MANIC!

19 Feb

Sometimes, if you’re not just a fair-weather fan and stick around long enough, you actually get to read some posts where I discuss actually feeling good! And this is one of those posts!

Last week, I did a show where it seemed like all the right circumstances fell into place and collapsed into a singularity of YEAH! Yes, the show at Broadway Comedy Club was a bringer, the evil bane of my comedy existence that forces me to become an annoying tornado of shilling and begging, but wouldn’t you know it, I actually had friends who were available and willing to commit to coming to see me, and with minimal badgering, too! Imagine that! I actually had my four rounded up and committed an entire day ahead of the show, too! No suspense, no waiting on last-minute “maybes,” nothing. In fact, I had a surplus of bringer guests, because two brought their girlfriends. That meant that, at the very least, if the audience was only composed of the sets of four brought by the comedians, I would have a slight majority in my favor. My desperate need for a reason to be confident latched onto that fact with a grip so tight, if it was an alligator, it would have proceeded to do a death roll and drown it.

However, it was not just friends of comedians in the audience. There was no way it could be. Maybe it was because the show was on a Friday instead of a Thursday like the last bringer I did, but when I walked into the room, it was packed. Full capacity. Hector was seriously kicking comedians out of the room and into the hallway to make room for more audience members. Granted, the Chicago City Limits room in the Broadway Comedy Club is not an arena, but filling that room means you have a real fucking audience. It’s probably the biggest audience I’ve performed for yet. I’d say that would add a touch of pressure, wouldn’t you? On top of that, as the show started, Hector told me I would be the first comic up, meaning I’d be dealing with a mostly cold audience, unless the hostess did a really good job of warming them up for the few  she had before I was to go on.

Despite the pressure, what resulted was a set I am pretty damn proud of. See for yourself:

When I first got onstage, I observed the audience and noticed it looked like a good deal of well-dressed, probably well-educated people reasonably close to my age range. Realizing I was in my element, I flipped on my “just fucking do it” switch and proceeded right into my set with no trepidation or hesitation. It worked better than I could have hoped. Maybe they were warm enough, maybe they were lubed up with alcohol by that point (since it was a 10:00 show), maybe they were just in a better mood to laugh than usual, or SOMETHING, because everything worked. Every line I could hope to get a laugh got one. Simple gestures got laughs. It was surreal, especially experiencing that in the same week as the horrible set I had that inspired my last post. It was like the audience all knew the shit I had been through and was actively trying to vindicate my faith in my own writing. Halfway through my set, I was feeling so good, as you could see, even when I stumbled, I was able to turn it into a laugh with the “premature ejokeulator” line.

(As an aside, I just want to mention that I had come up with the phrase “premature ejokeulator” in college, where it got poo-poohed by the other members of Sit-Down Tragedy. Now it got a laugh on stage, so please enjoy the smell of vindication as I secrete it strongly enough from my sebaceous glands for the scent to travel through the internet.)

I was really lucky that my friend and classmate Brandon Beck was able to come, because he has a really high-quality camera that he uses for making short films. Now I have a video that features material I’m proud of, above-average video quality, and a good audience reaction, a self-promotion trifecta! I really want to thank Brandon for the extra effort he put in, including doing actual color-correction on it. That’s right, this comedy video had A POST-PRODUCTION PHASE.

As awesome as that is, the whole point of the bringer was to get noticed by the industry booker Hector had brought in, a guy who runs shows in Westchester county, with the hope of getting hired for paid work. After each comic went on stage, they were called into a side room to talk with the booker and get his notes, advice, and, essentially, the verdict. It was like a reality show, except even losers can be winners. Since this was a guy I’ve never worked with before and wasn’t a friend of mine, I was fully braced for criticism of all kinds, like “you need to be more COOL on stage” or “you’re too SMART,” or something else that would bring my adrenaline high to a crash and confirm my cynical views of what it takes to be successful.

What happened was the opposite. I have never heard someone use the word “smart” so many times towards me in a non-patronizing and non-critical way before. This guy was legitimately praising my comedy as “smart.” It played out like this, almost verbatim:

“So let’s see… (checks notes)… you started with the Jesus bit, that was smart… Then you did that bit, that was smart… The racism went smart, which was good, because it’s often hard to make that work…”

On top of that, he said I had “great stage presence,” “kept the energy going,” and was “smooth.” I know this sounds like a boast, but this guy did not say one single critical word about my stuff. I know. I’m just as shocked as you are. It seriously felt like some bizarro version of Punk’d where instead of tricking the victim into thinking something’s going wrong, you trick him into thinking life is awesome, and there’s no part where you tell him he’s been punk’d. It was like I was being pranked into being happy.

The ultimate sign that I was “in” was that he asked for my contact information. Well, he actually asked if I had a card, but, of course, I did NOT anticipate the need for business cards this soon, so I had none. I ended up scrawling my name and e-mail address on the back of an old receipt I had in my pocket. However, he also told me to friend him on Facebook, which meant for sure he wanted to be reached. I did so, and on Tuesday, he explicitly told me he wanted to use me in one of his rooms in the spring.

You guys heard it. I’m gonna get paid to do comedy soon! Yeah, sure, it’s not like I’ll be able to make a living off of it just yet, but the event in and of itself is a milestone for any comedian, the point where he/she goes from being a simple lowly open mike-er to someone whose talent is actually worth paying money for. I AM a marketable product.

I think what I’m most happy about it is that I am marketable while still being “smart.” Whenever I bomb or just am having a real difficult time and feeling cynical, I always wonder if I’m going to have to sacrifice writing the kind of material I like to write if I want to be commercially successful because I might be “too cerebral” or “too bizarre” or whatever. This guy, though, came out and said “no, you are fine, and I want to use you as you are.” It was the comedy equivalent of a beautiful woman’s acceptance. It was also nice to know that my “smart” was also smart by someone else’s standards. I was afraid that since it was a set full of phrases like “hate boner” and “balls in our face” that perhaps I had, subconsciously given up on being smart and instead created something that was simply sophomoric with the occasional big word. However, at least by another comedian’s experienced judgment, I had successfully walked the line between intelligent and scatological.

The rest of the week between then and now has really been doing its best to make sure I keep riding on this high. Monday, Norman Steinberg went out of his way to compliment a rewrite of a scene I did. Tuesday I went back to Astoria All-Stars, the site of the Bailure Failure, and actually had a good set! I drank a Monster Energy drink an hour before the show to make sure I was ready to give a shit, and I pulled off a good show, effectively erasing the pain of the bad one! Wednesday I went to an open mike and tried out several new bits that all seemed to get received well. Then, the cherry on it all, some bookers in Boston got back to me and I now have four dates lined up at two clubs there. With Boston, New York City, and Scarsdale coming up, it feels like I’m on tour!

Guys, I think I’m a real comedian now. Can I say that? I think I will.

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