Skip to main content

Awful Experience? Awesome story! Stevie GB's Human Comedy

     "You should bring something into the world that wasn't in the world before. 
It doesn't matter what that is. It doesn't matter if it's a table or a film or gardening--everyone should create. 
You should do something, then sit back and say, ‘I did that.’” Ricky Gervais

 Funny story. 'I was hired to do a private party for a Pakastani family," states Long Island comic Stevie GB, who performs regularly in the Long Island Comedy Festival and has opened
by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP
for comedy legends such as Louis Anderson, Uncle Floyd and Bobby Collins. "The son had become a doctor. I arrive at their house to discover the show is in their living room. For 7 people. I'm thinking 'they won't understand my jokes.' 'This is so strange and uncomfortable.' I almost bailed out.:
    And there there was the time he was hired to perform a half hour of stand-up at an outdoor 4th of July party. 'It was the worst idea they could have come up with," he laughs. "Not only was I competing with fireworks going off on my punchlines, but nobody was interested in the idiot with a microphone telling jokes. I had three kids standing with their pool towels on just staring at me. The only laugh I got was when the dog licked
Award-winning comic Stevie GB
my water bottle that was on the ground. It was awful." And if the stories ended there they would be a few of what most professional comics and people in creative fields experience as a boatload of public defeats despite enormous effort and commitment. But there's more.
The July 4 party was a rough day. "But there was a DJ at the party who admired my bravery to 'get through it' and he took my business card," he continues. "About a year later, that DJ called me and invited me to do a comedy gig on the yacht of 60's artist Peter Max. So, if I had bailed out, I would have never got the Peter Max gig." And the other story, about the family party, also ends on a high note. "It turned out to be one of the best shows I ever did," says Stevie. "They were wonderful and still attend many of my shows, always bringing a group of people. Sometimes more than 7...Not sure why those people weren't invited to the original party." Oh, and about the Peter Max gig? "It was also a disaster, but who cares. I have two great stories about of one bad experience."
    If stand-up comedy were an Olympic sport, it would be the high-dive. No team players to rely on or hand-off to, a solo, self-styled performance with a high degree of difficulty. But the high-dive is practiced in private, the pressure of performance coming only after long hours developing the skill in front of only coaches and supporters. Comedy has to be tested in real-time with real people. And material that works with one group of people can flat-line with another. So comedians have endured public failure and private self-doubt that everyone can relate to, and have a unique wisdom about living a creative life as a result. The writing process, for example, is a very clear parallel to the psychological challenges of solving difficult problems in any area of life. "I am not the type that can just sit down and write every day," states Stevie GB. "I get creative surges. I can go weeks or months writing nothing. Then all of a sudden I am writing like a fool. I take full advantage of these fleeting moments. Interestingly, they tend to come when I am stressed or even depressed. Those low times tend to spark my creativity."
    In a brilliant breakdown of the creative process for both artistic work and for increased originality and productivity in any area of life, Monty Python legend John Cleese describes this very process as engaging the very powerful psychological and emotional force of our unconscious mind. "We can't control our unconscious but we can look to how we can create the circumstance in which it becomes easier for us to work with it" he states in Fast Company's "Four Lessons In Creativity"  Among the key, practical traits of highly creative people he identifies the ability to become "utterly absorbed" in a problem similar to a child at play, and the ability to defer making decisions as long as possible. Engaging in childlike play, according to Cleese, puts us "much more in touch with the unconscious." And "when you defer decisions as long as possible, its giving the unconscious the maximum amount of time to come up with something." This can be particularly challenging in our age of immediacy, when the pressure to produce content is constant. But it is good advice - try it with a side of "Creativity Tips From 5 Very Funny People - not only for developing our own authentic sense of self but a skill transferable to thinking about problems and navigating uncertainty with the greatest possible creative energy.
  For Steve GB, who recently performed his most recent one-man show "Welcome To Lawn Guyland" authenticity is one cornerstone of his success as a writer and performer. "The most important component is honesty. I write from a place of truth, no matter how painful it might be. If I don't believe what I am saying, how can I expect the audience to believe it? That and coffee." Being funny started out as a kind of survival skill him, having been "the skinniest kid with glasses and acne" who learned that "making the bullies laugh stopped them from beating me up." Even with this super-power to disarm the bad guys and a lifetime making a study of the art of comedy, it took him to age 33 to get up on stage - on a dare from a co-worker - where he felt an immediate sense of belonging.

  Success as a headliner and Off-Broadway in a field with such a high degree of difficulty does not take away the dread of another rejection or professional disappointment. "The idea of failing and being afraid hits me every single time I am about to go on the stage," he reveals. "Will they hate me? Will I forget everything? I look for the closest escape route. I am proud to say that I have never backed out of a gig. Even the ones that go horribly wrong, and there have been many, I felt good that I didn't run away."
  Keeping a commitment. Making the most out of a difficult situation. In the improvisation world we call this "failing up" among the essential elements of a creative life. And the stuff of great stories. Going after the experiences and kind of life we feel deeply about will almost always be difficult and come with its share of adversity, but with the right mindset we can make something interesting and useful out of all of it, a skill stand-up comics deploy to amazing effect. "Its the hell gigs that I learn from and they also make for the best stories," says Stevie. "The only time we fail is when we don't do it."

"LAUGHTER IN THE LOBBY" AT THE PATCHOGUE THEATER in Patchogue, NY  2/13/15, 3/6/15, 4/16/15 and 5/8/15.

FEATURED STORYTELLER IN (MOSTLY) TRUE THINGS ON SATURDAY 2/28/15 at Performing Arts Studio of New York in Port Jefferson.

CLEAN COMEDY ALL STARS on Sunday March 15 at 3 pm, Brokerage Comedy Club.

Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP is a writer/performer and consultant/trainer. She is creator and host of (mostly) TRUE THINGS, a storytelling slam with a twist. @JuTrWolff


Popular posts from this blog

Improvisation Games & Exercises For Developing Emotional Intelligence

    Since September Lifestage has been offering a monthly training workshop exploring the use of improvisation to develop Emotional Intelligence . These workshops have been geared toward the work done by clinicians, educators and trainers who guide the process of personal change or professional development, but as it turns out we have enjoyed some interesting diversity among the participants -  managers, business owners with both employees and customers, community activists, and performers.      Below is a collection of the exercises we have used in the workshops, accompanied by some studies that supports their use.  by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP       Why Improvisation? Improvisation is a powerful way to become aware of mental habits and patterns. Reflecting on our inner experiences after engaging in an improvisation exercise provides an opportunity to decide whether our mental habits are effective and useful or self-limiting and obsolete.  The tensions of the crea

WARM-UP EXERCISES FOR GROUP WORK - For Therapeutic, Educational or Training Groups

Nicholas Wolff, LCSW, BCD, TEP , Director of Training at Lifestage, Inc and Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP, Trainer/consultant and writer/performer. Follow on twitter @JuTrWolff         “To begin assembly one must have the right attitude,” goes a Japanese instruction for assembling a particular object, as quoted in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance. The "right attitude" is one that best serves the action we are preparing to engage in, j ust as an athlete warms up his/her muscles before using them in the stress of a work-out or game. Psychological and emotional "muscles" that are properly warmed up will perform more effectively and make it less likely that we will experience strain or allow fear to produce a shut-out when things get rolling.     The right warm-up makes everything learned in a training situation or classroom more accessible and immediately useful to the trainee/student. New skills and knowledge - in education, personal growth or a profe

Stories To Light Up The Night: An Interview With International Teacher/Trainer, Storyteller and Author Susan Perrow

        "It is easy to forget how mysterious and mighty stories are. They do their work in silence, invisibly. They work with all the internal materials of the mind and self. They become part of you while changing you." Ben Okri, Birds of Heaven Stories can change your life and when they do you almost never see it coming. The way a story gets into our consciousness is often subtle and suprising. Something about it sticks. And if we allow the story to do its work it sticks exactly where we need it. This is true of both receiving a story and making one. The skills required to weave together character, conflict and color to create a vivid and imagination-grabbing tale that is also transformative takes time, training and experience to develop. It helps to be familiar with the impact of stories on our own inner life, recovery and growth. It helps also to have an inspiring, gifted teacher to guide the process.        Such was my experience in April at a full-day wo