In earlier posts, I have covered backhanded compliments from comic to comic, and insulting compliments a comic can get from the crowd, but comics of course bullshit about themselves, too. Here are some of our favorite lies to tell each other, or ourselves. And honestly? Whatever it takes to get you through the night. I’ve been to MJ Barleyhopper’s. Here are possible answers to:
How was your show?
1. Great crowd!
Maybe it was a great crowd. Maybe it was 8 people who didn’t speak English, waiting for the Keno numbers. Maybe it was all ten people who won tickets on the radio. The comic figures you don’t know anyone in Pig’s Snout, Arkansas anyway, and prays you didn’t talk to his headliner.
2. Wow, they had a lot of energy!
3. I killed!
I’m going to kill myself.
4. I had a lot of fun!
I didn’t get paid.
5. I learned a lot!
They’re never, ever having me back, ever. I dug myself a hole so deep, I had to take a bar candle down there to see my notes.
6. They were a party crowd!
They spent my whole set drinking and trying to go home with members of their families. They had no idea what I was doing there.
Remember, if you smile while you eat it, it makes your shit sandwich go down better. Also, it looks better in photographs.
Politeness is important. Here are my favorite polite comments to offer, especially to stand-up comedians.
“You looked like you had a lot of fun up there!”
“Wow, you’re really committed to that material!”
“You’ve got…a lot of energy.”
“I don’t care how many times I hear ’em, I love those jokes!”
“You got more laughs than it sounded like.”
“That’s right, screw ’em! You keep doing what YOU think is funny.”
“You’re so brave to get up and do that!”
“You…and I mean this…you do more with less than anyone in this scene!”
“I sure admire your persistence! Keep it up!
Well, I’m about to be three years old- This May 25th is my third anniversary in stand-up. That’s not much in the world of comedy, but it’s as much as I’ve ever done. It has gotten me many things, such as being recognized at Montage and at Chaos Cafe. I was having a few sincere thoughts about it, and would like to offer you, dear reader, some completely unsolicited advice.
When I was new, I got laughs by accident, or by luck. I got superstitious about it. The first time I had a good set at an open mike, I never wanted to go back and “ruin” it. A lot of new comics dwell on and overanalyze their first set, their second set, and it doesn’t really matter. They say, I bombed, or I killed, and neither one is true. You’re not good enough to bomb. You got lucky. The first time a person gets up to do stand-up, it might be interesting, it might be funny, it might be good writing- but it won’t be great stand-up. There are too many microskills that need to be formed. You just have to do it again and again. The good news is that taking a microphone out of a stand 100 times makes for some pretty slick karaoke. Truly bombing is a gift- if you can survive a room hating you thoroughly, then you know that nothing can be worse than that, and you can get past it.
Where I am now: I can get laughs pretty consistently. It’s still like a magic trick, I don’t know quite how it’s done but I can do it. I found my old notebook and started using material that I had abandoned, because it didn’t used to work, and I can make it work now, can better communicate the funny to the audience.
Here is some of the best of the many pieces of advice that more skilled comics have given to me:
Don’t disengage between jokes, keep eye contact with the audience.
The longer the setup, the bigger the laugh needs to be at the punch.
Write a hundred jokes on a premise and cut down to what works.
Try to match the crowd’s energy. Don’t scream at a mellow room, or whisper to an excited, party room.
And my advice is: The first mistake every comic makes is: Talking too fast. Slow down.
The second mistake is different for everyone. You’ll figure it out.
I don’t know how many of my readers are from Medford, Oregon, but I’m headed out for what promises to be a stupendous road gig with headliner Keith Wallan tomorrow night, Friday, October 5th, at club Ground Zero!
Keith Wallan works in wordplay, observational humor and cussing. He’s the last bastion of sanity in a world gone insane.
Virginia Jones has never been to Medford. She’s funnier than Bill Hicks, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner put together. In fact, she’s funnier than all dead people./divdivThey are both left-handed Capricorns and they’re the same height. This is a love note to everyone in Jackson County- come out and see us tomorrow!/divdivGround Zero*123 S Front St* Medford, OR*(541) 779-4827
Postscript: I am distressed at Ground Zero’s lack of web presence, which in my book means that it does not exist, but I found a clipping from the MailTribune for this night, and it really says it all!
“Comedians Keith Wallen(sic) and Virginia Jones will perform at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5, at Ground Zero, 123 S. Front St. Admission to the show costs $5 and includes a buffet-style dinner.”
When I got to the Boiler Room last night for five minutes of open mike time, I sat down at a table with two other gentlemen, finding one of them kinda familiar. I assumed it was someone I had seen do stand-up, but then I noticed was that he was drinking a three-olive Martini, which I thought was a little Pearl District for Old Town, and then I realized that I was sitting with Oscar winner Gus Van Sant, and his suitcases, and his PA.
I tried to eavesdrop a little, and was surprised to hear that he was actually talking moviemaking with his compatriot while I tried to memorize jokes.
I was excited that the man behind a Drugstore Cowboy might see my five minutes of stand-up, and I thought that he might be impressed by a joke I was telling in German and decide to do a fantasy biography of my life, possibly casting Nick Cave as my husband, but when our esteemed emcee Kevin Michael-Moore launched into a version of The Girl From Ipanema where said girl is legally blind, my new famous friend found his legs and skedaddled, his attractive drinking partner carrying his bags. It was clear after his departure that every other comic had also noticed who it was, and most had prepared a joke for him, but then we just told them to each other, like usual.