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thou shalt always kill

July 12, 2010

People are afraid to do open-mic standup comedy, and it’s probably because it’s just about the most pretentious thing you could possibly do besides run for president or murder someone.

I’m going to get up on this barely elevated stage, and I am going to try to make you laugh. I’m not going to definitely make you laugh, because some things I’m going to say aren’t funny, and some of you can be stupid, but probably not in the same way that I can be stupid, and also some of you laugh mainly on the inside and should really stop coming to open-mics.

Last Wednesday I tried my hand at a comedy open mic. It was at a café/laundromat. Being that it was “Ladies Night,” in a laundromat, it was probably just about the safest place to do stand-up, and it was terrifying. My friend Laura, who has done it before, came with me, and I definitely would never have gotten on stage if she hadn’t been there. Before she arrived I was even thinking of how I wasn’t going to go up, but I would say, to all the people I had told, that I did. I wouldn’t get into too many details because that is the surest way to give away a lie. I would just say it went, “Fine,” and never mention it again. But then Laura did show up, and I started thinking about Eleanor Roosevelt, and how I should do one thing everyday that scares me although I don’t think she said one thing every day that makes you feel like you’re going to vomit.

While I was waiting for Laura I had watched a fellow wannabe comic, who I had seen here before, actually laugh out loud as she was writing something down for her set. This was pretty intimidating, and I looked down at my typed notes, and didn’t find anything there particularly “funny haha.” It was mostly “funny…hmm” and sometimes just “hmm.”

I drank 2 beers and then sidled up to the organizer while pretending to be walking towards the bathroom. This was how I tricked myself into putting my name down. I said, “Do you know where the bathroom is. I would like to try my hand at standup comedy.”

I wish someone had told me about beer in 3rd grade when I was literally so scared of giving presentations that I would break out in hives.

Slowly, and then all at once, my turn at the mic came around. Everyone clapped heartily, and seemed genuinely enthused to have me up there. Like they had paid to come watch me tell jokes, or at the very least had invited me to do it for free.

I launched into my set. Beginning with basically the last few things I have covered on this blog. The hardest part was remembering who I was and what I was doing there over all the nerves. The trick to standup comedy besides the obvious funny bits is I think to be able to kind of freely associate like you do when you’re talking to your friends. I mean, you have to prepare, but you have to be able to be spontaneous too, and not so nervous that you forget how to think.

At one point I was heckled by a guy who MINUTES earlier had walked up to me while I was seated in the audience and said, “I work here, and I can get you a beer for free, but you have to tell me your name.” I don’t remember what his comment was, but I do remember that I didn’t understand it, and so my response was, “and that’s why you’re not up here.” Like with us. The real comedians. Writing this now, I realize I should have included that last part in my response, because then I would have been in on the joke instead of woefully outside of it. But like I said you forget yourself up there.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 12, 2010 3:32 pm

    WOW

  2. July 12, 2010 5:29 pm

    I saw you once, reading at last year’s lit quake. Though you were slightly flustered, you made it seem charming, like it was intentional or something. Like a clumsy Koala clinging nervously to branches while tourists point and go “awww”. Yes, it’s a compliment.

    Your posts (mostly) never fail to entertain. Thank you.

  3. July 30, 2010 6:46 pm

    Hey there Ramona – I found your post while researching open mics in SF. I assume you performed at Brainwash (unless there happens to be more than one cafe/laundromat with an open mic night, which clearly THERE SHOULD BE). I am also trying to get up the courage to sign up there. Did you find it welcoming to new performers?

  4. September 28, 2010 3:13 am

    I just stumbled on to your site, not unlike a one-night stand after an all night bender. But unlike one night stands, I didn’t regret finding this post. You’re quite funny, and since I’m going to try stand-up comedy for the first time this week, it was nice to read what someone else experienced.

    I hope I get heckled so I can throw back a pithy comment, if only because then I can use the word “pithy” later. That’s always fun.

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  1. What’s It Like Doing Open-Mic Stand-Up Comedy for the First Time? « Mission Mission

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