Being a Comedian
Custer started out by entertaining friends and family. However, he did not become a comedian until “I TOLD MYSELF I was a comedian, which involved writing what I thought was funny, recording the CD with my college roommate at the time, and passing that disc around AnimeNEXT 2007.” As a result of his ambition, he was invited to “show up” at a few conventions. According to Custer:
“My first show was to participate in the opener of Dexcon10 in New Jersey. I have never experienced stage-fright before...save for that night. Now I understand why 9/10 people fear it. But I opened with "Thank you all for coming out - it means you have successfully logged off World of Warcraft." The audience banged their tables and chanted "for the Horde." I knew, right then, that I knew my audience and I was finally home.”So, now it is time to see him take the stage. When we see Uncle Yo, those of us who are familiar with his work are probably expecting a good laugh or at least jokes that make sense. Personally, I tend to see his stand up comedy last for about an hour, while his Master of Ceremonies duties can last until the show ends, but he appears on the stage in between skits or acts. I figured after the conclusion of his performance that he goes about his merry way. However, his schedule is not as simple as it sounds. “I don't have the regular schedule that a club-based stand-up has.” A standard comedian, who has been invited to a club to appear and perform for a certain amount of time, “walks off, has a drink and calls it a night.” For Custer, his schedules at a convention “are usually too intense to put into words (I use interpretive dance).” The work of this comedian does not end when the performance has finished. “Depending on the panels that I am presenting that day, I am always rehearsing, hosting a panel, meeting up for an interview, grabbing a quick bite, or rehearsing even more.”
Let’s not forget that Custer has to prepare for his performance. It is not just about the rehearsals, but the material from sources like television and movies that are referenced in his acts. “I'm lucky because at a con, I can open with topical stuff (newest comic book movie, drama on TV) then get into the meat of it. A lot of my show is bolstering appreciation and respect for geeks and nerds in general.” However, how does he know what the audience in front of him wants to hear? Well, it seems as simple as being observant. “I can look at the majority of cosplayers in the audience and KNOW what to talk about, because they're dressed like what they WANT to talk about.” However, not all jokes come out so easily or just through observation. “Most of the time I have to scrap one bit and try for a totally new one, because a fan has posted it on youtube before the joke was done - so it's still this premature protean mass of words that never gets to grow up and see the light of day.”
So what’s the over all experience and life of a comedian? As stated by Custer:
“Being a comedian is a chance to work off steam, practice public speaking, learning to be fast enough on your feet to improvise and public relations all at once. It's great training for interviews and giving presentations. It also teaches you to accept and learn from failure. An audience doesn't laugh - it happens. You take a deep breath and you try again. Without perseverance, you don't deserve to get on stage again. Without the ability to try again, you don't deserve to get out of bed in the morning. Everybody makes mistakes. Without them you can't learn and get better.”© 2011 Linda Thai
Photography by Linda Thai
Stay tune for Part 3 of the Uncle Yo interview!