Hello, my dear friends again. My lord, it certainly has been too long.
Too long indeed.
Anyway, tonight is the eve of my birthday. Tomorrow morning, June
30th, at approximately 7 a.m., I will officially turn 36 years old.
Birthday present? Why, thank you. Actually, there’s only one thing I
need this year. I recently received word that, after five years of
trying to get in and failing with each attempt, I have finally been
accepted to perform at this year’s Just For Laughs Festival in
Montreal, Quebec. However, since I’m not a “big name” in comedy (still), I am required to pay for my own transportation up north. So I am soliciting all good fans out there to
donate to become sponsors of the “Will Franken Has At Least Two More
Shows Left In Him” Montreal Tour. No amount is too small or too large.
By going to willfranken.libsyn.com and clicking on any of the Paypal
buttons, you can contribute to defray the cost of Will Franken making
his Canadian debut.
What? Why doesn’t Will Franken have any money to pay for his own trip?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Since I last wrote to you back in late March of this year, I have had
numerous ups and downs. More numerous are the downs than the ups it
seems like sometimes. But life wouldn’t be a roller coaster if the
only direction was down. That would be death. I’m not dead yet. So,
for the foreseeable future, I am not officially retiring. Although,
over the past six weeks, I have come frightfully close.
I don’t know where to start exactly. Let’s go back to December of ‘08
for a second. To tell the story will require an honesty from me which
will humble me and erase any misconceptions any of you may still
harbor about the rock-n-roll lifestyle that a comedian of my means
most assuredly does not lead. (I tend to omit a good deal of truth
about my life, particularly the economic inefficiency of my vocation,
in the hopes that the lie will eventually become the truth)
But right now, I cannot afford dishonesty.
CHAPTER ONE: THE CATS OF JERSEY CITY
In December of last year, I was living a miserable existence in a
dismal room of an attic apartment I shared with a 57-year old
substitute teacher in the unfashionable neighborhood of Woodhaven,
Queens just off of the relatively unknown J train subway line.
I thought I had hit bedrock when a few years before I arrived in
Berkeley, California to live out of my car at the Marina. Compared to
last winter, that was paradise. So when a friend of a friend of a
friend offered to sublet me his studio apartment in Jersey City for
$700 a month last December, I leaped at the opportunity. For the first
time since the Great Divorce of '07, I was going to be a man! At last!
My own place to create great works of art! And. . .who knows. . .maybe
a little hubba-hubba!
There was one catch, however. The friend of a friend of a friend (no
longer a friend) mentioned that his cats would have to come with the
apartment. He was moving in with a girlfriend in Hoboken who had a dog
and feared the two would not mix. He would be responsible for
purchasing litter and food and cleaning up after the cats when I was
away on comedy-related ventures, but I would have to take care of the
daily chores of feeding and box-cleaning when I was home. No worries,
I cheerfully thought. I have house-sat for cats before and expected no
significant problems. Boy, was I wrong.
My first night in my new place (Christmas Eve, 2008), I awoke to
discover the cats had urinated all over the bed while I slept. The
next day, I asked for "wiggle room" on the rent and was rebuked. “No,
Will” he snapped, “you knew what you were getting into.” Yet I can
honestly say that these were the first cats I had ever watched that
had no idea where the litter box was. But what was I going to do? Move
again? How many times can a man relocate in his life? I needed to
catch my breath. Perhaps the cats would get used to me with time.
No such luck. Though the cats did stop urinating, defecation and
vomiting were another story entirely. I told the landlord over and
over, but he wasn’t concerned in the least. As usual, I had blown the
first rule in business: never let the seller know you’re desperate. I
learned to live with it--constantly cleaning up messes and putting a
brave smile on the situation.
In late April, after returning from a relatively successful San
Francisco/Portland, OR tour, I returned to Jersey City. The landlord
hadn’t been by in days to check up on the cats. The place was covered
in feces and vomit. I called him up and demanded a reduction in rent
and he responded by evicting me. (Which he could do, since he never
put anything down in writing. I asked him over and over to do so, but
he told me he didn’t want to. Lucky for me, it turns out, as now he
can’t sue me for any of the money that he incredulously thinks I owe
I asked for a reasonable amount of time to look for another place.
During those few weeks, I scoured Jersey City for even just a room
that I could afford on my measly transcriptionist’s pay. (Yes, I had a
day job.) I couldn’t find any affordable lodgings that did not
contain the admonitions a) no smoking, b) no cooking, and c) no
CHAPTER TWO: ON TO ROUND LAKE
There were no gigs on the horizon except for a May 16th callback in
Manhattan for the Just For Laughs showcase. I couched-surfed in the
days leading up to the show with the plan to stay with a friend in a
little town in Round Lake, NY (where I am writing this now). Round
Lake being only two and a half hours from Montreal, the plan was to do
the gig and retire to the countryside and await word on whether or not
I had gotten into the festival. Since I was responsible for paying for
my own transportation, I figured my positioning so close to Canada
would defray some of the cost.
My friend here had warned me ahead of time that it might be difficult
staying in Round Lake as I don’t have a car. Boy, was he right. The
nearest sign of life from where I am residing is a convenience
store/gas station a mile and a half up the road. At first it didn’t
matter. I was told by the Montreal coordinators that I should receive
word on whether or not I made it into the festival within two to four
weeks. Until that time, I thought, I would just relax in the country
and eke out an existence on my meager savings.
Well, four weeks soon elapsed and I started to worry that once again,
I would be denied a chance to perform in Montreal. I sunk into a great
depression. The plan as I had conceived it was a) if I got into
Montreal, I would take that as a sign to continue doing comedy and
slug it out on the East Coast for at least another year, most likely
in Jersey City. and b) if I did not get in, I would return to San
Francisco and most likely give up on comedy entirely, at least for a
Things got pretty bleak as of last Friday. I couldn’t get a “yes” or a
“no”. I was stuck in limbo and consequently, was prevented from making
plans for either eventuality. And my escape fund, should I have chosen
to return to San Francisco, was getting perilously low. Then, at the
close of the day last Friday, I received word that I had gotten into
the festival after all.
As of the present, I am awaiting word on a typing job I can do from my
isolated country fortress which will pay me enough to survive these
next three weeks. But again, I come to you, my fans, pleading the
causes of my birthday and my recent less-than-comic misfortunes, to
help me succeed in Montreal. Plane tickets are too exorbitant, even
for such a short trip from Albany to Montreal. The only train that
goes there arrives too late in the day for me to perform. But with a
little bit of help from you guys, I can afford to rent a car and drive
the three hours north.
So that is it, I have bared my soul to you. It is a less than
glamorous life, I warrant you. I have recently taken to calling myself
“The Drifter”. Will there be a future for me in comedy? I do not know.
I only know what is on the menu for the short term. And that is a gig
in Montreal. Please, I beg you, keep the dream alive. Help me get to
Montreal by sponsoring me. Go to willfranken.libsyn.com and click on
any of the Paypal buttons to donate today. As of this writing, we have
two sponsors already, Carlo Mastrogiacomo from San Francisco and Randy
Lowery of North Carolina. But we could use more.
And for those San Francisco fans who have been urging me to return to
the Bay, let me just say that there is another tier to my plan. If I
go to Montreal and am somehow miraculously able to finally get an
agent or a manager who can advocate for me in the entertainment
industry, I will continue to slug it out here on the East Coast. If I
go to Montreal and still come up empty-handed, I will definitely
return to San Francisco and the Love I hope still remains in that city
for me and what I do.
I love you all,