Dude, I Totally Got This!

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Really?  Seems easy enough, right?

A booker asks you to 5 to 7 minutes at a comedy club.  There is only one word you cannot say, other than that you can talk about anything you want, no restrictions.  You just gotta get laughs.  If you don’t then you will have your stage time shortened and possibly get roasted a little bit by the other comic(s) who come on after you.

As Charmaine talked about in the most the blogs most recent post, people from afar probably look at the world of stand up comedy and think it’s pretty easy.  Besides, if you can leave your friends and relatives rolling on the floor laughing then you should be able to get on stage and do the same thing.  Right?

Not exactly.  Keep a few things in mind.  Your friends and relatives that you make roll on the floor laughing are doing so in part, because they know you.  The stories you tell while they are real, they can see the situation you speak of totally happening to you so there are a couple of laugh triggers present because they know you.  Knowing you means they didn’t have to establish credibility or likability when they started telling the story.  Chances also are that the person telling the story is relaxed, thus keeping their audience of family or friends relaxed as well.  When you are relaxed you tend to tell better stories.

Now, let’s flip this around and take that same person going on stage at a comedy club.  While some of your friends may come out to watch, the majority of people are strangers.  They don’t know jack shit about you.  You get people from all walks of life coming to watch a show for different reasons.  You could be the nicest guy in the world (like me) and not have an offensive bone anywhere in your body, yet when you hit the stage you are judged.

It could be the clothes you wear, or the way you look, the way you do your hair, whether or not you have a drink in your hand, if you have an accent, if you swear, if you do material on politics or religion.  You get my point.  People go to a comedy club with the reasonable expectation that you will make them laugh.  They pay good money for the tickets and spend more on drinks and food, so you better deliver the goods.

Which brings me to my current situation.  I will be doing guest spots both in Saskatoon and Regina in February and March.  Unless you are coming for certain I will not be posting the dates, as I do not want my guest spot to take away from the other comedians who are there doing their regular time.

The one thing that I have problems with in about 90% of my sets is the start.  My starts are flatter than an anorexic’s chest.  They are seriously bad.  That’s gotta change.

As I referenced in earlier posts, I used to run karaoke for several years.  It’s easy for me to engage the audience and talk to them in between songs.  It’s easy for me to be funny in that environment because it’s where I am comfortable, and because people are there to either sing or listen to singers, not necessarily for me to be funny.  So that makes me relaxed enough that I’m able to be spontaneous and do pretty well.

At a comedy club it’s nearly impossible for me to be that spontaneous.  There have been a few times where situations within the audience scream for the comedian to step in and get some laughs but I just can’t pull the trigger.  I try, believe me I have been trying for over four years now.  That part of my brain that can unlock that spontaneity is locked because I can never find the damn key!  Knowing that people are there for the sole purpose of you making them laugh makes it a bit difficult to think on my feet that quickly, because silence to a comic has the potential to be a death sentence if it isn’t utilized properly.  Sometimes it’s not good to get into the material right with your first words out of your mouth.  Say something topical or make a comment about the show thus far to get a quick laugh and the audience at least wanting to be on your side.

It’s true that audience psychology dictates the audience will be in whatever state the performer is in.  However, you can be the most high energy, well intentioned person on stage, but if the laughs aren’t there, you’re screwed.

If you can’t get the laughs, then it makes the other comics who follow you have to work a bit harder to get the audience back on side.  They might have to abandon their material for a minute or two so they can clean up the mess the previous act left behind.  As much as you want to eliminate those type of things from happening, the reality is that bad acts or bad sets will happen from time to time.  Not only does the opener learn lessons of what went wrong, it also serves the headliner/more experienced opener well to know how to bring a crowd back from the dead.

If you’re assuming that my openings usually bite and my material has equal hits and misses, you’d be right.  However, anything is possible and it’s not where you start in life so much as it’s where you finish that counts the most.  Stand-up is a journey.  I was telling somebody yesterday that doing stand-up is like doing a puzzle that you always have missing pieces for, meaning that (in my opinion) you rarely arrive at a place where you know it all and have it all figured out.

There are a couple of suggestions my comedy coach has given me to make the openings better, so I need to put the work in now, even though it’s still a month away.  So, the next time you want to be critical of a comic, just keep in mind that at least they are trying, and that there is much more to doing comedy than one realizes.

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