.
In real life, he sent a very terse e-mail informing me that he was moving and that he still had my signed posters from my New Year's Eve gig and I had a week to get them before he threw them away.
I really did debate going. I had also made acquaintances with someone who lived in the same building and flirted with the idea of having that guy retrieve them for me, but I thought that would seem like fighting pettiness with pettiness. I didn't care about the posters as much as how it meant that, yes, this rewarding and enjoyable friendship was now officially trashed. I may lament that I've never been in a relationship, but at least I know what an icky break-up feels like.
And for the record, I still think of him with reverence. I don't think he's a shitty person. Far from it. He did a shitty thing and then acted shitty about it in the aftermath. And the triad that is Joey, Jared and I all got dumped. On we grow.
Things Turn Around
So I was in the dumps about no one coming to see my shows and losing my wallet and the abrupt friend break-up. I remember seeing a clip of Joan Rivers performing -- I forget if it's in her Emmy speech or elsewhere -- and she informs the audience that things turn around. It's an important mantra to have.
Comedy turned around. On the first Saturday of April, I was asked to perform at Club Underground's Saturday showcase by the very funny Nick Piontek. Even though the show was at 10, Charlie, Erin and her husband Robbie came to see me! Charlie even drove. Their presence made everything even more awesome. I did 15 minutes and was allowed to do more. My only regret is I used notes, which separates you from the professionals. There was a group of girls talking in the front row which pissed me off. For one thing, this wasn't a free show! You had to pay $5! Why would you pay money and then talk during the whole show?
"Hi, I'm talking and you're not," I said, and the crowd applauded. Then I tried new jokes about my brother's ex-girlfriend and they bombed. "Okay, you were right to talk during that one," I told them.
The next week was even crazier because I had two shows, and they couldn't have been any more different. On Friday night I performed at T-Buckets Hometown Bar in Somerset, Wisconsin. I drove fellow comedians Daryl Horner and Emily Johnson in my teeny tiny Toyota Yaris. Daryl was not surprised that we were listening to old-school Mariah Carey. Then we talked about A.J. Lee's surprising departure from WWE while poor Emily was cramped in the back seat.
Stillwater is beautiful! After Stillwater you get to Wisconsin and are in Somerset, which is ... not Stillwater. We arrived and I promptly locked my keys in the car for the third time this year. IT WAS THE SECOND WEEK OF APRIL. I am such a fucking space cadet. If there were a Space Cadet Olympics, I would win the gold medal. And then I would lose the medal.
Because my phone wasn't getting reception (and it's been acting up -- I can't have nice things), Emily let me use her phone to call AAA. That was great except that meant they would be calling her when they arrived, and Emily always records her sets with her phone. Thankfully, AAA arrived before the show started and I was able to relax. I felt bad because Daryl was trying to introduce me to the promoter and the bar owner and the one comedian I didn't know and all I could say was "Hi-I'm-Jakey-and-I-locked-my-keys-in-the-car." The bartender and his boyfriend were there to represent the gay population. They were cute and kinda sorta bromo but more in a country way, if that makes any sense. This made me feel better about doing gay jokes, because I wasn't sure how small-town Wisconsin would react to that. I don't say that in a belittling or elitist way. The bar owner talked to all of us before showtime and said that this is a crowd who comes to the bar because they actually want to watch the comedy show, which is always a nice thing to hear. The worst is when you perform at Comedy Night with a football game behind you and no one is listening. The only advice we got was to avoid any jokes about Republicans because these people have worked hard all week and the last thing they want to hear about is politics. And while I love my Scott Walker jokes, I understood that and complied.
I was the last comedian of the night before the very talented Bobby Burns sang some tunes, and the crowd was amazing -- as they were to all of us comics. Again, you are always learning when you do this. And I learned that even if you're at a bar where there is seemingly no civilization around you and the bar used to be a strip club with the former runway now nailed to the ceiling, it doesn't mean the people aren't gonna be receptive to you even if your subject matter might be -- in your snobby, city-living assumption -- unfamiliar to them. It is all in how you relate to your audience and adapt yourself as well. For example, I wore camo and I did jokes about my tenure at the prestigious UW-Stout.
Daryl had his own ride home for the evening, so Emily and I drove back to Minneapolis where we had an amazing conversation about comedy, love, and all in between. Our soundtrack was "My Love is Your Love" by Whitney Houston because I have inexplicably become obsessed with that album lately, particularly the title track. I want it played at my funeral.
Afterward, Jared joined us and we vamoosed to The Saloon, and then to an after-party at a friend's house on the North side. It's a particular kind of person that can hang out with you until 5 A.M.
I didn't work the next day, thank God! (I had told management that I just needed Friday and Saturday evening off that week, but they went ahead and gave me the whole two days. Okay, then). I went to go play Bingo with Dennis at LUSH. Dennis won twice but Dennis is a bingo queen. I won bupkis.
After that, I had to go put a fancy suit on because I was performing at a charity event!
This suit fit, THANK GOD. My weight has been fluctuating lately and yes I look totally bald. I don't care. It was for charity, dammit, specifically the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I was asked to do the show by the delightful Nadine Babu, who I think has five different high-profile jobs. I had only actually met her in person once before, and that was at her birthday party at Brit's Pub, where I stayed for five minutes. I was just as nervous for this show as I was for the one the night before, for entirely different reasons.
For one thing, I was scheduled to do 20-30 minutes. Two other comedians were to fill the hour with me. Since one of the other comedians was also gay (Matt Iverson, who I love!), we decided the straight guy should go in the middle. Oh, and did I mention this event was at Mississippi Dunes Golf Links in Cottage Grove? I wasn't even classy enough to be in proximity of the place.
I had never done a charity show before. A month ago when Nadine asked me to do it, I told her that I do gay jokes and I tend to go PG-13 (well, R, but even I knew what you could and couldn't say at a charity show). She said that was fine as long as I didn't say the F-bomb every other word.
My mom came as well, which warmed my heart. I got a plate of food and I sat at the table next to her and twitched a lot and ripped up my napkin and finally it was my time to perform. Would these people who I was perceiving to be stuffy and conservative want to hear about my gay shenanigans? They laughed at Matt's stuff and that was a good sign, because Matt works a little bit bluer than me (and he has his own entirely different persona, so it's still a variety when the two of us perform together).
I went up and told lame golf jokes (okay, one of them was a sexual metaphor involving golf) and made fun of Nadine because she was in the front row and the crowd could not have been nicer. I also have a new headshot.
My mother enjoyed the show so much that she bid on practically every item in the silent auction. "Mother," I said. "We can't carry all of this to the car if you win." Then a boy was texting me but our phones kept dying so we had to take turns charging them. She won four prizes. My mother at a silent auction is like me at an open bar.
This picture is how I will always want to remember her. She turned 58 a week after this. 58!! And skin like that!! This year I will turn the age she was when she gave birth to twin boys with the understanding that she was only carrying one child and had gained too much pregnancy weight. I will never know how she did it.
After writing about Witchy Weirdos for L'Etoile magazine's What's What, I thought it sounded like fun! I had the day off and asked Erin if she wanted to join me. It was super confusing to get there because it was actually out of someone's house. On the way a woman from her porch kept yelling "Dane! Dane!" I was oblivious until Erin informed me that this woman probably thought I was my twin brother. I said hello and she felt embarrassed, but I thought it was cute. Erin and I each signed up for 15-minute tarot card readings at $20 a pop via Cassandra Snow. I couldn't help but wonder if her namesake was real or an homage to the ancient soothsayer.
Before our readings, we were encouraged to try the astrology-inspired drinks. I knew looking at the choices that every option would make me crap myself, with the possible exception of Capricorn. But I had to choose my own sign! And I did pay for it later. My IBS picks weird times to act up and my butt is broken again and I probably have to go see my hunky doctor and this will be, like, the fourth time he's had to do this and then maybe I'll go to that colorectal specialist in Minneapolis and get something wacky done like Botox or some kind of scoping procedure. I have no reason to be writing about things like this. I hope you weren't eating.
My reading was first. I want to say that I love tarot and I completely understand if people are against it, for reasons either religious or skeptical or a combination of the two. I view it as a form of therapy.
I chose to ask a very broad question ("career, health and romance") and project only up to the next three months.
Cassandra was amazing and I highly recommend her if you're into that (Erin asked a specific career question and her reading was set up differently -- and was just as accurate). I was quietly relieved to see The Fool card displayed, because I always relate to that one.
Cassandra said I am going to be very busy in the next few months, and that it is going to be overwhelming, and that I need to buckle down and discipline myself so that I can be ready for these opportunities. "These offers are going to come out of nowhere," she said, and I believed her because that is how local stand-up comedy gigs work. If you understand tarot, I would like to note that almost all my suited cards were Wands with only one Sword and only one Pentacle. And when she got to that sword ... oh, boy.
"This card represents a clean break," she said. "There is someone in your life that is blocking you from all this success because they are taking up all your energy."
"This next card is someone a little bit older -- with their feet on their ground that could be an exciting new relationship. But you can't allow that until you get over this person."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," I said as Erin's ears were full of smoke.
"Wait," I said. "Can I still have this person in my life if everything stays the way it is?"
"Yes," said Cassandra. "But I can tell by all of these other cards and the look on your face that you're never going to be happy with that."
My feelings were complicated and I didn't even know what Mariah Carey song to best describe my emotions. It was that muddled. I chose Alanis instead.
And the last major of piece of news is that Jared and I found an apartment!!!
It was a miracle. It is the bottom half of a duplex and it is gorgeous. Huge living room! A walk-in closet in the bathroom! My own parking spot free of charge!
I successfully negotiated certain points of the lease (asking to pay on the 4th instead of the 1st and insisting we be able to pay separately). I was so adamant about this that I signed my e-mails by "Jacob M Emmert" even though they were coming from "Jakey Emmert" anyway. Lucky for me, they agreed! All we had to do was go to their office and sign the lease.
I also took out a small loan against my 401(k). I really didn't want do it, but it was a last resort after debt consolidation and I was rather conservative about it. I tried lying to my mom about it, but I can't lie to that woman! She has super powers, I swear. We went to my credit union in the hospital and then we stopped at a retirement party, where I found out my mom works with a male nurse who is even bawdier than I am. No wonder she gets me and Jared so well.
The office of DRG Management is in the North Loop. If you ever want to feel regrets about your life choices, go to the North Loop. My God. The neighborhood just screams young money and disposable income. Since our meeting was at 5 PM on a Friday, we were the only people in the office.
A boy who was cute in kind of a twinky way opened the door for us. A beautiful blonde woman offered us water or coffee. A bearded muscle bear sat at the desk and Jared practically swallowed his own tongue.
"Jared, grow up," I whispered. "We have to look like adults."
A tall, strapping young man close to my age -- younger or older but hard to tell -- in a button-down and tight dress pants walked by us.
"Hi," he smiled with dimples.
Hi. That's all he said. Nothing flirty, nothing sexual, nothing going beyond the scope of his occupation.
Children, I turned as red as a fire hydrant and could not stop giggling.
I blame Jared. Jared started laughing because he knew I would start laughing. Then it took me three times to write the security deposit check because I kept screwing up. Adulthood is hard.
It is at this point that I must acknowledge that this is possibly the series finale of our show, our 51 episodes (and then some) of self-discovery, romance, friends, laughter, boozing, heartbreak, career ups and downs, twists and turns that are the gays of our lives.
Or maybe I'm just changing the name.
You see, our new apartment is not in Loring Park. It is in Stevens Square, the next neighborhood over (Jared and I desperately wanted a 2-bedroom in the building next door but there were no vacancies. And next month Tan Man is moving in! He got in by a total loophole because he's taking someone's spot who's taking someone's spot who's moving in with their boyfriend or something -- he tried explaining it to me and I got a splitting headache).
I am grateful for the life I had before Loring Park -- maybe not that I spent three and a half years at my parents' house without saving a dime, but thankful for living with three straight dudes in a quasi-college experience and thankful for living with my uncle who helped me feel like an adult. (That was the perfect set-up with a two-bedroom, two-bath! If only if it was downtown and not in St. Anthony). But Loring Park, as you know, is where I truly started figuring out myself.
It was right after the play I was in rehearsals for after eight months shuttered itself without ever premiering. Joey and I became fast friends despite our age difference before he briefly moved back home to Wisconsin. Jared and Liam would stay over frequently. I could afford DVR and Rachel Maddow and Andy Cohen were part of my daily routine. I really liked Kevin and thought he was going to be my first boyfriend. I was afraid of Star Quarterback. Chuck and Peter were together and they would bring me grocery shopping and fix my TV. My neighbor girl was a fellow night owl, maybe or maybe not thanks to her Adderall prescription, and we would routinely stay up together until sunrise as if it were normal. I complained about being out of shape but I could still comfortably wear a tank top if I felt like it. The play abruptly ending led to a focus on my stand-up "career", and that summer -- and Season One of this fake reality that I considered a TV show -- ended with me being named the Funniest Person in the Twin Cities by ACME Comedy Club. If I will ever be nostalgic for a time in my life, it will be that summer. I really do think it was the best time of my life, and you never know that when it's happening. Only when it's over.
My subsequent years in Loring Park were still fun, but the money situation got out of hand. Work got really crappy and then really fun and then crappy again but now it's back to fun. My comedy "career" ebbs and flows. A boy who was really confusing and complicated came into my life like a hurricane, and I don't know if I'll ever get over it. The first step is wanting to get over it, and I'm not even there yet.
So, yes, that first summer -- if I could stay at any point in time, it would be then. And I am sure at the time I thought I was miserable. I wanted to get paid for comedy shows! (You couldn't have been a paid performer if you were in the ACME contest). I wanted to be famous! I wanted a bigger apartment! Why didn't Kevin call me back? Why is it impossible for my mezzanine-level apartment to have air conditioning?
I don't know what adventures await in this new chapter of my life. And what will we call the show?
Stevens Square Park?
I am leaning towards Loring Park Adjacent myself, an idea I gleefully stole from Kathy Griffin.
"You never leave Loring Park. It's like glitter. Somewhere it's always with you in the smallest way." -Iain St. James