I’m extremely excited to announce something, but before I announce it, I’d like to explain to you exactly why I’m excited to announce it. Let’s start at the beginning and work our way back.
Over six months ago, Dan and I came up with a very silly idea: to write and perform in a live comedy show in Asbury, NJ. There currently isn’t a market for comedy in the Asbury area, or anywhere near us, for that matter, and so we felt as though we’d have an immediate draw for that reason and that alone. Out of sheer curiosity to see something that didn’t exist previously, people would probably attend our show regardless of what it was. We could have went small (like we actually originally planned) and have actual stand-up comedy from comedians we knew in the tri-state area, write straight-forward sketches and feature pre-recorded video content that was both original and borrowed from friends and the internet.
What we did instead was write something a little more like a play. ‘The Marty Higgins Memorial Laff-a-Thon’ was the story of an imaginary dead boy who suffered from a debilitating disease and two street urchins (me & Dan, natch) who found a Craigslist ad put up by Marty’s father looking for someone to plan and host a memorial show in honor of his dead son. What we intended to be a straightforward variety memorial show with guests from Marty’s life as well as entertainment quickly descended into madness as we lost control of the show early on to a number of uninvited guests, technical errors, transparently poor planning and much more. The result was, as one of the contributors to the show called it, “a shit show. But like, a shit show on purpose.” Or something.
We began writing the show in February and wrote without regard to issues such as casting, budget, or venue layout. We wrote big, big sketches featuring up to eight characters on stage at one time and came up with ideas that were simply too expensive to execute. We realized that we would need to fundraise in order for this show to have even the slightest chance of actually happening. We set the goal at $1,000 and ended up with a little under half of that, $333. Although we didn’t reach our goal, people believed in this idea they didn’t even understand and that honestly, at the time, we hadn’t fully fleshed out. Our sights were extremely high and ambitious and we were starting from literally nothing. In Asbury, unlike New York, there is no comedy scene. Which means there are no comedy venues. And no easily accessible pool of performers to pull from. We had to seek out a venue. We had to scout for talent. We had to incessantly ask friends, who were largely not performers (very much like ourselves, who were also not performers), to play roles or find someone else to play them. We didn’t raise all the money we wanted and couldn’t afford items that seemed like luxuries to us but would have been standard had we not started from scratch, like wireless microphones. But we stretched that budget as far as we could without compromising our super ambitious vision. And for the most part, we didn’t need to make too many compromises.
What we ended up with was a show featuring upwards of twenty different characters. Again, Dan and I are not performers and didn’t really know any in the area and so we had an obviously difficult time finding people to fill over twenty roles. We had videos we needed to record, green screen stuff we wanted to do, pictures, promos, pretty much everything you could think of. We needed all sorts of help assembling not just a cast but the show. And you know what the best part of this whole process was? We found it. We cast a net out to everyone we knew and we pulled in SO many talented, thoughtful, generous people. People who had theater experience. People who had done improv. People who had never been on a stage before. Teenagers. Everyone, no matter their level of experience or even their level of comfort with getting up on a stage and performing ridiculous lines or playing characters with names like Borge Garflin and Paulblarty Jennings, pitched in however they could to help this show be the absolute most it could be. People dropped out along the way for various reasons, some legitimate and personal and some just stupid. And each time we wrestled with the knowledge that we were running out of friends to ask and that this whole thing might fall apart, and each time someone else stepped in and fucking nailed it.
At the end of the show-which was very well attended and received glowing praise from everyone-what we were left with was something that beat the odds to actually succeed despite the reservations we know everyone had. As the writers and creators of this show, even we doubted whether or not the show could actually succeed or whether we’d bomb spectacularly on stage. And there was good reason to assume that. We never ran through a rehearsal of the show in its entirety before performing it live on stage. Not once. We did not practice any of the technical components or test them out at the venue before the day of the show, which resulted in some problems that delayed the show about a half hour. Friends (multiple friends) had approached both of us to say things like “I want to go but I’m afraid it won’t be good,” or “I’ll have a hard time lying to you if I don’t like it.” We never let these comments upset us (at least I don’t think we did) because we totally understood where they were coming from. Logistically, there was little reason for this to work, and there was little reason to believe in us. We had no credits to our names and were recruiting people based on the blind faith that comes with knowing someone pretty well, and in some instances, the blind faith that comes with not knowing a person at all but knowing that someone else recommended them and like, what else are we gonna do? We need someone to play Paul and it’s three days before the show.
Another thing happened at the end of this process that I am incredibly proud of. We succeeded in creating something that did not exist previously. We created a community within ourselves and within the Asbury area. A community of friends, creative individuals and untapped talent. We created a network and a close-knit group of people who believed in each other when there was little reason to and continue, even after the show, to support each other in whatever ways possible. Where we once had no reason for anyone to support our stupid silly ideas, we now have a core group of people who are willing to try anything and do anything for each other. Here we are four weeks after the show and still we talk frequently and support each other constantly. When someone is performing in a band or in a show, we all attend. When we go out to the bar, we travel in a pack. We get brunch of Sundays. We’re really into brunch, as it turns out. None of this happened before the show. A good majority of us didn’t know each other before the beginning of this process, and some of them did not even meet until the day of the show. And it warms my heart a lot to know that something Dan and I did because we felt like it and we wanted to perform and were tired of waiting for something in New York to pan out has ended up affecting so many people and created such a welcoming and supportive community within each other.
The owner of The Saint, the venue we performed the show at, has asked us to perform another one in December and I have a feeling that we’re all going to do great things. Not just in the next show but like, forever. If we can help add something of substance to the dank pit of Asbury Park than by all means I’m excited to do it.
Which is why, like I said, I’m excited to announce something. It’s that this show, this very important piece of my life and something I’m incredibly proud to say I had any hand in creating, is available in almost-but-not-quite-its-entirety on Youtube. Two of our contributors with a lot of fancy equipment very generously recorded the show for us, but for circumstances out of their control were not able to record the final two sketches of the evening (which, for the record were “Mr. Asbury” and “Marty Higgins Disease”). I hope you all take an hour or so to support something that not only means a lot to me, but that means a lot to all the people involved in the creative process. A lot of (fake) blood, sweat and tears went into this and after six months of existing in this universe, I’m so happy to finally share it with the world.
I can’t wait ‘til December.