PILGRIMAGES: Mike Albo, “Idea Paranoia” (3/6)

Mike Albo

Mike Albo is my humor spirit guide. To see Mike perform is to fall in love with a Solid Gold Dancer trapped in an ironic performance poet’s mind who could win a shape-shifting duel with Carol Burnett. To read his writing is to be able to replay his self-deprecating, witty snark for maximum enjoyment since his delivery is often so breathless you can miss his best zingers. To me he will always be the most prolific, ambitious, Brooklyn-before-it-was-Brooklyn authentic artist bohemian. Ever.

We met when we both worked for the U.Va. campus newsweekly with aspirations to be The Village Voice. In the early ‘90s we moved to NYC to pursue our media/writing dreams. One emblematic night I recall meeting up at Benny’s Burritos to treat ourselves to the broke English major big night out: we split one of their football-sized burritos so that we could each afford our own jumbo frozen margarita (all for under $10!). Until this point, gyms in NYC were utilitarian-type community centers, but at this time places like Crunch and Equinox were opening and group classes were becoming the THING. While club membership was out of our reach, Mike told me about how he built his own step aerobics set-up at home. And I realized Mike is the kind of artist who can go the distance–not just because he has superlative creative talents, but because he’s practical enough to apply his creativity to work-arounds that will enable him to survive in NYC’s hostile economic ecosystem.

And 20-odd years later Mike’s high-caliber comedic career is a testament to being a survivor of the fittest. His flair for fantastic physical comedy features prominently in his monologues and Unitard comedy troupe sketches. He’s the rare heady humorist who can also Bob Fosse the hell out of a line.

This week Mike’s posts will take you on a pilgrimage with him to literal and figurative new frontiers that he has encountered on his creative trajectory–and on his road to spermhood!
~Victoria C. Rowan, Ideasmyth Creatrix-in-Chief


Yesterday, I mentioned one huge roadblock to creativity: doubt in yourself and whether your voice is worthy. Another obstacle is related but a little harder to nail down, because it appears to be real and justifiable: the “what if someone steals my idea” question. I hear this all the time, especially as a comedian. I’ve seen how that paranoia can freeze your creativity into a solid, cold, angry cube of marble. It may feel like a valid question, but dwelling on the fear that your work will be filched will keep you from making the work and presenting it. The thing is, your work WILL probably be stolen. Or, at least it will seem like it is–As a writer of comedic monologues and sketch comedy for (oh god) 20 years now, I have seen many things I have written or said or performed show up all over the place. I don’t have a team of FBI investigators to spy–wiretapping cellphones and hacking computers–and justify my paranoia. I’ll never really find out if, for example, someone on the writing team for Inside Amy Schumer saw me doing my “Amanda!” character while creating their hilarious “Milk Milk Lemonade” sketch (we sing the same song). But I can definitely get as dark and conspiratorial as a team of FBI agents and dwell on this until I am a sad, dried up raisin of a person. It doesn’t help when someone says the following: “I just saw something on Portlandia that reminded me of you!”

Do you sink into a “they stole my idea!” cloud? The only way I have found to calm myself and move on is to say this:

“Oh wow. They just did _____ on SNL? Ok. Well, this just means I have good ideas and I will have more of them because I am not going to let that stop me.”


Photo credit: Erica Freudenstein

~~~Mike Albo is a writer, performer, author, comedian, and self proclaimed “thwarted poet”. He is the author of two novels (Hornito, The Underminer), a novella (The Junket), and, because publishing is weird now, an ‘ebook’ called Spermhood: Diary of a Donor, out this month on Amazon’s Kindle Singles. He is also a performer, having mounted 6 solo shows including Spray, My Price Point, and The Junket, which appeared Off Broadway at the Lyn Redgrave Theatre in 2014. He is transforming Spermhood into another solo show, slated to appear at Dixon Place in May 2016.

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