Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Convention Highlights - Thursday

Thursday came early that day. "Granddad, it's time to get up."

I learned that I would indeed be performing in General Open Mic after all. My good friend Donald Woodford spoke to Al Getler, the MC of the event, and offered to give me his slot. He really wanted to see Uncle Sweeter onstage. Al was so impressed by Don's generous and magnanimous gesture that he not only gave me Don's slot, he used his management prerogative and created another slot just for Don.

In the meantime, we went to some more lectures. Landon decided as soon as he got into the Dealers Rooms the night before that he wants an Axtell dinosaur. We attended Steve Axtell's lecture on latex and then to Dan Horn's manipulation lecture. Dan showed a new Mary Ann Taylor puppet he bought the night before. I had seen the puppet on display, thought it was nice, and moved on. Dan saw the potential in that face, picked it up, and embued the puppet with life, character, and personality. What a talent!

Landon performed at Junior Open Mic. He did very well, and I was and am a proud Granddad. He got good marks and several constructive comments from the panel of judges. Later many conference attendees and Mark Wade himself congratulated Landon on his performance. When I get home, I'll import the video and post it.

Pete Michaels, Jr., all of six years old, performed with Pete, Sr's first dummy, which was bigger than the ventriloquist, at least this time around. Pete, Jr. captured everyone's heart.

One very young man, probably not older than nine, did a vent act with a soft figure. His manipulation reminded me of Jeff Dunham's Peanut. His material was, however, totally inappropriate for someone of his age. It would have been over the edge for anyone of any age. This convention is not that kind of show. If you've followed my writings you know that I use adult material in my act. I do not, however, enjoy hearing it delivered by a child who is too young to understand himself his own jokes. He also made several negative religious references, too, that I could not hear well, but I wonder whether there is a parent out there with an agenda. Shame on you, whoever you are, for using your child to deliver your message. I hope the judge's comments appropriately scolded whomever was responsible. It borders on child abuse, in my not-so-humble opinion.

I attended and learned a lot from Judy Buch and Liz Von Seggen's lecture on how to rehearse. I tend to take a more relaxed approach to delivering comedy—a side-effect of years doing sit-down ad lib comedy at piano bars—consequently much of what they taught does not apply to my modus operandi. But I can readily see that if I was doing birthday parties and library and school shows, I could benefit from their lessons.

General Open Mic was looming and I needed a routine for the show. I have a script in work for Uncle Sweeter, so I skipped the Winchell/Mahoney Hour video presentation to toss a few of the more family-oriented jokes together and make up some jokes that would fit the convention environment—something about the old guy not wanting to wear his convention badge, and like that.

I attended the panel on "Women in Vent," not because the issues interest me, but mainly because I like to look at pretty women. Sorry. That's the kind of sexist pig I am. I was put off by the usual seemingly obligatory reference to adult humor as being easy, cheap and low, and by the general tendency of the ladies to agree. I won't repeat my rant on that subject here. I'll just provide links to it:

Family and Adult Comedy: A Discussion
Adult vs Family Comedy: Which is Easier?
Adult vs Family Comedy: Standards of Morality

Get over it ladies. Learn to live with it.

General Open Mic was next, and I gave Uncle Sweeter Dabney his debut. He was well-received. I did not have a chance to time the routine when I kind of rehearsed it, and I lost track of time during the act and overstayed my welcome. They tell me they were out there flashing me with a flashlight to get my attention, but I did not see it. The spotlights were too bright. Finally, I heard a hoarse whisper from behind the curtain, "Your time is up." I am truly sorry that I took more than my fair share of time.

My performance was surreptitiously videotaped by at least two devious attendees, both of whom disobeyed the rules by videotaping and one of whom got busted for it later. I'm glad they bent the rules, because now I have an opportunity to review my work and maybe add a clip to my website. I have arranged to get a copy of one of the videos and maybe both.

Once again I tried to close the hospitality suite. This time, however, my multi-ended candle burned out early and I went to bed at about 2:00 am.

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