Tag Archives: entertainment

Cinematic Paradise

A couple of weeks ago, I went and saw the latest installment of The Fast and the Furious. It was a memorable trip, even overlooking the movie itself. See, for the first time, I opted for the D-BOX experience: motorized seats that vibrate and move in correspondence to onscreen action. Fast 8 turned out to be the perfect movie for the system, as every rev, every crash, every explosion reverberated through the chair to my very core. It was so much fun. I was giddy – and sold – from the opening sequence.

I’ve loved movies ever since I was a kid. I suppose a part of that was due to me growing up in Los Angeles. I couldn’t help but be immersed in the culture of Hollywood. I’d go to the mall and it would be where they filmed Terminator 2 (Glendale Galleria) or Back to the Future (Puente Hills Mall). I’d recognize “fake” newscasters in any number of films as the real newscasters on my local television stations. When I was in middle school, my sister even took me along to be an extra in a crowd scene for a forgettable Billy Crystal movie.

But my love for the movies outstripped that of fellow Angelenos, perhaps a product of circumstance. My folks were working six, seven days a week, and I found myself with a fair amount of time to kill going as far back as my elementary school years. My cousin and I would roam the streets in our suburban neighorhood regularly on Saturdays, and we’d invariably end up either playing arcade games at Subway or stopping by the local multiplex. The employees there were lax about movie-hopping; it became a habit.

By the time I reached high school, I was a full-blown addict.* I loved everything about the theatrical experience. I loved seeing the marquees out front when we drove past, back when the only other recourse to find out what was playing was to telephone in or buy a paper. I loved seeing the giant posters and fancy cardboard displays that accompanied new and upcoming releases. I relished seeing a movie with one friend Saturday and another with someone else Sunday, or just going alone for a double- or triple-header. Once, I even stayed for four movies.

*I’d even read book adaptations of things like Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Little Big League; it was absurd. I’ve outgrown that, but even now I’m still drawn to stories that become movies.

It didn’t hurt that I simply liked movies. Even as I watched my fair share of awful new releases, I never walked out on any, and just about never regretted seeing anything on the big screen (though spending $22 at the San Francisco Metreon for the abysmal Men in Black II comes to mind). Every experience offered something worthwhile – a good line, a silly laugh, a striking shot: moments of novelty and genuine inspiration I held onto. I never considered myself a movie expert and certainly not a movie connoisseur; no, I was always a fan.

It was in college that I began to gain a greater appreciation for cinematic history. I took just a single film course – “History of the American Motion Picture” – but fell in love in particular with The Gold Rush (1925) and It Happened One Night (1934). They opened my mind to the timelessness of the medium. Conveniently, this was during the heyday of Netflix’s home delivery service. I kept a steady stream of DVDs flowing in my apartment, taking full advantage of my three-at-a-time plan, all in addition to my regular trips to the theater.

There was so much out there for me to discover – films of all eras, and eventually all languages. After a friend recommended The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, I went on a long run of spaghetti westerns, then shifted over to regular westerns. I’d get to The Magnificent Seven which would lead to the original Seven Samurai which would then take me down Kurosawa lane. Or I’d crush on Audrey Hepburn and watch from her collection, then Marilyn Monroe and hers. I was learning without the structure of a classroom.

The fact that I was at UCLA also meant I was a short walk from the historic movie palaces in Westwood. It added another dimension to my fandom. On weekday afternoons when the crowd was scarce, it’d be me and a scattershot of senior citizens and the self- or perhaps un-employed in any number of beautiful, cavernous halls. The well-worn cliché of being transported to another world for a couple of hours had immeasurable value for my state of mind, being depressed in college. The theatrical experience had evolved into both hobby and therapy.

After college came graduate school, and ten minutes down the road from the university I attended in Irvine, California, there existed a real, honest-to-goodness, 70 mm IMAX theater. It changed my life. Movies had always been an event, but broadcast on a 90’ by 65’ screen – roughly the size of a seven story building, they became more. Everything felt immersive, exhilarating, simply overwhelming.* I watched summer blockbusters in awe, my brain reeling from the stimulus, my heart full. IMAX was a high of an experience that I have never been able to replicate.

*Watch any of the Transformers series on a real IMAX and try not to feel like a kid. They’re objectively terrible movies; I’ve enjoyed all of them nonetheless.

Graduate school was a fantastic time for my movie fandom overall. With a little bit of pocket change and a great deal of spare time, I averaged 80 trips to the theater a year, cranking it up to 100 as I shifted from coursework to dissertation writing. I developed a regular rotation of five or six local theaters, my individual trips determined by showtimes or discounts or membership perks. My mom swam in free tickets and concessions. I maintained a blog exclusively about movies for a year; I even created and taught a course on “International Politics and Film” one summer.

Moving from Southern California – and later, the United States – has done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for film. Of course, as was inevitable, I even wrote a garbage screenplay of my own. But it has been fascinating to witness movie cultures abroad as an expat and traveler. To stand for the Thai royal anthem before the previews begin, to climb awkwardly over Japanese audiences sitting through the entirety of the end credits as a sign of respect, to wrap my head around three rows of subtitles (English, French, German) onscreen in Switzerland. They’re indelible memories.

Movies comprise a significant part of the tapestry that is my life. I can draw upon so many memories – good and bad – of childhood and adolescence, friendships and relationships, profound moments of self-realization to utterly unremarkable days, that are inextricably linked to films and film experiences. Granted, I will never in my life again movie-hop two or three screens every other weekend. But whether I’m in an uncomfortable chair in a last-run theater or a state of the art “motion system” on opening night, I will forever remain captivated by the wonder, the spectacle – the magic of cinema.

(Photo by I, Sailko, GFDL, http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html, CC-BY-SA-3.0, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons)

This Music in My Mind

I like shitty music. Art is subjective, I realize, and I actually do like my music very much, but I am the first to admit that my sensibilities leave much to be desired. My album collection is filled with the kind of innocuous, forgettable, embarrassing stuff most people outgrow by the time they graduate high school: Avril, Britney, Shania, Taylor, Blink. None can be excused as mere relics of my past, as all listed remain prominent features in my current playlists.

Some many years ago, I tried to resell a good chunk of my CD collection. I brought 20 or 30 albums I had already digitized into one of the largest independent music stores in the world: Amoeba Music in Los Angeles. The clerk dutifully went through them one by one, checking their condition. When he finished, there was a moment’s pause. “These are really middle-of-the-road,” he told me. “We can’t take any of them.” I brought everything back to the car. I felt embarrassed.

I never was all that musically inclined growing up. I didn’t develop an ear for good music (despite the considerable size of said ears), never bonded with my parents over their music. Perhaps as a result, my childhood love of Disney created a precedent I retained. I gravitated not towards lyrical depth or instrumental innovation or whatever “legitimate” variables might be discussed in the pages of Rolling Stone, but instead towards catchiness, simplicity, accessibility, fun. I preferred comfort food: top 40, bubblegum pop, conveyer belt stuff.

Unsurprisingly, I got a lot of shit from my friends about my tastes during my teenage years (and still now, sporadically). Like seemingly everyone else in high school, they fancied themselves connoisseurs: discovering indie bands, speaking of lesser-known albums. There is indeed something to the portrayal of music as a core component of adolescence, especially American adolescence, but because of my apathy and less-than-acceptable musical tendencies, it was a conversation I never took part in.

Even now, the aura around music and its meaning eludes me. I obviously enjoy the artform at some level, but its fit in my life remains unnatural. I simply cannot grasp the universal level of passion, of judgment, that appears unique to that form of art. People, for instance, do not extol the virtues of Byzantine art to great (or any) reaction, and no one would debate unearthed coins versus animal exhibits at the natural history museum. But music is treated differently. I wonder if it is the convergence of art and artist and performance that elicits such visceral reaction.

I wonder too whether my own issue goes beyond music. When it comes to the arts after all, I have always had a rather grounded and at times cynical receptivity. I cannot say that I have ever read a book that changed my life, as the cliché goes, nor have I seen a movie that altered how I saw the world around me. I am not a robot – I have been deeply affected by art of course, and I have at times felt art with every fiber of my being. But I would be remiss to suggest that any of it has penetrated my essence to the point of fundamental alteration.

Yet the preceding caveat does not fully explain the general distinctiveness of my feelings towards music. With literature, for example, I have gradually developed a sense of obligation to consider classics from all walks of life, jumping most recently from a sprawling work of historical fiction set against an African civil war to a British coming-of-age children’s novel tinged with magical realism. Similarly with movies, I hop with regularity from black-and-white classics to foreign language films to contemporary blockbusters and 1980s classics. But I have never in this manner actively or systematically sought the spectrum of options in music.

I pause to say here that I consider myself rather open-minded about music, certainly in a way that music snobs are not. I happily accompany friends to just about any live show*, I often purchase songs after hearing them in passing, and I will without fail check out recommendations sporadically directed to me from friends and acquaintances. Yet my personal exploration of music has heretofore been passive, and I simply lack the natural intellectual curiosity for the form I clearly have elsewhere. Essentially, analogously, I am content to watch Transformers and Fast and the Furious and little else.

*I absolutely love the environment – a corollary of my sports fandom, I suppose.

Perhaps all this has to do with the fact that music is meant to stick with the consumer of art in a manner that other forms do not. Indeed, I do not reread books, and it is actually quite rare that I will rewatch a movie – my favorites included. Even museums are not visited more than once. But music is replayed again and again. Music contains an intrinsic degree of permanence, and as a result, requires something that might exceed the boundaries of my open-mindedness. In fact, its very nature alters the conception of what being open-minded entails. Perhaps it is unsurprising then that the tried-and-true is what has stuck with me.

Still, much as I love the music that I do, much as I am ready to defend that music or (more likely) belt it out at karaoke, I do sometimes feel excluded from an art that reaches people so deeply. There is certainly some part of me that wishes to have the awareness to feel the rhythm (getting stronger) or the knowledge to break down verses and recognize allegories and so forth. Who knows. Maybe this will happen in due course, and I eventually broaden my horizons. But maybe it won’t. Maybe my love will always be superficial. After all, there exists the terrible possibility that music simply does not speak to my soul.

The Most Watchable Movie Ever Made

And now, for something completely meaningless…

In May 2015, news came out that Warner Bros. had greenlit a new version of the 1993 action-thriller The Fugitive. There was scant detail provided – whether the project would be a sequel or reboot or remake, if Harrison Ford or Tommy Lee Jones would be involved, and so forth – and that remains the case to this day. The only piece of information I could find concerns the involvement of screenwriter Christina Hodson, credited with 2016’s Shut In (owner of a sparkling 3% on Rotten Tomatoes).

There are no original ideas in Hollywood, of course. Books, television shows, video games, board games, toys, and even phone apps have made the leap to the silver screen in recent years. Everything that has been proven to sell once, in any medium, has been recycled to sell again, time and time again. By one count, there will be 43 sequels, reboots, and remakes in 2017. This includes Universal trying to refranchise The Mummy into their monsterverse, and Kenneth Branagh revisiting the 1974 classic Murder on the Orient Express (based on the Agatha Christie novel), for starters.

However, there is something about the idea of touching The Fugitive I find especially egregious. As I glance at entertainment news almost two years later, I find myself even now dreading the inevitable update that lists the director or actors involved in the project. I realize that The Fugitive itself originated on television in the 1960s, and inspired another short-lived television reboot in the early 2000s – the property is hardly an “original.” But my problem with a movie redo is simple. The Fugitive is perfect. It is immensely watchable and rewatchable. It holds up in every aspect.

For starters, the script of The Fugitive is expertly crafted. The prologue establishes its premise in mere minutes. The wife of Dr. Richard Kimble (Ford) is murdered, he accused and found guilty of the crime. Flashbacks trace the couple’s last night together, spent at a fundraising event. The scenes are casual, seemingly nonchalant, but, unbeknownst to us at this point, hints. For now though, we simply follow Kimble – to the emergency surgery he is called in to perform, then back home where he finds his dead wife, and her killer, the one-armed man. We know Kimble is innocent. But we also know how it looks.

Kimble escapes, of course, in a sensational bus-train crash sequence as memorable an action setpiece as any in cinematic history. That’s when the movie truly begins. We have Kimble on the run, desperate to buy time both to clear his name and to uncover the truth behind his wife’s murder. And we have Deputy Samuel Gerard (Jones) and his team of US Marshals, tasked with finding an escaped murderer and bringing him to justice. “I’m not trying to solve a puzzle here,” Gerard says. “Well, I am,” Kimble responds.

It is precisely the puzzle that separates The Fugitive from any number of chase thrillers, providing the narrative much depth. While the entire first act is about Kimble wrestling to stay free in the immediate aftermath of his escape (including a highway chase scene), the movie evolves deftly and begins to ebb and flow with the puzzle rather than the chase. It’s an effective shift, one necessary to maintaining the integrity of Kimble’s character. Yes, Kimble is a smart man – probably smarter than his pursuers – but it is because of his mission that he puts himself at risk of capture.

The refocus on the murder also frees the movie from any sort of monotony with the extended cat-and-mouse between Gerard and Kimble. Indeed, the script feels well-balanced throughout. Following the iconic encounter at the dam that ends the first act (“I didn’t kill my wife!” “I don’t care.”), we have a break in the chase, as Kimble returns to Chicago and formulates his plan, while the marshals move to capture the other fugitive from the escape. These scenes work to remind us of the characters’ underlying motivations, in the process contributing to their development.

Even without the physical presence of the marshals, Kimble’s predicament lends urgency to every scene. The drug sting and arrest of his landlady’s son is a heartpounding sequence that captures the walls seemingly caving in on Kimble – in the aftermath, Ford conveys this perfect mixture of relief and exhaustion and downright terror. The hospital sequence is no less tense, as we are reminded of the threat he faces even from a suspicious lab technician or a doctor. That he is making progress in his search for the one-armed man only underlines the stakes for our protagonist.

By the time we reach the end of the second act then, it seems almost an inevitability that the two sides will circle back on one another again. That the scene takes place in the wolf’s den – as Kimble visits a jail to see if an armed robber now behind bars is his one-armed man – only ratchets up the tension tenfold (there is a fantastic visual of Kimble shrinking in the back of an elevator filled with cops). This is a purposeful encounter for the narrative. Even if they cross paths purely by accident – with Gerard looking into the one-armed man himself – we are reminded of the precariousness of Kimble’s situation, the relentlessness of the man on his tail.

It is with the subsequent fall of the first big chess piece – when Kimble identifies Fredrick Sykes (Andreas Katsulas) as the one-armed man – that the movie shifts once more. The strands hinted at in the prologue, and pursued in the second act, start to come together as the movie barrels towards its conclusion. The separate worlds inhabited by the main characters merge almost fully now as Kimble clues the marshals in on his investigation (while necessarily keeping them at arm’s length). They’re not quite on the same side, but at least now they’re asking the same questions.

As Kimble and Gerard work individually to unravel the puzzle, Sykes comes to the forefront – dragging with him from the shadows the individuals who orchestrated the murder. The movie does this naturally, effectively: we have moved from the question of who killed Kimble’s wife to why Kimble’s wife was killed. And as Kimble finally pieces everything together, we do too, culminating in a series of onscreen showdowns. Kimble with the one-armed man, then with the mastermind, then with Gerard. It is an immensely satisfying finale.

There is not a wasted scene or line to be found in The Fugitive. Every thread comes back around, big and small. For instance, the push-and-pull over jurisdiction is a recurring theme, with the marshals clashing with local authorities from the outset (leading to Jones’ famous “warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse” line). Thus, late in the movie, when Sykes’ murder of a cop is blamed on Kimble, there are consequences for the marshals too. “Chicago PD will eat him alive!” They’re chomping at the bit to kill a man that the marshals want captured. It adds another realistic dimension to the final confrontation.

Indeed, the film oozes of authenticity. Some of it is almost forgettable: the throwaway line that references prank calls from people pretending to be Kimble on the hotline, the internal monologue of a nurse as she attends to an elderly patient. There are small human moments: the old guard who saves himself from the bus-train crash and then tells a white lie about the circumstances of Kimble’s escape. Then there are the constants: the easy banter among the marshals that reveal their camaraderie, the doctor who cannot turn his back on the hippocratic oath even on the lam. All of it works in service of more fully-realized characters, of a more fully-realized world.

There are too many reasons why The Fugitive works as well as it does. The movie takes a situation already imbued with urgency and adds a mystery on top. It sets up the highest of stakes, with the truth encompassing not only vindication in the face of execution but vengeance as well. It paces itself, balancing its disparate elements and worlds, with three crescendos that find the main characters at very different places in their respective missions. It is rich in dialogue, and propelled further by the power of the performances. The Fugitive is as smart, thrilling, and fun a movie as you will ever see.

And it is utterly timeless.

By the Lake

I should experience the summer, I’m told. This in fact has been an almost universal refrain from denizens in Geneva, with the implicit – and sometimes not-so-implicit – suggestion that the other seasons are generally forgettable here. Quiet. Sleepy. Boring. It’s the general thrust of the city’s reputation. A colleague who has lived around the edges here for more than a decade could not name a restaurant within city confines that he frequented regularly. A collaborator now in Vienna volunteered she spent “a year in a month” here, chuckling as she asked how I was coping so far. I have met plenty of people who like the city, to be sure, but with reservations. Again, I should really experience the summer.

It is impossible for me to look at my three months in Geneva without doing so through the lens of the last place I resided – Tokyo, Japan. From that regard, my life is already so different that the idea of the cities being classified as the same species – let alone genus, family, order, class, phylum, kingdom, or domain* – is an almost laughable proposition. My 20.35 square meter shoebox in the world’s hippest neighborhood has given way to a ridiculous 90+ square meter apartment in one of the world’s sleepiest. Shops close at 7 pm instead of seemingly never, crowds are the exception rather than the norm, and overall vibrancy is contained to a special event, a block or two, an evening or two. We’ve shifted to tortoise from hare.

*Because high school biology shouldn’t be wasted

But it is precisely the drastic character of the change that I don’t mind at all what Geneva has been so far. This is not Tokyo revisionism. I continue to miss the constant buzz and excitement, the pure visceral and frenetic nature of it all. I miss the comfort of familiarity with the space I had carved out, in an environment defined by its absence of boundaries. I miss my best friend (understatement). Still, I have alluded to the fact that my life in Japan did not seem sustainable – for my liver certainly, or my state of mind. I did feel compelled to hike just about every week, almost necessary to preserve my sanity. It would have been too easy for me to get lost there, in this contradiction of the familiarity of the surreal.

Geneva in some ways then stands as a perfect detox to Tokyo, a near antithesis that straddles the line of being an international city and sleepy suburb. This is not the most flattering image I am painting, I realize. But short of Seoul and a select few other locales, the down-scaling from a metropolitan population that nearly reached 39 million to any other was always going to be a move that was intrinsically a return to the ‘real world.’* And Geneva – on its own merits – has plenty of positives. It feels and is culturally rich and diverse, with a sense of history and even a couple of sports teams. The presence of so many international organizations, and the accompanying influx of young professionals and expats, lends it an aura of liveliness, even if only in spurts. Life overall appears sustainable, real – more often at least.

*an estimated 485,000 in Geneva

It is a running joke that residents flock to the train station and the airport to leave the city on the weekends. But the idea that this is an indictment on Geneva itself seems a patently unfair judgment to make. The public transportation system that links Geneva to all parts of Switzerland is a credit to the country, a cheap means to a nearby day hike, a jazz festival in Lausanne, a weekend in Zurich or Bern. After all, I too used Boston as a springboard to explore the Northeast Corridor. I left Tokyo regularly to see more of Japan than any non-local possibly could, to spend holidays (twice!) in Southeast Asia. The proximity of Geneva to any number of European capitals should stand as a point in its favor, not against.

The other day, a colleague offhandedly insulted Lexington, Kentucky, a place neither he nor I had ever been to. And I found myself being a bit offended by it. It seems silly, seeing as how I’ve eliminated half the US from the list of places where I want to work. Maybe it’s easy to be self-righteous and indignant in theory. But a few years ago, I spent two weeks in Syracuse, New York, for an extended academic workshop. I was quite dismissive of the experience then. Looking back now though, I went to a minor league baseball game, checked out a food festival, and took a day trip to Cooperstown. If I lived there now, I would find hikes, local shows, a farmer’s market or something. With university students around, it would have approached vibrant, I’m sure. I would bet Lexington has its charms, just as I can see now that Syracuse did too.

Perhaps then this is a matter of personal maturity, and an interrelated comfort level with my own needs and hobbies. What does it mean for a place to be boring, after all? What does a person want from the place where they reside? In Geneva, I have walked a weekend flea market (regularly), checked out a couple of art exhibits, sat for a hockey game and a play, and ate and drank through a street food festival and a beer festival, respectively. I’ve gone on a few hikes that started within the confines of the city, even gone for a swim lakeside when the weather permitted. This weekend, I’ll likely go to a Christmas market and a photo exhibition in Nyon (a 15 minute train ride away) in lieu of a concert orchestra at the United Nations. Next weekend, I’m off to Barcelona.

Okay, so Geneva itself is low-key, quiet. But boring? I don’t think that’s right. More to the point, I don’t think I want to be that dismissive of any place anymore, even if only in theory. Yeah, Geneva is certainly different from Tokyo or Boston or Los Angeles. But isn’t that the point of living anywhere?

Stand-Up Guy

I’m hilarious. …Wait, that came out wrong.

I make myself laugh. I’d like to think that I’m a fairly funny guy, with an above-average sense of humor. I’ve always had an interest in comedy as an artform. Now, I’m no scholar on the field*, and I didn’t exactly grow up surrounded by Pryor and Carlin albums. But I’ve bought a fair number of comedy CDs, I’ve watched more than my share of stand-up, and I’ve attended a number of live shows.

*Though randomly, I did write a college essay on the career of vaudeville-era comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.

I have always been drawn to irreverence: it was Norm MacDonald’s time as a Weekend Update anchor that made me a convert for life, and I devoutly watched both Married… with Children and The Simpsons growing up. In fact, I developed a friendship with a guy in high school largely revolving around one question: “Did you watch The Simpsons last night?” New episode or repeat: it didn’t matter. We’d sit around recalling setups and punch-lines and laugh all over again.

It’s amazing how formative those years are. I still retain Simpsons memories 20 years later, and in fact just two years ago spent the better half of an evening dredging them up with a friend on a restaurant patio. While causality must have operated in both directions, my love of those shows – along with Seinfeld  – has contributed in no insignificant amount to the me who existed then and the me who exists now, to my perspectives on humor and entertainment and life.

I’ve always been someone who’s struggled with purpose, with existential questions and ambition and long-term plans and everything else. I suppose this makes me no different from most anybody. But I’ve responded by not taking life too seriously. Or at all. And as a result, as a coping mechanism or whatever, I actively seek humor in life. I figure if I’m going to be here, I might as well derive some semblance of enjoyment from it. And laughter, sometimes, is all I’ve got.

My irreverence has emerged time and again in my various creative outlets, in my presence on social media, in just about every aspect of my life except the professional side of things. I’ve never thought about performing though.* I’m a shy kid, and my lone semester in middle school drama never awoken any deep urges or anything. And nothing has changed since. I’m a writer first and foremost, and my ambition has remained in that sphere.

*Other than the standard “I want to be famous” dream that we L.A.-types have in our DNA.

But this year I am spending in Japan has been quite exceptional in a number of ways. I have been prone to a lot of self-reflection. And by virtue of not speaking the language, of experiencing somewhat of a quarter-life crisis, as well as other variables, vulnerability has become somewhat of the norm for me here in this life. And thus, after attending an English-language open mic night, I decided stand-up was something I wanted to try at least once.

I read a bunch of articles with advice for first-timers. Then, in one evening, I quickly jotted down a three-minute set that centered on a fictionalized version of myself. Observational humor and such. I circulated a first draft to my friends via e-mail, incorporated their feedback into a new iteration, and then practiced countless times. I did a run-through for a friend, made more changes based on her advice, and had basically a near-final version a week before the performance.

The final week then was just a lot of practice, with some fine-tuning of phrases and the like. I felt okay about the whole endeavor – my years in academia and as a teaching assistant had prepared me for public speaking better than most, though I’ve never been great at it (and my last presentation was nearly a year ago). What made me really nervous was the idea of being judged for my sense of humor, which I had come to believe was, if not quite beyond reproach, then something close to that.

I slept all right the night before, though not great. I did dry-heave in the morning – which has apparently become a thing on important days now. I was nervous, but I kept reminding myself that I felt confident about my material.* Even beyond that, I knew this was something I wanted to do, a sharp contrast to my 45 minute presentations about nuclear proliferation. In short, I was nervous, yes, but I was also excited. It was a neat feeling.

*With the same aforementioned high school friend, strangely enough, we had a habit of semi-ironically yelling “CONFIDENCE!” to ourselves before doing certain things – taking a test, shooting a basketball, etc. I couldn’t get that out of my mind.

The room was unsurprisingly small, a shoebox basement bar in Ebisu. There was a crowd of about 15, including a couple of friends. Seven or eight people performed; I went third. It was nerve-racking. I held onto the microphone with two hands for far too long, as if holding on for dear life. Someone later told me I didn’t even move the mic stand from directly in front of me, providing an unintended distraction.  But I remembered my whole set, didn’t fudge any lines, and didn’t say ‘um’ too much.

And I did fine. Even well, perhaps. I got laughs throughout, with one particular joke killing, and only one line that really fell flat. I finished, accepted the applause, dorkily high-fived my friends, and sat down relieved, half-listening to the next act. A couple of guys – including the bartender – gave me really positive feedback as the night wore on. And when I went home, I felt pretty good about having done it. That was my open mic experience.

I think I’d be open to doing it again in the future, though not in the immediate future. As nice as it was to share my material with the world (or 15 people within the world), I think I had more fun creating it. Maybe I need to do it again and again to really get good at it, to experience that rush that only performers can get. I don’t know. But truth of the matter is, I think I’m still a writer at heart. So I’m just going to try and write more jokes. For now, at least.