So I've read several things about the city I called home for nearly 11 years in the past few days. Unfortunately, not all glowing or things I would necessarily like to spend a lot of time thinking about.
Relax guys, it's not like they shot or choked an unarmed minority; they'd have to actually interact with people of color for there to be any controversy like that.
It's actually been a dark place for me lately (there's the racial pun), as two of my friends in the comedy scene there recently passed away.
Now I'm not going to try to write something poetic about either Gus Lynch or Bill Young the people, because if I'm being honest I didn't really know them that well. I wish that I had. Sure, we shared stages over the years; some great conversation. Bill and were probably closer than Gus and I were (when I lived there, but have lately been guilty of being that shitty LA friend that never touches base). I would much rather use this blog to honor the memory of what they meant to me in my path as a person and as a comedian.
When I first started in stand-up, I didn't have a lot of allies or friends. Daryl Horner, Kevin Craft, and I started a group in 2007 called "Verbally Vicious" which was sort of our comedy equivalent of being in a gang. We weren't thugs in the traditional sense, just in the sense that we didn't give a fuck about the conventional apprenticeship that is being a stand-up comedian. We made t-shirts right away, and sold them at open mics. Making money at comedy back then was considered "arrogant" by most of the scene, but was the only approach three hustlers like us with bigger business brains than joke writing abilities could have done at the time. What would anyone have against us making money? We didn't have a lot of close friends outside of our group, but one of my few friends at the time was Bill Young. Bill was a veteran comedian when I started (we're the same age and I was 23 then, so fuck he must've started young) and I remember at one mic one night he talked with Daryl and I about how he didn't agree with most people's perception of us. He thought what we were doing was very "punk rock," and totally got it. Even though he wasn't ready to dive in with both feet, he did make his alter-ego "Johnny Rage" a member of VV. We only performed with him on the lineup one time, which was a blast. For all I know, the whole thing could have been a joke at our expense, but it was great nonetheless.
Bill and I only hung out one other time. We met up for an early morning breakfast at one of his favorite spots in Uptown. When we walked in, it felt like we were in an episode of cheers or something. Bill knew all of the other 4 or 5 people in there, and immediately gave me the lay of the land in terms of what to order, and what drink went best with what food. I remember telling him that he was like my hipster or white-trash sommelier, and that made him laugh.
The memory is kind of foggy, but I remember on the ride back home we had one of those life changing conversations about life and comedy and the deeper meaning of it all. I remember that I had shared frustrations with him about the way the guys in VV were perceived, and wondered if it would hurt my career in the long run. He made a comment to me that really made everything OK. He said "generally the people surrounded with the highest number of friends have to do that because they can't stand to be alone with themselves." That if I was happy with the choice, and happy with the few people that were still cool with me and still my friend, then to stick by the decision. He was right. Thinking on that day, and looking back at all the memories of watching him perform, Bill was downright courageous, sometimes in an annoying way. He LOVED comedy so much that he took every stage with this sense of wonder and delight that I really envied. He feared no room, and loved to play with audiences. He'd play characters, he'd do a set with just one type of joke format, or he'd play it straight, and just do a normal set as himself. You'd never know what you would get out of him, and that was my favorite part.
That was my favorite part of the Minneapolis scene. I don't get that in LA. I don't get to see guys like Bill, or Chris Maddock just go up and fucking murder it with something they just thought of that day. We don't have the courage to do that. We're all trying to "make it." We're all crafting an act. We all think we have to kill that shitty 5 minute set in a bakery because I think one of the pastry chef's knows a guy that works at UTA. Guys like Bill represent the courage that makes comedy pure.
If Bill Young was the courage in comedy, then Gus Lynch definitely represented heart. I met Gus right before I left in '08/'09 for LA. Gus was new to stand-up, but was so damn respectful, and nice, and kind. He was always "please, and thank you; sir and ma'am." Gus came into the scene with a level of friendliness and professionalism that was foreign to me in the local scene. I ran a bar show open mic in Vandals Heights, and when Gus came out he would treat me like I was fucking Bud Friedman (Improv founder). Gus was never above the moment, and was always appreciative of any time he got. The thing I liked the most about Gus was that he would give anyone their time. He was a great listener. He would listen to you talk for hours about something you didn't know shit about, because he was a good dude. I remember I was talking about my experiences in the comedy business one time, and Gus was all ears. He listened to me rant and rave, share my opinions about bookers and everything under the sun. It wasn't until later that I found out how much Gus had actually done in the acting and film world. I remember sitting there thinking, "why didn't that dude step in and assert his knowledge and wisdom?" The simple answer is because I didn't ask him to. In the beginning, he I remember he had jokes about pro wrestling and Minnesota, and being a dad. I remember being 26 and thinking (this is boring). One of the last times I came to Minneapolis, Gus popped into my CD recording weekend and dropped a set that blew the audience away. I honestly don't know if the album recording would've happened if it wasn't for his energy. I wish more people in comedy were like Gus Lynch. It would make it much easier. I'd look forward to going out to shows to interact with people like that, vs. the folks that "high-school head-nod" you from the other side of the room because you don't have something for them to suck your dick about.
I miss the Minneapolis scene. I definitely took it for granted when I lived there. I miss going on the road with Justin Caesar. I miss sitting around CCUG talking with Benny and Tommy upstairs and eating Pizza and T-Rex wings. I miss going to Bobby & Steve's with Daryl after CCUG open mics and him getting drunk and threatening to rape my friend Ryan because he was dating a girl that looked to much like him, and was asking for a mix-up. I miss trips to Chicago with Kevin Craft and laughing at how he saw other black people, and how other white people saw us. I miss Wayne Burfeind trivia nights, and I miss watching Madoo get drunk. I even miss P-Bau telling me how much I didn't know shit in the beginning (he was totally right by the way). I miss how Gabe Noah's voice could wet an 90 year old broad's beak from across the lakes (it's funny if you read that sentence in his voice). I miss Corey Adam asking me about everything in the game his first year back in.
I don't have money to donate to my friends or their families, but I do intend to invest some good will in honoring their memories by recommitting myself to doing the two things I remember most about them:
I'm really going to try to be more like Gus, and be a "good neighbor" when it comes to being an experienced comedian. Make people feel valuable. Make them happy, and pay attention to them. Treat them as though they are the experts in their moment.
I'm also going try to really to not give a fuck when I get on stages, and to get back to that healthy place of "punk rock" exploration that Bill was so good at. I don't know that I can do it, but I certainly can try.
...I'm also going to wake up in the morning, go to a hipster diner, and slap anyone in the dick that thinks that Newcastle goes with pancakes.