When some people find out I’m a comedian they tell me they have always thought about doing standup. I always tell them they should give it a try. I really believe that if you do it even once, you will be stronger person for it. There is a reason that so few comedians are successful and that is because it is a really tough to make a lot of strangers laugh. Public speaking is the number 1 phobia and you can multiply it by 100 when your public speaking includes trying to entertain drunks. If you try it even once you will be realize how easy it will be to do other things in your life.
I’m not sure if it is best to bust your comedy cherry at a comedy club or at a bar show. The plus with doing it for the first time at a bar is that it won’t matter that much if you do poorly or not. Doubtful anyone important in your future will be watching you. If you pick doing it at an comedy club open mic you will have the plus of having a better environment to do your show, but you could get labeled as not worth watching if it doesn’t go well.
The first time I was on-stage was at the Indianapolis Comedy Connection. It was a high-quality room and this was during the days when the clubs tried to make the open mic have a professional tone to it. The Comedy Connection actually paid a MC to host the show to give it some polish. If I was to run a comedy club, I would use this model as a good host is vital at an open mic. Too often open mics have too many unfunny comics follow each other and it makes for a really uncomfortable time for the audience. By having a pro hosting the show, it gives the show some stability and he/she can do a couple minutes between comics when the show hits a lull.
I can remember being nervous before my first show, but it wasn’t out of control. I might have been a bit delusional but I was pretty convinced I would do well before I hit the stage. I had practiced my act a lot and had worked hard to hit my time. I also had invited a lot of people so half of the 30 people in the audience knew me.
I actually did pretty well and my recollection was that I got laughs on most of my jokes. I’m guessing if I watched a tape of this performance now (wish I had it), I would grade the material pretty good for a virgin performance, with my major weakness being I’m sure I told the material like it was high school speech. Memorized and lacking any natural speaking tone.
Before I walked on-stage, the owner/mananger told me that I would get 7 minutes, with a light at 6. I had timed my set, but hadn’t timed it with enough laugh breaks so when 7 minutes hit I was wrapping up my last joke, I noticed the mic went out. I thought something had happened to it, so I nervously messed with it for a few seconds then said goodnight to the audience and walked off. Awkward.
When I went to the back of the room, the owner asked me if I noticed that the mic had went out. I told her yeah. “Well that is because I told you to do 7 minutes—which means I expect you to do no more than 7 minutes. Now you did well for your first time, so you can come back in a couple of weeks, but if you go long again, you won’t get on my stage again. See you in 2 weeks.
Not exactly a warm greeting to the business, but it set me straight when it comes to doing my time, not more. Later in April I will be headlining the same room that I first went up at (it’s now called Crackers Downtown in Indy). Hopefully no one will turn my microphone off.