How to be a zen comic: advice given to Jackie Kashian by Vanda Michaels in 1986 (as mentioned on this weeks Road Stories podcast).
HOW TO BE A ZEN COMIC by Vanda Michaels
Dear Jackie - Here are some of the pearls of wisdom I’ve gathered off night-club floors.
Feel free to violate any of them, as I continuously do.
1) Never compare yourself
Once in a while, I’ll find myself watching an act, getting twinges of jealousy, or feeling superior. Watch that shit! Be inspired by other’s work, identify with it. If you recognize greatness in them, be reassured that you know what greatness is. Allow an act with a limited mind to express themselves as they will. (I’m still learning that) Tell people if you admire their stuff.
2) Be yourself
So trite, but tried and true. Stay true to what you care about, not what others think you should care about. Don’t be afraid to show anger, compassion, passion, and, most importantly, vulnerability. Humanity never fails. Your unique comic outlook on your feelings, observations and experiences will set you apart. Use your life.
3) Take risks
Don’t be afraid to test the limits of the art form itself, but do it out of real comic motivation, not just to be spectacular.
4) Don’t go for the obvious
Go for subtleties, not just “aren’t punk rockers ridiculous” or “isn’t that T.V. commercial dumb” humor. You will find that you will begin to refine what you choose to write about, that certain bits are real “Jackie” bits. Even real objective stuff can be personalized.
5) Be patient
a. With your creativity - ideas will come to you as you grow and change. Be receptive. Don’t get caught up in trying to churn out half-baked goods. Let newer, fresher bits replace stale ones, until stale ones can be revived.
b. With your career - don’t let overly-ambitious, competitive-minded comics catch you up in their frenzy. Set your sights, then set out on the adventure toward them. (Do I sound like Kahlil Gibran?)
If you have the skill to crack up a room of people consistently, there will be work for you, to be sure.
6) Have fun
It’s rare to find a comic who’s mastered this. Fun… what a concept! Do every show, even auditions FOR THE FUN OF IT.
Now, if I could only follow my own advice…
You are a sweet, intelligent, powerful, exuberant comic. Welcome aboard!
Love, Vanda 1986