After two months of fund-raising, planning, auditioning and general day dreaming, the time has finally come. It was the week that I celebrate a bunch of things. One, the culmination of my first year as a stand up comic. Second, the last huge thing I do before I turn 30. And finally, just me going back to basics: going off to a venture that's over my head, alone (relatively), for something I've come to deeply love.
Basically, I went to Hong Kong, made people laugh, even made a few new friends, and I went home with a smile and a clearer head.
Second Skin. I don't know if I've written about it before, but I have also been spending a lot of time the past couple of months looking for a new jacket. Those who have been hanging out on me for a relatively long time would know that I have developed some sort of need to be wearing a black jacket on a daily basis. It's something that started back in 1999, and it's become my security blanket. I've had a few black jackets in my time. The first one I wore for three years and I lost it in one of my stints as a tour guide. (Seemed appropriate at the time, as I had just graduated college.) The next one, I gave to a girlfriend after serving its purpose for another three years, give or take. The one I replaced it with has already been in tatters by the time I retired it months ago.
I found a jacket worthy to serve my needs, and as usual, it was cheap, off the rack, and the last one there. I held out on buying it, waiting for the right time for me to finally wear it. Since the Hong Kong thing came around, I figured there was no other time more appropriate.
Most people would roll their eyes on this imagined need of mine, but the jacket and me go a long way back, and if I were to face this important event, I figured it was best to look like my "ideal" me. It's a tad eccentric, but it did help. I always feel naked without that additional layer of clothing. I look forward to the adventures the new jacket and I would be having.
The Pre-Festival Party. The moment the plane touched down in Hong Kong, I was itching to go and find a hotel and get ready for the show. (In my quest of auditioning and raising funds, I managed to forget the fact that I actually had to prepare jokes for the contest itself.) My mother, who, as I mentioned invited herself to this trip, much to my financial advantage but to a little personal confusion, was being wowed by the sights of being in a new land (a land she's been in quite a few times). The only thing that impressed me was the breakfast food at McDonald's were more awesome than what the fast-food joints at home had to offer
What can I say, I'm just not one for all the touristy shit. I'm the type of guy who'd only travel if there's a distinct and specific purpose. Looking at pretty things just for the sake of looking, well, as a co-worker mentioned recently, we have the Internet for that.
We eventually found the comedy club, and found a hotel that was closely, and I spent the day working on my set while my mother went about her merry way. Come night time, I set out on my own, wanting to meet the people who set the whole contest up in a pre-festival party.
I got lost, of course. It felt good. Me, in a strange place, a big city, with nothing but my wits, a pack of cigarettes and a map. It took a lot of the edge off. I eventually found my way, and the party itself was rather understated. I did meet a few interesting people. There was this American comedian, who's returning to the contest for the third time, and one who I've performed with months ago in Votre. He was actually the one who told me to join several months back, but I didn't bring it up, cause I doubt he'd remember. I met an author who gave me a signed copy of his book, and told me that "Life is limitless". Preaching to the choir, dawg. I shook some more hands, traded a few stories and then went back to the hotel.
It was the first time the whole thing felt real to me. The whole trip, I was numb. I even lost all the excitement that was building up for the past couple of weeks. But being at that party, the whole thing became genuine, immediate, and most of all, fun. I knew that it was going to be an honor, and it was, just being there, among all of these gifted people.
Conversations with People Back Home. The day of my performance, I decided to lock myself up in my hotel room while my mother was out enjoying all that is Hong Kong. I went over my set over and over, timing myself, doing the whole preparation thing that I should have done the moment I decided to go and join the contest. Suffice to say, I was a nervous wreck. Hell, I was bundle of nerves overtime I had to do Votre or any other rinky dink joint back home. This was a totally different league, and I was delightfully close to a breakdown.
I decided to go online for some reason, and I spent the day chatting with a few friends and some people from work. A lot of them were supportive, and helped calm me down a bit. Two conversations stood out from all those people I chatted with.
One was with a friend from work, KM (I'll have a nickname for her by the end of this post.). We talked about the usual goings on in her life, as, for some reason, I've been privy to the happenings that occur in her particular sphere during the past few months. And during her usual updates (the girl's got the kind of drama that holds my interest), somehow the conversation veered towards my direction. I guess she caught me at a vulnerable time, so I was more open to her than I've been to most people in my life that I've known for only a short time. (I usually start opening up after at least a year or two, and even that's rare.) She opened my mind to certain questions that I've heard from other people before, but I usually immediately dismiss considering the source. I view her, KM, as one of those rare breed of people who are actual survivors… people who had gone through hell and back with not much to show for it but a renewed smile, some battle scars, and a shitload of wisdom. The usual people who have given me the same advice that she did is mostly those who has just been saddled with first world problems for the majority of their respectively uneventful lives. The main point of our lengthy conversation is that after this whole Hong Kong thing is done, it was time for me to focus on the id… to discover who the real "me" truly is. Not the comedian, or the brain, or everyone's best friend, or the writer, or Captain Good Times, or the one with the messiah complex, or all of the other facades I like putting up depending on who I happen to be rolling with on that day. Just take some time to rediscover me before I continue serving others. I appreciated someone of substance finally telling me that, and again, I made plans of doing just that. Plus, I promoted KM to be my life coach. (I initially called her my therapist, but I already have that, and therapists are supposed to be nice.)
The other conversation was a lot less pop-psychology and a little more bro-ic. And again, surprisingly so, it was The Critic that resoundingly calmed my nerves and finished what KM started. The Critic, of all people, reminded me of who I was during our "golden years". He reminded of that time when he and I took on the entire class' projects as a freelance gig, and despite everything went wrong, I was the one who kept it together. He reminded me of some of my greatest strengths, strengths that I have long ago neglected to recognize. So, there I was, in Hong Kong, and there he was, in his new apartment, (one that coincides with the new chapter in his life, what with the promotion, the mountaineering and the single fatherhood) and I had a Tsingtao in my hand (A 40 even!) and he had a Red Horse in his, and we had ourselves a toast. I don't know what he was drinking for, but I tossed back for the best of the past, the excitement of the present, and the potential for the future. Our relationship has been strained in the past, more so than with any other long time friend of mine, but I will make sure that changes when I come back home.
I logged out, got dressed, put my game face on, and left the hotel room ready to bring the funny.
The Contest. I stepped into the Comedy Club, and my nerves were starting to catch up on me. I was overwhelmed with it all… standing on that little stage where some of the funniest people from all over the world have performed, and I felt small. All of a sudden, all of my material didn't seem as funny, and I felt as if my voice was cracking. I knew I was going to choke. That is, until I met the rest of the comics. Each one of them felt as anxious and as messed up as I was, and everyone, like me, was putting on a brave face. Unlike other kinds of competitions, comedians weren't out to beat each other out there, at least not primarily. Everyone just didn't want to suck. I felt at home.
We had an hour before the show starts, and I made it a point to talk with everyone I could. I made some very fast friends, saw some very familiar faces, and the whole vibe reminded me of when I was starting out last year… when I traveled two hours just to go to Votre, alone, and i would just sit there and watch everyone and picked their brains as much as I could. All worries I may have had were gone.
Come show time, and I sat back and watch all of them do their thing. Each one was funnier than the last, and the energy was unbelievable. I couldn't stop smiling cause I was just so wired form being a part of this grand thing. Then my name was called.
I stood on stage, fiddled with the mic a bit clumsily… and delivered my first joke. They fucking laughed. At that point on I just did my thing and I was loving every second of it. Not all of my jokes got the reaction I wanted, especially the one that ended with, but that was the stuff that I had, so I rolled with it. I was making people laugh. I went to another country, stood on the stage that many others wanted to be on, and I made people laugh. Simply put, I did not exactly suck.
Unfortunately, I didn't get chosen to go to the finals, but of the three finalists that were chosen from that night, one went on to win the whole damn thing, while another one was second runner up. I went on stage with the ones who would end up taking the trophy home and I held my own. I don't feel bad about that.
Plus, the other finalist from my night put his entire head inside a condom. Gotta fucking respect that.
The show ended, we all shook hands went our merry way. The one who put together the whole thing even gave me a special shootout on stage. I am definitely coming back next year.
I've had some amazing nights in my entire story-filled life. That night, my first shot at an international stage, is on the top of that list now, and it's going to be incredibly hard to beat.
A Really Long Day on Macau. From the greatest night of my life, to one of the longest days I've ever had to endure. The contest was done, at least it was for me, and there was nothing left but the long journey home. Unfortunately, there was a 12 hour period that my mother and i had to kill before our flight back home. Remember when I said I hated touristy shit? That was just one of the many pet peeves I've had to endure over that day. Shopping, crowds, an agenda-less travel, the commercialism, that day made me understand a lot of things about myself. All of my pet peeves came to light, and I know why I grew up the way I did. I had my first anxiety attack in months. Seriously.
I don't hold it against my mother, since she was just being herself. And I did appreciate the support. But I did remember why we never got along; it's because we were two extremely different people on a philosophical level.
But I got to ride a boat, and it was all good. I guess my Life Coach's prescribed "me" time came a little early.
The Supposed "Me" TIme Weekend. Back in the Philippines by Friday night. I've never been a nationalistic person… I just like being home. I passed by the Think Tank, mostly because one of the employees there was having some sort of personal crisis and I maybe thought I could help (but she wasn't there). But, lack of sleep, jet lag, a recent anxiety attack and way too many energy drinks caused my heart to do that annoying thing it does again. So I left and just devoted the rest of my weekend to kick off the self discovery. It was old school me all the way (black jacket, pen, notebook, sketchpad) but with a dash of new me (laptop, rap music) and my journey into mystery was underway.
It was productive, but I'm far from done. I realized three things. 1.) Another one of my Life Coach's suggestions was correct, that I should let go of the Girl. (I'll get into that in my next post.) 2.) I am more than ready for the step I'm going to take when I hit 30. And 3.) One of the reasons I've been holding off on pursuing the Girl is that I've developed a healthy, relatively issue free attraction to someone at The Office. Yes, I may have found my Erin Hannon. (Again, more on that next week.)
Shit's turned the corner, folks. The next few months are going to be uber-interesting.
"I am wrecked. I am overblown.I am also fed up with the common cold.
But I just hate to say goodbye
To all the metaphors and lies
That have taken me years to come up with.
Say it's true. Say you like me.
(I like you.)
Just for the night.
for me, it's been eternity..
And as I gently sip this drink,
I think about my lack of future,
And all the places I could learn to fall in love.
I know I shouldn't waste my time,
Wishing I'd been better designed,
yet for some reason still think
I am wrecked. I am overblown.
I am also fed up with the fucking common cold!
When I just want to feel alive for the first time in my life,
I just want to feel attractive today." - Motion City Soundtrack, "Attractive Today"