Friday, May 27, 2016


A little fan art of Conley Woods, from Magic: The Gathering and the enigmatic hip hop collective and sometimes podcast known only as "MTG Potpourri," granted most of its mysteriousness lies in its perennially irregular update schedule and lack of hip-hop-based activities. But never mind rando updates, today is about the Father of Cons, a veritable "Confather," if you will, and no doubt Conley would.

Conley Woods is of course that colorful jack of every trade, and is actually long rumored to have allegiances to several superlative secret societies after his brief but unconfirmed stint at the CIA under the codename "Agent Boats." But loose lips sink ships--even ships made of Woods! So what do we actually know of this weekend enthusiast? Well, everyone knows he is a Magician and some know he is an internationally competitive dancer, but few know about his intensely compact but outstanding career as a standup comedian. His rise to comedic heights is the stuff of legend, or perhaps more accurately urban legend, based on how little he addresses it nowadays, but he seems happy enough to have put it all away for the much quieter life of designing and playing games and dancing. Thus the question becomes: what ever happened to comedian Conley Woods? Well, like most things, it all starts in New Jersey.

Just kidding, nothing happens in New Jersey. It was New York. It's always New York. First, you should know that Conley Woods had done some standup throughout college, and in his first year after graduation, he made a point to test his mettle at every New York club that would have him. Naturally he started at the requisite ghettos of 3am spots performing to (against?) black-out drunks and the more than occasional hobo, but he eventually worked his way to being a go-to opener and middle in just a few short months.

It was then of course that life forced him to choose one direction in sync with whatever decision would keep him from being exiled in some rinky-dink O-Town, so he understandably decided to shift full attention to the more reliable career available in Magic. But because of how well he had done in comedy in such a relatively short time, it was only natural he'd keep that backstreet buoy floating in mind should he ever exhaust his Magical energies. And sure enough when he did tap out from Magic, he found himself floating back to the clubs.

But there was so much more to it than just talking at people in front of brick walls. He enjoyed another round of extremely rapid ascent, winning over crowds, club owners, and seedy Cellar dwellers alike, sure, but that led to a considerably shinier brass ring to reach for. If there were anything that might jeopardize his return to Magic, it was when he eventually found himself sitting in 30 Rockefeller Plaza, waiting to be seen for an audition for SNL. His big break.

Owing to all the buzz surrounding him, he was told he would be the very first guy up. Never one to play loose, Conley arrived an hour early just to be safe. But by 5pm, a good three hours later, some doubt began to creep in and he wondered if he had somehow gotten the date or time wrong. No, the lady at the front assured him, he was slated to be seen that day, just needed to take a seat and wait. In retrospect, nothing too alarming there, SNL is infamous for messing with auditioners' heads, and they were probably purposefully having him wait in order to disorient him cuz reasons. So he made the best of his wait time by mentally going over all his planned bits, characters, and impersonations, as well as what advice he'd received, as if he hadn't had these on loop since learning of his audition shot ten days prior (illiterate coupon guy, PTSD retired vet, White Barry White, just ignore them and plow ahead).

Most crucially, he took time to reflect on his then current hiatus from Magic and wage the usual tug of war between self-assurance and self-doubt as to where he was mentally, existentially, entropically, adverbially. He convinced himself that sitting there, in a limbo of being simultaneously early and late for an audition that he was realistically severely unlikely to get, based on how few people actually--

"Oh! Haha, my mistake, you're right," said the inappropriately peppy desk lady pointing at her computer, "says here you were supposed to be up first, like three hours ago! I guess you can go in next."

"I've been waiting here for like infinite hours."

"Yeah...I know," she said with just a enough pain in her voice to register that she was aware of how a human being might be off-put by these developments, but enough sustain to communicate the futility of any further distress. "Anyway, you're up! And don't worry if Lorne doesn't laugh, he never laughs." She walked over to the studio door nearby and gently motioned for him to head inside.

Conley Woods sat frozen in his seat to process the past few seconds before finally towering up to full six-foot-eight height to trudge slowly into Studio 8H, as if each effort-riddled step required some amount of thought. He could see it was almost pitch black inside the studio except for a spotlight on his mark. The tiny lady closed the door behind him. And then it was pitch black inside the studio except for a spotlight on his mark. "When you're ready, go ahead," a voice called out. And that's all we know about what happened that day.

Conley Woods doesn't talk about his SNL audition much, and always laughs it off instantly whenever it's brought up on Potpourri, so I guess it didn't go so great. I mean, he didn't get the gig, we know that, so perhaps it was that abrupt end of seemingly boundless momentum that took the wind out his sails. Surely he was thinking more fondly of Magic again by then anyway. So imagine my surprise when I saw an ad for a comedian who called himself "Boats" playing Shinjuku!

In Japan, most comedians go by wacky stage names, so the use of an alias wasn't too surprising, but typically acts perform Japanese standup via manzai, comedy duos, because Japanese people apparently have difficulty understanding the concept of someone musing humorously to himself. So that's what first caught my eye as peculiar--a solo comedian. Not unheard of, but think of how unusual it is to hear of a comedy duo in the US, it's like that. Anyway, I wasn't able to get out to the show, but I clipped the ad, and the review in the arts paper said it was great, but a little too close on US-centric references. Sure people speak English here, but we all lose touch with finer US intricacies over time.

Anyway, it was shortly after this micro tour (I think he played Osaka, too, as a part of a larger expat tour) when Conley Woods returned to Magic, so I can only assume he was just on the "meh, try Japan" plan some US talent do as they sorta figure out what works for them. Maybe it was just a final hurrah from his frazzled manager, hit with the sudden notice that her star client wanted out and back into Magic. I'm not sure how smoothly that went over. But in any case, at least Conley Woods is back to more Magical pursuits, podcasting, and hopefully doing whatever makes himself happy. I guess sometimes it just takes a circuitous journey to find yourself.

Isn't that special?


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