Thursday, May 17, 2012

Crisis of Confidence

Are you on fire?
From the years...
What would you give
for your kid fears?

--Indigo Girls

A long(ish) pause since my last blog, yes. If you recall, when we left off, I was about to open for Martha Wash at Joe's Pub -- a gig about which I was feeling much excitement and trepidation. So how did it go?

It didn't go great.

It didn't go horribly, either. I mean, I don't think I embarrassed myself. The crowd just didn't quite know what to make of me. At the end of the day, I was opening for a (famous) singer at a music venue, which is not the ideal circumstance for a comedian. (It would have also helped had somebody at Joe's Pub introduced me. There is nothing worse than walking out on-stage in front of a cold crowd that isn't there to see you and basically being like, "Hi, I'm a shithead you've never heard of, and I'm going to tell you some jokes for the next 15 minutes while you wait to see the person you did come to see.")

Who the fuck is Adam Sank?

There were several other mitigating factors. It was ridiculously hot in the theater, and by the end of my 15 minutes, I was drenched in sweat. I thought perhaps it was just me -- but when I joined the crowd to watch the rest of the show, I realized it was hot everywhere. Prior to my set, I had not been allowed in the dressing room with "Ms. Wash" and her band but was rather made to stand in the service area, where I was repeatedly trampled by passing waitstaff. And as previously mentioned, there was no introduction for me. In toto, a rather stressful situation, and not one conducive to going out on-stage and blowing the roof off.

My dear friend, the infamous party promoter Daniel Nardicio, was among the crowd that night and tried to convince me, in his own backhanded way, that it didn't go as badly as I thought. "It wasn't that they didn't think you were funny," he explained. "They just didn't know you were a comedian. It felt like you were just the host, making a few remarks before you brought out the main act."

"Look," he continued, "I would tell you if you were really terrible. I mean, maybe I wouldn't. But you weren't."

Gotta love that old party goat.

Still, here's how I know it didn't go that well:

In the weeks leading up to the event, I was in regular email contact with a guy from the PR company handling the event. He was, for all intents and purposes, the show producer. Let's call him Frank. Anytime I emailed Frank, right up to the day of the event, he emailed me back immediately. And he was the one who greeted me when I arrived at the theater.

After the concert -- Martha was amazing, by the way -- I saw Frank backstage. I shook his hand and said, "Thanks, that was so fun!" His reply was: "Adam." Just that. My name. Accompanied by a frozen smile.

I got home that night and reflected on everything that had gone down. Had I chosen appropriate material? Had I been upbeat and energetic? Had I done exactly the amount of time they told me to? Had I mentioned Martha Wash a number of times during my set, acknowledging that the audience had come for her? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Perhaps I was being too hard on myself. I did my best, goddammit! Who could have done better, given the situation? Frank's reaction to me after the show probably had nothing to do with me -- he was probably busy and worrying about other issues.

Feeling somewhat relieved after this self-pep-talk, I dashed out an email to Frank the next morning:

Hey, Frank.
Just wanted to thank you again for last night. It was an honor and privilege to open for such an amazing artist. I hope to work with you again sometime soon.
Thanks and best,

Adam Sank
Comedian, Actor, Lover of Salad 

That was 12 days ago. I still haven't gotten a reply.

So yeah, it didn't go great.

This is only the latest chapter in a larger crisis of confidence through which I've been suffering for months now. It's certainly not the first of such crises; self-doubt is an inherent characteristic of most performers. In my experience, the only performers who never doubt their talent pretty much suck on-stage, and they're in total denial about it. But this is one of the longest and most debilitating of such periods since I started doing stand-up nine years ago.

To put it bluntly, I just don't feel all that funny lately.

Writing comedy has always been a challenge for me, as it is for everybody who tries to do it. But in the past, I could always rely on bursts of inspiration to keep me going. And lately, I can't. I wrote about this last month, and the problem is still happening. The creative voice is quiet. And when it does speak -- when I do get an idea for a new bit and work it out in my head and feel like, "OK, here's something great!" -- I bring it to the stage, and it fizzles. So I don't trust that voice anymore, and I'm kind of like, "Fuck you, Voice! When are you going to get funny again?"

And that leads to fear of going on-stage. And fear is death for a comedian. If you don't believe in your voice, nobody in the crowd is going to either. Comics are salespeople, first and foremost. And you can't sell a product you know is shitty.

Oh shit -- Donna Summer just died. Nobody's going to care about my stupid little pity party today.

RIP, Donna.


Something needs to change soon. Either I need to get over this shit, or I need to throw in the towel and admit that after nine years, I've gone as far as I can go in comedy, and it's time to find a new outlet for all my restive creative energy.

I have two important gigs this weekend -- my semi-annual show at the Elks lodge in my hometown and New Hope Pride, at which I'm opening for Poppy Champlin. So let's see how those go.

Homo at a crossroads.

P.S. I about to totally re-do my kitchen. I'll tell you all about it next time, and I promise it'll be less depressing than this ca-ca.


Rebecca Olgeirson said...

I was worried your radio silence meant not a great show. It sounds like a tough crowd, not that it makes it any easier on you now. Fuck it - you are smart, funny and talented even on you bad days. I hope something good happens to you in the next few days to help put this time of the blahs behind you and you can move on two great shows this weekend!!!

jshurman said...

For what it's worth, we know you've got serious talent and can't wait to see you at the Elks Club. We've been counting down to the 19th! The last time we laughed so much was when you were there last year!

Anonymous said...

Don't give up! You just need to find new inspiration. Xoxo, Amy (sent from Hanoi, Vietnam)