Down with the Sickness

I am sure with everything going on in the holidays nobody is giving two shits about my blogs and updates so this is probably just me talking into a void. However I have been trying so hard to post a new blog every Monday since the site went live last month. I have posted 3 blogs so far and all have come out on Tuesday. Persians are always late to the party. So my apologies for being inconsistent. This is my first time actually getting one out on a Monday so let’s celebrate the victory but keep our hopes down for the future. Having flaws is nice because it gives me something to resolve to fix over the New Year. And Lord knows there’s a lot that needs fixing and resolving.

Some people have suggested that I just plan on posting on Tuesday and that will fix the problem but I know myself and know that if I say that then I’ll just end up posting on Wednesday, so I’m going to keep trying to post on Monday and hope I can learn to discipline myself to getting them out on time. The last few weeks I’ve been laid up in bed with an awful viral infection so I’ll use that excuse for not posting but I’m all healthy now so I can’t use that excuse again for a while. I’ve got some fun posts planned for the next couple weeks.

This week I was planning on writing a blog about my string of awful relationships this year but that will probably have to wait until next week since it’s turning out to be much longer than I anticipated. That may be the saddest thing I’ve ever said.

I also have another blog planned about one of my really crazy and turbulent times in my life but that’s another long story. So just to make sure I get something posted today, I wanted to just kinda fill you, my loyal readership, in on what I’ve been up to this year. I already told you about the Jim Henson Experience in my second post and my comedy album recording in my first one.

Another really awesome thing that has changed my LA experience this year has been the Roast Battles at the World Famous Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip.

Tuesday nights at the Comedy Store used to be a late night open mic that I loved to frequent because it started late enough that I could make it after my shift at the restaurant. One night I popped in and the host, Brian Moses (a guy who has always been one of the nicest and most supportive comics I’ve met since moving to LA) asked me if I wanted to roast someone. I said sure even though I didn’t know who we were roasting. He explained that two other comics were going to roast each other to settle a hash but neither showed up so he thought it would still be fun to have two people roast each other head to head.

I’m pretty quick on my feet and have always had an affinity for roasting so I went ahead and roasted this sweet girl named Chelse Greaux. I won the battle and they then asked me to roast another guy named Hormoz Rashidi. Hormoz and I went back and forth for a while and they couldn’t determine a winner so they just asked us to keep going. The response from the crowd was really great and next thing we knew, people from the Original Room downstairs started coming up to watch us. The room started out with like 6 comedians and before we knew it, comedians like Whitney Cummings and other established comics were filling the room to see what was going on. I started to get a little nervous and me and Hormoz looked at each other like “what the hell is going on?”

Eventually they gave the battle to Hormoz because of one great zinger and the two of us walked outside chatting. He confided in me that he thought I won, but everyone there knew him since he worked there and that’s what gave him the edge. I thought that was a nice gesture but told him that I thought we both did great and that it was a lot of fun. He and I became friends after that night as well as me and Chelse. I left the Comedy Store thinking about how much fun I just had and that I’d love to do that again. However, I got busy with other things and didn’t make it back around for another year or so. When I returned I realized that this little experiment had turned into the hottest show in Los Angeles. This show that started with 6 of us in an empty room in the Comedy Store attic had grown into a show that was sold out with barely any standing room every week and I can’t even begin to describe all the elements that made this show so magical to watch and be a part of.

The format of the Roast Battle is such a crazy mashup of personalities and characters that I truly believe it had to create itself organically. There could be no intelligent design that would lead to this monster of a show. I say all of this without taking away from the brilliance of the show’s creator, Brian Moses. He keeps the show together in a beautiful way but I think even he acknowledges that this thing kinda came together like a Voltron with all the parts coming and fitting together perfectly. The way I describe the show to the outsider is that it’s 8 Mile-style rap battles but with roast jokes instead of rap verses. It’s head to head roasting. It’s kinda like the lead up to a fight on the schoolyard except it never leads to blows and it’s always done in good fun.

However, even with this description, you’re still missing out on the energy of this show that you have to experience live. You can watch it on Periscope (search Roast Battle) but you really have to be in the room to feel it. It’s held in the attic of the Comedy Store where, even when it’s cold outside, it’s a hot, sweaty gym up there. Every time I take someone up there they end up leaving or complaining because the room is so packed like sardines that they have to go outside to breathe.

There’s elements to the show that go beyond the battle as well. There’s the “all negro wave” that is essentially the hype man of the show. They raise the energy and ride the wave of a good joke by running on stage and acting out mini skits in 10 seconds. It’s quite impressive to see actually. The stage is always a mess at the end of the night; covered in feathers, candy, or just random garbage from these guys’ antics.

Then there’s the “haters.” I will sometimes sit at the Haters Table dressed in character as a guy affectionately known to the show as The Saudi Prince. The Hater’s table has been created and run by a great comic named Earl Skakel. The role is basically that of Statler and Waldorf of the Muppets but a lot more racist. In fact, they used to be known as the Racist Section but that changed after some bloggers got mad and complained that the show was promoting and glorifying racism.

My first time on stage as the Saudi Prince with Earl Skakel (Left) and Jay Light (right).  (Photo by Troy Conrad)

My first time on stage as the Saudi Prince with Earl Skakel (Left) and Jay Light (right)

Earl’s character is essentially his impression of the previous booker of the Comedy Store, Tommy Morris, who was always known for having strong opinions and speaking his mind. Sometimes coming off as a bit discriminating. Obviously for comedic effect, Earl’s character is taking Tommy and running wild with the bluntness. If you want to hear Earl have a nice lengthy conversation with Tommy and to get an idea of the two guys in real life, listen to Earl’s podcast “Inappropriate Earl” on iTunes or Soundcloud. He recently interviewed Tommy at length and the result was quite awesome.

Usually Earl will have one of the regular roasters join him at the Hater’s Table and we will essentially sit next to Earl while he’s in character and just try our best to keep up with his quick wit and add as much as we can to help with some of the heavy lifting since heckling is a harder job than one would think. At least heckling in a way that adds to the show and doesn’t hurt it. The Haters can often save a bad battle and get some laughs at the expense of the roasters or just enhance an already great battle.

Then of course, there’s the judges. Often celebrities like Jeff Ross, Jim Carrey, John Mayer, Dave Chappelle, Joe Rogan, Sklar Brothers or any number of A-List comedians that happen to be in town and are fans of the show. They will sit in the VIP section of the room and judge the battles after they’re done while adding their own little jabs at the roasters and the show in the process. The whole thing is quite an experience to see. It’s one of the best produced comedy shows you’ll ever see. So many elements coming together to make a show of checks and balances that makes sure the audience always leaves satisfied.

A month or so ago I was asked to join the Hater’s Table and thought to myself, “Earl is doing a character, why don’t I do one as well?” After all, Earl gets away with so much because the audience knows he’s playing this character that is totally blunt and outspoken so why not join him in the theatre of it all? I had recently read about this Saudi Prince that had been renting a mansion in Beverly Hills and the cops were called to the residence when one of the neighbors had seen a bloodied woman trying to scale the walls of the compound trying to escape. When the police showed up they found copious amounts of drugs as well as women who had been hired to work there being tied up and kept as sex slaves.

Feel free to read more about him here…but fair warning, the real guy isn’t very funny.

As I’m reading the article I’m thinking to myself that this disgusting human being was going to go to jail for a long time and good riddance. Until I read more and realized that he was being released with a misdemeanor charge. Wow. The power of money. This human garbage was getting away essentially with murder because he had more money than God and the world seems to just be okay with it.

The Saudi Prince and Earl Skakel looking mean at the Roast Battle a couple weeks ago. (Photo by Troy Conrad)

The Saudi Prince and Earl Skakel looking mean at the Roast Battle a couple weeks ago.

How nice would it be to be a guy who knew he could say and do whatever he wanted and know his actions and words would have no consequence? This guy would be perfect at the Hater’s Table. A racist, sexist, deviant that has never been told no in his entire life. What kinds of awful things would this guy say? So I went through my old wigs and facial hair that I had from my Groundlings Writing Lab days and some old clothes that looked like essentially pajamas for a guy who wore the equivalent of sweatpants in public. Topped if off with a gold chain and a pair of glasses and I think I found my character.

If Groundlings taught me anything, it was that improv was lots more fun and quite a bit easier when done in character. I showed up to the Comedy Store and started walking up towards the Belly Room in the attic and people that knew me and would always say hi to me were giving me weird looks and ignoring me as I walked past. I immediately felt like maybe this was a bad idea. Did I look stupid? Was this going to be me taking a big swing and a miss? Characters often don’t work in stand up venues. Sometimes they do but a higher percentage of the time they fall flat. I had sent some photos of my trying on wigs and mustaches to some friends that do the battles with me and their response was tepid at best. A lot of “ummm…I don’t know dude but do it if you want to.”

I decided to commit to it but now I was feeling really uneasy. When I saw Earl and asked him if he was okay with me doing it, he said it was fine as long as I was funny. I had brought a change of clothes in case they wanted me to change last minute but nobody told me not to, they just all seemed to look at me like I was about to make a huge ass of myself. Which, I started to think was probably the case. Brian Moses asked me before the show who I was supposed to be and I said I was the Saudi Prince or possibly someone recruiting from ISIS. He said the Saudi Prince was a better idea and to stick with it. Summoning up as much courage as I could, I decided if I was going to fail, I was going to fail big.

To everyone’s shock and surprise, the Saudi Prince was a big hit. I found it so freeing sitting in that chair in this character. It didn’t take long for me to find the character’s sweet spot and really find his voice. One of those great moments in acting where you realize, “I know this guy and I know what makes him funny.” That first show had some really great moments and by the end of the show Brian Moses mentioned from the stage that this was one of the best ideas I’d ever had. The execution went off better than I, or anyone else, could have expected. The crowd loved the Saudi Prince and apparently the Periscope audience did as well. Afterward many people came up to me and said that everyone was trying to figure out who I was. I guess all those people giving me weird looks didn’t think I looked stupid…the didn’t know who the hell I was. That is probably one of the best compliments you can give to a character actor. “I know you and had no idea it was you.”

I decided to try the character out again last week while at the Hater’s Table and the reaction was even better than the first time. A lot of people said I stole the show and the Periscope fans were asking when the Saudi Prince was going to battle. One comedian on Periscope, comedian and friend Jessica Michelle Singleton, wrote a beautiful comment “Sina puts on that turban and it’s like Frosty the Snowman’s Tophat.” Implying that it brought me to life. The whole thing has been so wonderful and a bit overwhelming. I’m not saying that people doubted me but I think that sometimes people maybe don’t see the potential of what you’re doing until they see it being executed. Especially with artistic endeavors.

It’s really easy to tell someone about an idea and they don’t see your vision the same way and will tell you it doesn’t seem like it will work. I’ve been guilty of that before. Telling people that their idea didn’t seem like it would be successful but I also couldn’t see it through their eyes. I never thought this character might be the thing that would define me as a performer but I’m pretty okay with it. I definitely happy that I didn’t abandon the idea when it seemed to many like I was about to make a big mistake and when doubt crept into my own mind. I’m glad I took the chance to try to do something because I believed in it and that I thought would be a lot of fun. Who knows what tomorrow may bring but it’s definitely shown me that taking risks pays off a lot more than playing it safe. I’m going to keep swinging for the fences and hope that I hit a few more home runs. Here’s hoping that 2016 is the year where I become even more fearless and believe in myself more than ever before. I also hope it’s the year where all of this hard work starts paying off. Thanks so much for reading and following and telling friends about me. I just gotta keep putting myself out there and hope that lightning will strike and jump start this career into the next level. In the meantime, we can all continue to go on this journey together. Happy Holidays.