I’m assuming you’ve read Part 1, so I’m going to plow forward with the story…
The final open mic the Monday before the Improv date was brutal. It was at one of our favorite venues, one that Jeff and I will reminisce about in our old age – a grungy tavern close to home, with great beer prices – but my energy was off.
I was very aware that my ‘audience’ had heard what I was about to say far too many times, even though I had updated it frequently and, in fact, had a couple of new lines I wanted to test before Wednesday at the Improv.
I felt like I had to apologize, in advance, and say, “I know you’re as tired of hearing this as I am of saying it, but after the Improv show, I’ll come back with new material.”
But I didn’t apologize. They knew what I was doing, and it wasn’t worth using up any of my five minutes to explain myself. So I did the material exactly as I planned to deliver it in two days, at the Improv.
They were tired of me, and I was tired of me. I didn’t get any laughs, but I knew that, if nothing else, I had my delivery down – both the words and the gestures – and that it was a solid five minutes of material.
Jeff – who had a pretty good set that night – suggested that, before we leave, we should do a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey. We drank to the Improv … may we both kick some ass.
Wednesday finally arrived and we were both insanely ready. (I’ll let Jeff tell his own story of what happened that night, in his own way.) It had been so many years since I had been on a real stage, in front of a real crowd.
In fact, the last time I performed standup comedy was at a showcase at the Improv on Santa Monica Boulevard, in Santa Monica, California. Jeff and I had moved to LA about a year before then, to give Hollywood a try. I had a great set that night and, if my personal life wasn’t getting really intense, I would have tracked down the club’s manager to ask about getting a booking. But it was not to be. Life was getting complicated, and I needed to focus on that, so I dropped out of showbiz and rarely looked back.
What an interesting set of bookends: my last time doing standup was at an Improv and now my first time back was also at an Improv.
So, now here I was at the Tempe Improv wearing a to-die-for jacket that I had bought months before, when I began to get the first inklings that the Big U was serious about pushing me on stage again. I saw it at Free People and knew I had to own it, and that it would be “stage clothes”. Honestly, I have nowhere else to wear something like that, but it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I either had to commit to getting on stage, or let it stay in the store, unpurchased.
I was second on the bill. The show-runner corralled all the comics and showed us where to go and what to do, i.e.: watch for “the light” at five minutes, and if you don’t start wrapping it up within 15 seconds of receiving the light we’ll cut the mic and turn on the music.
He showed us to the green room, and said to be sure to be there waiting within three comics of our turn. Since I was second, I was in the first batch of comics to wait there as the show began.
The first guy on stage had a pretty good set. I could hear the crowd’s warm laughter, but not what he was saying. I was too busy concentrating on not forgetting my opening line. Once I was on stage, though, it all came flowing back – the material I had practiced over the past weeks, the memories of what a big-time spotlight and mic feel like and how great it feels to receive the laughter of a huge crowd – I was in heaven.
My five minutes went fast … too fast … I had not allowed enough extra time for laughter when I was timing my set in the no-laugh-zone open mic shows. Before I knew it, I saw the light, so I wrapped it up without finishing my final bit. Better to cut off the closer, which had the biggest punchline, than to be chased off stage by a dead mic and loud music.
Here are a couple of videos of my set. I have to give a bit of a disclaimer, though, before you choose which recording to watch.
I have two recordings:
- This video has the audience slightly over-miked (you can hear a little too much table chatter … i.e. people ordering drinks, etc.) and sometimes it drowns out my voice, but the laughs/applause are good and loud;
- This one has me perfectly miked, so my sound is clear and crisp, but you can’t hear the audience as well.
The dilemma is that, with comedy, you really need the laughs as a part of the show, otherwise it’s agonizing to watch, sort of like that video of Mick Jagger and David Bowie singing “Dancing in the Streets” with the music removed. (Here’s a link to that painfully hysterical video, in case you’ve never seen it: https://youtu.be/BHkhIjG0DKc)
So, with that said, here is the link to the video with the laughs good and loud, with my voice occasionally too quiet:
And here is the link to a tweaked video, where the sound has been balanced so my voice is loud and clear, and the table chatter has been reduced, but the audience is a little too quiet for my comfort (they really were laughing harder than you’ll hear, here):
Choose whichever you’d prefer. I’m torn between the two. That’s why I’m posting both of them.
I’ll tell you what’s next in my upcoming blog, Part 3 of Thoughts on returning to standup comedy, 25 years after quitting.
And before we go, here’s you a dog who’s not sure how he feels about being in front of a microphone:
Lisa Bonnice is an award-winning, best-selling author. Her current passion-project is a series of metaphysical comedy novels. The first is entitled The Poppet Master (previously published as Be Careful What You Witch For!, now revamped and with a new ending). The Poppet Master is a modern-day fairy tale about Lola Garnett, a bored housewife and office drone who wakes up with unexpected psychic abilities, and no instruction manual, and Twink, the reluctant, sarcastic faery assigned to assist and educate her. The Poppet Master is available wherever books are sold. Its sequel is in the works.
Lisa is also writing The Maxwell Curse, a fictionalized version of a story she found in her own ancestral lineage about a witch trial, a generational curse, and massive mine explosion, all of which left ripples of destruction in their wake, devastating one family’s tree.
- Best seller—Fear of Our Father—#1 True Crime
- Two Excellence Awards—MSNBC.com
- eLit Silver Award—The Menhattan Project—Humor
- Includes foreword by Neale Donald Walsch—Shape Shifting
- Featured on Investigation Discovery’s TV program Catch My Killer