Wednesday, June 15, 2011


DSCF1557Back in April, I blogged about trying to be entertaining. I also mentioned the little stand-up routine I’d developed in conjunction with my KILLER ROUTINE promotional appearances. I’m here today to report on what transpired.

It wasn’t always pretty.

Here’s a dissection of my presentation.

I began with a few warm-up witticisms. “How many people have come to one of my events before?” “How many people have heard me speak more than once?” “How many people are just here for the cake?”

Then I talked a little bit about my books, and why I decided to write a series featuring a stand-up comic. To explore that fine line between comedy and tragedy. To have a suspenseful mystery with an “excuse” to include some humor. So I could watch Comedy Central and count it as research.

While the books in the Last Laff series are not funny-funny, there are spots where characters perform stand-up routines. I went on to explain the difficulty I found in writing a routine to be read and not performed. Without the benefit of the comic’s timing, delivery style, and attitude, the routine is apt to come off pretty flat on paper. To illustrate this point, I read a short bit I’d transcribed from a Brand-Name Comedian. Predictably (and with my delivery style), it indeed fell flat.

I described what I did to circumvent this. I chose a secondary character and had him perform at an open-mic night, where the comedy standards are, well, practically non-existent. I went on to explain how an open-mic night works and then I suggested we simulate one. Right there on the spot.

Who wants to go first?

That’s when I shucked my writer persona and donned my stand-up identity.

After writing a few crime fiction manuscripts, I realized I needed to do some research to learn more about crime. So I knocked over a 7-Eleven.

I discovered that my “comedy” went over better when there were more people in the audience, and that I fed off their energy.

All writers I know eagerly anticipate their reviews, and I’ve been fortunate to get some good ones, for both books. But my favorite review is about DIAMONDS FOR THE DEAD, and it’s from my son: “No offense, Dad, but that book is way too good to have been written by you.”

I’ve always held an admiration for stand-up comics. Now, it’s doubled. That’s hard work, getting people to laugh. Hard, hard work.

If you’re a writer, you will encounter rejection. A lot of rejection. That’s why you need a really thick skin. And I’m used to rejection, I really am. But lately, it seems like things have been getting worse:

Prince Makeenu of the Royal Family of Nigeria keeps refusing my checks.

Harry and David wouldn’t let me join their Fruit-of-the-Month Club.

Rejection just follows me around. The Salvation Army won’t take any of my old clothes. What’s worse, they won’t take any of my new clothes, either!

So far, I’d have to judge my experiment as a success. Many attendees made a point of coming up and telling me how much they enjoyed the presentation. They thought it was entertaining, even when my jokes bombed.

Now, I did notice a few uneasy looks from the audience, and I imagined them trying to extrapolate my writing ability from how I performed my comedy shtick. So to put people at ease, I made sure to sign books with the inscription: Don’t worry, my writing is better than my stand-up.

I hope they bought it!

(This entry was “simul-posted” on InkSpot)



Art Taylor said...

It really was a great event, and the comedy routine was both brave and refreshing. The whole thing underscored what a tough job it is to be a comedian! I think everyone enjoyed that glimpse into both the comedy process (ouch!) and the writing process (yay!). No second-guessing about the book launch needed. But you ARE right on that last count: You writing IS better than your stand-up! KILLER ROUTINE is a terrific read. :-)

Beth Groundwater said...

Loved your jokes, Alan! Especially the rejection ones. And what a great way to sign your books. Let me know if you're ever in Colorado, and I'll help you get a stand-up signing gig here. :)

Robin Templeton said...

By the time I got there, you'd already finished the comedy routine. But people seemed to be smiling, and not one of them had thrown any of the cake at you. For a mystery writer/reader, these are CLUES! I deduced that you'd pulled it off.

And the book is definitely a hit. I absolutely agree with Art, KILLER ROUTINE is a terrific read.

For your next launch, I'll get there early and grab a front row seat. Clearly you're a man of many talents.

David Orloff said...


Alan Orloff said...

Art - Thanks! Ouch was right, in many cases. Sorry about that. Glad you liked KILLER ROUTINE.

Beth - Thanks! Some may not think rejection is funny, but I do.

Robin - Thanks for the nice words about KILLER ROUTINE. You'll notice I didn't have cupcakes--they make better projectiles.

David - So what did you think of my routine?