Stand-up Comedy Growing Pains

My overall feeling about my very young stand-up experience is encouraging.  People laugh when I tell jokes on stage.  That's a good sign.  I think I have the luxury of having felt like I've been on stage my entire life.  My family is full of funny storytellers.  Every time I'm home, my aunt asks me to tell a funny story that she's heard before.  She laughs every time.  Different people are around every time.  I began to learn to pull the humor out and time the punchlines of the story just right.  It's almost like stand-up comedy boot camp.  The main difference is the real audience.  These family members and friends didn't come over expecting one person to make them laugh.  Plus, my aunt is setting up the jokes.  Stand-up is normally one person setting the jokes up and following through on them.  Lots of responsibility.

My first sets went well.  Last night was my tenth time out and it may have been my best.  I needed a good set.  Saturday night was my first time feeling like I messed up big time.  Unfortunately it wasn't a full out bombing.  I feel like I need to bomb and get that feeling out of the way.  I've heard the stories.  It would suck if my first total bomb experience happened next year when I feel like I'm in a groove.  Saturday something happened to me that I thought would never happen...

This was my first time at the big stage of Maffia Comedy Club.  I had been on kind of a roll since my first set at a free club called Big Ben.  I went on an english language night.  I had a great time.  It was more of a bucket list type of thing, but I got the bug.  It felt great to hear laughs.  I kept going to Big Ben and some comics asked me about going to other clubs.  Wow.  I guess I could check out Maffia.  That's for "real comics" though.  Was I a real comic?  I contacted the owner of Maffia and asked for a shot at some time there.  He gave me a chance to go on the next Tuesday.  Things went well.  He wasn't there though.  Dammit.  The next day he messaged me to do 10 minutes on Thursday.  I hadn't done 10 minutes before, but I had two five minute sets I could merge.  I said "Yes!"

Thursday went very well, though I was so nervous.  The owner was there.  He told me I did well.  I told him I was still a rookie.  He asked me to try out the big stage on Saturday.

       - WHAT?!!

I calmly accepted, then went to the bathroom and executed three flawless, no-hand backflips of excitement.  I was a star.  I was unstoppable.

Saturday I found out I'd be going up first.  I had gone first a couple of times at Big Ben (I'm a freaking pro now).  This shouldn't be a problem.  I also was told that time was important.  Do not go over ten minutes.  No problem.  I found out that my new buddy Ato "The Champ" was the MC and he would warm the crowd up nicely for me.  Boom.  Who's ready for this heat?  Nobody!

The Champ warmed them up nicely.  I was ready to go.  I knew that my mouth would be dry.  All of my eight weeks of experience had taught me this.  I had my cup of water ready.  I would take a sip at the middle point of my set.  My punchline would get laughter and then I would calmly sip my water and enjoy the outpouring of love from the audience.  I walked out and looked for a place for my cup of water.  I put it on a stool midway between backstage and the microphone.  Now it was time to go.

I got into my routine.  The crowd was into it.  Swedie's cousin came out to support and it was comforting to look out and see her smiling.  I got a good laugh on my first joke.  Good sign.  There was a bachelorette party there that was in a good mood.  Another good sign.  I got through the part of my set that I always think will scare people off because I use the term "retarded" a few times.  I didn't lose the crowd.  Things were going well.  I got to the end of my first half.  Now it was water time.  I said the punchline that would set up for me to drink my water.  It got a modest laugh.  I looked over to the stool.  Somehow it looked like it was two miles away!  I HAD to drink water.  Otherwise my lips and teeth and tongue would all stick together by the time I got into my closing joke and I would be a mumbling fool.

I turned to the stool and began the long journey to it.  The crowd was no longer laughing.  They were probably wondering what they said or did to make me walk away like that.  My theater background kicked in when I finally arrived to that far-away stool.  My back was to the audience.  Never turn your back on the audience!  You have to cheat.  Cheat cheat cheat!  I took a sip of water.  Some spilled out.  What the fuck was I doing?  I rushed back to the front of the stage.  I can't make that trip again.  I thanked the crowd for some reason.  What are you doing, Jon?  Get back into your routine.  I took a deep breath and then tried to talk.  Nothing came out.  I fucking forgot my routine!  I stared at them.  They stared at me.  It was my responsibility to say something.  It felt like an hour passed.  I put my hand on the top of my head.

       - Um, I don't remember what I'm supposed to say.

Did I just say that?  I told the crowd to give a round of applause until I remembered what I was supposed to say.  They clapped and screamed and it came back to me.  I don't think my brain has ever raced so fast.  I sarcastically told everyone to stop clapping and don't feel sorry for me.  I went into my bit about finding out Santa isn't real.  Now I was back.  That's a joke that always gets a laugh.  We were back to doing our dance.  I was making jokes and they were laughing.  That's the way things should be.  The world was spinning again.  I glanced over at the owner and he was giving me the hand across the neck sign.  Was I out of time?  But my last joke!  It's so funny!  He made the signal 147 more times.  He meant that shit.

I began to rush through my jokes.  I talked over laughs.  I tried to think of jokes to leave out, but the routine only makes sense if I keep the bits in.  Oh gosh, he'll never ask me back.  He walked over to the DJ booth.  Was he going to put on Oscar speech music?  That would be embarrassing.  I looked at him.

      - One more joke and I'm out of here, guys.

He nodded.  I did my closer.  Too quickly.  Everyone laughed a lot.  I think I salvaged the set.  I don't know if I salvaged his opinion of me.  I walked off stage with an embarrassed smile on my face.  It wasn't bombing.  It was over-thinking.  The only cure for that, I'd guess would be to do it more and more until it's second nature.  Maybe I won't plan a sip of water.  I'll just take it if I need it.  I'll definitely keep it closer.  Saturday night showed my comedy age.  I was on a pro stage, but I'm still a rookie.  I'm a hungry rookie though.  Pro doesn't feel so far away.  Watching the other comics with their different styles was good for me.  Everything is a learning experience right now.

I had a good set last night.  I really feel comfortable up there.  I've written more jokes and I can't wait to try them out.  I've been trying to pick the brains of comics that are willing to share knowledge.  I've been told by multiple comics that I won't have my stage persona figured out for at least a year.  Wow. I've got a lot of work to do.  Swedie told me that a classmate of hers was at the show and saw me.  She didn't realize that I had made a mistake and she thought I was funny.  Was she at the same show? I guess it felt worse than it looked.  That's good to know.  I have another shot at the big Maffia this Saturday.  I need to conquer that stage.  I'll keep you posted, of course.  If you're in Stockholm this Saturday come by and see if I do better.  Until next time...


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