Wednesday, June 15, 2011


DSCF1557Back in April, I blogged about trying to be entertaining. I also mentioned the little stand-up routine I’d developed in conjunction with my KILLER ROUTINE promotional appearances. I’m here today to report on what transpired.

It wasn’t always pretty.

Here’s a dissection of my presentation.

I began with a few warm-up witticisms. “How many people have come to one of my events before?” “How many people have heard me speak more than once?” “How many people are just here for the cake?”

Then I talked a little bit about my books, and why I decided to write a series featuring a stand-up comic. To explore that fine line between comedy and tragedy. To have a suspenseful mystery with an “excuse” to include some humor. So I could watch Comedy Central and count it as research.

While the books in the Last Laff series are not funny-funny, there are spots where characters perform stand-up routines. I went on to explain the difficulty I found in writing a routine to be read and not performed. Without the benefit of the comic’s timing, delivery style, and attitude, the routine is apt to come off pretty flat on paper. To illustrate this point, I read a short bit I’d transcribed from a Brand-Name Comedian. Predictably (and with my delivery style), it indeed fell flat.

I described what I did to circumvent this. I chose a secondary character and had him perform at an open-mic night, where the comedy standards are, well, practically non-existent. I went on to explain how an open-mic night works and then I suggested we simulate one. Right there on the spot.

Who wants to go first?

That’s when I shucked my writer persona and donned my stand-up identity.

After writing a few crime fiction manuscripts, I realized I needed to do some research to learn more about crime. So I knocked over a 7-Eleven.

I discovered that my “comedy” went over better when there were more people in the audience, and that I fed off their energy.

All writers I know eagerly anticipate their reviews, and I’ve been fortunate to get some good ones, for both books. But my favorite review is about DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, and it’s from my son: “No offense, Dad, but that book is way too good to have been written by you.”

I’ve always held an admiration for stand-up comics. Now, it’s doubled. That’s hard work, getting people to laugh. Hard, hard work.

If you’re a writer, you will encounter rejection. A lot of rejection. That’s why you need a really thick skin. And I’m used to rejection, I really am. But lately, it seems like things have been getting worse:

Prince Makeenu of the Royal Family of Nigeria keeps refusing my checks.

Harry and David wouldn’t let me join their Fruit-of-the-Month Club.

Rejection just follows me around. The Salvation Army won’t take any of my old clothes. What’s worse, they won’t take any of my new clothes, either!

So far, I’d have to judge my experiment as a success. Many attendees made a point of coming up and telling me how much they enjoyed the presentation. They thought it was entertaining, even when my jokes bombed.

Now, I did notice a few uneasy looks from the audience, and I imagined them trying to extrapolate my writing ability from how I performed my comedy shtick. So to put people at ease, I made sure to sign books with the inscription: Don’t worry, my writing is better than my stand-up.

I hope they bought it!



Lisa Bork said...

Oh, Alan, I laughed at your jokes. I can picture you doing your standup and being great at it. Best of luck with the series.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Wish I could have been in the audience! Love your jokes here! I think that writing stand-up has got to be incredibly hard. Your method for approaching it (supporting character at an open mic night) sounds brilliant!

Jessica Lourey said...

It's funny how the lamer ones are funnier--they hurt, you know? :) You are an inspiration to all of us shut-in introvert writers everywhere.

Robin Allen said...

You're a brave man, Alan!

Lois Winston said...

Alan, ditto what Robin said. You are indeed a brave man. I can write funny, but I can't tell a joke to save my life. The thought of doing so in front of an audience would reduce me to a puddle of quivering Jello!

Alan Orloff said...

Lisa - Thanks! You're an easy audience.

Elizabeth - I suppose that one of these days, I'll have to write something genuinely funny. I'd better start now!

Jess - I don't think I killed, but I definitely maimed.

Robin - Thanks! I don't know about brave. Foolish, perhaps.

Lois - Thanks! Writing funny and performing funny are two very different things.

Beth Groundwater said...

Loved your jokes, Alan! Especially the rejection ones. And what a great way to sign your books. Let me know if you're ever in Colorado, and I'll help you get a stand-up signing gig here. :)

Keith Raffel said...

Alan, isn't the next step after stand-up getting your own sit com? Can't wait to see you on TV.

Alan Orloff said...

Beth - Thanks! But those weren't jokes about rejection. Those were the truth!

Keith - And after the sitcom, comes the boozy, drug-infested rehab reality shows! Cant' wait!

Darrell James said...

I'm sure you killed, Alan! (pun intended). I've always thought stand-up must be the toughest gig around. My attempts at comedy usually fall short. I have to hand it to you. You're a brave, brave man.

Terri Bischoff said...

Alan - you totally crack me up. :D

Kathleen Ernst said...

Alan, you're a nice guy, funny, and a good writer, which should be enough to ensure your success. But now you've developed unique presentation style as well! I'm sure you charmed the proverbial socks off everyone!

Alan Orloff said...

Darrell - Killed? Not sure about that. Well, there were a couple people with their eyes closed when I was finished, but I think I just had bored them to sleep.

Terri - Thanks! Will you sit in the front row during my HBO special and laugh real hard when the camera shines on you?

Kathleen - "Unique presentation style." That's going in my book of left-handed compliments!! :)