August 20, 2012

Calmedy (part 2) (no Gary Glitter)

What up. Since I last wrote about calmedying, some stuff done happened. I was in a calmedy competition. That was cool. So, I gots some thoughts about things. That's what this is gonna be.

I told some jokes at Helium, arguably the biggest comedy club in Philadelphia. The line to get in was around the corner. About a half an hour wait. The place was very close to sold out. Meaning about 250+ people. Much more than the 15-20 people (on a good night) I'm used to performing in front of. Of that 250, I had about 25-30 friends and family that had come to see me. For the first time. I watched from the back as they filed in. I was still working on my set for that night, as I saw them wave to me. I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. But I am editing and revising my jokes up until the very second I step on stage. And even when I'm in the process of telling jokes, I'm making executive decisions on what stays and what goes.

I decided to say hi to those that came to see me. I tried to use my humor to deflect any apparent nervousness. Don't think it worked. When the show started, I went into watch mode. I was listening, but I wasn't hearing. I took a gamble. I wrote some last minute Chick-Fil-A jokes. The gamble being that it would be something that few (if any) other comedians would be talking about. Because the trade off of having fresh, timely material is that the jokes are unpolished. In my case, it was the first time I'd be telling them. I was the 10th comic to go on. So far, so good.

I made my way to the green room. Did the customary awkward introductions with the host and the other comics waiting to go on. I was starting to really feel at ease. Changed into my stage gear. Went over my notes while cracking jokes. And then it happened. Albeit muffled through the stage door, I heard the words "Chick-Fil-A." I was going on next. I couldn't hear exactly what he was saying, but the look on my face must've said it all. The host gave me some pointers on how to play it off.  Then, something weird happened. An odd sense of calm washed over me. I felt as though "these are your jokes, regardless of what anyone else has/will say. Do them." The comic wrapped up, the host went out. I had about a second to shake the preceding comic's hand before I heard my name being announced.

This probably sounds pretentious. But it's true. When I'm on stage, I remember very little of what I say and do. I think it's because my brain is concentrating so hard on making the sounds I make make sense. But I was cognizant enough to hear the laughs and reactions I got that night. I'd been worried that I wouldn't make it to the 4:30 mark. That was the minimum you had to do, or else you'd be disqualified. I could live with being DQ'd due to going too long. But for not even making the minimum? No way.

When I saw the blinking light, signaling I'd done 4:30 worth of jokes and witty banter, it was the greatest feeling I've had in comedy up to this point. Because it told me that, at the very minimum, I was qualified to stand on a stage for 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I could relax. A few of my friends were seated (to my chagrin) at one of the front tables. But after the blinking light, that became an asset. I was more relaxed and could play to that side of the room, focusing on my friends in front. That's something I picked up in my high school theater class. Looking at someone specifically to play to an entire side of the room. Thanks, Ms. Tindall. Sorry for the hard times I gave you. 

So, I did my jokes. They got laughs. Good laughs. I saw the solid "wrap it up, b" light and got the fuck off the stage. Was congratulated on a good set in the green room. Went outside, and was greeted by a comic I respect. He gave me props, and that meant a whole lot to me. I didn't advance in the tournament. But after my set, I felt good enough to know that I belonged in the competition, and wasn't just lying to myself. That's one thing about comedians: we're brutally honest. With others, and most importantly with ourselves. You don't have to tell us we suck. We know it. Before you do. But the flip side is that when we do good, we also know it. The trick, I'm learning, is not to let on too much that you know how well you did. The experience from this competition has me hungry to surpass the feeling of just doing good and advance in the next tournament. That hunger is what is telling me that I'm making the right decision by going all in on being a comedian. Without concrete promises of money or success, these gut feelings are all we have to go on. 

To everyone that came to see me, thank you. I may have told you individually or as a group. Either way, it's just as sincere. Your continued support and belief in me helps guide that gut feeling. There are times, like other comics, I assume, that I don't feel very funny. All I have to do is think back to what you've said to me and all doubt is erased. A misconception about comedians is that we're never serious. On the contrary, I'm incredibly serious. That's why everything is so goddamned funny to me. 


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