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Musings on Comedy… from 2007.

Another excerpt from an old blog post I found lying around the internet.  It’s interesting.  I read these old blog posts, and I was really quite candid about feelings and happenings and such.  I suppose in the relative Wild West that the internet used to be, you could write anything you wanted and you didn’t have to worry as much about people finding it.  Anyway…

I wrote this after driving home from celebrating my birthday, a week or so before my first ever sketch comedy show.

Anyway, with the Sketch Comedy show only a week a way, I can’t help but think about the comedy of sketch and the very nature of comedy in general.  Now, I don’t claim to understand why things are funny.  I can’t break it down into juxtaposition vs. conflict vs. color vs. satire vs. slapstick.  I lack the patience and mental capacity to do so.  I believe, though, that I am starting to understand what works.

Prepare thyselves for a music analogy.

I think live sketch is like a symphony orchestra performance. Just like musicians, actors have their “sheet music.” The words of a line are like the notes in a measure or phrase. I suppose the stage directions/actions would equate to expression marks. (whispered)=pianissimo or (as lights go down)=ritardando or whatever.  Just like the musicians in an orchestra, the individual actors play a part of a larger whole. If one small part of that larger whole makes a mistake, it detracts from the whole. Actors, however, have the disadvantage of not having timing/rhythm notated on their scripts. It’s pretty much arbitrary.  Thus, actors have the responsibility of having to feel the cadence/flow of the scene and must adjust their delivery accordingly. Alternatively, they can rely on the director sidecoach.  However, during a performance, said director won’t be there with a baton telling you the scene’s in 4/4, come in on 3. Nevertheless, the actor has to know when to deliver their line with the correct tone and diction to make a scene work.  I want to emphasize that an actor has to know WHEN simply because timing is everything.

Timing is everything.

In comedy, it seems to matter the most.  Moreso than in other areas of theatre.  If you miss a beat in a dramatic piece, it’s still salvageable. Perhaps you could attribute it to moment of pensive thought or play it off as a character’s internal monlogue.  It’ll still come through believable.  However, when you miss the timing on a joke or laugh line.  It’s gone.  Totally.  Inexplicably.  Forever. Now, I don’t know why this is.  Maybe it’s due to the nature of human short term memory.  Who knows?

Going back to the orchestra analogy; timing is important.  Can you imagine if the brass section came in half a beat early during the Imperial March?  Disaster. It’s the same in a comedy piece.  The comedy impact is lost.

Comedy needs polish.

Also, improvisers are special because we can do it on the fly.  Haha.

And now, a few years later, I sit here and wonder if this still holds true for me.  Have I wandered? Or has comedy itself wandered and I’m searching for it?  I suppose I’ll never figure it all out.

In the meantime: Create. Create. Create.

Where I am.

I’ve been away from this blogging thing for quite a while now. I think the last time I kept a formal mindspew-type blog was back in the Xanga days. What accounts for the 5-ish years of blog hiatus? Well, I’ve been busy, I suppose. I started an acting career at the ripe old age of twentysomething. Plus, I figured the best way to repurpose anything I was dealing with during those last five years was to turn it into music, or comedy, or something. That’s still probably the most constructive way to deal with stuff for me, but today I thought, “Why not just write for blog’s sake?”

So here I am. First time in a while. What should be said?

Well, I suppose, I could start with this acting thing. I started back in 2008 for realsies. I say 2008 because that’s when I first told myself that I was going to make a real foray into “showbiz.” It was in 2008 that I signed up for Actors Access and LA Casting, and started self-submitting. 2008 is when I started going on auditions, and booking commercials, and doing student films. Where have I come since then? I’m not sure. I’d like to say that progress has been slow but sure. I picked up representation in 2010. I went union in 2011. I worked on a handful of commercials, and a video game! That’s exciting. I’m currently trying to make my way in the TV and Film world, but that’s a slow go. I’m still trying to figure that out. It’s probably a combination of 1). I don’t know how to audition well for Film/TV, 2.) My acting knowledge is from more than a decade ago, and 3.) I’m just not right for anything.

Thus far in my career, I’ve done alright in terms of making headway, but I’ve been feeling recently like I’m hitting a wall. I’m not exactly sure what my plan of action should be. I left living a 9-5 job life back in mid-2009, in the hopes that I could make it by on freelancing to support life in general -but that’s been more than a little difficult. My gamble was that I’d leave work, live off what I had saved, and use the 8 hours I would have wasted at work to actually build a career. My plan was to book a nice fatty commercial to provide some much needed cash infusion into my acting career. So far, however, that big payday hasn’t come. I did book a national commercial recently, and that was supposed to be the moment I’ve been waiting for, but when you get cut out of the commercial, the residuals don’t come… and that’s the bread and butter.

What, say you, might an actor need a cash infusion for, you ask? Well, for one, classes. Continuing education. A scene study class, or an on-camera class, or an auditioning class, or improv classes at one of the big comedy schools. Also, new headshots. Also, marketing materials like postcards, your website, business cards, et. al. Those things add up. Plus, there’s the subscriptions to the casting websites, like the aforementioned Actors Access and LA Casting. Casting director workshops. That’s another thing. Plus, since I’m trying into some more serious voiceover work, there’s recording equipment. It’s just a lot of little things. Gas for auditions, too. The list continues. Anyway. That’s what I’m looking at right now. I’m toying with the idea of looking for a more permanent-ish job to work and save more money so I can go for a longer stretch self-employed. All the while, I’m hoping that the mixture of talent, luck, and hard work will pay off sooner than later.

Create. Create. Create. Stay ready, so you can be ready when the opportunity comes.

That’s all I have to say for now. Just needed to loosen some of those cobwebs.

What a loser.

I was looking through old files that I had backed up on CDs and I found a long letter I had written in Word more than a decade ago. This is an excerpt from the end of the letter. I have to say, I somewhat surprised by it’s relative candid nature. Who the hell was I ten years ago?

“There’s a part of me that’s glad you said things could never be the same again. Seriously, we lived a lie. Hiding things from each other, not saying things we really wished we could say, forcing ourselves to deny feelings in order to not disturb a delicate balance. But there’s another part of me that wishes we could go back. There were good times amongst all the confusion. But like you said, some things just can’t be changed. And likewise, I could never hate you. We’ve just been through too much. And yeah, we have lost that trust. I don’t feel that I can trust someone like I trusted you again. Not for a long time. It’s sad. But that’s the reality of it. I really don’t know where to go from here. My head says one thing, my heart says another. But I guess the best thing to do is go w/ the flow. Going through all this, I can’t help but feel like I’m saying goodbye. I think that’s what’s happening. It feels like this chapter of my life is coming to an end and I’m writing the final sentences as you read this. Corny, but true. Just the poetic part of me coming out. You always gave me a cause to let that part of me out… You meant a lot to me. But I never knew I meant something to you, or I just never believed it. I’m sorry I couldn’t show you how much I cared through my actions. I never realized that you’d hurt so much. Yeah I’ll see you around, but it won’t be the same. Can’t go back now. But I’ll remember everything.
It was kick ass then.”

Dried Fish: A Mystery in 3 Parts (Until Google was invented)

Food, my ever constant companion. I appreciate it. I study it. I even try to cook it once in a while. If the concept of food took on human form, it would be my soulmate. I was a fan of food decades before the current “Foodie” trend… as evidenced by rotundity. My portliness. Fatty McFatFat. Food is tied to some of my most concrete, vibrant memories of growing up. I’ve pretty much forgotten the faces of other students in my kindergarten class. I, however, can very clearly remember that at the time, my favorite sandwich was chicken salad on white bread. And that I once made an “Eww” face at one of my classmates when he said, “Hey, I have a chicken sandwich, too!” His chicken sandwich looked nothing like mine. Sandwichist.

Throughout kindergarten and the rest of my elementary school years, both my mom and dad worked, and on different schedules. My mom was a nurse and would work what seemed like every day of the week, either a 11pm to 7am shift or a 3pm to 11pm shift. My dad worked a 9-5 somewhere ridiculously far, like Ontario or something, doing… whatever it is that he did. That being the case, my sister and I had to spend many days and nights after school at our paternal Lola’s house (Lola = Filipino for grandma). It was a second home to us. I remember spending days picking tangerines, marunggay leaves, and spinach in the backyard garden. Every morning my Lola would serve us hot cocoa and toast. Sometimes, she would throw in a sunny-side-up egg, which was awesome, even though I wasn’t quite a fan of runny yolk back then. When it came to lunch or dinner, we got lots of munggo (mung bean stew), kadios (black beans with chicken), or tinola (chicken with marunggay leaves).

courtesy FLAVOURSofILOILO.blogspot.com
There was one dish in particular, however, that I really liked. I remember it as pinakas, a type of split, salted, sun-dried fish. We always had it over a bed of hot rice, steam still rising from the freshly-cooked grains. My Lola would sometimes have it with sibuyas at kamatis (onions and tomatoes) with a little bit of calamansi (Philippine lime). I preferred mine unadulterated: just the chewy saltiness of the fish accentuated by the warm fluffiness of the rice. This flavor/texture combination still brings me back to weekend afternoons spent in the breakfast nook in the corner of my Lola’s kitchen, sunlight flooding in through the nearby window and filtering through the pastel drapes. It reminds me of the heavy brown wooden table and its hexagonal top, which made seating a bit difficult at times. I can still see the pink, bowl-shaped, plastic “food cage” she would place around the leftovers to keep houseflies away and the antique Coca-cola mirror hanging on the wall, advertising 5 cents a bottle.

Things changed by the time high-school hit, however. The high school I attended was no longer in the same neighborhood as Lola’s house. My parents’ work hours had changed. I discovered the online world. AOL was awesome. Chat rooms were the bees knees. BBSing was the wave of the future. Gangsta rap had emerged in the LBC. Extracurricular activities had become a way of life. By then, I was spending much less time at Lola’s house. It stayed that way until she passed away a year after college.

I never really got to enjoy pinakas throughout all of high school or college. For some reason, we never had it at home-home. We had tons of other dried and or marinated fish dishes. There was always daing na bangus (a split milkfish marinated in vinegar and garlic, then usually fried) and other types of dried fish, like tinapa or tuyo, but I never had pinakas again. And truth be told, I didn’t know who to ask about it. From a young age, I was the type of kid that had to figure things out for myself. That still carries on until today. I don’t ask questions unless absolutely necessary, not because I’m apprehensive about asking necessarily, but I believe the answer is always out there if you just look for your own damn self. I sorta attribute that to my dad… which is another story for another time.

The thing was, I wasn’t sure I had the correct name of the dried fish. There was always a language barrier between my Lola and I. My parents never taught my sister or I how to speak Tagalog. It’s not like that would have helped anyway, because I don’t think my Lola spoke much of it either. I asked my mom once, what language Lola spoke, and the answer was “Bisayan”. Which, I guess sounds like a pretty definite answer, but not when you take into account that Bisayan or Visayan refers more to an entire group of languages found in central Philippines. Under that umbrella term, there’s Cebuano, Ilonggo (Hiligaynon), Aklanon, Kinaray-a, and a host of other languages. While some people say “Bisayan” and it’s safe to assume that they mean “Cebuano,” you never really know. So really, when my Lola said this was pinakas, part of me wasn’t sure if I was just making the word up, or if she was referring to something else entirely. So I never really asked anyone about it. And when she passed away, I really didn’t know who to ask.

Enter: Google. While there had been search engines prior to Google, they never really provided such a quick, comprehensive, context accurate search of the interwebs. Believe me, before Google came along, searching the internet was a skill. Now, pretty much anyone can find anything on the internet, thanks to Google. Well, that’s what I thought, until I went searching the internet for pinakas. I tried several times over the past decade, searching the interwebs for this favorite childhood dish of mine. It wasn’t a constant search, but he thought of pinakas would just pop into my head randomly over the years and I would spend the next hour or so scouring the interwebs. Each time that happened, however, I couldn’t find a thing. Even now, if you Google “pinakas”, you’ll learn that it’s also a Greek surname, an ancient Indian weapon, and a not so ancient Indian rocket launcher. I would just chalk up the failure to the fact that there wasn’t anyone out there making websites centered around Filipino food or at least, not this deep of a level of Filipino food.

That all changed a few days ago. I was sitting at home, surfing the internet on my Android phone, (Motorola Atrix 4G, ftw.) when the thought of pinakas popped in my head. Cut to le Me, Googling pinakas. I’m initially disappointed, because I again see the Greek surnames and Indian weapons. Then I look at the image search bar, and I see this:

A smile immediately draws itself across my face. I click on the picture and then onto the website hosting the image. And there it is. The answer I’ve sought for the last 20 years.

What I knew as pinakas was more correctly called pinakas nga guma-a. Pinakas referring to the preparation process and guma-a being the kind of fish (big-eye scad in English). Even more interestingly, pinakas nga guma-a comes from a very specific place in the Philippines. It’s an Ilonggo dish, with a very Ilonggo name. Ilonggo refers to the people from the province of Iloilo, on the island of Panay. One island. It comes from one island in an archipelago of over 7,000 islands, an island from where my dad’s side of the family came, including my Lola. While they were from Antique, which is a neighboring province to Iloilo, I’m guessing pinakas nga guma-a didn’t have much trouble making it to that side of the island. It’s worthwhile to point out that information is very easily disseminated nowadays. In past decades, however, cultural diffusion seems to have taken exponentially longer. I can only assume that pinakas nga guma-a, at least the term, wasn’t something that made it too far past the waters surrounding Panay. It’s funny, because I’m sure if you ask any random Fil-Am walking around Los Angeles, more often than not, they have no idea about Ilonggo food. Kadios, pinakas nga guma-a, pancit molo, it’s a mystery to most people. I’m sure that will all change once the powers at Malinius get their next film in the can. Shout out!

And that’s why I never really had while at home-home. My mom hails from Caloocan, in the Metro Manila area of Luzon, hundreds of miles north on a completely different island. The family has historically cultural ties to Ilocos Sur, which is even further north. That being said, the cuisine was completely different. Yes, I love me some pinakbet. So it’s very reasonable to think that none of them would have any idea what pinakas nga guma-a refers to, even though they may have cooked some form of it themselves.

At any rate, 20 years of wondering all came to a screeching halt earlier this week, and I have Google to thank, as well as whoever writes at http://flavoursofiloilo.blogspot.com. Thanks. I feel like just had a Roots moment right now. I’m halfway tempted to run to the nearest Filipino market, and hug some random Filipino guy while crying. Or, I could just find me some pinakas nga guma-a and feel a little closer to my Lola again. I vote for the latter.

Anyway, that’s my long winded explanation of the tweet I sent out earlier this week. I told you it was rather mundane. Hah!

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Desynchronize.

Hey, random musing: So you know how when you work out really hard for the first time in a while, you say to yourself, “Fuck, I’m gonna feel this later.”  And you think you’re fine for the rest of the day because for some reason, the soreness hasn’t set in yet.  But, when you wake up in the morning, each minute movement brings your new types of pain.  You can barely get out of bed or wipe your ass.   Yeah.  That applies in other areas of life too.

Anyway, on to something else. I’m not exactly sure what made me think of this earlier, but a few months ago on a Saturday afternoon I was *trying* to clean out my garage when an old red Nissan truck pulled up in front of the house.  I didn’t recognize it, so I kept close watch.  The door opened and this slightly balding white dude stepped out. I thought to myself, “WTF is a white dude doing here?”  He stands by his door for a good 10 minutes, doing something… so I get a bit on edge.  I decide to take a closer look.  He’s putting on makeup.  And he’s wearing oversized red shoes.  I’ve caught a clown in prep. He must be heading to that birthday party down the street.

Now this is the part that got me.  He’s standing there getting ready, kinda mumbling to himself. Obviously not too happy that he’s gotta do another fucking birthday party for some obnoxious fucking kids.  He looks tired, worn out, and his fledgling combover is starting to flap in the breeze.  I feel kinda sad for the guy.  By this time he’s just about done putting on his costume, save the red foam nose.  He dabs a bit of spirit gum on the inside, and sticks it on. Done. He takes a moment to look at himself in the sideview mirror.

*snap* And he’s changed.

He lets out a pseudo-maniacal laugh and starts honking his bike horn at me, screaming “Happy Birthday!” to the air like it was the best phrase ever invented.

And in that moment, I kinda felt sad for myself.  “That’s me, I thought.  That’s me.”