A Comedic Quickie In 1,289 Words

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In two weeks from Saturday, I will have left Oakland, California and drive back to Los Angeles after the nightly comedy competition at the most popular comedy club in the (San Francisco/Oakland) Bay Area, according to Yelp.

For those of you who are unaware, I got myself roped into a nightly comedy competition in Oakland.  It’s held in the upstairs of the Spicy Monkey restaurant, which usually holds between 50 – 75 people and every night is just about full.

Eight comedians get only four minutes each.  It’s all based on audience votes.  Eight comics in the first round, then half the field moves to round two, and half of that field will move on to round 3 of the finals.  Prize money is guaranteed once you make it to round two, and the winner gets prize money and a spot on the professional show later that evening, a paid spot again.

I believe this is an open door that I was lead to.  Did the comic who runs the show have to originally want me on the pro show the same night of the Dodger game?  Did he have to move me into the competition for the next night instead?  No.  But it’s like I said before, nobody in Saskatoon has ever helped me in any way for comedy, in regards to opportunities outside of open mics, which most have received.  Once I let myself go of the responsibility for others to make something happen, things fall into place for me, and me alone.

The Comedy Store may not be in play now, although Flappers is still a possibility.  I won’t know my schedule until closer to my departure date.  I am unable to perform for the students at the Comedy Clinic, as the classes right now are Monday, Tuesday and Saturdays.  So for Wednesday and Thursday I will try to hit up a few open mics to get my material down for the competition.  There are 20 – 30 a night and updated daily online, so if you are a comedian, even if you are in Los Angeles for a vacation, there really is no excuse for you not to go, unless you’re scared.  Which I am not.

Friday night I may hit up an open mic or two after the Dodger game, as some do start as late as midnight.  It all depends how the night shakes down after I attend the Dodgers/Cubs game and the fireworks.  My goal will be to hit up at least one open mic on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, to work through each of my three sets.  I’d like to say I have that material finished, but it’s still a work in progress.

A couple nights ago after the prayer service at church, I was in the lobby on my phone.  I checked the first set (for round one) and my spirit was like “yeah, um…..you need to fix this.”  So, I went home and hacked about 80% of it.  Now I have only two more sets to go.

Each set will be centralized around one theme.  Hopefully this will keep the audience engaged and want to bring me back for the next round.  I know that audiences like me already because I see their faces as I do the material.  That, coupled with the fact Canadians are deemed by Americans to be likeable and polite, will give me an advantage on stage that I usually don’t have.

The audience will know there is a Canadian on the show through the Facebook ads and postings.  The audience will be in a good mood, happy, and anticipating me making them laugh.  I will have the audience on my side right from the moment I walk onto the stage.  Part of the audience wanting me to succeed and root for me is because I am from Canada.  They don’t hear many comics from Canada in Oakland, I imagine.

To properly take advantage of me being an “outsider”, I simply can’t go up there and talk about normal, everyday stuff.  I need to go up there and talk about my normal, everyday struggles/points of view from a Canadian perspective.  If done properly, I can get the audience on my side because I think Americans are at the point in today’s society where they want to laugh at themselves.  They want to know how other countries see America at the present, especially with Donald Trump as President.  I’ll stay away from the politics end of things while trying to make comparisons between the two countries that will allow the audience to sit back and see the humour in it.

But the biggest part is the start.  That first joke has to be on target and get a laugh.  It doesn’t have to get a huge roar but enough of a response that it gives your set that initial lift off the ground.  Most new comedians don’t understand that principle.  I didn’t understand it either, but that’s only because I was so new I didn’t know any better.  Plus, each joke needs to have laugh points.  It can’t just be telling a story with a punchline at the end.  I only have four minutes to make that initial impression. Mediocrity won’t cut it.  I have to sort of impose my will upon the audience, or force the issue a little bit.  I have to go on stage with a purpose for each word.

The other thing to keep in mind is that tickets are sold for these competitions, at $15 a piece.  That changes things.  Instead of being an open mic where you can screw around and the audience might not care, when they pay money in the form of a ticket, all of a sudden the audience has an expectation.  They are expecting to see solid material from professional comedians that’s funny.  Believe me, that isn’t lost on me.  In today’s economy people could be doing lots of different things, but they come out on a Friday night to pack the club to watch comedy.  They come out to be entertained.  It’s part of my job to have them feeling good about spending money on a ticket.

It will be a nice drive on the highway that will take 5.5 to 6 hours, with no guarantee of receiving any bit of gas money to get back.  Not that I’m screwed if I don’t advance past the first round, but every little bit will help, even though gas in the States is considerably cheaper than it is here in Canada.

Am I excited about this competition?  No.  Nervous?  No.  Instead, it’s like I feel my back is up against the wall and I have to come out swinging right from the opening bell.  Kinda like that me against the world mentality.  If someone in the audience thinks “who is this Canadian driving 6 hours from L.A.”, I’ll show them who I am. Life has been shit for me the last three years, from the ex and all that drama, my legal issue, family and unemployment.  I am focused and determined to make this one of the few things in my life lately that will go right.

I’ve shocked the comedy world in Saskatoon before.  First it was wiping the floor with Saskatoon’s best in a preliminary round of a newbies competition.  Then it was getting a hosting spot at The Laugh Shop after not having performed in Saskatoon for 18 months.  They say good things come in threes.  The third part of this equation will involve making it to the finals,  My coach and I will go over my material and fine tune it.

I may be in a bit over my head in terms of the quality of competition, but since when has that ever stopped me?

 

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