Confessions of a Failed Stand-Up Comedian
During a business trip last week-negotiating the price of pork bellies, naturally (just one of my many duties as an heiress)-after indulging in a few cocktails, the clients uttered an oft heard refrain, “You’re funny. You should do stand-up.” Now, I would like to point out that it’s easy to be charming when the sole goal and purpose of the assignment is to enchant the pants off of a client (literally or figuratively, it doesn’t really matter, there are times when both are needed).
I am not that funny. Perhaps we should start and end there. At least, I don’t think so. Cute? Perhaps. Hilarious? Not exactly. But, I am adventurous, so when my friend Eva suggested I do stand-up comedy a few years back I greeted her with a “Hell yes!” and not a “What the fuck are you talking about?” But I quickly realized that while I might be living-room-funny, I am not stand-in-a-dark-room-with-
Are you at a dinner party, preferably with a cocktail in hand? Well then, in that instance I am adorably amusing. If I can read my audience and avoid blank stares or pity chortles I’ll know whether you’ll find abortion jokes hilarious or abhorrent and if I should work the bawdy-gaudy-naughty slut humor or play the vessel virgin. Plus, everyone thinks you’re funny when there’s whiskey involved.
But on the stage? I couldn’t see shit. Maybe the occasional shadow where I assumed someone’s head or a weird growth was. There is a dull humming–the combination of spotlights, sound systems, and murmurs of side conversations. People in the awkward darkness boo or throw things (no one really does that except maybe assholes who saw it in a bad sitcom once but I mention it for the sake of posterity). The drunken laugh or cry, and occasionally you find the magic and are lucky to preach to a few sickos just like you, who find the world incredibly funny and either laugh because they’re insane or laugh to keep from going crazy. And that’s on a good night!
So I learned quickly that it’s best to leave that funny business to the professionals. People like Jodee Champion or Elliot Woolsey who are brave enough to put themselves out there (and are also funny to boot. Bonus prize!) Or up-and-coming national but once local talent like Ben Roy and Adam Cayton-Holland.
Up and coming means that people in other cities, states, hell, even countries maybe (mostly Canada), find those fuckers funny. And that’s saying something. That something? That folks like the aforementioned have the balls to go out there (especially Champion who doesn’t have male genitals that I’m aware of) and make funny in the dark with strangers or die trying. The difference between you and me and people who do stand-up for a living, a paltry, hand-to-mouth, ramen-with-hot-sauce living, is definitely the balls factor. I have watched Cayton-Holland try to work an angry room of geeks whose boos were so loud they drowned out the sound of his set. But, just like any stupidly courageous person, he did not go home and drink bleach but rather weathered the storm, finished his set, and politely left the stage. Brave soul. Braver than I…
* Front page sketch by Geoff Cleveland Courtesy of Elliot Woolsey