I recently started doing stand up comedy. It’s hard. Not because I get nervous in front of a crowd – I don’t. What’s hard is developing a voice and connecting to my material then editing it down to make it funny then getting enough practice. The good thing is I get to write it all by myself and I don’t need anyone or anything to do that besides remembering to carry around with me my writing tools and the discipline to write stuff down when I think of it. The bad thing is I cannot perfect my material without getting in front of an audience, and getting in front of an audience without perfect material is in fact a little scary for me. If only I didn’t have the kind of artistic ego that needs to be in front of an audience. If only I wanted to sit alone in my room and draw silly cartoons all day and sell them to The New Yorker. If only I didn’t need approval in person.
The other night I was at a comedy gig I ended up doing last minute. I met three tall, cute white young men who were performing that night as well. They were friendly enough, despite the expected natural wariness of other performers all comics seem to carry on their shoulders. I think they were taken aback by me wanting to know their names. I am not hitting on you, mr gangly white boy comic. I just am flirting with you because I am a little nervous.
I have been there and done that. I used to date a comic, years and years ago, and here is what I found out. Male comics don’t laugh at other comics. They nod if it’s funny, or do a single clap. I laugh. I like to laugh. It feels good to laugh.
First gangly white boy gets up on stage and spews out a series of one liners he has written on a note card. None of them funny. He gets into a dicey area of one liners about women rejecting him. “Uh oh” I think, “Here it comes.” The inevitable next line in his anti women trajectory is particularly offensive and comes out of nowhere besides his own insecurity. I cannot remember what he actually said. I must have blocked out his entire set by instinct to protect my brain from useless poisonous crap. In the pause he has learned to take to see if anyone laughs, and the silence of that laugh deprived pause, I found myself saying “Boo.”
Another puase, maybe some nervous giggle from the people in the back, and the white gangly young man says ” I see we’ve brought back the boo.”
That’s right. I’m bringing boo back.
Second gangly white comic I met before the show gets up onstage and he’s a little funnier but lost me at “I’m married” and some jokes about what a pain in the ass it is to be married. All I could think is “You’re lucky to be married with that attitude, especially considering you’re an unpaid stand up comic.” I wouldn’t have thought that if he were actually funny, but I just couldn’t relate to his bordering on anti-female line, and mind you we were a primarily female audience.
Third tall white guy comic I chatted with before the show is someone I have seen before. He’s good looking and somewhat charming, but the last time I worked this gig he didn’t know I was performing later and made fun of my table and me the entire time. Tonight when he started on a rant of animated movies that make no sense and are stupid, particularly digging into the movie “Up,” I couldn’t help myself and heckled him. Out of my mouth came “I liked the movie UP.” Two women chimed in, “So did I” and, “Me too.” What I think he might have been getting at was not relating to sentimentality, but going there without making it funny just alienated all of us. He said something back to me and I muttered “This is payback” hoping he didn’t hear me. But he did and now it’s on. Oops.
Later in the set another guy I hadn’t met thought it was hysterical all the women let that guy know they liked the movie “Up.” I liked this comic. He was more in touch with the audience and a little scruffy, probably a cat lover. However despite my redemption by the later comic I still felt bad for being the house heckler that night. I mean, karmically speaking, I better be ready when the heckles come my way now.
Now that I think about it it’s hysterical the subject of my heckling was an animated children’s movie. Watch out comics if you put down my sentimental favorites. I’m just saying.
Earlier in the evening I had done something new which is the improvised Set List at Flappers, run by Mark Troy. It was my first time up and I learned a lot, mostly how our insecurities are more pronounced when put under pressure. The way it works is you don’t know your four topics before getting up onstage and you have to improvise your jokes as if this was your actual set. I noticed my go-to place was talking about my body insecurities and relationship regrets. Ugh I am that person too that resorts to insecurities. But why do both sexes take it out on women? Men take it out on women and we take it out on ourselves.
Here was the set I was given: God tee shirt, Last Accountant Standing, Aids Marathon, Donkey Dilemma. For God tee shirt of course I thought of a brilliant couple of lines after I got off stage but instead went into tee shirts from the 70’s with sayings on them like “Have a Nice Day” “Keep on Trucking” and “Hmmph.” When I was younger I didn’t want to wear these tee shirts because they advertised your boobs and my boobs weren’t my best feature. I was happy when sweat pants came out in college with sayings across the ass like “Alpha Ki” or “Juicy” because that was my better feature.
I don’t want to be known as the girl who brings boo back, or even sexy back. I want to be known as the girl with a sexy back.
What would have been funnier would be if I imagined what God’s tee shirt would say if he/she had one. Maybe sing a little of the Joan Osborne tune “If God had a tee shirt” which was the original title to “What if God was one of us.” Would God’s tee shirt say “I heart my gay son” or “Virgin AIrlines, the only way to fly?” Or maybe since this is an election year “I’m God and I approve this message.”
The Last Accountant Standing is an obvious take on the show Last Comic Standing which of course I didn’t get when I was up there, probably because I am new at this and not aware of them having auditions. My take was no one would hire me as an accountant even if I was the last one standing on earth. I should have thrown in even God wouldn’t want me as an accountant, and the fact I got audited once and am fearful this might keep me out of heaven. See if only I had stuck with the God theme.
Before they even had put up my list I saw “Jesus Email” from the previous guy’s set and said “I’m glad I didn’t get Jesus Email.” But there’s a joke there too. I should have added “Isn’t that was praying is?”
Third topic was Aids Marathon. Still I could have kept up with the God theme or tee shirts. God wants more people in heaven. He’s lonely and needs some good jokers up there to keep him company, hence the Aids plague. Instead I went on about how people do these walks for aids and I’m thinking don’t you want to walk against aids? And how an aids marathon sounds like a giant orgy of people with STDs, and that’s icky.
May segway into the last topic was it’s even ickier. Donkey Dilemma reminded me of a time I went to Mexico with this kite boarder. I tried kite boarding, totally not my thing, mentioned I am not a water person. I acted out the kite boarding thing a bit. Then I mentioned how I am stuck in Mexico with this guy who keeps bringing up that we should go see a donkey show. How do you get out of Mexico and away from a guy like that. I didn’t even say that a donkey show is where a woman who has been kidnapped and drugged has sex with a donkey for all to see. Here’s the obvious joke that it still kills me I didn’t go to: “I did it. I did the donkey show. I mean I was in the donkey show and I was not the ass. I made five hundred mexican dollars that night. And you know what they say. Once you go Donkey you never go back.”
Would that have got a boo? I don’t think so. Maybe a groan. But not a boo. The only one I am offending here is the donkey, and everyone knows donkeys don’t laugh; they just nod when it’s funny.