Monday, March 19, 2007

Day 8: Reality Check 3/17/07

It's good to be humbled.

Short story: the set didn't go very well.

I shouldn't say it was bad. It just wasn't all that good. My friends were there but the audience wasn't feeling me. I did a combo cocaine/Cheesecake Factory bit. Several problems with that, one being I should not have done more than one bit (I went a little long) and another being that both bits were designed to tie in with other stuff, not each other. There was also the factor of diminishing returns. I worked my 9th day in a row and this was my 4th hosting gig. I was tired and I didn't have my usual drive.

Oh yeah, the guy that runs a circuit was there.

Oh well. My ego was getting to big for my britches there and I needed to be reminded that I'm a beginner in this game no matter what my background is. Advantages shmantages, comedy is it's own art and I still have to study. People work on this stuff for years. I'm in a good place for a month, but a month is a month. I've got a lot of work to do.

The upsides to this night and this weekend FAR outweigh the bad. Actually there is no bad here. I learned a lot about the business and the local scene. I have an in at the Mainstage and can probably get a guest spot as often as I want. I met a handful of the local comics who helped me with info about the scene around here and what's going on at what clubs on what nights. Julie and Patty (mainstage owners) are awesome and very supportive. Getting to talk to and watch Betsy Wise was great. She had a lot of great input and was very kind. She introduced me to David (circuit guy) and talked me up to him. He talked to me and gave me great advice.

Fuck it, I'm on my way.

I was talking to Joe (a-hole) the other night and we were talking about things that discourage one from their dream. He mentioned that when someone wants to do something so much and they are so passionate about it that they want to be great at it right out of the gate. The fear is that you wont be amazing right away. I think that's the very think that kept me from doing comedy all this time. I want to blow peoples fucking minds. The Reality is there is no way I'm going to do that right away. I'll have good nights and bad nights at best, but it's going to take time effort and energy to get to where I want to be. My vanity wants to fight that and say "I'm great now", but while I have material that I like, I know it's not going to change the game. That's a while off.

What I do have is WAY more access to the game than I did one week ago. That's saying a lot. I'm not going to get anywhere having a big head about it.

My friend Josh had a mantra when he was at the Art Institute. "Draw or Die". That's it right there in a nutshell. Subtle genius. "Draw or Die". I could say "Joke or Die" or "Laff or Die", but it doesn't have the same weight. There are opportunities to do comedy 7 nights a week here. Time to get on it. Draw or Die.

Lesson: Stay in reality, stay in the game.

Backup Lesson: Draw or Die

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Day 7: Journey to the comedy grave... 3/16/07

Set 1:

It was a tiny audience for the 8 o'clock show. No big deal. I came out and tried to get the crowd hyped up. It worked a little. I wasn't going to do as much because I went so long the day before. Fair. Did the cocaine bit because that's probably my most solid piece... Not one. Thing. Landed. Dead air. I haven't totally experienced this phenomenon yet. Now there were nights that I haven't been as good but this was a Sautreian void I gazed into.

The knee jerk reaction to something like this is "the audience is dead", or "the audience sucks" but I take issue with that. I'm princeply against blaming the audience in any capacity whether it's a small audience or simply not your target audience. Should not entertainers be able to entertain in any capacity? I think so, so I put it on myself if I can't get the audience going.

With that I noticed that if I read the audience a little closer I could've known that the coke bit would not have flown so well. It was just not a cocaine savvy crowd. I believe in hindsight that the bumbershoot bit would've done much better. Having said that there's something much more fundamental at hand and I believe that it's my lack of preparation.

Roller Derby has conditioned me to fly by the seat of my pants because we usually don't HAVE anything prepared. When I'm acting, I give myself a lot of time to get into the zone as it were. I've been treating comedy more like derby than acting and I think the reverse would be better off for me. Really I think it's a combination of the two disciplines but I think prep time is as important in comedy as acting. When I have prepped I've had solid sets.

The other comics had difficulty with the audience but all fared better than I did. Luckily not as much pressure is put on the host as a performer. Still, if I want to do this like I want to do this I have to hold myself to a higher standard. Betsy Wise did a great job of bringing the audience too her. She interacted personally with them and they really appreciated it. It was an impressive feat to watch. It reminded me of an earlier lesson, "when the crowd is dead, riff". Much to learn.

Set 2:

Some of my friends from work (Cheesecake Factory) showed up to this one and the 6 of them made up half the audience. I had more of an advantage this time around so I used my Cheesecake Factory bit. It killed. I feel like I can't take too much credit because it was like shooting ducks in a barrel. But fuck, they came out to see me so I should give them something I know they'll enjoy.

I was so paranoid of going too long that I only did that bit. When I saw how long I went on I realized I over compensated and only went 5 minutes. That really sucked because I could've easily thrown in another bit and given my friends a more justified reason to come. They seemed to have enjoyed it and they all really liked Betsy. Once again she worked with the crowd, interacted with them, had fun with them. Same material as the night before but she gave them a personal context for it. Impressive. I took many mental notes.

I picked her brain a little after the show. She was really cool and talked about how important it is not to be an act on stage, just be yourself doing bits. That's definitely the comedy I'm attracted to. I'm really animated because of derby and emceeing, but I only want to rely on that to enhance a bit and not be the bit. My mission is the material. She was great to talk to and gave me good stuff to chew on.

Backstage I talked to the guest comics and they were really cool. I asked them about Seattle and the other clubs, getting in etc. None of them knew me so I think it was weird for them to see me host. They thought I was from out of town. I got good input from them about what's going on around here and how to get in to some of the joints. They were all really nice and helpful. I hope it can be more like that and less like a scene. We'll see.

Tomorrow the circuit guy comes. I have to have my shit down for this. Even if he isn't interested I want to give him the best that I've got.

Lesson: Preparation. It is important to have your shit together and not fly by the seat of your pants.

Backup lesson: Read and use your audience. It's the difference between dying and killing.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Day 6: My first (kinda) gig 3/14/07

So tonight was my first night hosting for a real comedy show. Scary. The fucked up thing is that I've been working extra shifts at my job because I'm under hours for insurance. So I've been tired as hell and haven't been able to put the appropriate time into my set or this weekend in general. In addition I've been trying to promote the show like crazy and then I found out one of the shows (the Saturday 10 o'clock) was cancelled because of a Sonics game, and that my 2for1 coupons that I've been MAD pimping don't count for the 8 o'clock shows on Fri and Sat (I think because the 10 show on Sat was cancelled that they are good for the 8... I think). Stress, whatever, it's not like my job is really that huge.

So I did some research on the comics I'm going to bring up. Betsy Wise was the headliner so I hit up her webpage and her Myspace and saw some of her stuff. What I saw was funny and cruising the edge without going over. She's all over VH-1 and is on Gregg the Bunny. Cable would be nice right about now. So she's a big deal. Cool.

I get to the show about an hour early. My faithful, loving, supportive roommates, Joe (yeah, you know) and Lacie delivered me and hung out while I got my shit together. The absolutely wonderful Cathy Sorbo sent me an email breaking down the dos and don'ts of hosting which proved to be invaluable because when I got there I sounded like I knew what the fuck I was doing... PSYCHE! Rat City has honed my skillz of flying by the seat of my pants so between that and Cathy's tutorial I was pretty set up. Still I was worried about fucking things up.

I met up with Julie Mains (one of the owners whom I mentioned previously) and she gave me the list of mentionables for the show... tip the waitress, sign the mailing list, look nice (Lacie took me shopping the night before for a blazer and new pants... best roommates ever). She then asked me what my traveling capabilities were because a guy who runs a circuit is coming Saturday. Holy living fuck. She was very complimentary about my set the other night and talked about how my background (theatre and announcing) gave me a leg up for this. She's hoping the circuit guy will like me or a least put me on the path of hitting one. I'm not going to get my hopes up but I am going to learn to drive ASAP. Joe alluded to lending me his truck if I have to go out on the road. Asshole. I feel that I might be getting WAY too far ahead of myself here.

An interesting thing I observed while I was there was the very subtle politicking. There were a lot of things being said behind things being said by a lot of the comics hanging out in the VIP room. Julie asked me if I was into the comic "scene" around here (I think she was being a lot more specific than she sounded, but since I am not actually in the scene, I wasn't sure exactly) and when I said "no" she warned me that comics are worse than sewing circle and WAY worse than theatre or music scene. Now coming from someone with a Masters in Music Theater from a very prestigious school, that scared me. I really want to do this without having to deal with scene drama. Sure enough not 10 minutes after she mentioned it I observed several example of comic backchat. Nothing I could translate into meaning anything, but I know it when I see it a mile away. I hate that shit and always have. I know it's who you know and that's fine with me, but if I can do this while getting along with everybody but not having to become apart of a specific scene, I'll be a very happy man.

Julie tells me I'm on and I run up on stage... right when the DJ is calling me up. So I'm up ON STAGE like a douchebag while DJ lb is saying "Welcome to the stage, your host... etc." I made goofy faces and did my set. There was a birthday party there so I sang Happy Birthday to them. They were loud and a lot of fun. I did my cocaine bit and hiccuped a little but over all it went well. I tried my Cheesecake Factory bit, the first part went well but could use a little trimming, then I did the second part, which I've practiced with people but have not had in front of an audience yet. It barely landed with a thud. It's a funny story about two guys from work that I've told a thousand times and is always funny, but telling it on stage is a WAY different art. Need to work the HELL out of that one. Then I bring up the first comic.

When I get down Julie tells me I went longer than I should've. I had to do about 7 minutes. I guess I ended up doing 15. Ooops. They were cool about it, they said at least it was funny for going too long. Still, my bad. Had I cut the story my set would have been much stronger and the time would've been good. Fuck.

Now I guess there is always the headliner who gets the last set, then the featured comic who is like the opening act, there's the guest set who warm up the crowd, and the host. The headliner gets 45 minutes, the featured gets 30 and the guests get 5. The host gets 7-10 at the start and riffs in between sets. So the guest set ended and I bring up the featured comic. He had the audience attention but his style was really laid back and the audience started to get quiet. Then he went into a bit that wasn't the most Christian friendly, which might work most of the time in Seattle, but the birthday girls family, who were the laughingest table there, were all Christian. Ouch. When the set ends the room is tense. Julie wanted me to do the 80s bit to bring them back but I had a Christian bit that was actually Christian friendly so I used a line from that and the crowd digged it. Whew.

I brought up Betsy Wise, the headliner. She was really funny. Again the difference between pro comic and newbie are too subtle to describe but fascinating to watch. She was very charming and relaxed on stage but she had that audience in the palm of her hand. For 45 solid minutes she was in complete control, read them and then took them with her. Some of her online material I saw online could probably turn off the Christian table, but she wisely avoided it while bringing out other edgy material that they could get into. It was a great set through and through. I quickly closed out the show and that was that.

I got a lot of compliments from the staff and from the birthday party. My friends liked my set as well. I don't think it was as polished as the open mic, but I felt good about keeping the audience with me. The only real fuck up for me was going over time. Betsy was a really nice person who liked my clothes (in part of my set I talk about how I don't have a lot of style [I don't] and she said "I think you have a lot of style, I don't know why you said that." Thanks again Lacie for taking me shopping) and was cool to talk to. I'm starting to get the feeling that Julie wants to groom me into comicdome. Fine by me! I just gotta remember not to get to far ahead of myself. I'm still really new.

Lesson: Less is more, stick with the stuff you know works than cut out.

Backup lesson: Be nice to everyone so people will be happy to help you and no one can talk shit about you.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Day 5: PAID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3/11/07

I didn't even have to use my A-K, I gotta say it was a good day.

Umm.... yeah, so, I was going to do the Comedy Underground open mic again, but at the last minute checked out Mainstage Comedy's myspace page ( and noticed that they were having an open mic comedy competition. The prize was $75, the time was 5 minutes, the number of comics was 15, the minimum number of people to bring was 2. I could handle those parameters so why the fuck not?

I wanted to make sure I got a spot so I called several people to insure myself against flakeification (what do you mean that's not a word spellcheck?). Several people called several people and other people ended up going to the point where 10 of the people in the audience were there to see me. No pressure. Until this point I was not encouraging or discouraging people to come, mostly because open mics are like rehearsals and like rehearsals they're not always entertaining (some exceptions to that rule, but it's still a crap shoot). Now I had people I knew coming to see me. Fuck. Add to the fact that there is actually something at stake here, which is not winning. No big deal really, but you know... you know.... Pressure's on.

I decided to use the cocaine/80's bit because they've landed the most so far and I had enough time to work them together. I dropped some stuff that didn't land and worked with Joe to cap some bits I wasn't sure of. His input helped a lot. Asshole. I felt like I had a decent if not brilliant set so if nothing else I'd get to see how it measured up.

I signed up and got to chat with the host Susan, and the owner, Julie. Susan was nice (it was her birthday) and Julie was very business in a friendly way, which intimidated me. As much as I was a young (well...) punk who was trying to get into comedy, I didn't want to LOOK like a young punk trying to get into comedy. By that time it was too late. Oh well, I hope the material says more for me.

By the time the show started there were only 6 people signed up. The stakes are lowered. The second guy Brad Brake was clearly experienced and very funny. The stakes were back up. I was number 4. I had a little riff with Susan than went into my bit. It was, to date, my best performance. Actually it felt really good. Almost everything landed to some degree or another and I felt really good about my material. There was a hiccup here and there, but not enough to fuck up my game. After I finished the 80's bit, I had time for more, and could've gone into some Cheesecake Factory material, but I decided to quit while I was ahead and call it early.

OK so feelin' good, feelin' good, and then the last guy to go up was Riggs. I'd seen him a couple of times at CU and he hosted the last time and was really funny. Game on. By the time he was done, I felt at the very least that I had a shot at the prize. Hennigan (sp?) goes up to headline as the results are tabulated. Hennigan cracks me up. He's been in the game for many years so for open mics he just goes up and talks shit for 10-15 minutes. He headlined the first couple of open mics I went to. He took not giving a fuck up a few notches and rambled like a sober lunatic while my nerves were jangling and my bladder was straining. They finally handed him a slip of paper and...

...there was a tie. Jake Merriman and Brad Brake.

Now, I realize that there were only six people and tying meant I was in the top 33% but...



Cheers and pats on the backs from all my friends (Joe [asshole], Lacie, Paul, Nathan, Tabitha, Chad, Steve, Chris, Haney [sp?], love you all, very gracious appreciation), hands shook, money given ($37.50 thankyouverymuch), good will extended, and then...

...Susan asked if I could host for them this weekend. Double take and "...sure?"
"Cool, I'm out of town so talk to Julie"
"Guys, I'll catch up with you"
(wait briefly)
Julie and I talk business. I give her head shot and bio. I wear a blazer (shit). I promote the hell out of this weekend and Mainstage with friends. I get 7 minutes of opening and bring on some guests, featured artist and headliners. Absosmurfly. Three nights. 2 shows Friday and Saturday.

Do I get paid? Don't know. Do I get comps? Don't know (but I've got mad 2for1s hint-hint).



It was a pleasure to be asked. We talked shop a bit. She said I reminded her of David Sedaris. Know who he is but haven't seen him so don't know the comparison. She was surprised that I've only been doing this since February, but then I told her I have a theater/announcing background. She has one too so we geeked about that a bit. Some of the other comedians mentioned they might be able to get me gigs in other towns in the region if I had transportation. I told them I knew people who drove (hint, hint) Eventually I had to catch up with my friends so I left.

And then ran and skipped and jumped to the Mecca where I told them the good news.

Do y'all remember last week when I wondered how I was going to get a show?

Now I mustn't get ahead of myself. I still don't have A LOT of material and some of it still needs work so this is no time to think this is anything other than luck or right place right time. It is good to see a forward motion though. Who knows where this can go but at least it's going somewhere. Right now I just gotta be ready for Thursday. No pressure.

Life is good. See you there.

Lesson: Always ask "why not?"

Backup lesson: "I get by with a little help from my friends"

Monday, March 5, 2007

Day 4: No One Puts Baby in a Corner 3/4/07

You know when you have the perfect comeback to something someone said to you 20 minutes later... comedy can be like that.

Once again hit the Comedy Underground open mic. Cathy mentioned that there was an open mic at Mainstage Comedy, then she said "See you there." Hell. Fucks. No. I'm just starting to break even on nerves with all of this, there's no fucking WAY I'm going to put shit in front of her until it is GOLD. I hope that's not too far away. (Addendum: I found out that "See you there was from the forwarded email, not Cathy. Oh well.)

It was dead when we got to CU tonight. Joe (asshole) came again as well as my friend Paul who put together a set who also brought a friend. There weren't a lot of people who came in until 5 minutes before we started when a crowd of biker/hipsters (read: hipsters) came in for someone's birthday. This was the first time there was more audience than comics which made for a good vibe. Even though Paul and I signed up relatively early we were thrown onto the end of the list (seeing a trend here... it's who you know).

Everybody made reference to or played to the birthday girl/crowd. I decided at a certain point to throw out my set and try to riff off of her. The emcee at the top of the show made a Dirty Dancing reference (the title of this entry specifically) and said it was a Dirty Dancing theme night, so when I went up ('bout an hour and a half after the joke was made), I serenaded the birthday girl with "I, had, the time of my life..." and then went to talk to her. She was cool and rolled with it and I had fun doing it. (I asked her why the fuck she'd spend her birthday at an open mic, "Hey, I want to get all of my friends together and feel awkward and uncomfortable for about 2 hours") Her friends seemed to respond to it well as well. By the time I was done with her I was at my 1 minute warning so I just threw in a short bit I though up a few days ago. It went well BUUUUUUUUT what I SHOULD'VE done is realized that this crowd was perfect for my cocaine bit 'cause they were exactly the hipsters the bit was designed after... it would've fucking KILLED on top of the fact I could reference them directly. It would've been the perfect fusion of audience riffing and prepared material. I will kick myself for awhile for that one.

My buddy Paul went up who is a really funny guy as it is. To my knowledge this was his first open mic and he decided to do it two days ago. He had a lot of personality on stage and his set was 1 part great shit that landed, 1 part stuff that needed work, and 1 part the most awkward, uncomfortable over the top dick jokes I've seen yet. If it was just that it could've been very painful, but coupled with the fact that he was landing stuff it had kind of a bonus power behind it, kind of like "Oh he's a funny guy, but why is he doing that? Is it bad or deliberate?" I was dying personally.

I feel good that open mics are becoming a regular thing for me. My goal is twice a week and I think if I keep on that and keep working the material I've got, it wont be long before I have a good set to put up. Now I just have to figure out how to get a fucking show. It occurred to me that I have no idea. I figure I just keep slinging the open mics until someone asks me. My fear is that I'll have to fall into some social click to do that, which I'm not very good at. I like the friends I have and I'm not really into kissing people's butts. I don't think it has to come to that, it's just a paranoia I have.

I wonder if you're out there. I wonder if you are reading this. If you are I hope you enjoy it. It's good for me but I want it to be entertaining for you too. Who can tell?

Lesson: Know your audience and use your material accordingly.

Backup lesson: Being huddled up in a corner using the microphone in reference to autofelatio is a tough sell, use with caution (big thanks to Paul for that lesson).

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Addendum: Cathy Sorbo 3/2/07

So I'm working out the structure of this blog as I go. So far I got "Days" which are performances I give, and then I'll have "Addendums" which relate to comedy I see or hear as it affects where I want to go. I think I might have one more category for "Theory" which will be, well, theory about comedy... we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Saw Cathy Sorbo perform last night as she was kind enough to put me+1 on her guest list for her show at Mainstage Comedy. I have the pleasure of working with her as an announcer for the Rat City Rollergirls and have gotten to know her through that. She is also a big reason for me finally getting off my ass to do this shit that I love so much. She's a comedy veteran who's been in the industry for years and has worked with all of my comedy heroes. In seeing her perform she's become one herself.

I first saw her right after she started announcing for RCRG and she blew my mind. She's uncompromising in every way. She's dirty as hell, but without being cheap about it. She talks about real things that affect her life with out sugar coating it. She has an incredibly relaxed demeanor on stage, as if she's hanging out and talking about whatever comes to the top of her head. She has an amazing physical comedy that she uses to enhance her material, but she never solely relies on it. She makes the whole thing look so doggamn easy.

Watching her last night after doing a few open mics was even more illuminating. She's a pro, and that's apparent from the first time you see her, but this time I saw what it MEANT to be a pro. The amount of discipline and imagination required to put together a solid routine that will work on almost any audience demonstrate what an ARTFORM comedy is. Most comedians go up and tell jokes or bits but with Cathy ,and a lot of the comedians I admire, they are crafting a work of art before your eyes (but what is art? that'll be a "theory" blog).

Cathy is a very smart and kind woman and she always humored me when I'd bring up my comedy ambitions. She encouraged me to do open mics and would even bring it up with other comedians "this is Jake I announce with him, he's looking to get into comedy..." which made me feel really good and like a serious pussy at the same time. I would try to talk a big game, which was immediately transparent I assume, but she let on like I knew what I was talking about. I always would end on something like... "oh yeah, I'm going to start doing open mics really soon." Saying that enabled this comedy fantasy that I hobnobbed with comedy people so of course I was in the club.

At the 2006 Season 2 RCRG Finals afterparty, Cathy (who's derby moniker is "Queen Mum" by the way), Portland OR's Rose City Rollers announcer Rocko Billy, and I were hanging out talking and Cathy chimes in, "Jake, what do you think about having Rocko set up a show for us in Portland?" My initial reaction was what a fucking honor it was to have someone I admire that much bring up the possibility (even if it was a drunken afterthought, which was very possible given the circumstances). My secondary reaction was that of Comedy Reality crashing in on my Comedy Fantasy. There's no fucking way I could do a show with her and not make an intense ass out of myself, especially with her headlining, unless I SERIOUSLY got my shit together. At best I could whip up a serviceable set, but it would not do the show the justice it would deserve not that I'd want to give to it. Having been offered this amazing possibility I really had to take the situation seriously. I HAVE to start going to open mics, I HAVE to do some serious work, I HAVE to take this opportunity seriously because it's too much of an honor to squander.

It was STILL 4 months before I actually got on stage, but I don't think I would have taken myself seriously enough to do it had Cathy not thrown out such a kind offer. Now I have to make myself worthy of it, and having that as a motivator has been far more effective than just having a life-long goal... kinda backwards huh?

Cathy's absolutely the real deal, but for some silly reason she's settled on Seattle. We much better for it and I hope this city offers her what she gives back to it for being here. God knows I'm better off for the insane circumstances that have been aligned for me to get to work with her. Dammit if any of the three of you reading this see an opportunity to watch her perform DO IT. It's not often you get to see an artist work her craft first hand.

Lesson: Listen and learn from opportunities given, especially if they're not earned.

Backup lesson: Comedy is much bigger than previously given credit for.

Postscript: Thank you Cathy

Friday, March 2, 2007

Day 3: Getting Cocky 2/24/07

So I was out of town last weekend to announce for the Rat City Rollergirls and the Rose City Rollers at the west coast regional derby tournament known as Dust Devil in Tucson. It had been two weeks since I did comedy... no big deal. I go tonight not really knowing what bit I'm going to do, which is no biggie because I've had these things in my head for years now. Do I do my derby bit, porn bit, politics, work, or bumbershoot...? whatever, I will kill. I don't even need a companion this time, I can do it all by myself.

As I walk solo to Comedy Underground I settle on doing the first half of the "work bit" known hereafter as "work bit pt. 1". No big deal that I've never practiced it, let alone wrote it down. I get there, I'm signed up, it's on. I use the interim hour before the show starts to actually write down the bit in my notebook. How novel. I sit with Christie. I've seen her in the audience a few times but tonight she's going up. Cool as a cucumber.

Here's the thing about this night... everybody's doing really well. Some people who I've seen do OK before are doing really well. People I've seen do really well are killing. No pressure. Cristie goes up and does very well herself. Not there aren't a few casualties, including one notable Theater of Awkward (a drug dealer who hates his mom repeatedly saying "fuck this, I don't even know what I'm doing here"), but over all it's a good night for funny.

I'm called up earlier than expected which threw me off and made me nervouse. The other thing that happened is, oh yeah, I never practiced my bit. Almost nothing landed to begin with and the transitions were slop. It was the worst I've done yet. Some of my cracks were peppered with lite giggles, an early joke elicited a guffaw, but I was barely holding on enough to keep it from being a washout. I tried my first real physical joke that was coupled with an audience Q & A, lo and behold it worked. I got 'em back at the last minute.

I feel that the first two times I did the open mic, I landed within 70th percentile (not including special guests that break the curve). This time I barely hit the 50th. I used stuff that, in my heart, I knew was not super funny, plus I stumbled all over the place. The one thing I can always take home with me is that no matter how bad I am at an open mic, there will always be someone worse. The day I'm last place is the day I give up for good.

Having said that last statement I would like to reiterate that anyone and everyone who walks on stage for an open mic has balls of steel and even though I throw out my opinion of their quality, it is always done so with the utmost respect of anyone who confronts a scary situation for the purpose of bringing someone mirth. Much love to my fellow comics (as if I can be called one yet).

Lesson: Practice your fucking material. Write it out and say it out loud enough until you are comfortable with it.

Backup lesson: It's good to bring a friend to keep the nerves down.

Day 2: Theater of the Awkward 2/12/07

[Note: I've previously written this blog, but due to some asshead accidentally taking my laptop from an overhead compartment on an airplane, THEN erasing all my personal data, I gotta go from memory. I'll do my best]

I almost chickened out of going this night but a chum from work talked me into heading over to Comedy Underground at the last minute. I got there just in time to sign up, and they might not have let me go on had I not brought a paying customer. Done and done. The problem was I had no notebook. I was going on late so Jennifer (work chum) and I ran to my place to get it and come back.

So there were more people signed up than the night before, BUT everybody was leaving after they finished their set. There should be a rule that if you sign up to do an open mic that you have to stay until the last person finishes. I'm sure I'll end up breaking said rule plenty of times in the future. Unfortunately, if you are going on late like I was, that's not going to leave much of an audience.

On top of that, well, there's a special sort of event that exists within the open mic. For the most part, people who go up are 1) New comics who want to get started (moi) and 2) Other comics working new material. But there is a special category that, while could be included in the first group, get shuffled off into a special category 3) Outsider Artist of the Awkward. On Day 1 there was a tranny who ended up falling into a bunch of chairs after her set. Quite uncomfortable. There's always the people that bomb so hard it's hard to give a pity laugh. But then there are moments that are so unreal that the collective environment can't help to be truly in touch with the moment. As horrible as these events are, I can't help but savor them. I'll probably detail these more in the future because of what a case study open mics are, but for this evening specifically...

...there was a Russian gentleman with Cerebral Palsy who went up to perform. He had to hold his mic like an middle finger in order to talk into it. Now we are all about people who overcome adversity, it amplifies every little success that they have in life. What never gets talked about is when that adversity does not get overcome and how that amplifies how awkward the situation becomes. It's really hard to describe what he was talking about because I could only get bits and pieces but it involved how George Bush hired him to poison all the Muslims and that everyone on Earth was a Muslim, as well as everyone on the moon. Something about killing dogs too. He was so passionate about his bit that he went flying over the allotted 3 minutes. This was my first experience of this but what happens is that an alarm goes off, then gets louder, then music comes on, then lights flash, then just as the emcee was about to remove him from the stage the Russian left. In that entire 6 minutes not one sound was heard from the audience, but what was felt was a tangible thickness of every last person not knowing what to do with themselves. For my part I had a wide eyed shit eating grin because, despite himself, the Russian put a spell on the audience, and for those few minutes we were so totally in tune with the world around us. This is what I believe people like Andy Kaufman and Neil Hamburger were striving for, and had a measure of success in... but nothing beats the real thing.

Three hours after getting there it was finally my turn. Russian guy was the extreme but there were a lot of awkward bombs throughout the night + all but 5 people left = audience at the point of no return. The room was well past the point of being whipped up into a laugh frenzy and there wasn't much laughing in the hour before I went up. As I went up I started by riffing off of the person that went before me and it actually went well. Lo and behold I got a good response. Then I went into my prepared stuff. I think the crickets really liked it because that was all I could hear. Not that the material was bad, it just wasn't amazing which is what it would've taken to get going. My stuff relied on the bit I used the night before, on top of which it was topical. Not happening here.

When the audience is past resurrection I think it's probably best to let go and just work with them. That's all they got room for at that point. Not that a comedian should ever point the finger at the audience if a joke doesn't land. My material wasn't great, I just don't know to what degree it was good or bad because it didn't have a chance. The riffing however worked. Goddammit it was all worth it for the Russian though.

Lesson: When audience has crossed the point of no return... riff off of them.