Monday, April 28, 2014

Coffee With Blake

When I moved out of the sober house, I wanted to room with someone normal, adjusted and not an alcoholic or drug addict. Instead, I ended up with Blake Midgette. Actually, what I ended up with was an interesting, genuine and funny individual who I can now call a close friend. He and his dog Yossarian welcomed me into the apartment that I will soon be taking over, and I hope I can do the same for my future roommates. I am extremely thankful for the past 5 months.

Blake leaves for New York in a couple of days to pursue his comedy career (or maybe just to leave Austin), and one of my big regrets is that I never recorded any of my conversations with him, nor did I even jot down any notes. Some writer, huh? I decided I would interview him before he left. However, comedian Katie Pengra already did an excellent job of that for her Do Good Work podcast which you can listen to here. I highly recommend giving it a listen, and while you're at it, check out the YouTube video, Blake's Kitchen, featuring him and Yossarian.

Rather than an interview, I decided to record part of our conversations when we went out for coffee recently and then transcribe it for you. So, here you go. Good luck, Blake. Keep being yourself, you crazy bastard.

Thunderbird Coffee. Blake tied Yossarian up to the bench and went inside to get coffee, and after a few minutes I went inside as he was coming out. At some point when neither of us were paying attention, Yossarian ended up with chewing on a baseball that came from nowhere.

John: I was away from him for maybe half a minute? How did he end up with a baseball?

Blake: Yeah. I turned around, and he already had it. I don't know where he found it, but it's pretty amazing. Also, I managed to be in there for 45 seconds and make the guy behind the counter extremely uncomfortable. The girl working was saying, "Oh, we gotta turn the music down because people are complaining," and he said, "Man..." And I went, "Yeah, everbody's working on their shitty screenplays that nobody gives a shit about."

John: Hahahaha...

Blake: He was all, "Aw, I dunno, uh, there's a lot of creativity going on around here..." Yeah, whatever, dude.
(A guy who works at Thunderbird came up and wished Blake well on his trip, and said he'd friend him on Facebook. He gave him a hug and everything.)
That was weird.

John: It's your coffee guy, I guess.

Blake: Yeah, but I don't really ever talk to him.

John: Haven't you been coming here forever?

Blake: Probably 5 or 6 times a week since I've moved here.

John: Yeah, there you go. You are a regular.

Blake: It's not the same coffee shop it used to be. When I started coming here there was a lot cooler people...I didn't pay for coffee here for like 3 years. And then, since they fired the last round of people, they've been charging me. Nobody gives away shit anymore. Quality of the food has gone up, though.

John: We're making improvements! First of all, we're going to start charging for coffee!

Blake: Haha, right.

John: So...maybe I just didn't notice before, but I left Austin for 2 years, and I came back and everybody smokes American Spirits, including you.

Blake: I smoked Marlboro Reds when I moved here, but I spent so much time working and being in bars that I would buy smokes all the time, and American Spirits were the same price in the machines. I thought I'd give them a shot and ended up liking them a whole lot.

John: I find them harsh and lacking those lovely chemicals I seem to like.

Blake: (flashes his yellow American Spirits pack) These do again, because they are no longer made in America.  They are now like half Turkish tobacco, which is fucking hilarious. They sold the company or something, and now there's American Spirits Organic, but they are even more expensive. I think smoking these might be one thing that contributes to some people calling me a hipster. Me, an almost 40-year old fat guy who doesn't know how to dress himself.

John: What do you want to do in New York, man?

Blake: Focusing on comedy a lot more than I was here.

John: It's real easy to get sidetracked here.

Blake: I'll eventually get sidetracked up there. But, go there, make friends, get into the scene, do comedy, get booked...there's one avenue of success in this town and it's Cap City. It's the contest or the club, or Moontower. But it all stems from that one club, and the people that run it are in charge of everything. And I never made an effort to get in with them, mostly because of my own ignorance. I didn't know that you had to do that. I thought that you just go to a town and do shows, and eventually they would come to you. And I didn't realize that you have to make yourself known to them -- tell them you want to get on, e-mail them, kiss ass...or not really kiss ass, I don't know. I'm not really sure of their process because I never went through it. I'll try it in New York. There's a ton of different clubs up there, different factions. I have a feeling it's like the Game of Thrones of comedy there, and I'm good at manipulating people, so we'll see how that goes.

John: I don't remember completely what happened with me and Cap City. 12 years ago or so, I was on a path with them, but at some point, my peers were getting booked as features and I wasn't. So I asked Cap management to feature, and here was the thing. They already had the impression of me that I was not looking to get on the road. I was married and had a good day job. And that was absolutely true. And I'm sure I told you about this, but when I burned my bridge with Cap City...well, they didn't give a shit, it was burned on my end only...I was a cocky, know-it-all drunk. I said, "I don't need this place. I'm a Velveeta comic and I have Spite Club, this place is dated and totally not for me." So I do Funniest Person in Austin contest this week, first time I've been in that club in 5 or 6 years. And the one good thing that came out of my lackluster set was that I hated being there. I may have been a boozy asshole in the past, but I still knew what was right for me. And that place isn't it. It was a bullshit night for me, and I felt like I was in a museum for Comedy, 1995.

Blake: I mean, it's a comedy club. That shit seems to be going away. I think the future is smaller clubs, more intimate settings. You have these festivals that are these giant behemoths, but all the rooms are these tiny intimate rooms.

(I fiddled with my phone and wasn't sure if it recorded any of the comedy club conversation, and I did lose part of Blake's take on the grossness of performers at festivals.)

John: Really sucks...I think the recorder missed half that conversation.

Blake: That's probably best. So I love Cap City, please book us.

John: Yes, the people there are very supportive of the scene and stuff...

Blake: Sure.

John: I don't think I have a goal anymore. Career goal? I'm just going to write what I want to write and do comedy when I feel like it...eventually succumb to smoking.

Blake: I've never really had goals for things either. I just do shit, and it either works out or it doesn't, and I move on to something else. Most of my life I've had other people around me, a group sort of thing. Doing comedy is a bitch because you're all on your own, Your success totally depends on how much work you put into it, and I'm fucking lazy...which is why I am not successful. I can try to change that in New York, and I'll be around Sun-Tek who is good about driving me. He is a real positive influence on my life.

John: I get that. I've had an interesting shift where before, I was lazy and comfortable in my life, getting drunk, staying in the local scene.It was easy to say fuck TV and getting on the road because I didn't want to try and I wasn't sure if it was what I wanted. The shift is that now, I'm basically in the same position but I absolutely mean it. I strongly do not want to follow those avenues. With the Internet, I can create what I want and put it out there. I just have to put effort behind passion, now that my passion isn't consumption and shit.

Blake: Also, now you're doing stuff you want to and you're doing it for yourself, which I think allows you to get to an honest place with yourself, and it allows you to write.

John: Yeah.

Blake: I toured a lot in my band, and by the end of the tour we were a fucking machine. And it's the same with comedy, but the problem I have is by the time I have the jokes down exactly how I want them and perfected, by that time I am so tired of saying that shit that I don't even want to go up anymore. That's generally why I do shows I'm booked for and don't regularly go out on my own to open mics.

(We stopped for a second so Blake could throw the remnants of the baseball away before Yossarian ate it.)

Blake: You fucking psycho. My dog ate a baseball.

John: Yes he did.

Blake: That's a problem when I stay in a place too long. I start to feel stagnant, and just going out of town as a new experience opens my head up and allows me to think easier and write better. I've never done well being stuck in a routine, which is why I throw my life into a weird upheaval after I get sort of comfortable.

John: I am a fan of the self-destruct and rebuild, apparently.

Blake: It's going to suck if it happens in New York. What am I going to do after that? Small town America? Have a baby?

John: Don't do that.

Blake: I don't think I have to worry about that. I don't think I would be able to find a woman that would be willing to carry my seed to term.

John: Hahaha, oh god.

Blake: You're a single man, now.

John: Yeah.

Blake: Not ready to jump back into the poon race, feet first?

John: No, not when you make it sound enticing. Nobody wants to fuck the sober guy, that's weird.

Blake: That is weird.

John: First time I got sober I headlined the Velveeta Room, and after the show a very drunk woman told me she thought what I was doing was great, just great. Then she said to the feature act, "Do you know where I could get some blow?" She could of asked me that, I hadn't been sober that long. I could still get shit.

Blake: I do think the biggest asshole move you can make is being sober in this town...because you make people feel weird and you know it.

John: It's pretty great, especially now because I'm completely comfortable with it. They're the ones that are unsettled.

Blake: It's funny, when you moved in, I was like, "Well, I'm not stopping drinking. Sink or swim for Rabon." You were fine.

John: I had more than one person say to me, "Are you sure you should do that, Blake has a reputation..."

Blake: A well-deserved reputation.

John: But the thing is, they made it sound like you were a train wreck. But you're really more of a controlled demolition. You don't get wasted at home...

Blake: I don't.

John: ...whether you had a normal night or a crazy night, you come home the same way. It's just the stories are better.

Blake: Haha, if I could get laid sober, I wouldn't drink. There's a certain charm that only comes on after 3 or 4 drinks with me, and then I just keep nursing it. Eventually, I'm going to need to figure that one out without being drunk because I'm going to have to stop drinking at one point in my life. I realize this. But until then...we'll see how far it goes.