Big Apple Stand-up...in My Small Dress

In my previous blog post, "Setting New Goals: Fit & Funny," I discussed my #LA detox in preparation for one of my best friend's weddings in NYC. 

Yes, I bought the bridesmaid dress a size too small. Yes, it was risky. And yes, I was freaked the f*** ou†. 

So did it work?

Well, thanks to working out and my constant fear of shame, I successfully fit into that little red number (with a lil' help from my Spanx). JK. They was off-brand...

The big day came and went (and holy damn was it a beautiful wedding), but the next day was surprisingly a big day for me as well: my debut stand-up performances in New York City!

Just before flying out for the wedding, I learned that I'd booked a gig at the Sunday night at the Allstars show at GOTHAM COMEDY CLUB! The same iconic club where some of my comedic idols have graced the stage! And just after arriving in NYC, I learned I'd actually booked a second gig the same night at THE STAND COMEDY CLUB -- just as f***ing epic!

A few things came to mind:

  1. HOLY F***ING SHIT THIS IS AWESOME AND I'M SO GRATEFUL.
  2. I've never performed for a New York crowd. Will my material resonate? Will they like me?
  3. I'm so glad I feel comfortable in my own skin right now. The dieting/exercise really came at a great time, and I'm definitely keeping this up.
  4. I wonder if they'll serve a meal on this flight (unrelated)

I tried not worry too much about the set-list while doing wedding activities (it was the bride's weekend, not mine) so I worked out a general outline of what I'd talk about on the plane instead.

On Sunday, 9/3, after a day of shuffle board with friends in Brooklyn, I went home to prep for the gigs. Shower, meditate, review, Uber. Several friends from the wedding were going to meet me at Gotham, plus friends from the past -- including a teacher from high school who happened to be in NYC! 

The show at Gotham was a success -- though my mouth was so damn dry. I was gurgling water before getting onstage, and I still spoke like I had peanut butter in my mouth for a minute. But I still won the crowd over. It helped that I made a joke referencing two prior comedian's sets, which they loved.

**TIP FOR COMICS: always address the room/what's been said before getting into your set.**

From there, I had an hour to get to my next set at the Stand. Once we arrived and I spoke to the host, I realized that I had double the amount of stage-time here vs what I'd had at Gotham. Meaning I had only 50% of a set prepared... 

Instead of chatting with my friends before the show, I got my Google Docs out and started browsing jokes to see what I could tie in naturally to what I already had to say. Though I'd like to be at a place in my career where I just throw jokes at people, I still wanted to be prepared and smooth for that night.

**TIP FOR COMICS: always, always, always be prepared for everything. You never know when you'll get the chance to do a set, or more stage time. There are no second chances.**

Luckily, that ended up being a success as well! I messed up one joke, but I pointed it out and laughed at myself, which I think is more enduring for the audience to see. There was also a group of Indian tourists sitting in the back that LOVED my dad impersonations, which made me press into it to milk the reactions.

**TIP FOR COMICS: pay attention to what the crowd likes, and try to give them more of it.**

What I learned about NYC:

  1. The comics here are predominantly comics (not singer-actor-writer-mimers-influencers) and you can see the craft of good stand-up here.
  2. There are SO MANY comedy clubs -- it seems like a more stand-up forward city over LA.
  3. Realization: your material will work anywhere, as long as you stay true to your voice.  There was no reason to be that worried. Versatility, and the ability to play for diverse audiences, is what makes a comedian great.

Here's to performing in NYC and beyond -- while learning more every day :)

x

Setting New Goals: Fit & Funny

Yesterday, I completed a 10-day detox plan (yes, I live in LA SORRY).

I'm not telling you that because I want to you to comment on how good I look (but I'm not discouraging you from doing that, particularly on my Instagram). Instead, I'm sharing the thought process that I've been overcome with this morning: "what now?"

These last 10 days helped me get back on-track, both with my diet and my exercise, and I feel great. But I find myself staring at the month ahead of me (and the 27 days specifically that I have before attend a wedding in NYC) with a need for sense of direction to continue on my path.

Side note: I purposefully bought my bridesmaid dress 1 size too small to force myself to get into shape. The pressure is on.

As I started logging down in my journal exactly how I'll be eating and what I expect to lose in a month, I had a moment of clarity. Whether it's your body, your career, of for me my stand-up/writing, you have to do the exact same thing to reach success: plan, outline and commit.

We've all started the New Year off with a resolution to "lose weight," or "be more creative," but at least from experience I've found it to be more successful when I have a clear and measurable program in place, a goal in mind, and a plan of how to stay accomplished along the way. And believe me, I've yo-yo'd, so I know.

And with that said, I'm setting new goals. Yes, we get it, I want to be fit. But I want to be funnier, and take my work to the next level.

If you're on the same comedy path, consider:

  1. Researching festivals, fellowships, scholarships, etc and identifying which to apply to / when deadlines are.
  2. Get to working on your newest tape. Write those jokes now knowing you need a certain amount of minutes, and fill in the blanks.
  3. Logging your jokes/scripts and seeing where you are - then setting a goal of how much material you need to finish the next project.

Be funny my friends. Think thin thoughts.

Success and How I'm Impatient AF. But Am I Really?

I wish being a comedian meant that you could laugh all day. Just laugh. No drama, no stress, no worrying about the future.

But it's not as easy as it seems. It's a constant effort. I don't want to say it's an uphill battle...but since I can't think of a better analogy, let's call it a stair-master climb.

Like a stair-master, you know that with each step you take forward, you're doing something good for yourself. You control the pace -- you can make this journey go faster or slower -- but it's hard to keep going sometimes when you don't know how long it'll take until you reach your desired outcome.

I'm impatient AF. But am I really?

Knock on wood (or my Mac keyboard) but I would say I've experienced a lot of "early" success for only having done stand-up about a year. Maybe it was all this pent up energy I had from working in the entertainment industry (but always in creative-adjacent roles) or maybe it's that I've always been this funny but only just now got the guts to admit and pursue my dream.  But while I'm SO SO SO GRATEFUL for where I stand today, I can't say it doesn't irk me when people tell me to slow down, or not to expect things to happen so quickly.

I get it -- you have to wait to: pay your dues, to learn, to experience, and to practice. I'm not looking for a shortcut, but I'm looking to surround myself with the inspirational people, ideas, and platforms I need to be DIFFERENT.

You're right, NORMALLY, it takes ___ time to be comfortable on stage. It then takes ___ to find your voice and ___ for this and ___ for that. But what drives me forward is not the expected path. Isn't that what we're all in the game for, to change it? Why more of the same?

It's the same philosophy I fought when I told people I applied to Harvard and other Ivy League schools when I was just a high schooler in Fort Collins, CO. I'll never forget a comment a girl in my class once made, "You have to be like really smart though, and like no one makes it." Or the ideas people have when you tell them you want to be an actor: "Yeah but MILLIONS of people are trying to do that," and, "It's so hard to make it," and, "They're looking for ___."

But who the fuck are THEY?!

What posessed me to write this blog, and what's been on my mind the last week, has been that delicate and tricky equation that leads to success. What must go in to get what you want out?

Here's the only answer I have: no one knows. Actually, fuck that. YOU KNOW.

You determine your pace. You determine your confidence. It's up to you to GIVE IT EVERYTHING and pave the way for a favorable outcome to manifest.

While you can't control outside circumstances and events, you CAN control what you're feeding the machine. 

To that girl in highschool: I did get in to Harvard. 

To my parents dismay: Now I'm a (smart) comedian. #SorryNotSorry

 

Failure #__: NBC Diversity Search

This past weekend I faced a #ComedyFail that compelled me to write my first blog post -- which I've been meaning to do for a while. StandUp NBC. How'd it go? Well, read the pre-cursor below before I tell you that.

I've been asked a lot recently things like "how did you get to where you are today," and "how did you start following your passion?" 

Part of me always defaults to the positive responses, which are things I probably repeat just to tell myself more than others that it's OK. My go-to (true) response is below, which summarizes the constant struggle:

"For me, comedy came at a dark time when I was truly fed up with my life/career. It was from that frustration that I gave myself a deadline to do my first open mic, and the rest is history. When you make yourself do something, and have an end goal in mind, you'll start to notice the people and opportunities that will get you to the next step. I also love meditating and listening to Tony Robbins on YouTube. Those 2 things help center me when I feel like idk what's gonna be the next move. From Tony I learned to list out what I'd like to achieve to have a clear outline..."

So with that in mind,  I drove 7+ hours from LA to SF to participate in an open casting call for the NBC showcase; got in line at 3am (as they were only seeing the first 100 people, and I was #87 at that point); and prepared a 1-min, 2-min, and 7-min set to perform in front of the judges.

The punchline is that I didn't even make it past the first, 1-min round AFTER ALL OF THAT. But the aftermath (which I'm currently experiencing on this fine Monday morning) are the proverbial lessons I've learned... or again, am telling myself that I learned.

Positive me says, "Reem - absorb everything you can from this experience and use it for next time, tomorrow, and every day of your life." So here goes:

  1. Don't over-estimate yourself: I thought "OMG diversity? I'm Arab/Muslim/Iraqi -- I AM DIVERSITY." Which is why I was slightly surprised I didn't even make it to callbacks. Don't think you've earned a free ticket just by being who you are. There are WAY more factors that go into a recipe for success.
  2. Put your best foot forward: See above -- I assumed I'd get to round 2 so easily, which is why I kept my best joke for that. I had good jokes in round 1, but now that I know the outcome, wish I would've went 10000% in my first go and proven it right then/there.
  3. Don't let it get to you: Your first thought might be, "I'm not good enough," but that's not the case. Every show/competition/casting is like a job interview - they're looking for something specific and if that's not you, it's fine. 

I'm not saying I'm an expert or anything, but I wanted to share my experience for others to learn from. Or maybe to revisit in a few years, when I've "made it." :)