Tag Archives: Comedy

Why I wrote The Poppet Master

Thar she blows, the very first copy of The Poppet Master to come out of the box.

If you’re an HSP (highly sensitive person)—that is, someone who lives the meaning of the word “empath”—you know that bearable entertainment can be hard to come by. There exist plenty of well-made movies and TV programs, written and performed by truly gifted artists, but a lot of it is just too intense for people with over-the-top psychic abilities.

To be an HSP is a blessing and a curse (a blurse, as comedian Jonathan Katz would call it). On one hand, you’re psychic, which is pretty groovy. On the other hand, you’re psychic, which means that you feel and know stuff you don’t want to feel or know.

It also means that watching or reading violent or psychologically twisted programming or books is nearly impossible.

Even though I have access to movie channels, Netflix and Hulu, and have the entire world at my fingertips via the interwebs, sometimes it feels like there’s literally nothing on that I can watch without making me weep for the future (or the past). I don’t need any more anxiety in my life, but I also get tired of settling for fluff. I want to sink my teeth into something flavorful, but I don’t want said chompers stuccoed with Cheeto gunk when I’m done.

When something that fits the bill comes along, I grab onto it and squeeze the life out of it by obsessively binge-watching over and over until my husband begs me to find something else to watch. For example, I adore a British TV show called Detectorists, and I’m on what is probably my fifth viewing of all three seasons. It’s insanely funny, but it’s a gentle humor. The characters are so very real and the situations in which they find themselves are dramatic enough to be interesting, yet not so hard core that I can’t sleep at night.

Shows like this are hard to find and, sometimes, when your personality is such that stories come to you “on a flaming pie”, you write the kind of books you wish you could find. Thusly, here comes Lola and Twink, starring in The Poppet Master, a metaphysical comedy for empaths and the people who love them.

It’s the kind of book I like to read: sometimes zany, sometimes suspenseful, always magical. Plus, I love when any of the characters address the blurse of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

Check it out. If you like it, leave a positive review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, remember what your mom used to say, “If you can’t say something nice …”

And, of course, here’s you a writing dog:

Lisa Bonnice is an award-winning, best-selling author. Her current passion-project is a series of metaphysical comedy novels. The first is entitled The Poppet Master (previously published as Be Careful What You Witch For!, now revamped and with a new ending). The Poppet Master is a modern-day fairy tale about Lola Garnett, a bored housewife and office drone who wakes up with unexpected psychic abilities, and no instruction manual, and Twink, the reluctant, sarcastic faery assigned to assist and educate her. The Poppet Master is available wherever books are sold. Its sequel is in the works.

Lisa is also writing The Maxwell Curse, a fictionalized version of a story she found in her own ancestral lineage about a witch trial, a generational curse, and massive mine explosion, all of which left ripples of destruction in their wake, devastating one family’s tree.


Thoughts on returning to standup comedy, 25 years after quitting – Part 2

Finally, at the Tempe Improv, June 20, 2018

I’m assuming you’ve read Part 1, so I’m going to plow forward with the story…

The final open mic the Monday before the Improv date was brutal. It was at one of our favorite venues, one that Jeff and I will reminisce about in our old age – a grungy tavern close to home, with great beer prices – but my energy was off.

I was very aware that my ‘audience’ had heard what I was about to say far too many times, even though I had updated it frequently and, in fact, had a couple of new lines I wanted to test before Wednesday at the Improv.

I felt like I had to apologize, in advance, and say, “I know you’re as tired of hearing this as I am of saying it, but after the Improv show, I’ll come back with new material.”

But I didn’t apologize. They knew what I was doing, and it wasn’t worth using up any of my five minutes to explain myself. So I did the material exactly as I planned to deliver it in two days, at the Improv.

They were tired of me, and I was tired of me. I didn’t get any laughs, but I knew that, if nothing else, I had my delivery down – both the words and the gestures – and that it was a solid five minutes of material.

Jeff – who had a pretty good set that night – suggested that, before we leave, we should do a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey. We drank to the Improv … may we both kick some ass.

Wednesday finally arrived and we were both insanely ready. (I’ll let Jeff tell his own story of what happened that night, in his own way.) It had been so many years since I had been on a real stage, in front of a real crowd.

In fact, the last time I performed standup comedy was at a showcase at the Improv on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Santa Monica, California. Jeff and I had moved to LA about a year before then, to give Hollywood a try. I had a great set that night and, if my personal life wasn’t getting really intense, I would have tracked down the club’s manager to ask about getting a booking. But it was not to be. Life was getting complicated, and I needed to focus on that, so I dropped out of showbiz and rarely looked back.

What an interesting set of bookends: my last time doing standup was at an Improv and now my first time back was also at an Improv.

I love that jacket.

So, now here I was at the Tempe Improv wearing a to-die-for jacket that I had bought months before, when I began to get the first inklings that the Big U was serious about pushing me on stage again. I saw it at Free People and knew I had to own it, and that it would be “stage clothes”. Honestly, I have nowhere else to wear something like that, but it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I either had to commit to getting on stage, or let it stay in the store, unpurchased.

I was second on the bill. The show-runner corralled all the comics and showed us where to go and what to do, i.e.: watch for “the light” at five minutes, and if you don’t start wrapping it up within 15 seconds of receiving the light we’ll cut the mic and turn on the music.

He showed us to the green room, and said to be sure to be there waiting within three comics of our turn. Since I was second, I was in the first batch of comics to wait there as the show began.

The first guy on stage had a pretty good set. I could hear the crowd’s warm laughter, but not what he was saying. I was too busy concentrating on not forgetting my opening line. Once I was on stage, though, it all came flowing back – the material I had practiced over the past weeks, the memories of what a big-time spotlight and mic feel like and how great it feels to receive the laughter of a huge crowd – I was in heaven.

My five minutes went fast … too fast … I had not allowed enough extra time for laughter when I was timing my set in the no-laugh-zone open mic shows. Before I knew it, I saw the light, so I wrapped it up without finishing my final bit. Better to cut off the closer, which had the biggest punchline, than to be chased off stage by a dead mic and loud music.

Here are a couple of videos of my set. I have to give a bit of a disclaimer, though, before you choose which recording to watch.

I have two recordings:

  1. This video has the audience slightly over-miked (you can hear a little too much table chatter … i.e. people ordering drinks, etc.) and sometimes it drowns out my voice, but the laughs/applause are good and loud;
  2. This one has me perfectly miked, so my sound is clear and crisp, but you can’t hear the audience as well.

The dilemma is that, with comedy, you really need the laughs as a part of the show, otherwise it’s agonizing to watch, sort of like that video of Mick Jagger and David Bowie singing “Dancing in the Streets” with the music removed. (Here’s a link to that painfully hysterical video, in case you’ve never seen it: https://youtu.be/BHkhIjG0DKc)

So, with that said, here is the link to the video with the laughs good and loud, with my voice occasionally too quiet:

And here is the link to a tweaked video, where the sound has been balanced so my voice is loud and clear, and the table chatter has been reduced, but the audience is a little too quiet for my comfort (they really were laughing harder than you’ll hear, here):

Choose whichever you’d prefer. I’m torn between the two. That’s why I’m posting both of them.

I’ll tell you what’s next in my upcoming blog, Part 3 of Thoughts on returning to standup comedy, 25 years after quitting.

And before we go, here’s you a dog who’s not sure how he feels about being in front of a microphone:

Lisa Bonnice is an award-winning, best-selling author. Her current passion-project is a series of metaphysical comedy novels. The first in the series is Be Careful What You Witch For!, a modern-day fairy tale about Lola Garnett, a bored housewife and office drone who wakes up with unexpected psychic abilities, and no instruction manual, and Twink, the reluctant, sarcastic faery assigned to assist and educate her. Its sequel, Shaman-a My House, is in the works.


Apparently I’m performing standup comedy again …

The same night this photo was taken (Sioux City, circa 1990), I accidentally hit a patron in the head with my shoe, which flew off when I got a little overzealous acting out a bit.

Back in the previous century, I made my living as a standup comic. I had risen to the level of featuring at “A” rooms like the Funny Bone, Punchline, Catch a Rising Star, et al, and headlining “B” rooms and one-nighters. To the uninitiated, this means that I had enough experience to be taken seriously, so to speak.

However, the Universe had other ideas and threw an endless series of obstacles in my path. Rather than battle with an unstoppable force, I eventually cried “Uncle” and quit the biz.

Now, over 25 years later (goddess, has it been that long???) the Big U is nudging me back on stage. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why. I’m not interested in getting involved in showbiz again. I detested the ‘biz’ end of it. It’s just as bad as you’ve heard … possibly worse. One of these days, I’ll tell you some stories.

Plus, after all this time, I’ve carved out a comfortable niche as a published author and program host for the Shift Network. I’m obsessively working on a new novel, while I’m also focusing on getting a series of metaphysical comedy novels published.

The grueling process of succeeding at standup comedy doesn’t fit into my current plans. It takes a tremendous amount of deliberate effort to do it right.  Truly, comedy is not pretty.

But, if I’ve learned nothing else in this lifetime, I’ve learned that the only way to survive the Big U’s nudges is to not fight them. Go with the flow. And the flow is pushing me back on stage … at least once in a while, for five minutes at a time. (Five minutes is the standard amount of time given at most open mic and showcase shows … you only do more time if you’re part of a standard show, with three comics: opening act, feature act and headliner.)

This means a lot of things. First, what am I going to say? Five minutes may not seem like a long time, but you try standing on a stage, with a microphone in your hand and a spotlight in your eyes, in front of a room full of possibly hostile strangers and make them laugh, consistently, for five whole minutes.

So, I decided to cheat and dust off some of my old act. I watched my ancient recordings and chose some material that translates well to modern times. I threw in a few new jokes, and put together a solid five minutes.

Now, I have to rehearse. That means tracking down local open mic shows to polish my skills after getting so rusty, in preparation for a showcase I have already booked at the Tempe Improv, in a few weeks. I’ve already done two open mics and am heading out again tonight.

I’ll keep you posted!

Meantime, here’s you a dog, with a microphone:

Lisa Bonnice is an award-winning, best-selling author. Her current passion-project is a series of metaphysical comedy novels. The first in the series is Be Careful What You Witch For!, a modern-day fairy tale about Lola Garnett, a bored housewife and office drone who wakes up with unexpected psychic abilities, and no instruction manual, and Twink, the reluctant, sarcastic faery assigned to assist and educate her. Its sequel, Patterns in the Chaos, is in the works.


I slept on Bob Odenkirk’s floor

Most of us have occasional brushes with fame. I’ve blogged about a couple (like the time I got to hang out with Emo Philips), but forgot about this one until I saw Bob Odenkirk on The Daily Show last week, promoting his new show–Breaking Bad‘s spinoff Better Call Saul. Seeing him brought back a memory of the time (cue flashback/harp music) I slept on his living room floor, in Chicago, in the late 1980s.

I was just starting my comedy career, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I had done enough open mic nights to feel like I was ready to start looking for minor league paying gigs.

Fort Wayne is only a three and a half hour drive from Chicago, a comedy mecca at the time. A friend, Chicago comic Jimmy Wiggins, told me that when I was ready he would find a place for me to crash for a night or two and set me up with some local open mics.

Jimmy lived on Lincoln Avenue, across the street from the famous Biograph Theater, where John Dillinger was shot. Jimmy had a girlfriend who, while friendly enough, didn’t cotton to the idea of a strange young woman crashing on his couch, so he set me up a couple doors down at an apartment shared by a few other comics–one of whom was Bob Odenkirk.

I’m sure Bob has no memory of this at all. I remember him, however, because he was about to start writing for Saturday Night Live, and other newbie comics talked about him with respect and awe.

Bob was friendly enough. He was on his way out for the night when I arrived. He told me to make myself at home and have a good show that evening.

If memory serves, the apartment was above a famous Lincoln Park club called Lounge Ax. If not directly above, it was very close by. My night on his floor was barely memorable. It was hard wood. I think I had a sleeping bag. I don’t remember if there was a couch and, if so, why I didn’t sleep on that instead of the floor.

In the morning, I got up and headed back to Fort Wayne, after Bob gave me directions to a convenient place down the block to grab some orange juice and a donut for the road.

And that is pretty much the entire story.

Hey, I never promised it would be interesting, did I?


Emo Philips, comedy genius (repost)

I wrote this years ago,  when I was still blogging on another site. But since I’m in a show-biz story kind of mood these days, I thought I’d repost this, about the time(s) I met Emo Philips.

The first time I met Emo, I was still waitressing/bartending at Snickerz Comedy Bar in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was a huge name in comedy at the time–he was on all the TV shows and cable channels, and he had even released a record (that’s a large, round, flat piece of vinyl, similar to a CD, that we used to play on something called a “record player”). The club was sold out for all the shows, SRO (standing room only). Like most big name acts, Emo kept to himself and the staff didn’t see him much. My most intimate interaction with him, that time, was when he signed an 8×10 glossy photo for me, “Dear Lisa, Thank you for the hamsters. Love, Emo”

Pardon me while I have a Strange Interlude: That Saturday night, on my way to work at Snickerz for Emo week, I totaled my car and smashed my face up a bit. My nose was broken, and my uniform and face were both drenched with blood. I knew that if I went straight to the hospital and called in “sick” from the ER, Kevin (my boss) wouldn’t believe how serious it was, because NO ONE called in sick during one of these SRO events without losing their job. The fact that I was in shock (and a bit of a drama queen) helped me to do this–I drove to the club and parked my crumpled car in front. I made my way through the crowd that was waiting to get in, up to the front to where Kevin was seating people. One look told him that I wasn’t faking just to get the night off. He sent me off to the ER, toute suite.

Anyhoo, my real Emo story is much more fun.

Years later, after I had moved to Chicago and had been performing comedy for a few years, a good friend of mine was working at Catch A Rising Star. His name was Gary Kern and he was a “comic’s comic.” This means that he was so funny that he could crack up even the most jaded comedian, and sometimes the crowds just didn’t get how really brilliant he was. Gary, who died a few months after this gig, had a lot of friends and several comics came to see him that night because it was early in the week and most of us had to work on the weekends. We were all sitting at a table, chatting, when Emo (who was also a fan of Gary’s) came into the room and sat next to me, the only open seat at the table.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to realizing how cool it was that I had gotten to a point in my career where I was actually hanging out with the caliber of performer that I was with–that Emo Philips would just stroll into the room and sit next to me as though I were his peer. But I digress.

At one point, Emo turned to me and said in his lilting, sing-song voice, “I have a joke I’d like to tell you. Let me know what you think.”

I’m pretty sure I don’t have this joke word for word as he told it, but it went something like this (you really have to read this in Emo’s voice):

“I went to the doctor and said, ‘Doctor, it hurts after I pee.’ The doctor said, (*dramatic sigh*) ‘Emo, Emo, Emo … When you’re done, don’t wring it out.’” With this, Emo made a tight, wringing gesture, as though he was squeezing water out of a drenched towel.

Not only was it a funny joke, it was the fact that Emo Philips–one of the cleverest, cleanest acts in comedy–was telling me a dick joke that made it hysterical. I laughed my ass off, long and hard.

The best part of the whole story was his reaction to my laughter. He was so happy that I laughed, I mean genuinely happy–his face lit up with absolute pure delight, like a child about to blow out birthday candles–so very happy that he hugged me tight and exclaimed, “You liked my joke!”

It was one of the sweetest moments of my life, witnessing such innocent happiness and being the cause of it. It still makes me smile, to this day.

I’ll close this blog with a prayer by Emo Philips: “Dear Lord, Please break the laws of the Universe for my convenience.”

Here’s you an emo dog: