The hardest part in all of this for me has been dragging my ass to an open mic in the first place. Really it's not that big of a deal. Open mics in a nutshell 1. Show up an hour early. 2. Sign in. 3. Wait (drinking recommended, not mandatory). 4. Talk for three minutes, hope for laughs. That's it, but somehow in all that I have not been able to get my ass to one of these things. It's not for lack of material, I always have at least 45 minutes of stand up gold (well, copper) flying through my head in the shower as I distract myself from getting to work in time. I... just... kept talking myself out of it. Fear of failure? Fear of success? Path of least resistance? All of the above? Who knows, you decide.
Now, I've put my dreams for comedy on the table with a lot of people, mostly in the hopes of getting that swift kick in the balls from them that would make me do it. Enter Joe Jacobs. Joe is a recently acquired roommate who has the annoying/inspiring tendency to call me out on anything that I say I want to do. "I'd like to direct Hamlet" I say, the next day Joe says "So what's going on with Hamlet?". Asshole. Then when I put the comedy thing on the table he's like "Let's fucking go, I'll drive you right now." Asshole. The week before we had a false start when I gave in, checked the time of the open mic at Comedy Underground and we were too late. Whew. "Next week then?" Joe asks. Asshole.
But I had plans to work on Hamlet so I was off the hook, until those plans fell through. So here I was confronted with a Sunday, no excuses and Joe sitting in the room with me. I think he forgot, but his mere presence reminded me that I had to stop being a pussy. Asshole. So I buckled down and asked "Comedy Underground?" "Let's do it" he said. Yeah, you know, asshole. I grabbed my notebook and we left to face my destiny.
I will hold off on it for now, but soon I will post an elaborate dissertation on the intense culture study that is the open mic. It's fascinating, but to be brief:
- roomful of tense comics wanting their shit to land
- 5 actual paying viewers, usually friends of the tense comics
- a few more experienced people trying new stuff
- barrage of three minute acts, about 1/2 squeezing out sympathy laughs at most
I was nervous as hell, which was unusual. I don't get nervous before plays or before I announce roller derby or burlesque, but going in to this place I was shaking. Having Joe there was a blessing because he distracted me from myself. I rambled at him and studied my notes and felt better as the night went on. I also felt better because as I was going on late, there were quite a few people before me, and a lot of them were not pulling anything from the audience. Not that I was going to be any better, but in the worst case scenario I'd be tied with 1o other people.
After two hours, some really funny stuff, some really awkward stuff, and a lot of heart (anyone who gets up in an open mic has balls of steel and deserves much respect, funny or no funny) I'm coming up soon. I relax and just say "fuck it" to myself and fall back on what I do best, not giving a shit what people think of me. The emcee that night was named Peter whom I've met briefly before. Understandably he didn't recognize me until he asked if I wanted anything mentioned about me and I said I announced for the Rat City Roller Girls (http://www.ratcityrollergirls.com/, www.myspace.com/jakerandypan). He's seen our shows and knows fellow announcer Queen Mum aka Cathy Sorbo who's been in the comedy industry since I could color inside the lines. It was nice to have a familiarity with him especially before I went on. Then moment of truth.
It went about as realistically idealistic as it could have. First time up ever with barely rehearsed material was not going to kill. Especially when the dwindling audience had been incredibly quiet for the last hour. I used half of a two part bit because I only had 3 minutes. For our purposes we'll refer to it as the "cocaine bit". I got the crowds attention, landed my opener, dropped a few in the middle and started to steer into part 2 of the bit, then came back to finish it with the closer for this bit. Now, the closer was going to be my litmus test because I was incredibly proud of it and figured, "if this doesn't land, I'm not as funny as I thought." (pause for effect)... Landed it. It felt great to bring an audience back from the dead for even a few moments.
After I went up, one of the "Last Comic Standing" guys came up to do a surprise set. It was amazing to see a professional in the wake of all the new guys. Night and Day. He started killing right away and did until he left. It was a brilliant example of the esoteric nature of the art, because it wasn't that his jokes were much more profound than a lot of the stuff we were hearing, but the experience behind it gave him the power to work his funny on us. Good lesson.
I got a lot out of that first night. I learned what worked in my bit and what I need to cut or edit. I learned how important it is to go as much as possible and keep practicing amidst the pain. I learned I have something to offer, but I got a ways to go. I learned that I love it and want to keep doing it.
Joe had great feedback. He said I looked like an actual comedian who was just trying out new stuff. He said I looked comfortable and natural on stage and all I need to work out is the technicality and timing of the bits. That felt great because that's exactly where I need to be to do this. As Bill Hicks said "Let the party begin."
Lesson: You can't win if you don't play.