What a ride!

Last night’s interview on Slay N Savage was a blast. — If you missed it you can CLICK HERE for the archive.  One of the questions they asked was how did I become a stand up comic. That’s not an easy question to answer off the top of my head. It’s been a crazy journey full of twists, turns, starts, stops, long periods of self-doubt with bursts of WOW THAT ROCKED!

It’s been a wonderful journey so far. If someone had told me back when I started that I would be playing in bars and clubs, be cast as an extra in local movies and get interviewed on Blog Talk Radio, I would not have believed you. So a quick thank you to my son Charlie, and the always affable Yakov Smirnoff who accidentally gave me my start, without even realizing it. — oh and sorry about the stalking dude.

I found this story today while I was going through my old notes looking for material. I’d forgotten I’d written it. Hope you like it.

How I became a stand up comic.

Written: November 4, 2009 – Just four months after deciding to go pro.

The roads I travel in life are rarely smooth. Maybe it’s because I live in Oklahoma and we don’t believe in repairing concrete, or maybe it’s the wanderlust redhead in me, either way I start down one path and I inevitably wind up on some motocross race track doing loops, turns, tricks and stops, pausing from time to time to eat mud pies.

This is a mud pie kind of day. I’m editing what I used to think are funny stories into something more compatible with a stand up format. As I sit at my computer picking gravel out of my knees and my stories, I’m struck by the thought of “Who can I blame for this mess?”

Being a humor writer and loaning out stories and jokes is a smooth road. Stand up comedy? Not so much. I don’t know this road and yet here I am, forsaking one for the other. I’m taking my shot and running with the big dogs. Why? Only my therapist can answer that. It just feels right. That’s all there is to it. I have this insatiable need to make people laugh and to do it well. “Hi, I’m Deana and I’m a stand up comic.” My 12 step group meets in clubs throughout the United States.

I didn’t start my comedy career doing stand up. I’m a humorist. I write and tell funny stories. Have for years. Then it happened. My oldest son gets straight A’s in 6th grade and he wants to see Yakov Smirnoff in Branson. Simple enough really. Branson is only three hours away so off we go. I should have just bought him a car. It would have been cheaper.

Yakov has this part in his show where members of the audience are allowed to tell him jokes. The person with the funniest story gets to go on stage and interview him. Neat little piece. At least it was before my son looked up at me and said “Mom! You’re funny, why don’t you tell him one of your stories?”

” How hard can it be.” I thought to myself.

I’m convinced those words will be on my tombstone. In short, I died a horrible, humiliating, miserable death-by-choking in front of Yakov, my son, and 1,400 people. All of it on film. Nice.

I can only blame myself for what happened next. I spent the next two years striving to save my pride and convince this dear sweet long on patience man that I am indeed funny. I went to no less than six of his shows hoping for another shot. We communicated via telephone, email, snail mail and in person. I even bought roughly ten of his paintings. Hey, it’s not stalking until you see the whites of the restraining order, okay? It turns out that I cannot get within a hundred yards of Yakov without turning into a walking lobotomy. Go figure.

In short I made an idiot out of myself. I convinced him that I was something alright. I’m not so sure about the funny part though. Suffice to say, I have not set foot in Branson in about five years. Just driving through Missouri gives me hives.

undeterred by my egostically driven set back, I continue on as a humor writer and story-teller. Joining writing groups and comedic message boards to better hone my craft, I learn that Christian comics have their own club of sorts. They have a message board, Facebook, fan pages and conferences. Figuring that four years is enough time to hide from comics and that the stigma has to have worn off by now, I drive with a friend to their most recent conference in Nashville Tennessee.

I am at home with these funny people. No longer a slave to my comedic lust, I find other kindred spirits and I find peace. My friend talks me into participating in their Open Mic for newbies and I gladly participate.

In all fairness, I erroneously assumed that the men and women would be separated. Women would critique women and men would critique men kind of thing. I assumed incorrectly. Imagine my surprise to learn that my panel of advisors would consist of men named Bone, Nazareth and Thor. There was also Kenn and LeLand, the oddballs with normal names, but I digress. Bottom line, I’m a female humorist/story-teller about to face an entire audience of comics and male critiquers with a story about the time my husband’s doctor guilted me into being present during his vasectomy.

I’m an intelligent woman. It did not take me long to assess three things.

1.) This story was probably not appropriate for this particular venue.
2.) I don’t have the energy to stalk these five men for two years to convince them I really am funny so I better think of something quick.
3.) I had consumed so much sweet tea that evening that the stability of my bladder is now questionable.

I took three of my funniest bits and tried to turn them into stand up material on the fly. Thankfully they laughed while I tried not to hyperventilate or pee.

As for my bladder issues, I just moved around a lot hoping it would stabilize. If that failed, I’m over weight so I was just going to tell the guys that I’m pregnant and my water broke. They are men. They would have dropped me off at the nearest hospital and gone on their merry way and I would have hidden out in my hotel room until the conference was over and my room-mate was ready to drive home.

And that, my friends is how I became a stand up comic.

Love Me For A Reason: Going to See the Osmonds

I was in my 30s at a Jim Brickman concert in Tulsa when I met Donny Osmond for the first time. I’d never heard of Jim, but Donny was performing with him and there was no way I was passing that up. Not to discredit Jim, he’s a wonderful piano player I found out (I own all of his CDs now), but I still have my original 45’s of Donny’s. Donny was my first musical crush. I can remember hearing Go Away Little Girl playing on the radio as my mother drove me across town to my first of many new schools in Oak Park Michigan. I’d make her turn it up every time.  I was six and I was hooked.

We were living at that time on Dearborn Avenue in downtown Detroit. This was a neighborhood full of crack houses, bars, pimps, dealers and prostitutes and was not a neighborhood for kids. Our house was owned by the company my mom worked for and was directly next door to their office. That way she could keep me close while she worked. The grade school was so violent that the principal would not allow my mother to enroll me and so we drove to Oak Park and every day we’d listen to the Osmonds on the way. I was oblivious to the reality of our surroundings and knew only the innocence of their music.

I got to meet Jim, Donny, and the rest of the performers after Jim’s Christmas show and while that was nice, what surprised me the most was my emotional response. It took everything I had not to cry. I’m not star struck, truth is I get to meet celebrities a lot. I have traveled the world and even gone to the Nobel Awards and was granted an audience with the King of Sweden himself, but meeting Donny face to face brought back memories that moved me to tears.

I don’t know a woman my age who didn’t play Osmond 45’s on our little turn tables at home for hours on end. We all had those small pieces of vinyl and wore them out. We wallpapered our rooms with posters. We watched the Osmond cartoon and we even watched The Donny and Marie Show. Most of us were also convinced that we alone were destined to be Mrs Donald Osmond.

We were wrong, but still it didn’t hurt to dream.

I’ve lived in over 20 different cities in my life. My portable turn table and collection of 45s was the one constant I carried with me from new neighborhood to new neighborhood. Music was my main friend in those years. Money was tight and sometimes my mom had to work two jobs just to make ends meet. We left downtown Detriot and had actually lived in Georgia and Florida before returning to Michigan four years later. Now, we were living in a very small, two bedroom house in Southfield Michigan in 1975. This was our fifth home in four years. My mother was a book-keeper for a construction firm in Detroit, and drove an hour each way to work so that we could finally live in a safe neighborhood. It cost a lot more to live there, we ate a lot of popcorn, rice, and hotdogs,  but I was safe and that mattered.  I was home alone, a lot.

The Osmonds were playing at the Michigan State fair that August and while the concert was free, admission to the fair wasn’t AND my mom got paid hourly. When she took the afternoon off to take me to the concert for my 10th birthday that meant she didn’t get paid. That might not seem like much, but my mom only made about $10,000 a year. An afternoon salary was a huge sacrifice. Taking me to that concert meant she went without food.

I’ve never forgotten that.

My life has turned out very wonderful. I am happily married and have two amazing sons. We live in a nice suburban neighborhood in Oklahoma. We are blessed beyond measure. Three of the Osmond Brothers are doing a Christmas show in Branson this year at Yakov Smirnoff‘s theater and my husband surprised me with tickets this week. I almost cried. Donny won’t be there, but that’s okay.

Jeff doesn’t have to go without food to take me — but I also know it’s not his favorite band in the world. He surprised me for the same reason my mother did all those years ago. Love.

Other than seeing Donny at the Jim Brickman concert a few years ago, I haven’t seen the Osmond Brothers perform since 1975. I’m looking forward to the concert and to the memories. I just hope I don’t cry again. That would be awkward.

What gifts do you remember giving or receiving in your lifetime? Which ones stand out for you?