Sunday, July 6, 2014

Holy shit, five years

Holy shit. A half of a decade. A quarter of a two decades. Eh, screw it, you get the gist.

But the point is, I've been in the comedy world for five years. Comedy, to me, has been a life-changing journey full of laughs, self-discovery, pain, fun, rejection, stupidity, and a bunch of other words I can't think of right now. I know most people who know me don't really care, but comedy means so much to me. I've met some incredible people, I've made friends that will last for the rest of my life, all because I wanted to be funny. For those of you who are comics and have seen me for less time, my comedy journey began with one simple blog post from the NY Times.

When my joke got featured, I remember losing my shit. I freaked out, I told everybody I knew, because for the first time, I was published. Looking back on it, the joke really wasn't that good (at all), but for the first year of comedy, that blog is what I stuck to. I felt accomplished every time I made the blog, and I was disappointed every time I didn't, but hey, that's life. Throughout that first year (my junior year of high school), I learned the art and science of the punchline by writing and watching (especially Leno), my writing got stronger, and in general, I got funnier. After my first year, I decided that there was no turning back. I was going to be in the comedy world for good.

My highlight of my first year of comedy was meeting Jay Leno. There are many people who think of him as kind of a hack (in fact, one friend of mine referred to him as "the worst"), but watching him made me want to go into comedy. I dreamed of being one of his writers, and I thought I could do it. I got to meet him in the spring of 2010 when I went on a spring break trip to LA with my mom, her boyfriend, and his son. It was a great trip for me because I got to experience comedy in real life, and it was mind blowing. After the show, someone who worked there took us backstage to the green room, where Leno came out in his typical all-denim style. He was super nice to me and everyone I was with. I will never forget that day because I realized that even the most successful comics will reach out to people just starting out.

The next year for me (my senior year of high school) was fairly uneventful. I wrote jokes, I did my thing and such. That year, only two noteworthy things happened, one good and one bad. The bad event happened in September 29th, 2010. Greg Giraldo, who would become my favorite comedian and still is to this day, died. I'll never forget where I was. I was in my bed about to go to sleep when my friend Alex texted me and said that he died. I was shocked, but it didn't really affect me severely until I watched his standup, then I realized what a truly brilliant comic he was.

The good thing remember happening that year (besides graduating high school) was what I think of as my first really good joke. The joke was "A new British beer contains Viagra. Let me suggest a name: Mike's Hard." With that joke, I had evolved into the next stage of comedic writing: dick jokes. I can now say I have a dick joke. That joke was my first tweet on my joke Twitter account, it was a staff pick on DailyComedy, it was featured on Reddit, and a little over a year later, the Huffington Post. It's truly great to me what one joke can do for you.

It was also at the end of my second year where I started my first all-joke Twitter account: @GroperCleveland. How I thought of that name, I don't have a clue. All I remember was that it was funny to me, and ever since then, it stuck. Jimmy Fallon said ON AIR that my Twitter screen name was funny (then again, Jimmy Fallon thinks Jimmy Fallon is funny, so it could go either way). I'm still extremely active on that account to this day, and I've had stuff on there that's disappeared into obscurity, and some stuff that has stuck. I've enjoyed every second of it.

My third year of comedy (my FIRST freshman year of college) was probably the most rocky year of my comedy career. It started out awful. I did start standup comedy at Go Bananas, and the first six months of my comedy career, well, I like to think of that as a bad dream. That's all it will be to me. I don't even count it as time spent doing standup, that's how bad it was.

This third year of comedy was also when I hit my personal low, which, unfortunately, involved comedy. It all started in August 2011 when I made jokes about the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, not knowing that anyone I knew was hurt. As it turns out, my friend Jaymie and our school's cheerleading coach Meagan were both seriously injured. Jaymie recovered and is fine now, but unfortunately, Meagan ended up dying. After that night when I found out that people I knew were hurt, I immediately apologized to Jaymie, and she said it was alright. However, in December 2011, I was in sort of a shitty mood, so for some reason, I went on Facebook and made some jokes related to that Indiana State Fair stage collapse. Why I did it, I don't know (probably attention that I so badly craved at the time, I don't know, and by I don't know, I mean yes it was). That night, I fed off of it, and kept going for some reason. I pissed off everyone that I went to high school with, and for about a week, or maybe even a month, everyone I knew hated me. I felt super alone. The next day, I treated that situation like I killed someone. I was in major damage control mode for about a week. I apologized to everyone, and while it took time for forgiveness, everyone eventually forgave me.

Do I regret what I did on those two occasions? Yes and no. I do regret it because I hurt several people I knew with what I thought was funny, and words can never be taken back. However, I don't regret it because it was a major learning experience for me. I learned that I have to be careful with what I say, as words can come back to haunt me.

As the end of my third year in comedy ended, my comedy career did begin to pick up. Instead of focusing on pop culture for my standup, I began focusing on me and what was funny about me. Almost immediately after that, I started to garner respect from fellow comics. I transitioned from learning the art of the one liner to the art of the bit, and that's where everything in standup sort of took off. I began meeting comics, I began going to shows and appreciating comedy for what it truly is.

My fourth year of comedy (my SECOND freshman year of college) essentially picked up where I left off from my third year. I began getting recognition from other comics as being funny, and on a fall night in 2012, what I think of as my first comedy accomplishment came about. In September 2012, I was invited to perform at the Northern Kentucky University Last Comic Standing competition. I auditioned, and that was a breeze to get through. That night, a ton of people showed up to watch, including three NKU staff members. There were five comics: Me, my friends Jake and Alex, a guy named Kevin who didn't do standup but liked comedy, and a girl named Pam who got all her jokes off the internet. It was a three round competition: the first round was standup, the second round was where we all told a one-liner, and the third round was improv with the MC, which was a comic named Kelly Collette. I eased my way into the finals with my friend Alex, and we were both given a topic. I don't remember what Alex's topic was, but I do remember that my topic was sex, which was hysterical for me. I had to act out me trying to have sex with her, and it was exactly like me trying to get with every other girl. And by that, I mean it didn't actually work and everyone watched and laughed at me. When I was in that round, I was super nervous because I had very little experience with improv. When she asked me whether I had sex before, I said "I don't know" (yeah, I was that nervous). Yeah, some things were said that made people laugh, but I'll never forget one thing I said. Kelly made a callback to when I said I don't know whether I've had sex before, and she said "What do you mean you've never had sex before", and I said, "Well, I went to church a lot when I was little and I don't remember a whole lot". When I said that, the whole room started laughing, and that was one of the best feelings I've ever had as a comic. After that round, ballots were collected to see who won, and I ended up winning. I won a hundred bucks, which was worth about two tanks of gas to me, and validation, which was worth about everything to me.

After that competition, I continued on in my comedy career, writing bits about how I grew up and things about my life that made me laugh. Things got better, things went on, and I progressed more in the Cincinnati comedy scene. I started doing guest sets for weekend shows, I opened up a few pro-am shows, and I began garnering even more respect from some people outside the city.

For me, my favorite point of my comedy career was the summer of 2013. I had some of the best shows I've ever done (and one of the worst). I did the Funniest Person in Cincinnati contest, which I did not move on in, which is fine. However, the next week, I had two shows that I desperately needed. They were both at bars in Cincinnati, and I had great sets at both of them. Things were going great for me, as I opened up more pro-am shows, did more guest spots, did my first comedy festival, and garnered respect from more people in the scene. I even had headliners say I was funny, which absolutely blew my mind. However, one morning in July of 2013, I thought of what I consider to be the funniest joke I have ever written.

I remember I had shitty sleeping habits that summer, which was fine, because I didn't have much to do during that time. But one morning, I was up in my bed, and I was riffing about the subject of prom night dumpster babies for some reason (when I find a subject that I'm interested in, I'll try and think of some jokes about it, which is, well, riffing). That riff culminated with a joke that is, to this day, one that I consider to be absolute gold (it's the second joke on the clip, and they cut out about half of the laugh in that joke). When I thought of that joke, I about died. I couldn't believe I had come up with a joke that funny. I laughed to myself for about fifteen minutes straight. Once I did that, I immediately put that in tweet form, put it in my draft folder on Twitter, and went to sleep. In the middle of the day, I decided to tweet it. It didn't get much Twitter love, so I decided to turn it into a bit, and that didn't get much love either. However, I brought it back for a roast of a friend of mine that I did, and a couple of my friends told me how funny they thought that joke was, so I kept it in that form. Later on, I was set to perform at a Go Bananas pro-am show, and I was nervous about telling that joke because it has kind of a dark side to it. When I told it in a sparsely filled bar, it got a ten second laugh, which was monstrous for me. I then told it at Go Bananas, and it got about the same laugh (including a "wow" and a "woo"). It felt great, as a ton of people came up to me after the show and said that joke was super funny. To culminate everything, Rooftop Comedy asked me if it could be a clip on their website, to which I immediately agreed. Then, I put that on Facebook, and thankfully, it worked. A lot of my friends said that they loved the joke, and I had MCs and features alike go out of their way to tell me how funny that joke is.

After I came up with that joke, it didn't work very well, but I previously mentioned that I did a roast for my friend Jay, and that might be the best night of comedy I've ever had. Every joke ranged from doing alright to destroying the entire room, and after that, multiple people said I was the best act of the night. Doing a roast was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and I prepared extra hard for it. Well, it ended up working, and I loved it. Not much happened after that. I kept doing pro-am shows, I kept progressing (slowly but surely), and I came up with more bits.

What do the next five years have in store for me? My first MC weekend? Maybe even a feature weekend? Who knows. Comedy is an unpredictable thing, but as long as I work hard, anything is possible. I know I have what it takes, but it's just the effort that I need to put in and great things are possible. Anyone who has made any part of these last five years possible, I can't thank you enough. If it wasn't for comedy, who knows where I'd be. I do comedy because I have the ability to, and I love doing it. I make fun of my flaws, I make fun of what happens to me, and while I come across as a guy who has a low self esteem (I kinda do), me being able to joke about myself makes me kind of alright with everything.

I'm going to end this post the way I've ended my stage performances for the past two and a half years: You guys, I've been Alex Schubert, thank you very much.

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