Learn Guitar with Phil!

Learn guitar with the 30-Day Guitar ChallengeIf you’ve been hanging around and following my various music and comedy projects over the years, you might also know that I’ve been a music teacher for a long time.

Over the last few years, I started reading up on accelerated learning techniques and skill mastery principles, and putting those ideas to work with my guitar students.

The big project…

That led me to creating a whole guitar learning course based on these 4 principles:
– Get to playing quickly
– Learn the most important skills that guitarists use on a daily basis
– No shortcuts that are only effective in the short term but create landmines later
– Create great practice habits that accomplish a lot in a small amount of time

So that program, Less Is More Guitar, will be released in February.  But I’m starting it off with a 30-Day Guitar Challenge.  Learn 3 full songs in 30 days with just 5 minutes of playing time per day.

Who’s it for?

– Total beginners who have never touched an instrument before
– People who play other instruments, but would like to learn guitar and add it to their arsenal.  Especially singers who want to learn to accompany themselves
– People who have attempted to learn guitar in the past but had trouble sticking with it and making progress that seems usable in real playing situations.

If you’re already an intermediate or advanced player you won’t get much out of the 30-Day Challenge.  You might still get something out of LIMG, but it’s designed for beginners.  It’s also geared for teen and adult students.  Kids need a little more hands on from a live teacher.

All that said, the 30-Day Guitar Challenge starts on January 16th and it’s totally free to participate.  If the thought of picking up a guitar and rocking your cares away excites you, sign up for free right here.

And don’t worry. Everything else is still happening.  You can see my upcoming tour dates here and I’ll have a new single for you in a couple weeks. 🙂

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In Defense of Learning

Learning beats ignoranceI was driving an unfamiliar freeway yesterday and took an exit to get some gas.  As I was sitting at the stop light at the top of the exit, a pickup truck pulled up next to me and the driver started shaking his fist and grimacing at me.

I didn’t remember having done anything wrong.  I try to be a conscientious driver.  But I drive thousands and thousands of miles every year.  Bound to make a mistake once in awhile.

As I turned left off the exit, I ended up right next to the same guy at the next stop light.  Normally you’d sit there uncomfortably not glancing at each other.  Instead I rolled down my window and signaled for him to do the same.

I said, “Can I help you with something?”

And he started yelling at me immediately.  “Yeah, you cut me off back there!  I had to slam my brakes and there was a truck behind me!”

I said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I’d done that.  My apologies.”

He continued yelling.  “You could have killed someone back there!  You cut me right off!”

I smiled at him and said, “I’m very sorry about that.  I’m not from around here and not familiar with that exit.  Didn’t realize I’d done it.”

He paused for a moment, smiled back at me, and said, “Ok then, you have a good day now.”

Defused, just like that.  Because we both learned something.  I learned I’d made a mistake.  He learned that it was a mistake and I wasn’t trying to antagonize him.

I’m not telling you this story to prove what a great guy I am.  Instead, it’s to show that learning and talking can smooth things out.

Proudly Ignorant?

I saw a comment from a lady on Facebook recently that said, “I’m tired of you educated people thinking you know more than everyone else!”

“Knowing more than other people” is exactly the definition of being educated.  And seeing the growing disdain for learning and experts is a scary thing.  The replacement of facts with “feelings” isn’t doing us any good.

That guy in the truck felt like I’d wronged him.  And fortunately he believed my fact that I’d simply made a mistake.  And we could both go on with our day with one less bit of animosity.

Keep in mind, I’m talking about both sides of whatever spectrum here.  Shallow, uneducated people exist in all portions of society, as do deep, thoughtful people.  And when talking about education, I don’t mean a college degree.  I mean people with an array of life experiences who make an effort to actually learn about the world around them.

Subvert The Algorithm

Unfortunately, our consumption of knowledge has been overly focused down to soundbites and 140 character tweets.  All of it funneled into algorithms that only show us more of what we want to see and nothing that we don’t want to see.

Being further distanced from those we don’t agree with isn’t going to help us come to any sort of understanding or compromise.  It’s only segregating us into opposing camps.

So we have to make an effort to go out and learn new things.  Seek the knowledge of others and try to understand their motivations. We’re learning more that Islamic terrorists are created through a combination of poverty, inexperience, and brainwashing by demagogues.  I’d argue that American racists are a product of the same combination.

How many people (on either side) actually tried to learn more about the 2012 Benghazi attack instead of just using it as a slogan?  How many people looked up any of the facts about the Trump University law suit?  And from something other than a source that just agrees with you?

Yes, facts can be manipulated and the victors write the history.  But we have to have something as a baseline to start the discussion.  When we have more viewpoints on a subject we can have more insight to a problem and help keep our media outlets improve their integrity.

Who’s got the time?

I get it, there’s too much out there to keep track of.  We’re all busy trying to scrape together a living wage.  Who’s got time for all this research and learning?

It has to become part of your daily events.  I learn something every day.  It doesn’t have to be earth shattering.  Recently I learned that my kitchen faucet has a small regulator in it that isn’t necessary and was clogged and making my faucet not work right.  Wouldn’t have known that without my helpful plumber stepping in to show me.

But if something filters up and you’re using it to explain something to someone else, you should have an idea of what you’re actually talking about. I heard rants about Benghazi for months before I finally got around to looking it up and reading the details.

The simple bottom line is that you need to learn something new every day.  Not stuffing your brain 24/7.  But try to find something that will give you new knowledge or a different viewpoint each day.  Success is made through knowledge and thoughtfulness.  Ignorance and fear only stunt the growth of the human race.

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The hair has many uses….

A pic from last night’s show at the San Jose Improv with Reylina and Hana.  The hair has many uses….

I liked the opener, so obviously we had to play with his hair @philjohnsoncomedy #biotingoals #improvcomedy

A photo posted by Hana ? Sayles (@iwannahana13) on

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Why Jack Drimmer of Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club is Wrong

This would have been a major step up from the scared, drunk, confused audience Jack Drimmer of Auburn Racquet Club left me with.

This would have been a major step up from the scared, drunk, confused audience Jack Drimmer of Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club left me with.

Geez, do I hate dealing with the drama of people who don’t understand things.  So I’m going to respond fully to this here and be done with it.

I recently did a corporate gig for Jack Drimmer and his company the Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club.

Jack’s review of my performance does not take into account that he lied to his guests, threw me under the bus, and made it nearly impossible for me to put on a good show.

Before the show…

When I booked this show with Jack Drimmer of the Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club and we spoke on the phone about what we needed, he said:

  1. The show doesn’t have to be that clean.
  2.  Let’s get a 2nd comic on the show who’s “interactive”.

“Interactive” means they want crowd work.  All the “what’s your name, where ya from?” kind of improvised comedy.

I said, “Good. Let’s do that because I don’t do a lot of crowd work.”  I brought in Myles Weber who loves doing crowd work and the show would have a lot of variety that way. Prepared material and music from me.  Crowd work and material from Myles.

Pre-Show Lies

We get to the gig and everyone is taking advantage of the open bar.  So they’re overly lubricated by the time the show starts.  Par for the course.  We’re used to that.  Though one guy was passed out at the front table just as I got on stage.  Others around him were jamming straws in his mouth.  You can imagine that was a little distracting.

Just before the show I checked in with Jack one more time on what kind of content he wanted.  PG16 he says.  I said, “Are sex jokes ok?”  And he said, “Yeah, that should be fine.”  I could have done the show without them, but I remembered our earlier conversation where he said the show doesn’t have to be that clean.

BUT, two minutes before I go on stage…and this was never discussed before this… Jack tells me “Everyone kept asking me what the entertainment this year would be.  I told them that you’re a roastmaster and they each have to get up and tell a funny 5-minute story about our members.”

I asked, “Are we actually doing that?”

Jack says, “Oh no. I just wanted to mess with them.  Just go into your act and pretend like you’re going to do it, then never do it.”

Now, I’m all for trying to appease a client if they have a request, but this is a recipe for disaster at a comedy show.  Let’s look at why:

  1. Most people are scared to death to get on a stage and talk.  And he’s handing me an audience that thinks they’re going to have to do that and I’m the guy that’s “making them”.
  2. I’m not a roastmaster.  I’ve never been a roastmaster or marketed myself that way.  I don’t even like roast jokes.
  3. Not only are they scared I’m going to call them on stage, they’re confused when I don’t and just start into my standup act.  Surprise standup never ever ever works.  Standup requires a focused audience that knows what they’re going to get.  It’s why there’s no such thing as “background comedy”.

So I step backstage to tell Myles what’s happening.  He says, “Dude, you’re screwed,” because he knows how difficult my next 40 minutes are going to be.

The Show(down)

Jack gets on stage to introduce me to his Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club employees as a “professional roastmaster” (which I’m not) and reminds them that they’ll all have to get on stage to tell a funny story (which they don’t sound the least bit excited about) and then brings me up.

Not to mention the audience was talking over him, wasn’t quieted, and was still talking when I got on stage and I had to quiet them before I could even start.

Before I’m a minute in people are walking off.  Why?  Because they don’t want to get on stage and talk. And they don’t understand what the guy on stage is doing right now.

Now those people who have wandered off are back at the bar talking very loudly (including Jack), making my job even harder because now I have to talk over the loud chatter at the bar, convince the remaining audience that I’m not actually going to pull them on stage, and reset their heads for a standup show.

Let me reiterate this… Lying to your guests about what the show will be and surprising them with standup DOES NOT WORK.

So I’m trying to tell jokes over the noise and play to the scattered but pretty attentive audience left in front of me.  As they started to figure out what was going on they enjoyed my material.

No doubt I could have had a better set.  And I’ll be the first to admit that.  But given the circumstances, I was muddling through the best I could and giving them whatever laughs I found possible.

As for his claim that I was too dirty, he told me sex jokes were ok.  And mine certainly aren’t graphic.  In fact you can see the exact material I did here, here, and here.  Not even a single swear word. And that was a total of about 8 minutes of my 40 minute show.  The rest was absolutely clean material.

I did about 40 minutes on stage.  The people that were paying attention enjoyed it a lot and told me so afterward.  Jack wouldn’t know if I was funny or not because he was back at the bar drinking and talking loud like the rest of the disrespectful drunks.

I brought Myles up and he jumped right into crowd work.  Even then it took him a good 5-7 minutes to get them on board.  And that was after I’d already helped them figure out that this was a standup show and not some weird roast their boss had lied to them about.

And they enjoyed the crowd work.  Great.  I told Jack ahead of time that I don’t do crowd work.  My demo videos don’t show crowd work.  Once we had Myles on board it didn’t sound like he needed crowd work from me.

The 2 Faces of Jack Drimmer of Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club – Post Show

When the show ended Jack shook my hand and said thank you.  He did not address any of his concerns.  I walked out of the venue with him at the end of the night discussing the week of traveling we’d each just done.  I said, “I hope everyone had a good time.”  He said, “Yes, I think they did.”  I wasn’t about to bring up problems if he thought it went ok.

I then reminded him that I needed a check for the rest of the performance fee from him as stated in our contract.  He claimed he’d already paid it through GigMasters two weeks prior (which he hadn’t).  I said I’d double check that and he said he’d send payment during the week if it wasn’t there.  Fortunately he did pay me two days later.  But still two days later than stated in our contract.

A professional adult would have discussed these concerns with me after the event instead of just thanking me and telling me everyone had a good time.  I could have explained to him that lying to his guests probably wasn’t a good idea and that I would have told him so had he discussed it with me beforehand.

Instead he blasted me with a terrible review on GigMasters.  And now you know what really happened.  Jack Drimmer of the Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club lied to his employees, threw me under the bus, and then blamed me for the show not going well.

How about a recap?

– Material was too dirty? – I checked twice to make sure of what I could do and stayed within those parameters.
– Phil wasn’t funny? – No comedian is funny when faced with a scared and confused audience.  Phil also tours the country as a professional comic and probably wouldn’t be allowed to if he weren’t funny.
– Half of the guests left? – Yes, because their boss told them they were going to have to get on stage and tell a story.

But I learned that I have to educate each of my private gig clients about how to put on a show correctly.  So water under the bridge and now I know better.

And if you’re a client of Auburn Racquet and Fitness Club, now you know what kind of person is running your gym.

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