PART 1 (of 2)
Got an exclusive two part treat for the flock. Author Zander Marks and his friend author/comedian Dwayne Perkins discuss comparisons between stand-up and self-publishing. Then in the next post they give Smexy Anti-Vampire Comedy Club Safety Tips. And to help spread some Hot Chocolate love they put together a cool prize package. You enter with the raffledude on this post, then head to the other post to get extra entries.
Zander Marks and Dwayne Perkins Talk About Books, Comedy, Vampires, and How to Save Your Life
For those of you who don't yet know Dwayne, there's a pretty good chance that you've seen him. In addition to his appearances on Leno, Conan, and other shows, he's had his own Comedy Central special. He's also done national ads for Verizon AND Sprint, because he can't make up his mind about phone companies.
In addition to being a well-regarded practitioner in the fine art of making comedy club patrons blow drinks through their noses, Dwayne is also an all-around good guy, his divided telecom loyalties notwithstanding, and a heck of a writer. Dwayne has just released Hot Chocolate for the Mind, a collection of humorous and human essays and observations. I've just released my own novel Death Ain't But A Word, which is a supernatural thriller about a crackhead who sees ghosts.
Dwayne and I will be discussing books, the connections between comedy and novels, and because we are guests on I Smell Sheep, we will also provide some life-saving anti-vampire-hotness comedy club safety tips.
How are you, Dwayne? And what have you been up to?
Dwayne Perkins: I'm well. My comedy is in a good place. It's sort of self sustaining at this point. I have my voice and process in place so unless I decide to overhaul my stage persona, I envision my comedy will sort of run smoothly. (Although that last statement sounds like famous last words). My comedy is like a child that's 17, responsible, and has already been accepted into a great college. I can sort of trust it to do the right thing. To that end I've been adding more and more on my plate. My plate is currently loaded with: writing screenplays, pitching TV show ideas, shooting sketches, learning Spanish and of course releasing "Hot Chocolate for The Mind."
Zander Marks: Learning Spanish! Coming soon: “Chocolate Caliente para la Mente!”
Dwayne Perkins: Claro que! But seriously, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s a process.
But I’d like to say thanks for being such a faithful reader of my blog. There were definitely stretches where your comments single handedly kept me going. It's amazing how much you can ascertain about a person from reading even a short sample of their writing. Your comments were always dead on and funny. You always got the jokes and the subtext. It’s like a musician hearing another musician play one note and immediately knowing he’s a virtuoso.
Zander Marks: Thanks! Writing’s a pretty solitary activity, and getting feedback from readers can make a huge difference. I think I owe my sanity--insofar as I still have any--to the community on GoodReads.
But my blog-following definitely wasn’t altruistic. Life in cubicle land--and I know you did your time there before going into comedy--can be pretty dehumanizing. I always found your outlook to be an effective antidote to the more soul-crushing aspects of my day-job workday.
Dwayne Perkins: In stand-up I drive my point home and can somewhat control how the audience processes my thoughts. With writing the reader has full autonomy to interpret as they see fit. I'm still getting used to people concluding things I didn't intend them to. I guess that's a pro and con?
Zander Marks: That’s an interesting perspective, and probably the product of your years of stage-time...feeling more in control when you can respond in real-time. As a non-comedian, obviously, I never developed that skill-set, so I feel safer on the page. Comedians are one of the few kinds of entertainers so closely bound to their own writing ability. So much so, that I tend to think of comedians as “writers who inhabit what they write in front of an audience.” And I can do funny on paper, as long as it stays on paper. It’s that translation to performance--that hard-earned skill of inhabiting the material and making it feel completely in-the-moment--that puts you on the stage and me in the front row with my two required drinks.
Dwayne Perkins: Strange. I’ve never seen you in the front row.
Zander Marks: Um...well.
Dwayne Perkins: In fact, I’ve never seen you at a show at all.
Zander Marks: It’s the hours. I try to be home before nightfall.
Dwayne Perkins: Scared of the dark?
Zander Marks: A little. And you roam the night? Maybe stand-up comedy is your front. What better job for a vampire to have?
Dwayne Perkins: If you’ve never seen me in the daytime, then you must not go to Starbucks. I’m basically “Norm” in my local Starbucks, a place where everybody knows my name and drink order.
One thing I’ve discovered that I like about books--as opposed to stand-up--is this: I’m not writing for laughs per minute like I do for my stand-up. Each piece can be more thoughtful, and I can explore more serious stuff with more depth. I can touch on it in my stand-up, but I can take it further on the printed page.
Zander Marks: Your stand-up works within your life philosophy, but your writing fills it out with more nuance.
Dwayne Perkins: Right. People who've seen my stand-up first before reading my essays tell me they can hear me talking as they read. That's a huge plus for me. I imagine those readers have a richer experience. It is important to me though that seeing my stand-up not be a prerequisite to reading my book or my blogs. Like you said my writing is definitely at a different pace. There's no two drink minimum or waitress settling tabs when people are reading. At least I hope not.
Zander Marks: And now that you’ve finished the book, the pace of response is also different, I suspect. Especially when you’re doing the indie slow-climb instead of the traditional big-release.
Dwayne Perkins: That's a great point. It's a challenge though to be patient and stay the course. Especially in a world where traditionally movies and books are judged by what they do out of the gate. When you think about it, the ubiquity of information probably makes it considerably harder for people to find entertainment they want to consume. Like being in a mega supermarket, the choices can be overwhelming. So trusted screeners have become more important than ever. Getting the screeners to take note is the tricky part.
Zander Marks: For my own book promotion, I’ve actually borrowed a page from stand-up comedy. Indie publication and stand-up are both do-it-yourself enterprises, I think. Comics build their repertoires, stage-skills, and find their audiences through sheer hard work. It’s an incremental process, I think...you play a lot of out-of-the-way venues at the beginning and put miles on your car. And in that process, you gradually build a following over time until you reach a tipping point. The so-called “overnight success” in comedy is really just the culmination of years of hard work.
I think indie publishing works on a very similar model. Since books are an investment of time more than money for most readers, word-of-mouth is critical. And that takes time...People have to get around to your book, read it, and then hopefully tell others about it, and that’s not a quick process.
Dwayne Perkins: And just like with comedy, you have to deliver the goods. If you’re not funny, the audience won’t fake laughter for your benefit--it’s the ultimate truthful feedback. And all the road-miles won’t pay off if there isn’t anything there. For indie publishers, I expect the same principle holds true...if a book doesn’t deliver what it promises, then the word-of-mouth process will never take hold.
I think the written form allows the author’s ideologies and idiosyncrasies to be sort of time-released. The reader gets to know you/and or your characters with minimal effort. Like most growth, it's not noticeable while it's happening but undeniable after it's happened. Stand-up doesn't leave much room for subtlety but amongst most comics I know, I'm probably one of the best at making points without beating my chest while doing it.
Zander Marks: True that last statement. The precision of your approach is actually very well-suited to a printed treatment. There’s a thoughtfulness in your stuff that comes through even when under the laughs-per-minute/keep-their attention constraints of a club audience.
On that subject--and I don’t think I’ve ever told you this--it was your guest spot on The Ointment years ago that first got my attention. In that piece you did your Michael Richards stuff and your N-word rules. Obviously, that’s some potentially incendiary terrain, and there are plenty of comically easy ways to handle it. What struck me about your approach--in addition to how funny it was--was the grace and subtlety. I think race and racism are still very much perceived as the “third rail” in this country, despite the changes we’ve seen, and your handling of the subject was inclusive in a way that was wickedly funny and completely on-point.
The clear take-away for me was: “This is real. This is serious. This hurts. But we (meaning all of us) are bigger than this, and we don’t need to be afraid of it.” There wasn’t any “them” to the whole piece. It was all “us,” including Michael Richards. Given the loaded raw material you were working with, that impressed the hell out of me. There wasn’t any compromise or concession of principle, but it was for the whole audience, not just part of the audience. That’s what made me think: “I better watch this guy. He’s cracked the code for taking the audience with him and not leaving a single person out of the equation. It’s just going to be a matter of time before we start seeing a lot more of him.”
But with a book or blog. It's a more one on one connection. Each person can take in your offering at their own pace and in their own way. It's a way more intimate connection. Plus, people reading are probably sober. Crowds at comedy shows are usually teetering on drunk by the time I get them.
Zander Marks: Ah, yes...the alcohol. Makes them easy pickings for vampires in the parking lots afterwards.
Dwayne Perkins: We don’t like to talk about that.
Zander Marks: Have you ever seen vampires...or dead people?
Dwayne Perkins: When I was getting started, there were times I saw entire audiences of dead people. Not so much these days, though.
Not sure if this is the forum to share this window into my crazy, but here goes nothing. I do not see dead people and I hope it stays that way. I can't imagine I would get over the first shock of realizing I had that power.
And now the crazy. I actually punch around corners when I get home at night. I throw a punch at no one. My thought is that one day a person may jump out. And I'm going to cold-cock him. I hope it's a him. Not sure if the punch would work on dead people. I would probably just get cold. In any event I think the previous shows how much of a scaredy cat I am.
I loved your book but I was scared at first. I can't even watch the movies where they spoof scary movies. That's how much of a punk I can be.
Zander Marks: Ha! Now it’s my turn. I can’t handle horror movies, and I’m a sucker for suspense when it’s done well. If it’s formulaic, I can keep my psychological distance and get through it with no problem. But if the characters start to get under my skin and I care about them, Katie bar the door. I watched The Silence of the Lambs, but only after reading the book first. Same with The Exorcist. Heck...I even took that precaution with Jurassic Park.
Dwayne Perkins: Speaking of precautions, my conscience is starting to bother me about the comedy club vampire problem...it’s not something we’re supposed to talk about, because it’s bad for business. But I feel maybe we should at least offer some safety tips. As long as it doesn’t get circulated around too much.
Zander Marks: I think we owe it to the readers.
Dwayne Perkins: I’m probably shooting myself in the foot by doing this. I might never get booked again.
Zander Marks: Look, this is I Smell Sheep. These readers already know about smexy vampires. So we’re not really breaking any secrets. We’re just giving them some safety tips. And we know these readers are exactly the kinds of people the vamps go crazy for.
Dwayne Perkins: Yeah. Plus, they’re sharp-witted. That’s like catnip to a smexy vampire.
Zander Marks: How do you know they’re sharp-witted?
Dwayne Perkins: Don’t question me. I’m a professional comedian. I can spot sharp wit a mile away.
Zander Marks: Then we better do this. For ethics.
Dwayne Perkins: Yes. For ethics.
To read Dwayne and Zander’s
check out the next post. You can get an extra entry for the Supernatural Hot Chocolate Double Rescue Kit by commenting on that post.
Dwayne Perkins is nationally-touring stand-up comedian with television credits that include The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Conan and Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Comedy Central Presents, and Last Comic Standing. You can find Dwayne’s writing and performance at the following:
Book: Hot Chocolate for the Mind (Available for Kindle. Paperback coming soon.)
Compact Discs: She Ate My Haircut and Dwayne Perkins to the Rescue
Amazon Video: Comedy Central Presents Dwayne Perkins (Season 8, Ep. 19)
Tour/Live Performance Information: http://www.dwayneperkins.com
Zander Marks is the author of Death Ain’t But A Word: A Supernatural Hot Mess, which has received 4 1/2 Sheep from ismellsheep.com, 5 stars from the San Francisco Book Review and Fantasy Review Barn, and a “Highly Recommended” from the Midwest Book Review. The novel tells the story of Wilkin Jones, a surprisingly endearing crackhead who sees ghosts.
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