Friday, August 17, 2018

My First Few Weeks of Stand Up and Lessons Learned

Something I've imagined doing for years is stand up. I mean it makes a lot of sense. I love to make people laugh, I already have a persona of sorts, and I have an unhealthy amount of confidence when on stage. (Thanks to years of acting in terrible theatre productions.)

However at the same time, it's been something I've been dreading doing. Partially because I've built it up in my head so much, but mostly because it's supposed to be really really difficult.

Now I'll admit, a problem I've had the problem over the last year or so of talking about doing it without actually doing it. However, this summer I finally buckled down, and decided I was going to do it.

And then I woke up at like 5 PM and felt depressed so I bailed.

The next week I did finally do it, at Laffs Comedy Cafe.

Now I had meant to do the open mic night there for a year or two. Now you'd think once I turned eighteen (how old you have to be to do it) I'd be there (stinking up the joint both metaphorically and literally), but instead in my too often lazy manner I put it off until after I turned nineteen.

I did finally do it, after being dropped off by my dad after a meal of Chinese food with my grandparents.

I went inside and got on the list of performers. I then sat down in the green room where also seated was a small congregation of other stand up comics.

The one seated to my left asked if I had weed on me. I said no (I don't touch the devil's cabbage) and asked why, what was he profiling me? He didn't quite realize that was a joke. Oh well. Still fun.

After a few more minutes of waiting around in the green room with the other comics the list was up. I didn't get up to look at it right away, but when I did, I didn't really know where it was so I just kind of awkwardly shuffled around in the space between the bar and the green room.

Suddenly a gentlemen with a stubby beard and sunken eyes asked me if I would like anything. I said no, assuming he was a comedy club drug dealer, and started to edge away from him. He responded to this by asking my age, and telling me I couldn't be in the bar as I was under 21. Turns out he works there. Pretty nice guy.

Eventually I did manage to see my name on the list, where I was number 27 and apparently Jeremy Seol. Oh well, I'd be able to better define myself in the future. In the mean time I had to figure out what it is I was going to talk about.

Now I had spent a lot of time writing down comedic ideas and stories and all that, but I didn't really have anything planned out for the three minutes I was allowed to embarrass myself in front of an audience. I did think about talking about my recent trip to Missouri and my family there, but I didn't really have a starting point. Besides I could talk about that later, so why not just test the waters for now?

And so I came up with a couple of puns, and decided I would end my set with a festive rendition of 'Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away!' from Follies, as hey, it was raining outside. (And in my head, I had this idea that I could end all my sets like that as both an anti-joke and an excuse to sing.)

In the hour or so after I figured out what it was I was going to do, I paced around the green room, studied the list obsessively until I found out where I was supposed to be (which was inside the waiting room where I could watch the show if I wished.) I didn't wish to however (as I could barely as is remember what it was I planned to say) and so I tried to figure out when I would need to be back in there. Eventually I was told I'd be going on soon and so I was in there once again, watching a couple comedians do their things.

And then I was introduced, I ran up to the stage, and stood in front of the microphone. I said howdy, got way too big of an applause for saying it was my first night, and then ran through my bad jokes.

The first was that all the other comedians seemed to do drugs (specifically marijuana) and if I wanted to get an edge on them, I could call the police on them, thus weeding them out.

I then said, that it was weird to only have three minutes, as what is there that's satisfying that only last three minutes? Well just ask my girlfriend. (I should have said your girlfriend, but don't worry, I totally botched the delivery of the joke anyways.)

After that I was pretty much out of material, so I looked down and saw my shoes. I talked about how they were shoes, and how there white, and I was also white, if you for some reason couldn't tell.

After that I announced I would sing the song, which I did, except I kept forgetting the words. So it was filled with a lot of pauses, and occasional comments like 'Oh yeah, it's not raining anymore, is it.'

During these moments I was worried I had gone over my time (as I had completely missed the signal (not exactly new for me) that I had only thirty seconds left. I finished the song though, and saw the comedian hosting edging near the stage and said 'Oh okay, out of time' and left the stage.

As terrible as my set was, the response was very warm both from the other comedians and from the audience itself. (Specifically the heavily intoxicated parts.)

Although I don't exactly know that, as I couldn't see the audience whatsoever, something I imagine is a measure taken by Laffs to prevent awkward situations for the young struggling comedians.

So that was the first time I did stand up. And there was one major lesson I learned from it:


It doesn't matter if you suck, or aren't prepared, or can't remember the lyrics to a classic show tune, it's better to do it and thus have the experience which is better than waiting for the perfect moment.

The next week I got up and walked over to Laffs and found out that due to the competition (which I could have signed up for if I had brought money on the first night I did it) being held there, there was a limited amount of spots for comedians. And so I learned my third lesson: BE EARLY.

The next week I was early... well kind of. Still, I managed to get on the list for people who would do it if the people who didn't get on the list last week didn't show up. And as my luck would have it, a few of those people didn't show up, and so I would get to perform.

Except I had to buy two items to be able to participate. And I didn't have any money on me.

And so, as I walked home, my second lesson was learned: BRING MONEY.

Now you may be wondering why this is the second lesson I learned when I seemingly learned the lesson of being early first. Well the reason for that is that I had already learned that lesson when I didn't have any money to sign for the competition with. It's just that it didn't sink in until after I wasn't allowed to perform due to my not having any money.

Anyways, learning this lesson (and having even more time to work on my material) I walked back home, determined that next week I would get to perform. (And show up actually early this time.)

And I managed both of those thing next week. I walked in fifteen minutes early, and walked to the back of a line of other individuals who wanted to sign up.

As for my two items, I got two bottles of water which were recommended by a rather charming waitress. Also charming was the pleasant odor of the bathroom soap. Sort of a nice cherry aroma. Is it really important for the purpose of this article? Well no... but I appreciated it.

Anyways, after washing my now lovely smelling hands I found out I was on second, after Who on first.

I spent the remaining idle time waiting by reading the Tucson Weekly where a certain article I wasn't very impressed by led to my writing an article that apparently no one else was impressed by as it has the lowest number of views since I started this horrendous Blog.

And speaking of horrendous, that's how my set went, despite the fact that I had it all planned out.

I (Jeremy Segan) started out by talking about how people complain about everything, and then moved on to the charming subject of how I don't really want to be bothered by poor people's issues.

Mind you this was supposed to be tongue and cheek but more accurately was face in palm pitiful edginess.

After that joke ran its course, I said that you should care about other people, thus alienating the only audience I had left in the sociopaths. (Yo, the sociopaths in the back, bring it down low, for that so-cio!.. sorry.)

I then talked about how artists and anarchists don't really help out, and made myself even more beloved to the audience. If you couldn't tell that was sarcasm. What wasn't was when I said that I did better last time when I talked about my shoes, which actually got the warmest response, as that was me being honest for the first time.

And so I learned another lesson, BE YOURSELF.

Now I'm not saying you can't be a character on stage, or an exaggeration, but you shouldn't try to be another comedian, which I unfortunately was, likely some horrible mix of Louis CK and Bill Burr.

I then walked back home, where at least I kept hydrated thanks to the seven dollars in water I invested into my being a comedian.

The next night I went out again, this time to Epic Cafe where I would get a full seven minutes to suck.

And suck I did, by starting out not with my anecdote about how hard it is to be a class clown, but instead something I had come up with while seated in that cafe about how I didn't like (or more accurately trust myself with) freedom. After my set, the other comedians asked if I was the guy who was able to get laughs by saying a very naughty word. I said no, although I went home that night a little paranoid that maybe I had some form of tourretts where I wasn't aware of what it was I said. (Although I doubted that theory, as I also would have had to block out the laughter.)

Still, I managed to learn a really important lesson I wasn't able to quite grasp the night before, and that's to PRESENT YOURSELF AS LIKE-ABLE. If the audience hates you, they're likely not going to want to go along with you on a journey, or even a knock knock joke.

And so I put myself to task that week to come up with a better introduction. And I was able to find it while walking to Laffs the next week, and I realized I could transition it into my class clown anecdote. I would then rap things up with talking about  my '''''interesting''''' relationship with my step mother.

Now I walked a bit slower and so cut it much closer than I meant to. Luckily I was able to grab the last definite spot. I then grabbed myself a Tucson Weekly and sat in my usual chair in the green room.

In the green room were a couple other young standup comedians, two of whom were playing catch with a couch pillow, and then after I moved that under my chair, one of the cushions of the couch one was sitting on. Which demonstrated another lesson:You can take man out of the jungle, but you can't make sour cream out of burnt yogurt and cat hairs. Unless you're on drugs.

After their game got spoiled by some tragic news, there was a general shift in the green room, and I was able to chat with the man (a nice dude and a veteran of comedy having done it for nine years) who was hosting the Open Mic that night about what exactly the competition was.

I also got to watch him do his craft, as I was up early again, this time fourth. (Which meant that there were three other comedians (including the host) before me.)

Now the host did seem to struggle a little to remember his jokes, but was able to get the audience excited and successfully describe the shows as being one with 'Some highs... and some lows.'

Representing the highs was the next comedian who used his appearance and harmonica skills to great effect. He also wore a hat. I like hats.

After that, the host introduced the next comedian, who didn't appear. And so, not missing a beat he announced me (pronouncing my name 'Jeremy Siegal') who walked up to towards the stage- and then walked back as the woman  who was before me had walked up from the wrong direction. It was her first time at Laffs, and she therefore wasn't aware of how things worked, including he signal for her to rap it up.

Still, she managed to end her set on time, and even get a laugh or two, so good for her. I hope she keeps at it and uh... prospers.

During her set, the host went back to the waiting room and asked me how to pronounce my name, to which I explained (it's pronounced like that of the bird or terrible actor) and he did. Great guy. Mighty beard. Real... uh... manners... yeah...

And so after he introduced me I went up, and actually took the microphone off the stand (something I hadn't realized I should do my first two times doing it there) and proceeded to get a good number of laughs through my intro (which acknowledged my somewhat odd appearance) and my aforementioned class clown anecdote, but they largely ran out when I tried to tell the stories of me and my step mother. The reason I realized walking home was because I didn't properly introduce her, and so the story made it look like a poor women dealing with a psychotic brat of a stepson, instead of a narcissist dealing with a charming annoyance psychotic brat of a stepson. And so the lesson was learned clear to me: INTRODUCE (AND DEVELOP) THE OTHER CHARACTERS.

Still it went rather well, and that continued the next day at Epic Cafe where I was able to finally get some laughs with the stories of self sabotaging me and my somewhat flawed stepmom.

After performing I had a fun time watching and interacting with the other performers and even got an offer for a ride, which I refused as I'm a flopping moron.

Still it was a very nice week of working out how to be a stand up comedian.

I'm no where near where I want to be, but I'm having fun in trying to get there.

Who knows where I'll end up. Maybe I'll be a comedian, maybe a lawyer, maybe the world's second greatest bagger that's ever worked in a grocery store.

Anyways, that's my first few weeks of stand up and the lessons I learned.

I hope you enjoyed reading it.

- Jeremy Segal

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