I hear a lot of open mike comics bitch about not getting the chance they deserve at their local comedy club. It is true that some clubs cultivate an atmosphere where original voices in standup can thrive, but that usually happens in cities where hipsters abound. (See Minneapolis, Seattle, Austin, etc.) Realize that a good portion of this cultivation is encouraged because the clubs/rooms are making money off of it. Don’t forget that commerce will always trump art in this biz, because you can’t afford to pay your bills solely on artistic merits. Instead of bitching about not getting enough time to really stretch your comedy muscles, newer comedians should try to do their own shows at a bar, get their friends to attend, and really see what it’s like to do 30 minutes.
Courtney Kay Meyers is a young Indianapolis-based comic who has created a few of her own open-mics around town. It gives her a chance to go up on-stage each week and she runs the shows well. Too many open mics are run haphazardly, as no one wants to tell other performers they need to do their time and not do a really raunchy act. Courtney runs a pretty tight ship and does something smart in paying a local pro to close the show. Her budget isn’t a lot, but it makes it worthwhile for a pro to come to the Goldmine on a Wednesday. By having a professional comic close the show, it leaves the audience with a a bunch of laughs at the end, which might not have been much of the case earlier. (I know I’m dancing around it, but depending on who is on the lineup, watching 10 open mikers can be a difficult task. Nice to close the show out with someone who makes some money doing it on at least a semi-regular basis. Fortunately at the Goldmine there was a nice variety of talent, so it wasn’t one of those chuckle-less shows.)
Last night one of the comics was a young Pakistani guy, who was on-stage for the first time. Stage virgins are important for most open-mikes because they will bring their friends to come out and see them. After awhile, your friends get tired of the whole open-mic exercise, but the first time they do a great job of showing up and supporting you. The comic that followed him is a pretty funny guy who I like, but he has a self-destructive tone and lashed out at his group with one bigoted sentence. (You know who you are and you are better than that) I like racial humor, but if you are going to dance that tight-rope, you better be funny doing it. Well, after he got off-stage most of the Pakistani’s friends got up and left, right when I was going up on-stage. After getting a couple opening jokes in to make the audience that was left know I was going to be funny, I asked the remaining group of the comedy virgin’s friends what was their ancestral background? This is when I found out they were Pakistani. I told them I was a little nervous telling this joke, but here I go as I went into my bit on how to end the war in Afghanistan with the Taliban. The joke is how instead of dropping nuclear bombs, we should drop Jager Bombs on the Taliban. I act out how I think the Taliban would respond to it. It’s an edgy bit to do, especially in front of a group of Pakistanis, but they loved it and so did the rest of the audience. Why, because it’s fucking funny. I know this is egotistical, but if you are going to say provocative things, make sure they have a little intelligence and more importantly, make sure they are funny. You are a comedian, not a radio talk show host. Oh and after I ended that joke I said, “Thanks. In my comedy I try to bring the racists and the races together.” Nice new comedy catch-phrase for me!