How Many People Do You Need to Have a Good Stand Up Comedy Show?


Image

The answer to the title of this blog is, six. Yup, that’s all you need. At least, that’s all I needed.  Last night was my Headlining debut at a local El Paso, Texas bar called Coconuts. The promoter has run that show for over 3 years now, every week on Tuesdays. For the most part, the place is typically full of people on Tuesday’s Comedy Nights. On this night particular night, however, the NBA playoffs were going on and a well known rock group was in town to perform at another venue. The bar had at least half the size that we had grown accustomed to. As the NBA games were finishing and as showtime approached, the place got a little emptier. The show, however, must still go on.

Our host for the evening took to the stage and did his best to set the mood. He immediately had to deal with a drunk heckler who was relentless in shouting out what she thought of the show so far. Our host dealt with the distraction well enough to move on. By the time he introduced the first comic, more people were beginning to leave. Our first comic did his thing and plugged along despite very little reaction from a crowd that seemed distant and unamused. Like the professional that he is, he earned his laughs and never wavered from doing what he has been perfecting for so long. The comic ended his set with a smile on his face and left a few smiles in his wake. The seats, however got a little more empty.

Our feature and promoter then took to the stage and took complete control, as he has always been able to do. This was his room. He had tamed this room every Tuesday night, every week, for 3 years and has perfected the task. On this night, considering that the crowd had now dwindled down to six people, he finished his set quicker than usual and got off the stage leaving a good vibe in the room. Now, it was the Headliner’s turn…me.

By the time my slot came up, there was absolutely no one sitting in the tables in front of the stage. Several other local comics had shown up and occupied the stools at the end of bar and were doing their own thing. I never count them as audience members anyway. After all, they’ve only heard my jokes over a 100 times. Along the front of the bar were six people; two couples and a pair of buddies who had been there for the entire show. Before I was introduced by the host, I grabbed the mic stand off the stage and placed it right in front of the bar in the area where all the empty seats were. If the front of the stage was to be empty, I was going to move the stage to an area of the bar that wasn’t. I had no opening joke. There was no need for one. I simply started out by saying, “I’m performing for you six people today. Ignore the guys at the end of the bar. They are all comics and don’t give a crap about what I’m going to say so, let’s see who we’ve got left? We’ve got a couple here at the end. Are you all a couple or just touching pee pee’s? Oh, hooking up? So, you found each other on Craigslist or Mocospace? Cool. How about this other couple? Oh, married five years? Wait, your husband just got out of prison after two years, so you’ve technically been married for three years? Were you married to some dude in prison or was your lady here really patient? And here we have our third couple. I see that you are sitting next to each other with a “buffer” stool in between, so you’re not gay, right? You know, this place only has one urinal and no “buffer” urinal? It made it very awkward when I went in there and peed at the same urinal with another dude that was in there. I think he left?”

None of these lines were comedy gold by any means, and most of it was hack, but we were all having a conversation and, rather than heckle, they were all having a conversation right back with me. Every now and then, they would mention something that led me right in to one of my prepared jokes and the whole thing seemed like I was thinking it up right on the spot! It took a few minutes, but before you knew it, all six of them were laughing hysterically! After about fifteen minutes I said, “I think this would be a good time to end the show.” They didn’t let me. They actually said, “No, no! Keep going, keep going!” So, I kept going… for the first time in my seven years of doing stand up comedy, I had reached my audience on a personal level. One of the six had just gotten out of prison, one claimed to have been a stripper, one was unemployed, one was there just to “hook up”, one was there as the patient prison wife and the other was a computer programmer enjoying the laughs. I had gotten to know each of these individuals in the way a comic usually doesn’t get a chance to. That night, I was their friend and they were mine. And they let me talk. They let me perform. They let me entertain them.

They did more for me than I could have ever done for them. They laughed with me…

Omar’s Patreon Site. Pledge your support!

Stand Up Comedy is not Always Funny


ImageAside from the technical aspect of stand up, and the boring, mundane process of writing, the least funny side of the business is watching other comics stop performing. There is a side to every comic that thinks, “Cool, that’s one less comedian I have to compete with.” Then, there is that other side that is truly disappointed that someone has quit in their pursuit of doing stand up full time. But, life happens. And it happens to all of us. Young comics, who have only begun to experience life on their own, have yet to experience life to its fullest. Before you know it, they have to set their stand up aside to tend to things like, a new marriage, kids, college or career. For them, the decision to leave stand up is one that is naturally made. They can either pursue a career path where paid gigs are far and few between, as they are starting out or, pursue a life with a spouse and kids and a promising, lucrative career. They promise themselves that they will be back to stand up one day, then life continues to happen, bringing separate twists and adventures.

Then you have the comic that quits from discouragement. No matter how hard they try, they do not feel like they are getting any better. They constantly go up on stage to the sound of silence and get off the stage to the same murmur of crickets. Those comics fail to realize that stand up is incredibly inconsistent. A beginner typically starts out hitting the open mics around town, held at local bars. No one at a bar expect to see stand up comedy and are usually there for the drink specials or sports on TV. They will perform for an audience that is far too drunk and sees themselves as the center of attention. That is very hard to compete with. But, even in all that chaos, a beginning comic must realize that this is where the blood, sweat and tears must be shed. This is where they must hone and perfect their material. If the comic manages to get at least one laugh, just ONE, that is the joke that survives until the next performance. This process is time consuming and tedious, but well worth it if it is repeated on a regular basis.

I have seen a lot of good and promising comics come and go and I am always hoping to see them on stage again. Some will come back, yet most will never hold that microphone again. I have personally decided to do this for the rest of my life. The world may never know who I am and a national audience may never get to hear of me, but to those audiences that I have had the pleasure of making laugh, I can assure you, I’m not going anywhere. Life may still happen, but for me, it won’t happen without stand up…

Omar’s Patreon Site. Pledge your support!

It’s Over…


Image

I am seriously considering leaving Facebook. I’m slowly starting to realize that, far from being a promotional tool to get the word out on my stand up comedy journey, Facebook is nothing more than a public stage open to anyone and everyone. How in the world is someone supposed to get noticed that way! I’m trying to do something that very few people can do, and that’s stand up on a stage, where 100% of the audience’s attention is on me and no one else. Their ears hanging on every word that proceeds out of my mouth. I’m alone up there and my voice is the only one that can be heard creating all the laughter in the room. No one there is laughing at anything else. When I’m up there, it’s all about me, me me!

Let’s face it, that is exactly what Facebook is. We login and read the Newsfeed, which is filled with countless of posts begging us to “Like”, “Share” and “Comment”. There is also a barrage of posts including funny quotes or lines that are often times not original. I think that’s what annoys me the most. Try this, next time you see a post with a funny joke or quote, which the person seems to be taking all the credit for, cut and paste the entire line to your Internet browser and watch how often it is duplicated as a search result will discover several sites containing the same line! What’s even more frustrating is that when other people comment on those posts, the person posting it continues to take all of the credit! Comments such as, “Oh Paul, you always make my day with your hilarious posts! How do you come up with them so often?” Then Paul will reply, “It’s not easy but you’re very welcome!” UGH!!!!!! Cutting and pasting IS VERY EASY!!! I hate to sound like an attention whore, but honestly, at least for me, if I am trying to stand out and represent myself and what I do as a stand up comic, then I need to think of original ways of doing so. I can’t rely on a social network where originality is thrown out of the window. Succumbing to the temptation of visiting my Facebook makes me no different than everybody else. I can’t keep doing that if I hope to one day create a following that admires me for what I do and how I do it. Yes, I’m looking for that admiration but even more so, I’m looking to STAND OUT in a day and age where everyone else already does….

Signed,

The Underdog Comic