I went to an open mike last night to do stand-up comedy with my brother and my niece who’s visiting from LA. Whew, that was crazy. I’d never done stand-up before and I was an absolute wreck.
We signed in and I was fourth on the list – I wanted to go first of us three and get it over with. You can’t imagine what it’s like when the lights go down and you’re watching the first guy and he’s pretty good. The audience wants to laugh. Second guy’s good, too. The emcee is introducing them like they’ve been there before. Third guy’s good. Crap! I was sweating bullets because it was my turn. But the emcee called someone else, then the 5th, 6th, 7th person went up and still I didn’t hear my name.
My initial excitement and fear turned into “hey, what’s going on here.” Then it dawned on me that they assume I have no talent since they don’t recognize my name, so they’re putting me at the end.
The bad comics started to go on, and we had to sit painfully through their struggling routines. We were just on the point of leaving when they called my name.
I had done some rehearsing and memorizing, but when I got up on stage and squinted into the bright lights and saw those 50 people out there, it was like someone caught me peeing. My eyes were as big as platters. But I grabbed the mike and started talking, and remembered my first joke – AND GOT A LAUGH! Pretty cool. Then I got ANOTHER LAUGH!
Then I forgot the next three jokes, and I was just standing there looking at people looking at me. Luckily I planned a joke in case that happened. I looked down at my chest and said, “Once when I went to an open mike, I saw a lot of people with notebooks and writing their joke list on their hands, so I wanted to be a little more discreet. I decided to write them on my chest and then I could just glance down. I flopped these things up on the counter and wrote everything down, but I just went to check what I wrote and I was sagging so much the “O’s” were about six inches long.”
The crowd thought this was hilarious. I was doing hand motions and looking down my shirt. One guy yelled out, “I’ll read it for you,” which got some more laughs.
I remembered my last joke, and started on a part about soap in the shower, and I needed to put the mike back on the stand so I could make hand motions. When I did that, for some reason the lights were shining right in my eyes. So I moved the mike stand over, and still the bright lights. “You can’t get away from these lights up here,” I said, and got ANOTHER laugh! Then they turned the lights off and I said, “Perfect” or something, and got another laugh.
But, ah my friends, the laughs were sparse from there on out, because I told a long story that I thought was sensationally amusing, but I think there should have been more jokes and less long drawn out story. You can do that in a 20 minute speech, but we only had five minutes, and the crowd was not interested in the long setup. Still the audience laughed at the end and gave me very warm applause.
My brother got up and told three jokes that I’ve heard a million times but the crowd had not. He’s a professional speaker (www.renewableenergyspeakers.com) who speaks about solar energy, global warming and the environment, so he’s very comfortable in front of an audience. His jokes were very well received, and he ad libbed in between. He got hearty applause and some whistles.
My niece got up and talked about the craziness in LA. She’s pretty so the mostly male audience was eating up every word she said. She graduated from USC in film and acting, and is naturally very funny and knows how to work a crowd, and they were delighted.
We left after the next comic, who was just awful. On the car ride home all of us were so excited. We critiqued each other and talked about the lights and how we were surely in the top 10% of the entertainers. My brother said, “Let’s all do that again next week.” I’m not so sure about it – I’d have to write new material, but what the heck, I’m game.
I have to tell one last funny story. There was a woman who got up and her fly was open. She was heavy and not very attractive, so her act was about not getting any sex because no one would sleep with her. The jokes were okay but not great because she kept saying the same things. She finally said, “I hope I will get lucky tonight.” My niece yelled out, “Your halfway there – your fly’s open.” That brought down the house – and the comedian made the most of it. All in all it was a great first standup experience.