PILGRIMAGES: Mike Albo, “The Ups and Downs of Self-Promotion” (5/6)

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


Mike Albo performs "The Junket"

Mike Albo performs “The Junket”

Whenever I have a friend or acquaintance who is about to release a new book, I tell them to let themselves fantasize that this book is going to be a sensation. I tell them to make that fantasy as big as a Baz Lurman production. It will win the Man Booker Prize and get you on the cover of Poets & Writers and you will become best friends with Lena Dunham and Siri Hustvedt. I think being embarrassingly shameless in your imagination will help you deal with reality.

Then I tell them this: maybe you will get a Pulitzer, maybe you won’t, but one thing is true and that is your book will take you down pathways and introduce you to people you never would have imagined. Books (especially personal, emotional ones) change your destiny in ways you won’t be able to understand until years later. Hornito, my first novel, was a gay coming-of-age story in which I drew upon my childhood memories and diaries living in the East Village in the 90’s. It was never a bestseller, but I still have people writing me that they read it, that it resonates with them, and suddenly there is this wonderful bond that I am so grateful to experience.

Mike Albo performs "The Junket"

Mike Albo performs “The Junket”

I am trying really hard to take my own advice these days. I released Spermhood last week, and though I am happy to have created my own work and to be a part of the Kindle Single showcase of writers, it’s me who is responsible for getting this book out there. Promoting a book on your own is not easy. I have been sending press releases to editors, writing essays for websites (like this fantastic blog!) but I don’t have a PR company or publisher behind me. I don’t lunch with Leonard Lopate, and Spermhood doesn’t possess the sheen of a Knopf moniker. And every day since its release, I go through pendulous mood swings, up and down. The downs: Spermhood isn’t “doing well” and I don’t have an audience and will never be successful. Up: someone posts how much they loved it and my sales increase by $1.40, bit by bit. I think: maybe I will buck the PR machine and this will find its audience through that powerful yet hard-to-pin-down thing called “Word of Mouth.”

The only way out of the mood swings, I have found, is to remember that Spermhood is a good thing to have out there. It’s honest, it has no cynical agenda, and it is my truth.

Also I have to remember I am not powerless. I have to pick up my spirit and ask myself: maybe you don’t have Jonathan Franzens’s publicist, but what DO you have, Mike? Well, I have my two hands, and lots and lots of friends and acquaintances to email. So, instead of letting my head spin in doubt, I am spending every day sending out emails to every person I have ever met. Personalized emails even! That will take at least two months. And I work on my next projects. I always remember when I was unjustly fired from my position at a major newspaper (please read The Junket for that story) and I was at my lowest, my friend and director David Schweizer said to me: “We WORK Mike, that’s what we do.” It’s simple but true. That has always stuck with 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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