Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Spread the Emmy's Around

Once again the Emmy's were awarded to the television elite last night, and once again I came up empty handed.  That is not to say that I was nominated, nor that I did anything that would qualify this year but the ego of an actor can not be over estimated.  Perhaps the best example of how the Hollywood ego works can be viewed in the Christopher Guest movie "For Your Consideration"
To vet myself with full disclosure, I don't know anyone who has ever delivered a line on a television stage who does not also secretly prepare an Emmy acceptance speech just in case.  I certainly have one ready.  I got to use a version of it when I won the Tony® Award but just in case the Emmy gods are reading this I'm still ready to receive that golden angel for my mantel.

So under the category of "Who really cares outside of Los Angeles county"  I think the Emmy qualifications need to be changed. In the history of the Emmy's you will find that the same show and the same actors win consecutive Emmy's for the same work year after year.  Not that they don't deserve to be honored for continuing to produce good work,  but it is the only major award where that is even possible.  And frankly it is boring. 
SOAP was nominated for Emmy's year after year but always lost to M*A*S*H*. At the time M*A*S*H* was the juggernaut that could not be stopped.  M*A*S*H* was on for 11 years and won 14 Emmy's.  For the years 1971 through 1982 the bet was alway on M*A*S*H* to win and it usually did.  
In contrast "Phantom of the Opera" has been running for 22 years on Broadway.  It opened on January 26, 1988 and that year won 8 Tony's.  Unless it closes and is one day brought back as a revival it will not be eligible for that award again.  And rightly so. The American Theatre Wing has already honored this production with it's highest award.  
The same is true of the Academy Awards Oscar.  A movie, actor, producer, director or any other job on a movie is only eligible for consideration the year it opens.  
The Emmy can be awarded to the same actor or the same show, every year the show continues to run.  To me this is not fair to newcomers who may require more than a year to establish a character or show.  So if you are listening  "Academy of Television Arts and Sciences" here is how I would change the Emmy's.
First of all a show or actor can be nominated every year the show and that character run on television.  Do the work and reap the benefits I say... but here is the difference. If a show/actor wins an Emmy for work during a season... they are not eligible to be nominated for the next two years.  To keep giving out the same Emmy for the same role to the same person is boring.  The next two years that Emmy is available to someone else.  Then after two years if an Emmy award winning show/actor is still doing the same high quality work they can be nominated again.  If that show or person were to win again, the second Emmy would not be for the same work you did last season, but would honor the fact that for the last two years a person continued to do great work.
I have been on this band wagon before and don't know of anyone else who is a champion for the same change. Try to convince Alan Alda how much better it would be if he only had three Emmy's for M*A*S*H* under a new rule instead of the 6 he received under this existing system.  I doubt it will change and the rule will always be "Them that's got seem to get more".
As you were,
Jay
Please download, watch, purchase, rent or just send cash.  



Monday, August 25, 2014

Show Business....

I went to the OnDemand section of my Time Warner Cable Television provider and under Special Events.... there it was:
"Jay Johnson: The Two and Only."  This is the first time I have seen my show on my television.  All I had to do was click on the "purchase" button and Bingo.   
I was very excited until I remembered... I have seen the show. The fact that I can find it is a moot point.  I hope that all you Time Warner subscribers will find it and watch.  
I feel like I am preaching to the choir since most of the readers of this blog have seen the show live and already ordered it.  
This blog is mostly steam of consciousness for me, and since mostly all I can think about is how the show is selling, this narrative gets boring even for me.
I once saw a guy playing saxophone on a New York Subway train.  A few people gave him money.  He said, "The deal is I keep playing until I get enough money to move on."  He looked into the collection hat and said, "This is not enough." and kept playing.  Someone threw in a twenty and he immediately stopped playing and moved on. 
Here is the point of that story.  I have to keep promoting my show until it at least breaks even. Only then can the "Home for Wooden Children" benefit from the bounty.  So there you are... I am a broken record and a loop tape about it until I can afford to move on.
More later from most of these same Internet channels.
As you were,
Jay

Monday, August 18, 2014

Continuing on...

Here I am back into promo mode... Jay Johnson the Two and Only continuously available for your purchase, rent, download or streaming....Pleasure.  As you know this is my least favorite job in show business.  I am a performer. My job is to entertain an audience once they are in the theater or in this case your living room.  How to get people into the theatre or motivated enough to find the show and watch it is still as baffling as ever.
Over the weekend I attended the Portland wedding of my cousin's daughter.  It was a beautiful occasion.  I met Paul, one of the bride's childhood friends, now in his 30's.  He gave me a wonderful compliment about Jay Johnson:The Two and Only. First of all he said that he had watched the PPV several times already.  He told me the show was important to him on many levels, and he is also purchasing the DVD for "social reasons".  He said it would be his "third date test".  If he dated a girl more than two times the third date would be to watch this show together.  He said, "If she doesn't get the show the way I got the show then she is not the girl for me." 
I am not sure any relationship should be judged solely on how a person likes a story about a guy who plays with dolls. That may be too much pressure for any show to live up to. However, I know the principle behind it.
In the comedy club days of the 80's a night at the local Funny Bone, Laff Stop, or Improv was primo date material. You can tell a lot about a person by what they find funny or not.  For more basic reasons a happy date is also a more willing date. I hope it works out for Paul, he was a nice guy and deserves an equally nice companion. 
The two blogs I wrote about Robin Williams last week got more "hits" more "shares" and more "reads" than any other post I have written in 7 years of blogging and by a large margin. Robin's exit still vexes me more than I thought it would.  Being a person who struggles with depression myself it is a wake up call to everyone who shares my ailment. I think we could all be one bad day away from that ultimate solution. Like a member of a mental 12 step program we have to struggle and affirm, "today is not that day." 
I am bothered that many people have said in FB posts they are glad Robin is "finally free." They must be confusing Robin the man with the blue Genie cartoon he voiced in Aladdin.  Suicide is not a "solution" or a vehicle for any sort of freedom. It is not selfish and it is not the cowards way out, it is just the absence of a solution. No matter how dark the room there is a light switch that we must find. When you find that switch the darkness is not just replaced with the light... darkness proves itself to be nothing but the absence of light. Depression is a lot like that.  This black atmosphere does not recoil into a mass in the corner...it vanishes completely.  I have been told that depression is just a place holder for some other unresolved emotion.  Whatever the lesson is we are supposed to learn in this living class room, you can not graduate if you drop the course. One does not beat the storm by giving into the wind, but by fighting that wind to stand tall. 
I write this for my own benefit. While in the dungeon of my own darkness the statements above do not ring true. In fact that Pollyanna attitude merely makes the situation even more desperate. It simplifies a major chemical imbalance in the brain to a line from a Hallmark card. If it were so easy to find that light why wouldn't I gladly turn it on? I am hoping that in one of those moods I will find this blog and know that when I was thinking clearly... I knew it to be so.
As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Memory in Third Person

There was nothing more intimidating than the corporate offices of ABC Network at Century City in the late 70's.  I was there for final network approval to play Chuck and Bob on a new ABC sitcom called "SOAP". It all boiled down to this final audition. I had passed all the other audition tests but this was the final network test, the only one that mattered.
When I checked in at the ABC receptionist desk a striking woman, beautiful but emotionless, checked off my name and told me to have a seat on the couch.  The lobby entrance to the network office was three stories high.  I looked up at the endless ceiling as I sank to the bottom of a leather couch. The soft cushions engulfed me. I sat eye level with the arm rest. At that moment I could neither feel smaller nor more insignificant.
The producers arrived and were whisk into an office without even acknowledging I was on the couch. Then the director arrived and finally the SOAP Casting agents arrived.  All were escorted to the office. My heart was racing with fear/excitement. It seemed I spent hours alone on that couch until the two casting ladies came and talked to me.
They explained the delay was due to the fact that Pam Dixon, the head of ABC casting was late.   As soon as she arrived we would begin, but no one knew where she was.  They noticed my nerves were on edge so they attempted small talk for awhile but eventually there was only the silence of anticipation.
After a while one of the casting people said, "Let me go see if they know anything yet," and walked to the office where everyone was waiting.  She was gone for awhile and returned with an up date of information.
"Well, they found Pam... she is stuck in the elevator between the 16 and 17th floor of this building.  They are trying to get the elevator fixed. They don't know how long it will take."
"Geez," said the other casting person, "Pam hates confined spaces. She must be going crazy in there.  Will she still feel like doing this reading when they get her out?"
"Don't know.  If they can get her out in the next 30 minutes they will still do the reading."
Again there was silence between the three of us. It must have been no more than 30 minutes but it seemed like days to me.
Finally Pam's secretary came out to us.  She said, "They almost have Pam out of the elevator and she still wants to finish this reading today.  Is that good with everyone?"  We all nodded.
One of the casting people said, "How is she doing?"
The answer, "Don't know but I am sure she is frazzled. She has a phobia for that sort of thing." And with that the secretary walked away.
Both casting directors looked at me and one said,
"Wow, you better be really funny." And with that they went back to the office. What little confidence I had left was gone.
It was finally time for me to "do my thing".  
All my fears were gone when I saw Pam Dixon was laughing and happy as I walked into the room. She had seen my act at a night club in town and knew my work. A tremendous weight lifted off my consciousness. She asked me to do a specific bit she liked, I didn't have to read the script and I got the job.
But wait for it, here is the real story.
Months later I found out why Pam was in such a good mood after the terrifying elevator experience. It seems she was stuck  for an hour and a half inside that elevator with a comedian who kept her laughing the entire time. I wanted to thank that guy, he saved my audition and didn't even know it, but no one was sure who he was.  After years of sharing this story with ABC executives I learned the young comic's name. It now makes total sense how he would have been able to riff on a terrifying real life situation and calm down even the most anxious elevator passenger. He was a comic/actor coming to ABC for an pilot meeting on a show called Mork and Mindy. A year later everyone knew the name Robin Williams.
I never got to thank him personally. It is now, humanly,  too late, but I suspect he is now aware of my gratitude. 
As you were,
Jay 


Monday, August 11, 2014

The Demon of Clowns

There are certain performers who walk into a spot light alone. They are not part of a group, they do not play music. They do not sing and they do not dance. Some use props or costumes, others enter with nothing more than their own quick wit.  Stand up comics, magicians, clowns, ventriloquists, mimes and jugglers face a crowd of strangers alone. The ability or talent to over come this basic human fear of facing a crowd often comes in a bipolar package. 

Robin Williams was such a performer. Driven into the spotlight to escape the demons of the darkness. A San Francisco street mime/comic who became an Academy Award Winning Actor. A man who worked best alone because he was too fast for anyone else to keep up. 
I once watched a sign language interpreter try and sign Robin Williams' stand up routine at a Comedy Store Benefit.  It became a manic improv of concepts and words that would stump the interpreter. They both received a rare mid-set standing ovation from the audience.  Robin, should we have laughed harder, clapped louder, stood up quicker, done more as an audience to make you think one second longer about the joy you can bring before ending your life?

Only a few seconds after I heard the news of Robin Williams death my phone rang. It was my best friend. He too is a solo performer. I was actually attempting to dial his number at that very moment. The news had reached us at the same moment.  
My friend began his career as a San Francisco street performer and had known Robin since those days.  I did not know Robin well but we both had the same reactive feelings. A heavy loss that seemed to out weigh the amount of time either of us had spent in his company. But, he was our our age, our generation,  a fellow solo performer. We were all bond together in that loneliness of the spotlight; and suddenly he is not only dead but dead by his own hand.  There is a demon that stalks the clown. 

We had a moment of recollection on the last time we saw Robin and the best story we had about him. We came around to this conclusion.  Of the famous solo performers we could think of from our generation,  Robin was the most likely to die by his own hand.  We both assumed it would be by overdose. He was a candle burning at both ends, but he made a lovely light. He fought the bipolar demon for a long time but finally lost Monday, August 11, 2014.

The psychiatrist says to the man on his couch. "You are very lonely and depressed. I suggest you go to the comedy club here in town tonight and laugh. There is a comic performing there that will make you forget all your troubles."
The man on the couch says,  "I am that comic."

As it was before, 
Jay

  

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The Opening Act

Today is August 9th the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. It is also the day our PPV premiers. I certainly hope that is the only connection to "bomb" and  Jay Johnson:The Two and Only.
There will be no opening night party tonight like is the tradition in New York.  However, Sandi and I plan to celebrate by watching our friend  Richard Kauffman  conduct the Pacific Symphony at the Verizon Theater in Irvine. Richard will conduct the score to Disney's Fantasia played live in sync with the film. Richard is a master at this amazing feat. We have been honored to watch him do the same magic with the films, Wizard of Oz and Chaplin's City Lights. Fantasia is one of my all time favorite films and I can't wait to watch it LIVE.
I have already had messages from friends who watched Jay Johnson: The Two and Only on PPV early this morning.  They are the electronic equivalent of "first nighters" I suppose.  There is an odd situation that I would not have ever thought about in this  day of "special delivery television". 
It seems that the channel where my show will be shown, in some markets, is the "Adult Entertainment" channel.  It means that Jay Johnson:The Two and Only is listed along with titles like..."Hot Wet Mama",  "Dude Where's my Dildo?" and "Bleeping Miss Buffy." With a ventriloquist show along side such company  it gives the title "Deep Throat" a new meaning.  I certainly hope that some of my techno challenged friends do not accidentally pay for the wrong title.  I might not ever be able to explain that to my Texas Southern Baptists relatives. I am waiting for someone who thinks they saw my show to tell me how good I look in Tighty whities. 
In my career I never had to open for strippers.  I made my way into the ultra family entertainment of Theme parks when I was too young to work the strip joints. I guess Karma has come back to straighten out that "missed career opportunity" dressed in black fish nets.  Must be my turn to become the comedia intruptus on PPV. 
There are some things that a "producer/writer/performer" like myself has no control over.  This ventrilo-hard core mash up is one of them. It's funny. It has been difficult for people to find my show on the television schedule, I suspect there will be a certain number of fans who will  now find my show by total accident.  My friend and fabulous writer Evan Davis  once wrote: "I found Amazon.com by accident.... I was searching for some really tall women on line."  I have the feeling the show may find a whole new market.
So brave the "On Slut" and look for Jay Johnson: The Two and Only on your local pay for porno channel and watch.  Or if you are the least bit offended by the company a Tony®Award winning show shares on cable television... download direct from iNDEMAND to your computer or buy the DVD.
Remember  only you can save a wooden child from continuing this less than wholesome television company.
Enjoy my show... some how...
As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Promo Break

Jay Johnson:The Two and Only has become available to purchase or watch starting this Saturday. I feel like it is once again opening week at the Helen Hayes.  There is not much to be done now but try to get people into the theatre.  In this case the theatre is in your living room, but you still have to get it and watch it.
Art and Harry O'Shea
"Of more the ordinary significance" in my life
In New York there is never a time when you are not promoting your show.  Especially if it is not one of the ones that get the "instant buzz" that comes with a huge investment and big opening splash.  Doing the show was a dream, promoting it was work.  I'm still not sure how anyone gets anybody else to take a chance on a show.  I always felt incapable of getting the audience into the theatre, but once they got there, they usually came back a brought friends.
I have never been able to explain my show very well.  Yes it is about ventriloquism, yes it is about my connection to the art form of ventriloquism, but it is really a Valentine to my mentor and figure maker Art Sieving. We crossed paths almost accidentally, became friends and the connection took on a rather supernatural patina.  There are still times when I am doing the show that I feel the presence of Art Sieving so completely that I know he is performing it along with me.

Once at the Colony Theatre in Burbank we were doing a tech rehearsal.  These are slow and laborious rehearsal sessions that seem to take forever. I call it a stagger through because you slowly do the show step by step, backing up and doing things again for lighting and sound cues.  I have gotten to where the task is almost mechanical.
The set involves a lot of trunks that dress the stage. Some trunks contain the puppet performers, others act as chairs, small stages and step stools for the "business" of the show.  Even in the traveling set there are two dozen trunks.
It was late at night when we were "staggering" through the show and we were to a part where I recreate my first meeting with Art Sieving at his house in Springfield, Ill.  The blocking at that particular moment had me saying, "As I walked into his house that day..." and I move toward a grouping of trunks stage right.  John Ivy (my fabulous Stage Manager)  had me do that phrase and start that walk more than a few times to rehearse the timing of a lighting cue he was working on. One last time I said, "As I walked into his house" and John stopped me once again. Out of frustration I made a joke and said "And I wish I was there with Art now". At that very moment one of the latches on a closed trunk in the very area I was heading toward sprang open with a distinctive metallic  flutter sound. It was loud enough to be heard in the booth where John was working.  It stopped that tech rehearsal cold.
I do believe in ghosts, and there was no doubt in my mind that it was Art interacting with me from whatever dimension he is currently. It was just to let me know that although it was not the most glamorous part of mounting a show it is extremely necessary, and to let me know that I didn't have to go very far to "be there now with Art".
So here we are once again. I am trying to lure an audience into watching that show on DVD or PPV or whatever form it is now. I love telling this story. I love the reaction that people have to this story. I would love for millions of people to see it just to understand how one Master can effect the entire life and career of a willing apprentice. Trying to let people know that it is available now, in their living room at a price that is less than a 10th of the price of a Broadway ticket seems to be a job I am not qualified for, I would much rather be telling the story live.
I hope you will watch. I think you will be surprised at what the show really is about.  You will laugh, you might tear up, and you will probably learn something about Art. Not just Art the man, but Art the process.
Here are some links to find it.



As you were,
Jay