What is it like to try Stand-up comedy?
I did something out of the ordinary about two weeks ago. Actually I did something scary. I signed up for an open-mic event at a local comedy club. I’ve been writing articles, and for some reason, I tried my hand at writing comedy. After I finished a piece that I liked, I decided that I was going to perform it.
Next I google “open mic” and find a club. At the club I watch what they call “speed mic” which occurs Thursday nights. It works like this: You register online, confirm your arrival with the host, and you have five minutes to be funny. After the five minutes are up: The next comic takes the stage.
The first thing I notice is that everyone in the club is young, I’m in my forties…it’s possible that there are a few people in the crowd in their thirties. I take a chair next to the stage because I want to see ‘up close’ what these comics are doing. I see a lot of awkwardness.
Basically people in their twenties are walking up, and putting their neuroses onstage. I sit at a table by myself and drink beer. Some of them are funny. There’s an overweight guy who says something like: “One day you look at yourself and think wtf have I done? It’s not like you ate one thing and it made you fat. You didn’t wake up that morning and eat another person.”
After I watch these people onstage, I arrive at work the following morning and tell my co-workers that I’m going to try it. One of the guys asks to see what I’ve written and he “punches it up” - meaning he makes it funnier. Now I have a piece of comedy that’s better than what I had originally.
Thursday comes around and I spend four hours at home rehearsing. There’s no way I’m going up there without being able to repeat it. Once I’m able to do it without looking at my notes, I head down to the club.
I check in with the host and get my table at the front of the room. I’m told there will be two comics ahead of me. I sit there drinking my beer. I start getting nervous. Suddenly memories of “embarrassing situations” start coming to mind from when I was a kid. Things I didn’t think I remembered.
The first comic finishes and I get another beer. My internal dialogue starts going: “You know, nobody from work is here. No one in this audience knows you. You can get up and walk out and it won’t matter. They don’t even have your phone number.” I don't know why I would care if a comedy club has my number.
During my second beer, I remember a comic from the previous week taking notes of his routine onstage; I didn’t remember anyone in the audience complaining. I had the routine on my cell so I decide it’s going up there with me. I remind myself that I don’t know anyone in the audience and wait for my name to be called.
When they call your name and you go on stage, three things happen: 1) You realize the lights on the stage are bright – you can’t really see anyone. 2) You have a microphone in your hand. 3) You look down and feel an audience looking up at you. You realize that what you’re attempting to do is hard. Really hard.
Then you realize the intensity of the audience's expectation isn’t going anywhere. It is this realization that makes me reach for my phone. I get about half-way through my routine and I decide to quit. I do this because I have to check my phone twice, and I feel guilty for that.
Don’t ask me how...but I’m able to “bow out” gracefully. I also get laughs during my set and applause once I finish. Bear in mind that none of these things keep me from rushing to the back of the room and closing my tab. For some reason, I am mortified by the thought that someone might say something to me.
….To be continued