Little Reid, Big City #17
I like how my standard opening has gone from being ironic to heartfelt through the power of repetition. In some ways it upsets me, but then I calm down, and think about how much I love you all, then I feel better.
A couple weeks ago I co-produced my first show! Underbelly, the show I mentioned in last month’s blog post, finally had its New York premier, and it went damn fine. The whole premise is “Stand-Up Comedians Doing Everything but Stand-Up” –which I can happily say we more than delivered. Throughout the show there was a magic show, several skits, songs, dancing, puppets, myself topless covered in “cocaine”, and comic Nick Vatterott doing something with milk jugs that though I did not quite understand, left me full of pleasures and smiles. The show was pretty packed, we had a cake decorated like one of the performers “taking a shit in an ice cream sundae” and overall I was well pleased. Other comics are coming up to me pretty frequently with ideas, asking how to get on Underbelly –if I had any regret, it was waiting this long to put on a show.
It was a good highlight, which provided some wonderful perspective for a somewhat crushing low. Back in March I had my first audition for the Comic Strip, a respected New York comedy club, and after the second lottery I received my second audition spot, which I performed at last Tuesday night. The format was different: the audition itself was a show, complete with live judging, a proper host (Sherrod Small), a packed crowd, and an admittedly forced degree of severity and drama added to the show to make it interesting. “The judges are going to be mean, they’re going to try to rip you apart on stage, but it’s part of the show, don’t worry about it,” was what we were told before performing. My last audition went well enough; one of my jokes really connected, the other fell a little flat after rushing through it upon getting the light early. This was considerably worse. After waiting a couple hours, first for the show to start then for the long judging rounds to finish, I finally had my time to perform –for a minute and a half. Before me, each comic had their full time, the three to five minutes we were told we could perform, everyone getting five and some good feedback from the crowd. I got through one bit and the set-up for another before being audibly buzzed and forced to stop. “Maybe this kind of stuff will work downtown, but it would never work here. You’re too alt to work here.” “You didn’t even tell jokes, that’s the problem, you sat up there for five minutes and never told a joke.” And so on. One of the judges stood up for me a bit, arguing that I didn’t even have the time to get anywhere, that I was doing something different and no one knew what to expect, and we didn’t find out what I was even going to do. “He was trying something new and different, I don’t see why we can’t have a comic like this work here.” The crowd responded well to that, before the booker interrupted and pointed out that they weren’t laughing, that’s why acts like mine wouldn’t be booked. Finally I asked, “Please, I just have to know: did I get passed or not?”
Afterwards, the booker talked with me, this time friendly and complimentary. He thanked me for being a good sport, and told me that he liked that I was different, that I shouldn’t let go of that, that if this were an alternative room he’d book me in a heartbeat, and that he likes the weirder stuff but it just doesn’t work for this room. Great. The whole thing’s given me a lot to think about. I know what I’m doing is strange, isn’t stand-up in a conventional sense, and I understood going in that what I planned to do isn’t what they prefer. But to not even be given the time to do anything, to be cut off before I even had a chance to show what it is that I do, that was rough. At least when I look at it I can’t say I had a bad set –I just didn’t have a set. Matters were slightly complicated when my roommate followed me, riffed with the judges beautifully and got both passed to work at the club and received management in the same night. It’s not always fun to have one of your worst nights in comedy a few minutes before one of your closest friends has his best. But in all honesty, though of course it hurts a bit to see someone else get opportunities you didn’t, I can’t be anything but proud for him. The timing, perhaps, stings a little, but it’s good to see someone talented get what’s coming to them. I hope that’s some kind of maturity.
In summary: it was a miserable experience. It left me doubting my material in a club setting, feeling embarrassed, a bit angry, and further frustrated from the booker’s positive comments and the suspicion that the harsh treatment was only for the sake of the show, which is a wonderful way to treat my only opportunity in a year. But oddly, I feel confident about it all. It was one of the worst experiences I could’ve had in that setting, and that’s made performing far easier since then. I performed the first two jokes twice at shows last night, to great reception, and have been taking a lot more risks with what I choose to perform –why not? It couldn’t be much worse than that. Somehow, it’s made comedy and writing new material go a lot smoother this last week. After that night, amid the support and nice words from my friends, I heard plenty of stories about the amazing comics the venue has ignored and rejected in the past. Here’s hoping I can be one of them.