I won the ding dang thing.
After days of bugging friends, relatives and total strangers to watch the videos and make a decision, I collected 1000+ votes-over 150 more than the contestant in 2nd place-and was, just today, crowned the winner on the competition holder’s website, TalentHouse.com. You can see my winning song and video, here.
The process was fun at times, and it was depressing at times. At one point, a very computer savvy friend contacted me and told me that they were pretty sure one of the contestants was cheating and sent me links to confirm that, which took the wind out of my sails pretty hard. I am not 100% it was true, but it made me feel like the whole contest was pointless and almost lose hope. On another day, I noticed that one of the leaders had been featured on a very popular comedy website, garnering the competitor hundreds of votes. ‘How am I supposed to compete under these circumstances?’, I thought. I shut the internal chatter out and just busied myself using all the social media contacts I’ve amassed over the years to round up votes. I bothered friends, strangers, people I hadn’t spoken to in eons. I sent everyone the link and shamelessly begged them to give my song a look and a listen (and a vote). It was humiliating. It was exhausting. It broke me a little bit.
You see, I’ve been performing in the world of comedy now for just over 13 years. I moved to NYC in 2001 (just in time for 9/11) to get serious about stand up. Somewhere along the line, I started putting an instrument into my act because it felt right, and the audience let me know that was the way to go. New York City was my proving ground, and it was also the place I made mistakes and learned (and continue to make mistakes and learn).
Some old stand up pics —
Bottom, L to R: “Big Jay” Oakerson as a kid, Chelsea Peretti’s comedy tapes,
Victor Varnado and I, Chelsea and I dressed accidentally as twins
Middle, L to R: Me at Collective Unconscious, a bunch of comics at a table including Val Kappa, Roger Hailes, Karey Dornetto? a few others, Kurt Metzger at the old Boston Comedy Club, Sarah Silverman and I, back when I was just a newbie comedian,
Top, L to R: Me with my guitar on stage early on, comedians including Tom McCaffrey & Liz Laufer, writer’s room at MTV, “I Bet You Will” with Roger Hailes, Santa, etc.
Though Philly was really the first place I did stand up, N.Y.C. was a hard city to get my real start performing in, and many of the people who surround me today-comedians, industry, etc-still see me as a new comedian, or the person I was 13 years ago. They don’t know that I’ve traveled the world, that I’ve won awards and that I have hours of solid, tried, true material for shows that have sold out and won awards in other cities, and TV and radio credits, and that people I admire have sung my praises in print and in person. And if they do know, they don’t care. The city (and the world) is swamped with A+ comedians, and right now, the spot light is on stand up. Kids want to be comedians more and more, and rock stars and actors less and less. I have a little bit of an internal drama going, as well. It says, “All the friends I started comedy with have their own TV shows now, and what are you doing, Delfino?” and it won’t shut up. Then the doubts come. “Maybe you’re not good enough”, it says. “Maybe no one likes you,” it echoes. “That’s not true,” I say, and I know it’s not true. Still, with all my hard work and years and hustle and struggle and successes and failures, (I hitch hiked to Montreal Comedy Festival one year to perform, Patrice O’Neal rewarded me by commending my dedication and insisting Jay Oakerson let me sleep in his hotel room), here I was, 13 years later, begging people to vote for me.
But as I began getting replies, a warmth of love washed out the dread:
Not everyone was so supportive. One person flat out said no, one or two asked me not to bother them ever again. The rudies were blocked, deleted and I moved on. Who needs it. It’s hard enough in this business. But on the other side of that, I learned that there were 1000+ people who have faith in me. I came into the competition placed last. In no time, I was in the top 10, then the top 5, then I was in 2nd place.
And then I was in first place.
Sure, a lot of the people who voted for me are friends and family, and duh, that’s what friends and family are for. But some of those people are V.I.P.s.-super happenin’ peeps in my world that I look up to and admire, and they took a minute to rain some of their love on me. It’s always funny to me that the people who act like such hot shit are the not even that big a deal, and usually fizzle out pretty fast, and the really super successful and very famous people are always so cool. I could give some examples, but I’m sure you’ll agree if you think about it for a minute.
The rewards for the fest include money, airfare, VIP tickets, even a spot to perform in the fest. There are 2 awards. One is Judge’s Pick where Jack and Kyle pick the winners. One is Community Choice. I won Community Choice and Dave Moulton won Judge’s Pick. His song will be the theme song for the festival and that’s that. And winning this probably won’t change my life too much. I learned a few things. 1. I never want to enter a contest ever again. Too much work. Ouch. Too much margin for cheating, errors, etc. 2. I am way more loved than I thought I was. Wow. I felt a tidal wave of love like I’ve never felt before. It was true magic. 3. I am compulsively addicted and tied and connected to comedy and being a twisted minstrel. I will never quit. I will never give up. Like a mama bird protecting her baby. My work is my children, for now. In the famous words of Joan Rivers:
“In our business we don’t quit. You’re holding on to a ladder. When they cut off your hands, hold on with your elbow. When they cut off your arms, hold on with your teeth. You don’t quit because you don’t know where your next job is coming from.”
That’s my life, baby! See you in L.A. Oct. 23-28. Please RSVP for my Facebook event and come see me at Comedy Central Stage. Look at me, continuing to beg you for your love. Hey, but then, why stop now?