Falling Forward

I got back on the comedy horse last night and was able to hit two open mics in Austin. We got a pretty big rain storm last week so a lot of mics got cancelled. On Thursday I ended up going to two mics expecting to perform but neither ended up actually happening. I think it was the universe telling me to just relax for a hot minute. Speaking of hot, it’s getting hotter than a frying pan in a baking oven inside a large sauna on top of a bed of coals while Rosie O’Donald holds a flame thrower to all of it. Boy that sure got carried away. Anyways, it’s starting to get hot in Texas. No surprise there.

Last night was beautiful. In terms of weather, that is. The comedy was just whatever. One of the reasons I came to a place with warm weather is because I knew I’d be spending a lot of time out and about at night, and there’s nothing better than a warm summer night. The first open mic I went to was at the Creek and the Cave Comedy Club, a new club that shut down in New York City and recently opened here in Austin. They’ve got an indoor stage and an outdoor stage, and both are pretty nice. They had fans with misting water and coverings set up outdoors yesterday. I need to remember to take pictures to post on the blog but I’m really competent at not remembering things like that so bear with me.

I recently realized I probably have ADD. It clicked when someone told me, “you definitely have ADD.” On top of that, I used to go to therapy for my anxiety and after not seeing my therapist for a while, she said “and you’ve been diagnosed with ADD, correct?” I said, “No…” and she just said “Oh.” Anyways, I never really knew if ADD was even a real thing and I have enough going on health wise that I never actually thought about it, but after reading about it, it would definitely explain a lot. What was I talking about? Oh, right. Comedy.

This was an early Sunday mic, and it was supposed to start at four, but the host didn’t show up. Reilly, a comedian who moved here from North Carolina, ended up hosting. He and Hanz, an Asian comedian with a German name, messed around with the sound for 15 minutes before somebody finally came out and helped them. It was a bit of a mess, but the show eventually got going.

The crowd was almost entirely other open mic comedians, but there were a couple of regular audience members. I try my best to focus on the regular audience members during my set. If they’re smiling and engaged in my performance, that’s mostly what I’m looking for. Obviously, you want people to laugh, but if you’re trying to get a guttural laugh from other comedians in the audience, it’s probably not going to translate well when there’s an audience of regular people. On top of that, when you’re in a situation where it’s outside, there’s music next door, and loud fans blowing all around you, it’s pretty hard to hear anyone laughing unless it’s super loud. So, I was looking for eyes over laughs. You can tell you’re losing the audience when they start looking away.

I think my set went okay. I bought a small tripod on Amazon so I was able to record video of my set this time. My performance was a little flat, and it reminded me of something Ron White said. “Sell your joke to the audience. Show them that you know it’s funny.” It’s a great point. You really do have to go up there and almost convince the audience that your jokes are funny sometimes. You have to really believe that your material is funny. If you do, the audience will, too. Watching other open mic comics perform really hammers this point home, because I will see comics go up and their punchlines almost sound like a question, and they never do well. The difference between “I hope this is funny,” and “This is funny,” is huge.

After the first mic, I went and grabbed some food before walking to the second mic. It’s so cool when you can walk from performance to performance. We had to draw numbers for spots and I was lucky enough to get number five. I always like to go sooner rather than later. Sitting around and waiting to get up on stage is the worst. Again, this audience was almost all other open mic comedians. It was indoors and people were closer together, which gave me hope, but I saw the third comedian go up and have what I thought was a great set, aaaaaand he got almost no engagement from the audience. Everyone was on their phones and nobody was laughing. I think he was from Oklahoma City, and you could tell he was confused. After several of his punchlines landed to no laughter, he kind of just said “Alright…” I braced myself, because I knew it was just going to be one of those crowds.

Again, I tried to focus on the actual audience members, which was basically one girl who runs an OnlyFans account for a living. And even though the place was quieter than I would have hoped during my set, thinking back on it, I had her engaged the whole time and got several good laughs out of her, so I would call it a success. I got a couple other pretty decent laughs. One joke fell completely flat. I paused for a few seconds in between jokes and then said, “Do you think Kobe Bryant was a helicopter parent?”

Now, personally, I think this joke is hilarious. My friends think it’s hilarious. I stand by the opinion that this is a good joke. That being said, it’s a tough one to tell. I don’t know when the “too soon” label gets lifted on jokes about tragedy, but for me, laughing about terrible things has always been a great way to cope with the fact that they will always happen. We will all die. Terrible things will happen and will continue to happen. I don’t agree with the sentiment that the only acceptable response to tragedy is sadness, through and through. I think sadness is the first response, as it was for me when I heard the terrible news about Kobe, but I also think that being able to make light of the situation is a healthy sign of acceptance and moving on.

I’m curious to see if this joke will work on a different audience. There’s a show for dark humor here and it may work better there. I’m going to keep trying it over the next couple of weeks because I believe it’s funny. If it doesn’t work, I suppose I’ll just put it on the shelf for a while.

Another comedian, who has been at it for a long time, gave me some advice before the show after I told him I was still pretty new at this. Usually, I’m weary of advice from other comedians, but his was actually helpful. He just said that if you’re not using the mic stand, move it to the side. And always tape your sets with at least audio. I thought this was really solid practical advice. I’ve been recording my sets whenever I remember, so it was good affirmation on that, but it was really good advice about the mic stand, because I hadn’t thought about that before. The first thing I did when I went on stage was move that damn mic stand right on out of the way. Progress, baby.

It’s such a luxury to be able to get on stage as often as I can here. I learn so much every time I step on. It’s really difficult, and sometimes I hate my life when I get off stage, but I know I’ll always look back on these moments and be super grateful for them. I listened to a speech by Denzel Washington this morning and he talked about how failure is inevitable and you can’t be afraid to fail and to take risks. He said he hates the concept of having something to fall back on, and I loved that. He said to fall forward. Do what you know is right for you and keep falling on your face until your standing on top of it. It’s a great message for anyone, especially someone pursuing comedy. Especially at the beginning, it’s a lot of failure. But we’re falling forward folks. We’re falling forward.

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