I have never performed stand-up comedy. As someone that has always found it relatively easy to make people laugh and equally willing to rant about topics, I have thought about giving stand-up a try over the years. In fact, in response to my more ridiculous and profane moments many of my friends have encouraged me to give comedy a try throughout the years. My response to such comments would always be the same form of passive dismissal given the uphill battle I knew I would need to take on to get in a comedy venue. Regardless, I kicked around the idea from time to time, figuring I would give stand-up comedy a try if the right opportunity presented itself. Of course, then came my “I have never...” year and a newfound motivation to experience new things for the sake of new experiences.
As a result, early in my “I have never...” year I started investigating the possibility of performing stand-up comedy in and around my hometown of Madison. Eventually, this search led me to the Big Deuce comedy open mic at the Comedy Club on State Street each Wednesday night. With the venue located, I started writing down joke ideas as they came to me over the months until I ultimately decided I would perform stand-up as I approached the middle of my “I have never...” year. This decision resulted in me settling on tonight as the night to stand up and tell some jokes. In turn, I put the final touches on my routine and made my way down to the Comedy Club tonight, wary my performance would result in an embarrassing disaster of epic proportions.
When I arrived at the Comedy Club around 7:30 tonight I was surprised to see a substantial crowd of performers already occupying the lobby bar. Although the advertisement for the open mic indicated an 8:00 pm sign-up time, I took notice of a sign-up sheet placed near the entrance upon entering the club. As I approached the sign-up sheet I felt my heart sink at the sight of 35 names already scrawled in printed boxes lining the paper. As the odds of getting a chance to perform began to set in, I felt my heart sink deep into the pit of my stomach. With no backup “I have never...” event for the day, a sudden fear of faltering on my journey began to set in. I quickly pushed through the growing feeling of anxiety creeping into my mind as I wrote my name on the 36th line of the page. Looking over the page one last time I muttered under my breath, “It’s stand-up comedy or nothing...” Realizing I needed to make the event work, I turned toward the bar and walked into the crowd of gathering comedians.
I promptly took a seat at the bar and ordered a drink after making my way across the room. As the bartender set my drink on the bar in front of me, I asked him who was running the open mic without explaining my purpose for asking. In response, the bartender gestured toward a man with glasses walking through the building as he quickly said, “I think it’s Mike. He’s right there.” Thanking the bartender for his help, I turned in my chair, took a sip of my beer, and rose to my feet. Without a second thought I approached the man as he walked through the club and introduced myself.
Realizing I had just entered into a make or break moment for my “I have never...” year, I quickly organized my thoughts and explained my reason for being at the club and for interrupting Mike in his preparations. Although it was clear I was interrupting him in his busy state of preparation, he was open to hearing me out, which put me at ease and lifted my hopes tonight’s event would come together. As I did my best to concisely explain my “I have never...” concept, Mike began nodding his head in understanding. I had yet to explain the role the stand-up comedy routine played in the journey before Mike stepped in with a response. “I got you. So, this is the event for today. Yeah, no problem, man. You’re in. I’ll make sure you get up there.” His willingness to welcome me to the stage was apparent in the ease with which he made the remark. Overwhelmed with relief at the response, I thanked him and offered to buy him a drink for helping make the event possible. Mike declined the offer but acknowledged my gratitude before returning to his work. Understanding he was busy, I thanked him once more and returned to the lobby bar just as Rachael entered the building. With my chance to perform locked in, all that was left to do was to wait for my name to be called.
As the performance began, Rachael and I grabbed a table near the center of the club and watched on as the first acts took the stage. With set of three to five minutes apiece, the stand-up routines were rapid fire, but every person that took the stage was absolutely hilarious. Eventually, a few of our friends, Travis, Patrick, Megan, and Amanda, made their way into the club as the first half of the event rolled on. Thankful they had all made it before I took the stage, they grabbed some drinks and settled in for some laughs until the first half of the Big Deuce drew to a close.
As the intermission began I rose from my chair and walked toward Mike’s location. A brief check of the roster he had crafted earlier in the evening revealed I was taking the stage as the first act of the event’s second half. Although the reality of the situation made me slightly nervous, I was surprised to find my anticipation of the experience wasn’t forcing out of my normal state of clam. Instead, I was collected and ready to give stand-up comedy a try for the first time. The way I saw it, I would either be funny or I would go down in a ball of flames... either way it was bound to be funny.
The second half of the Big Deuce began with a brief warm up from our host before he called me up to the stage. To the sound of applause I promptly walked to the stage and climbed the set of stairs before the microphone stand. Turning to the lights, I held my eyes steady in the face of the blinding shield of white light I hadn’t seen since my last live music performance some years earlier. It was for an entirely different reason, but being back on stage felt good, which was just the push I needed to dive straight into my jokes.
Over the next four minutes I worked through a part of my prepared routine to laughter and applause. By all accounts, things appeared to be going well, which encouraged me to continue digging into my jokes. With my nervousness all but gone, I kept moving from one punch line to the next until I received the flash signal my time was drawing to a close. In what seemed like a matter of seconds I had worked through four minutes of material, and I felt like I could have kept going. Not only was the experience positive, but getting in front of a group of people and cracking jokes left me feeling a sort of release. As I left the stage I was centered and happy. Those feelings were unexpected, but they were welcomed.
With my set finished, I sat back down at our table to the accolades of my friends and turned my attention back to the stage. The remaining acts of the evening proved as funny as those that performed earlier in the show, which made the rest of the night move quickly until the show reached a conclusion. As everyone began to filter out of the club, our group talked for a bit around our table. Eventually, the club was left nearly empty, which prompted us to take to our feet and begin to make our way toward the door. As we left, I noticed Mike putting some tables back in order, which cause me to break from the group to thank him once more. When I met Mike near the back of the club I shook his hand and thanked him one more time. He nodded in response and offered me a quick remark, “Yeah, man. You should come back and do it again.” Although the comment was simple, it meant a lot to me... and it left me thinking I should probably follow through on his offer.