After performing at the First Avenue Speakeasy on Saturday, comedic poet Big Poppa E, who has been featured on HBO and has performed all over the United States, sat down with the Newton Daily News and answered a few questions. His responses are as follows:
Q: Do you ever get nervous on stage?
A: I’m pretty shy. For some reason, when I get up on stage, I’m really comfortable. I found a lot of performers are like that. For some reason, when you’re up on stage you’re completely in control. I feel like, you know, dolphins swimming through waves? They’re not thinking, ‘Oh, check me out.’ That’s like my thing. It’s me swimming in the waves.
Q: Does comedic poetry make it easier to get jobs?
A: Stand-up comic ... there is a zillion people struggling to make it, but how many stand-up poets are there? I do most of my gigs at colleges because there is an educational subtext of poetry and self-expression, workshops with all kinds of things that add an educational element to it, etc. A college might get 1,000 bands that want to play there, but they will get two or three performance poets a year. It makes it a lot easier to make a living out of it, especially if you do that. The good thing about the HBO thing is people might not know what performance poetry is. They might not even know what poetry is, but if you’ve you been on HBO, suddenly that opens doors.
Q: There was an incident in which you got in trouble because of your comedy. Can you tell us about that?
A: Well, I was working for Apple Computer. I was in the customer service line in Canada, and when I would take American calls, they were really rude and demanding and got really mean, really easily. If something was wrong, they would just starting ragging on you. When the Canadians called, they were so polite and so nice, and so I really liked working with the Canadians. I was calling a Canadian FedEx to trace a package, and the girl had the cutest voice. I was just trying to make the call last a little longer than it should’ve because she sounded so cute. So afterwards, I wrote from the perspective of somebody flirting with this cute voice as though it actually happened, and I was keeping this rude American customer on hold as I flirted with her. Then they had an employee talent show for Apple, and so I was asked to do a poem because I been on HBO twice by that time, and they knew it. So they wanted me to read a poem. So I read the one about working in the call center, and the audience was just us call center people. Everybody was laughing, hooting and hollering, and I got fired. Instantly fired, because I said ‘mean, rude customers.’ So what I did about it is I made a video about it, and it ended up getting 1.3 million hits, and it was covered in all these human resource magazines about how not to handle the new Internet economy and stuff like that.
Q: Any advice for anyone who wants to be a poet?
A: Fail. Fail lots. Learn how to fail, and learn. It’s an indigenizing part of being better. Because if you’re scared of failure and you fail once, then that’s it. You’re done. But once you learn to fail and fail repetitively, eventually you stop failing, and then you start getting really good. But if you’re not willing to go through that failure, it doesn’t matter what you do: you will never get good.
Matthew Shepard can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 425 or via email at email@example.com.