Under the Influence

A few minutes ago I was doing the dishes. My mind was wandering like the soap bubbles as they slid from sponge to plate to sink to drain, not to say that all my thoughts were going down the drain, but I guess that is a tragic side effect to thinking while doing the dishes or in the shower. There's something about water that triggers my imagination. I suppose any liquid, he said, thinking back to the script he felt adamant to work on at 1 am last night after half a dozen beers. Today, I was thinking about an imaginary CV I would create for any potential job in comedy and the influences I would cite. I think the six degrees of Kevin Bacon to get me there was re-watching all of Brooklyn Nine-Nine for a third time and preceding that, all of Archer for a fifth time. So are these my influences, or just things I appreciate? What's the difference? Is there a difference?

The same goes for stand-up - and this is why I think I'm struggling to find my voice. Don't get me wrong, I'm currently in the newborn stage of my comedy career, so it's not like this is a major crisis, but thinking about influences should be helpful. But so far it isn't because I can't decide which is what. To be fair, even the idea of doing stand-up is recent, so I'm getting into the game late. In high school I'd watch or listen and appreciate good stand-up, but I was always more in tune to the writing, to what a joke is, not who delivered it. And 'influences'? It's a blind drunk throwing darts. First set I ever heard? Steve Martin, Let's Get Small. First album I bought? Denis Leary, No Cure For Cancer. First live show? Ron James. First video special I bought? Robin Williams, Live on Broadway. I mean, absurdist to dark to Canadiana story time to improv & character mastery - not much of a common thread. Especially when the majority of the jokes I've been writing are puns (Note: Go fuck yourself, Samuel Johnson). So are these things I merely appreciate, or are they influences? 

Here's a brief anecdote: In high school, learning guitar, I wanted to be great. My dad is a fabulous guitar player and was teaching my best friend and I. He was a much quicker study than me. Disheartening, but never the less, I worked at it. I learned all the songs I could to get better. Anything that caught my ear, I tried to play. But I found that this wasn't my path. I wanted to write my own songs and the more and more I learned other people's music, the more and more the songs I would write sounded like what I had just learned. At one point I think I just inverted a chord progression without realizing it and thought I'd written a masterpiece. So I stopped learning songs and focused solely on creating my own (which was great and continues to be great, other than I can never really partake in campfire sing-a-longs as much as I would like. Oh well, win some and you lose some). 

I'm very lucky to have found my way onto a blossoming internet broadcast with a respected, daresay icon, of Canadian television and this is something I don't want to take for granted - but it's also something I would love to use as a springboard (it'll go on the CV). The same goes for stand-up. When my eyes are closed at night, the images aren't me on a stage in a theatre or arena, with throngs of people holding on to my every word like a third grader on the monkey bars. The images are other people doing other things: they're joke seeds that will become sketches and scripts. I'm telling jokes to get better at writing so that I can write more. 

Fifteen years ago I decided I would write my own music and now the same goes for words. Which makes me think that really it doesn't matter what my influences are. I appreciate many things for many reasons and subconsciously they all will effect my art. So why bother trying to define them? I'm over them and they're under me.