Hazardous Material

The scintillating life of Creative Director/ Variety Entertainer, Christian Fitzharris, and his never ending voyage to do everything in the world. ( at a respectful pace... of course)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Here's a simple exercise if you're a comedian...

Here's a simple exercise if you're a comedian. In addition to preparing your material for your upcoming Open Mic or other performance. Ask yourself how you want to be seen on stage. Not just as being funny, but what impression do you want your physical appearance and your onstage habits want to leave with the audience members? Before I went onstage for my last comedy club performance I asked myself,"What do I want to look like onstage?" Do I want to be the comedian who stands solid at the mic? Do I want to pointedly wander connecting with the audience? Most performers know to try to make eye contact with every member of the audience, but some do not know this. This builds rapport and helps bring the audience members into your world. In my early twenties I wanted to come off as chaotic and brilliant like an early Robin Williams. But being chaotic and "brilliant" and being just chaotic is a super slim line barely visible to the human eye. After doing 9 to 10 two and a half hour shows per week with two thousand people per show for a diverse audience with Cirque du Soleil, I realized that CONSISTENCY IS A MOTHER. And more than "freshness" or "edgy improvisation" consistency will win every time. You can still improvise and make it fresh, but hitting the dependable jokes you improvised a year ago and honed razor sharp will kill every time. What did I say to myself before going to do regular topical stand up after fifteen years? I said, "Christian, don't say, "um","huh","I forgot what was next" or read off a piece of paper. Any statement that should be internal monologue comes off as insecurity and is projecting to the audience that you are an AMATEUR! I also reminded myself not to pace back and forth, wander aimlessly, or do any of those old personal "eccentricities" which project to an audience you are out of control of your material. I am happy to say (after reviewing the video I shot of myself) that I did not do any of these things, and I was credited for being funny AND professional. These are not secrets! They are obvious choices that we must look at and adapt to if we want to be considered "professional" and "practiced" as comedians. I didn't over rehearse my act. I outlined the first 3 minutes and hoped the energy from the crowd would lead me. And it did! (True, I'm an improvisor)but...these are time honored techniques and observations that I will measure myself against again and again. Have at it!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Techno-capivity.

I think it is important that we rule our tools and not let our tools rule over us.

This is my hesitation with the release of the iPhone 4s and Siri. We are a society that has slowly been socially crippled by our enjoyment of technology. The appearance of the iPod allowed us to shut out other humans and invoke a state of musical intoxication whenever and wherever we wanted. The grocery store, the post office, and even walking with friends and family. This serves as a wall of separation and offers something similar to what we call “creative hiding” in the world of acting. Creative hiding is the use of a hat or hair to close off the expressions of our face. When you use the brim of a baseball cap to obstruct the full openness of your face you are masking your emotions and expressions to others around you. When you use an iPod with friends or family present you are employing an even deeper separation than that which is provided by a hat or long bangs in your face. The wall of music is complete in closing off all outside connections and the only way someone may make contact with you is through catching your attention visually or by physically touching you.

The iPhone brought a new level of technological obsession and solitude. One of the main reasons I didn’t want an iPhone, in the beginning, was that I didn’t want to become like all of my friends, staring into a small plastic box isolating social interaction. Instead of just checking your phone for the time minutes or hours can go by under the trance of information, games, social networking sites, and apps. Now it has become the norm to see couples in restaurants sitting silently with one another staring into their own individual entertainment systems instead of sharing thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Families have existed for generations on the sharing of opinions and differences as conversational fodder and each member of the family was better off because of it. I understand there is a positive aspect to the exchange of ideas on the internet. (I do have a podcast after all.) But with each generation of technology we are becoming more and more reliant upon these devices and in some cases handicapped by them. If you lost your cell phone right now how many phone numbers do you have memorized to be able to call someone for help? I know I only have a couple numbers memorized. We have become addicted to cell phones, which easily store all of our info for ease of use, but I no longer need to know phone numbers. I just select, “Mom” in my phone. Or even just say, “Mom” and my phone calls my mother. But if I were stranded and in danger without my techno pocket crutch, how would I call for help? We have become privileged to the point of passivity. Techno captivity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Divination. What's your favorite?




Divination. What’s your favorite? Like donuts, they are all so beautiful in different ways. Tarot is the major contender, of course, because it has stood the test of time as a stronghold of reliability and depth. Also people like a book with pictures and The Book “T” has that in spades, I mean disks. There are also a wide variety of spreads for using tarot cards which make it adaptable for your personality. Unfortunately, I have a chronic habit of losing one card, just one card, from every tarot deck I have ever owned. (My current deck has to be sealed in a bag immediately after using.) But everyone knows I don’t play with a full deck!
As Tigger the Tarot reader used to sing while attending a tarot convention with Winnie the Seer, “The wonderful thing about tarot, tarot are wonderful things. There tops are spun out of DE-signs. There bottoms are made out of dreams.” You can use a deck of tarot cards to work the paths of the Tree of Life or to do dream invocation work, attracting the influences you want while sleeping. Specific tarot cards may be laid out as the Enochian Tablet of Union with interesting results. Regular playing cards may be used for readings as is popular and affordable to many. The tarot multitasking is virtually endless.

Now, holding more affection for me is the I-Ching. Whether you use Canadian coins, yarrow stalk, Chinese coins, painted rocks, or turtle shells, the I-Ching is a fantastic method of getting some pretty direct answers to your inquiries. There are also as many different methods to get your answers as there are paths to walk down to get home from your work. Are you a person who uses the three coin method or the six coin method? Do you embrace the “running line” or ignore it? I crafted some I-Ching sticks modeled after Aleister Crowley’s method given to Grady Mc Murtry. Jerry Cornelius has a great blog entry showing a picture of a set of sticks he made based on Mc Murtry’s sticks which were given to him by Crowley and they work really nice for me. There is also a great story Grady told Cornelius about Crowley devising his own methods using the I-Ching framework without using sticks or coins. Crowley would walk down the street stating his question to the universe and if the next person he encountered was a woman he chalked that up to be the equivalent to yin. If it was a man he came across he would be counted as yang. And so on until he had the requisite lines for the “reading” filled out. This is a very creative way of utilizing a divinatory system without needing pesky cards or coins. You could basically create your own system deducing your own methods and outcomes.
In my Golden Dawn work, I used geomancy for awhile with great results. If you have a chance to look at this method of divination I really recommend it because there are some fun things going on with the calculations of the reading. Originally, geomancy was drawn with a stick in the dirt, but now it is more “user friendly” to use the same method with a pen and paper. (Carrying sacks of dirt on the chance you may do a reading for someone really gets old. You have to have enough dirt to cover the table at Starbucks and you receive some seriously “dirty” looks. Get it? Right, let’s pretend this never happened.)
Maybe you’re more of a pendulum reader. Or a conch shell thrower. I even own a book on using a Rubik’s cube as a “Cube of Light” to do readings with! There are some fantastic divination systems out there. It’s all about finding which one works for what you’re doing and what feels right to a Magus like you.

Here's Cornelius' writing regarding Crowley's I-Ching sticks: http://www.cornelius93.com/CROWLEYSI-CHINGSTICKS.html

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The big "Bastille Day" gala for Variety.org!

Two days away from the big fundraiser for Variety.org and I’m still polishing material. No surprise there! You don’t hire a creative director who uses improvisational methods and expect any less.
Variety provides modified bicycles and other equipment to developmentally challenged kids to help them stay mobile and live normal lives. Every year they have an annual fundraiser to get money to help the children and this year they brought me on as event designer to help pull of the largest fundraiser they have attempted yet. Variety is an international charity and the Pittsburgh office is the original of a now global organization. This year’s event is scheduled for July 14th which falls on “Bastille Day”. The event organizer, Marilyn Caye, decided to pull out all the stops and make it a full on French themed extravaganza. The fundraiser takes place in a spacious mansion over looking the famous three rivers of Pittsburgh, high above, from atop the hill of Mt. Washington. The event is presented by the Honorary French Consul Jean-Dominique Le Garrec and has sponsors from all of the Pennsylvania corporate giants, all for a great cause. There will be food and wine tastings in the wine cellar presented by local executive chefs. An award winning performance of “Les Mis” will happen at intervals. Strolling musicians will add ambience to the pool area and outdoor grounds. A caricature artist will exaggerate your worst features and a mime will…do…mime stuff like mimic people and hopefully climb an invisible rope!
As the emcee, of sorts, (myself as) “Viceroy Nostril von Picklebau of the Salzburg Picklebau’s” will be holding court throughout the entire estate whirling the masses into a mystical magical frenzy of fantasy and French themed frivolity fantastically formulated to feed the fruitful fever of frightful fun.
Tickets are $300 a plate and proceeds go to the priceless purpose of providing precious people with the gift of mobility, self-confidence, and hope.

I am honored to be a part of this year’s wonderful group of organizers. Beauseant! As noble knights we charge forth with the wind at our backs and a firm grip on the sword of possibilities!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My interview with Dr. Joe Gaiter.

The unedited Joe Gaiter interview! HE contacted me for an interview knowing my work in "Sister Act 2".

What is your view on life right now?

If you want to create the dream that you see for yourself you need to block out all other distracting or disempowering influences. You will not make it unless you are vigilantly self-confident and keep one leg in the real world and the other leg in your dreams. Even constructive criticism can chip away at your belief in yourself and lessen your ability to affect the change you see possible in the world.

Where did you grow up? Tell me about your childhood.

I was born in Bar Harbor, Maine, but I grew up in Santa Clara, California. I was the only comedian in the microchip generation out of the Silicon Valley. All of my friends and family were computer programmers and I.T people and I was the class clown. I started entertaining at the age of six performing for family and friends of the family. I would dress up in a suit with glasses and a cane and try to do a Brittish accent and perform for classmates and family members. I started practicing magic and doing magic tricks to “amaze” my audiences.

Where did you spend most of your teenage years? High school?

Santa Clara High School was my school. I infected every department of performance with my hammy entertainment addiction. At one point I was the Entertainment Commissioner of the school, the Drum Major of the marching band, the assistant conductor of the orchestra, active in choir and Barbershop Quartet, as well as being the President of the Drama Club. My hunger for show business was insatiable and my work ethic unstoppable.

Where did you go after high school?

I attended one semester of Foothill College in the Bay Area, but my grades lacked and I needed to perform. I did one play in that semester before my college career came to an end.

When did you begin acting?

I did one community production before the age of fifteen, but I really jumped into acting at the age of fifteen. My friends convinced me I was well suited to acting because I was funny. I was cast in the school play, “The Diary of Anne Frank”.
Acting was different than what I had been doing because you had “lines” and a director. I did my best and received the award for “Most Improved Actor” (which is a polite way of saying I was inexperienced and got better as the production moved on.)






We all remember you on “Sister Act 2”. How did you get that role?

I was in the hospital for asthma. My mom found a flyer for a workshop to get an agent in San Francisco. I went to the workshop and the agent signed me. The second audition she sent me on was for “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit”. I went through a series of auditions in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
I was up for the part of “The White Guy Who Thinks He’s Black Because he can rap.” In L.A it came down to David Faustino (Married with Children), Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark and the Funky bunch- Boogie Nights- The Departed etc.) and me.
Instead of pitting us together in a fight to the death, the writers created a new role for me and my comedy background as the class nerd. I received a phone call telling me I got the job while my parents were away at the bottom of the Grand Canyon on vacation. By the time they called to see how I was doing I was living in a plush Hollywood community provided by Disney Pictures. We did everything during the filming. Singing on the soundtrack under the direction of Mervyn Warren of “Take 6” (the gospel group), filming throughout L.A, and taping the Disney Channel music video on the old Charlie Chaplin stage at AMG studios. It was a true honor. I made some great friends and had a fantastic time. More of the details will be in my upcoming book to be published later this year.

How long have you done stand-up comedy?

Right before “Sister Act 2” I studied stand-up with a great teacher Neil Lieberman in S.F. He got me started on my way and I followed up in Los Angeles at comedy clubs and under the teachings of Judy Carter, author of “The Stand Up Comedy Handbook”. I was honored to perform in the historic Bay Area “Holy City Zoo” as well as “The Improv” and “The Comedy Store” in Hollywood. My influences were Sam Kinison, Pee-Wee Herman, Bobcat Goldthwait, Robin Williams, Amazing Johnathan, Penn & Teller,and Andy Kaufman.

Tell us about your work with Cirque du Soleil.

To start this story I must transport us back in time. Back to 1991, when I was seventeen years old. My family took me to see Cirque du Soleil’s “Nouvelle Experience” in San Jose. The only thing I remember about seeing this show was it’s extravagant production and the funniest/harshest clown I had ever seen. He was so funny and provocative to his volunteers. Cut to fifteen years later (2006) and this same man, personally, hired me to be a clown in his Cirque du Soleil produced show, “KOOZA”. I co-created the two ten minute clown acts in the show and toured North America for four years performing with this incredible production.

What do you want your legacy to be?

The word “legacy” presupposes leaving an impression, and I will be lucky if I do. Mostly I am here to see my own vision of possibility to manifestation. If I can do that I will be very lucky. The journey of “The Clown” is one of varying degrees of enlightenment and he still clumsily messes everything up. I am honored to just be able to entertain every demographic of human existence in varying ways.
I am working to make people happy and informed and anything else is gravy. If I can continue to achieve this, I will be a very satisfied entertainer.




What are you working on currently?

I have created an entertainment company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and continue to teach workshops/Master Classes, and do variety performance all over the globe. My memoir will be published later this year, which traces some of the bizarre and hilarious stories of my life in entertainment and the spiritual path.


Joe Gaiter can be found at:

http://thegaiterview.com/

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dead words.

"...on bad days I have only dead words, and they are so corpse-heavy that I cannot write with them, not even a letter. Is that bad, weak? And yet God wills it so with me..."- Rilke

Emotion from Rilke.

"...all emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you. Everything that you can think in the face of your childhood, is right. Everything that makes more of you than you have heretofore been in your best hours, is right. Every heightening is good if it is in your whole blood, if it is not intoxication, not turbidity, but joy which one can see clear to the bottom. Do you understand what I mean?"
-Rainer Maria Rilke, "Letters to a Young Poet"