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Cantu note: The following email was sent by Don Stevens while organizing a group to join him for "The People's Violin" playing at the Marsh, a San Francisco venue that presents advant guard or non-main stream entertainment. In "The People's Violin", co-creator and star Charlie Varon, a brilliant San Francisco based actor played all 20 parts. http://www.noevalleyvoice.com/2001/May/CVar.html
Cantu, I sent this out as a mass e-mail a couple weeks ago, but didn't include you, as I thought you might either take offense or feel self-conscious, but in fairness, I thought you should have the right to read it. So here it is.
----- Original Message ----- From: Donald Stevens Subject: Unfunny Cantu stories
I was trying to write a story about my friend Winnie, but it's complicated, and the nuances are too much for me right now... so I'll write about Cantu. He's always an easy touch.
Just as an aside, which has nothing to do with what I'm going to write, it's frightening how Cantu and I deal with each other, considering we have radically different dispositions. But when he and I talk, we complete each others sentences, because we know what each other is thinking. Which isn't bad, considering when we first met, he thought I was the most clueless loser he had ever met, and I thought he was an obnoxious lout.
I met him when I was 24, and convinced I knew everything there was to know, and I knew that Cantu was an abrasive, right wing idiot. One day at the comedy club, somebody expressed an opinion I knew Cantu totally disagree with - and he said nothing. I later asked him why he was quiet, and he said, "You have to respect people. Respect their opinions. The way I lead my life: leave people alone. If they're not in your face, just leave them alone."
One night I bombed on stage, and got off mumbling, "Idiots." Cantu took me aside and said, "Pay attention. Pay attention to all criticism; there's value in it, even if it's wrong. You have to pay attention to how people perceive you."
That's probably the most valuable piece of advice I've ever received. It's kept me from going bonkers many times when people have attacked me, because I now think, "Well, maybe they have a legitimate bitch." That and his admonition leave people alone has made me a much more tolerant person, thank god.
I don't embarrass myself as much as I did in my youth.
(Stevens insists I once told him that I felt he was so horrible in my standup classes, that I would have kicked him out had I not needed the money. I disagree, but, we both are supported in our belief by our memories of days long past.)
Anything Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Badly.
You waited to tell me that you felt I had been so horrible that you wanted to kick me out of the class until well after I was entrenched - running the open mikes, writing PR, and filling in for you when you couldn't teach. It was your way of saying, "I would have made a mistake; I'm glad I didn't."
But you do remember that:
Not only did I not take that comment as an insult, I used it extensively in Toastmaster training session - I was educational veep three times and was called upon to do training at area sessions. I especially liked to tell it when there were new members in the club who were, well, pathetic, and who would look at my speeches, how I ran meetings, whatever, and get dismayed.
I think I would introduce it by saying, "I once knew a person who was trying to do public speaking. He was so bad..." etc. I'd watch them squirm because they felt "so bad" and then I'd say, "That person was me." It was great to see the jaws drop. Nearest thing I ever did to come close to one of those detestable motivational speeches.
"lout" Cantu notes: I have an idea for an essay, "Strange Comedy Bedfellows" about the comedy influences you would never guess. Most comedy folk know, Phyllis Diller modeled herself after Bob Hope but not as many know that Woody Allen also is an unabashed admirer for Bob Hope and says he mimics him; Or how about Rodney mentoring Robert Klein who in turn was Jerry Seinfeld's role model.