Monday, February 25, 2008

It Happened One Open Mic Night

Classic stage actor Sir Donald Wolfit once said, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." Well, after my first foray into the world on stand up comedy I can say that making jokes about death is easy, getting laughs is hard. I walked into to the 404 lounge on Friday as the definition of an amateur, I have performed stand up a grand total of two times before and they have been in the safe haven of Regis. The 404 is an old timers bar that has not been completely over run by hipsters, yet. When I signed up for my slot I was quite intimidated, no one know who I was and everyone else performing seemed to know each other and their work. "Shit, these guys are professionals" I thought. When the open mic started the MC, some guy named Chris got on stage and told a joke about how he thought high fives are retarded. Silence. I began to worry, because if the "professional" couldn't get any laughs then I'm screwed. I got on stage and realized midway through my first joke that no one laughs at open mics! So, what did I have to lose? A funny thing happened though, I got more laughs then the first 4 comics combined. Obviously some bits bombed, but I'm just some kid getting on stage for my third time. In my act I covered recent stories in the news, television, and advertising, the kind of shit I write on here once a week. My strongest joke was "Fidel Castro resigned the other day and now his brother Raul will be taking over as el Presidente in Cuba. So does this make him the Jim Belushi of Communism?" I was surprised to get a fairly big reaction out of the crowd filled mostly with comedians and bar flies. After my five minutes were up I began to realize why a few of my jokes did so well, I'm not a misogynist, homophob, sexist, classist, or generally bigoted or mean spirited comedian, and I use that term very loosely. The rest of the night was a laugh less affair with one comedian trying to be Sam Kinison without the material making rape and gay jokes. The guy appeared to be a regular aspiring comedian who is a regular, but didn't get a single laugh. This appeared to be common place for this guy because at one point he said, "I'm not getting mad tonight, I usually get mad." Then he got mad. He was pissed because no one was laughing, but what did he expect? Uninsightful jokes that seemed more to shock than entertain are not going to get laughs. The guy might as well have been telling "black jokes." This came to an apex near the end of his set. He asked, "Come on people this is a comedy show, what did you expect? This isn't a bris." At this point I committed a cardinal sin of comedy, I heckled. I replied, "It feels like it." The guy went ape shit, but all he could come up with was to call me a "fuckstick" and told me to shut up. I'll be honest I felt like shit afterwards, not because the guy called me a fuckstick or that I disrupted his set, I didn't even interrupt a punchline, but after having a marginally successful set and feeling like a "real" comedian I reverted back to some asshole in the back. He was bombing, he knew it and so did everyone else. There was no reason for me to be the heckler. I will say, however, that no one thought him calling me a fuckstick was funny and a few laughed at my comment. I will also say that I am enjoying writing the word fuckstick way too much. After this comedian there was a stream of laughless silence that culminated with some guy in his fifties that made me think I was at an open mic in the late 80's. This guy has probably been doing open mics since Andrew Dice Clay was Dane Cook, he made me long for comedic stylings of Yakov Smirnoff or that I had drank 10 Smirnoffs or that I was in Russia under Lenin or that I was in a yurt in Serbia.
Before I entered the 404 on Friday I expected this tight community of good and unique comics that were cutting their teeth and taking chances. What I found was a hodgepodge of shortsighted impostors that made me realize that we are back to the black era of comedy of the early 90's. Never the less, I think I'll continue to write and try out material in an attempt to find my style and pay my dues in old timer bars surrounded by comedians I don't like, because I'm not ready to die.

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