Friday, March 2, 2007

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.

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