Day 22 – A picture of something you wish you were better at
About two and a half years ago I wrote a blog about a funny idea I had for my stand-up comedy. I refused to mention what it was about lest one of you online freaks steal my idea.
Well, it happened. I squandered it and sat on it and did nothing with it and wouldn’t you know it, someone else came up with the idea and put it on their last CD and did it well.
Granted, he didn’t do it exactly how I had it in mind — we both go in different directions — but they start off similarly enough that people will probably now think I’m stealing from Jim Gaffigan. I’m not. And I didn’t.
But doggonit anyhow. Oh well. That’s what I get for hiding it under a bushel.
Tonight I returned to Snickerz Comedy Bar in Ft Wayne for the second time to perform stand-up at their open mic. Surprisingly (at least to me) in the few hours before the show I was more nervous this time around than I was last month. I had originally planned on bringing back a couple of the jokes I used last time that went over really well and mix them in with some newer stuff I wanted to try out.
I only had a five minute block and as I ran through my set at home I was way over five minutes, so I decided to cut the bits that worked really well last time and fly with all-new never-before-tested material. Another thing that had me a little nervous was the material I went with tonight was all one long joke. As opposed to telling a series of unrelated jokes like set-up/punchline, set-up/punchline over and over tonight’s material was one big bit and if it wasn’t going well in the beginning, I’d have a nice uphill climb for the remainder of my time. Sure, I could always bail out and use the jokes from last time around that I had in reserve, but I wanted to test out the new material as a whole set and see how it flew.
It was another big crowd, about 400 people, and I was the first up. Again. The emcee had a bit of a time warming up the crowd, and when he decided to hand it off to me, things weren’t exactly cooking. I ran up on stage determined to see what kind of damage I could do.
And it went as smoothly as if I’d done it a million times before. I don’t know if I could have planned it any better. The crowd was with me the whole time, laughing at all of the right places, and my payoff joke rocked them like I’d hoped it would. It was such a great feeling to be up there with stuff I was pretty sure was funny when I wrote it and to feel the laughter coming back at me to confirm maybe I was onto something. I even finished a little early (or maybe they gave me a little extra time…all I know is they weren’t flashing the You Only Have A Minute Left light at me) so I managed to dovetail the end of my new set into a joke from the last time that went over well and again tonight it went gangbusters.
The only complaint I have is how fast the time goes. It felt like I was barely up there and I was done. It’s a nice tidal wave of a rush that you wish would last just a little bit longer and I guess that’s what keeps me coming back for more.
So, combined with my set from the last time around, I now have a good solid 8 or 9 minutes of material that has gotten a pretty good response and I feel comfy with.
At the end of this month I’ll be in touch with Snickerz again to see about booking for January and will keep you posted. Right now, I feel good and that’s a nice place to be. Anyone wanna come over and cuddle?
As promised/warned/threatened (depending on your point of view) I mentioned I would be trying to book another open mic night at Snickerz comedy Bar in Fort Wayne. I received confirmation today that my next appearance will be Thursday, December 21 at 7:00pm. A nice chance for you to have a few laughs before the roller coaster nightmare of the holidays really kicks in.
Last time was almost a full house, so reservations are highly recommended. The number to call is (260) 486-0216. Admission is $8 and there’s a 2-item minimum per person.
Ok, I vowed to let you know the details of my next appearance doing stand-up and I feel like I’ve held up my end of the deal. Now get out there and have a great Thanksgiving!
As you may have heard, Thursday night I did some open mic stand-up comedy at Snickerz Comedy Bar here in Ft Wayne. It was a packed house; there were about 350-400 people in the audience and I had a blast. I asked my good friend and co-writer Doney to help me review some of the jokes I was considering a few days beforehand and that was a huge help to have that input from someone I trusted and respected.
I was given five minutes and was first up to bat. Opening act. Yikes. In the five minutes I basically did 4 different premises. The first one went all right. It was a bit on a political ad Morgan Freeman did. The second one, about someone claiming separating kids by gender was racial discrimination, did OK and then took a big nosedive toward the end. For some reason I changed the ending of the joke on the spot and it was kind of like a football player bobbling the ball, trying to keep control, and eventually dropping it. I could feel everyone in the room being nervous for me and that in itself was cool. I felt like a Jedi.
I paused briefly and took a page from what I learned at the National Comedy Theatre in New York: Be cocky. Not an arrogant cocky but just an air of confidence. Freakin‘ own it. If you get up there and the audience can sense you’re nervous or unsure of yourself, you’re dead. But if you get up there and act cocky like you know what you’re doing, let them know they can relax because you have everything under control, then it’s a different ballgame. And I decided to get cocky. I came up with a joke about 45 minutes earlier at my apartment that I thought was pretty funny and decided to scrap my previously planned Joke #3 and go with my gut, grow a pair, and get cocky.
I delivered the joke like I knew it was funny. I knew it was going to be the best joke they ever heard. Even though I didn’t. I hoped it was. I thought it was. But I had never told it to anyone, never ran it past anyone; I just had a feeling.
I am glad to report it killed. The contrast from the reaction to Joke #2 (uncomfortable silence) to Joke #3 (a room of 350 people suddenly bursting out into a huge laughter that made me pause for a short bit until it died down) was the coolest thing in the world.
Joke #4 was able to stay on that same level as #3 and I was glad to end my set on a very high note. Afterward some people told me they wished I had been able to go on longer and that’s just how you want it. Leave ’em wanting more. So that was very cool indeed.
Of course, being the tortured artist I am, I have spent the majority of the couple of days replaying the joke that bombed instead of the ones that went well. I once heard a comedian (I forget who) say they might get 100 emails and 99 of them will be emails like “You’re so funny, you’re so awesome, great job” and 1 email will be “You suck.” Even though that’s only 1 of 100, the negative email is the one that will be remembered. And that’s true for me. Weird, huh?
I bought one of those portable audio recorders to record my set so I could use it to review and tweak my performance. After the night I got in the car and was extremely annoyed to find it didn’t record anything. Not a thing. Of course, it worked perfectly before the show and even afterward, but not during. I spent my drive home recording an incredibly insane message, yelling at the recorder. I was going to post it on my page for your enjoyment, but the feature to post audio has been removed. If you’d like to hear an audio clip of excerpts from that rant drop me a line and I’ll email it to ya.
Of the few hundred people that were in attendance that night I figure about 35 of them were buddies of mine who came out, which was very cool indeed. Mom and Jeff brought like 10 of their friends, including expert photographer Michael Schnee. Dad and Patsy brought a few friends as well. Cousins Glen and Suzie were there, and Uncle Rick, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Emma. From the boxing club Jeremy, Dave, Jerry, Walker, and Kyle showed up. Even a couple of ladies from the local bank were there to cheer me on (come on, you can’t get much more small-town than that, but dammit it was great to have them there). Rob and LeeAnne were there which was very cool indeed. I know LeeAnne mostly from MySpace and I think last night was only like the 2nd time we actually hung out (including the 4th of July when I ate a burger near her) so it was very encouraging to see them there. My brother Ray was able to leave an event in Auburn early in time to make it. That meant a lot as well, because he’s the person who makes me laugh the most. It was nice to return the favor.
I called Snickerz the next day to book a time at the next available open mic. It’s such a rush; the coolest high in the world. That was my largest audience to date and I had so much fun. I’ll keep you posted and again, while I wait for the audio clip feature to come back, let me know if you want me to email you my angry rant at my audio recorder (which, for some reason, I chose to do entirely in an English accent).
I’ve found the difference between improv and stand-up is kind of like the difference between soccer and boxing. In soccer, like improv, you have a team backing you up. If you get the ball and feel yourself start to bobble there’s usually a teammate there to back you up and you can pass it off to them and hopefully they’ll be able to do something with it. In boxing, like stand-up, it’s just you out there on your own and if you get the crap beat out of you then you get the crap beat out of you. You can train all you want but you never really know if you’re ready to fight until you step into the ring.
On Thursday November 9 I’ll be stepping into the figurative ring again. It’s open mic night at Snickerz Comedy Bar in Ft Wayne and I have secured one of only 3 slots. I’m stoked to get back up there.
I like the way they do things at Snickerz. I’m actually surprised more clubs don’t do it this way. At every other club I’ve been to, open mic night is open mic night. Come one, come all, step in line and take your turn at trying to get people to laugh for your 3-5 minutes. Unfortunately because it’s amateur night most of the time the only other people in attendance at open mic night is the mass of other comics wanting to get up on stage. And sometimes that mass is only 10 people. Needless to say, it’s usually a pretty rough crowd.
Here in Ft Wayne they take a different approach. Instead of bringing on any and everyone who shows up, they only let three people go. Those 3 people serve as opening comics for the main comics/headliners, who also appear that night. Because it’s not strictly an open mic night, you tend to get a close-to-full house of people ready to laugh as an audience. So not too shabby.
I was trying to get an October slot at Snickerz and when I called in late September they told me to call back in October. Since the first of the month I’ve been playing phone tag back and forth and today got a message informing me the next available slot is November 9. I’ll take it. No complaints.
I’d like to get back there as often as possible while I’m around to get some solid material to bring with me when I return to NYC (yes, I do plan on returning to the Big Apple) so I can hit the comedy clubs running (as well as return to improv at the beloved National Comedy Theatre).
So, if you’re in the Ft Wayne area on the 9th of November, stop by. I’m sure I’ll post something else as the date nears so keep your eyes peeled for more self-promoting blogs and bulletins.
That’s just the way I roll.
I’m not bragging when I say I have a lot of stand-up comedy albums, I’m just stating it to let you know I have a pretty good knowledge of what’s out there. Today while my MP3 player (God bless MusicMatch!) was on random, a track came up from an album that hardly anyone ever mentions when they talk about great classic comedy albums. That’s right: It’s Dennis Miller’s The Off White Album.
I first heard this recording (on cassette) back in high school in the 80s and it’s just as biting and relevant today as it was then (and maybe for me even more so, since I understnd a lot more of Miller’s endless references than I did back then).
On a side note, I have a particularly soft spot for this album as it brings back a great memory of me and my Dad. Comedian Steven Wright was performing in Fort Wayne (I forget the name of the theater but I remember Wright commenting that the theater was so intricate and ornate he felt that if someone were to rub the outside of the theater we would all go shooting up out of the top in a wisp of smoke and start granting wishes). It was my first time seeing stand-up live (especially someone whose tape I owned!) and Dad and I listened to the Dennis Miller album the whole way there (and back).
Dennis Miller. The Off White Album. I think his brief disastrous stint doing NFL commentary made people forget that this guy’s good.