When I was in college (undergrad), I started to realize that I could at times be funny in conversation. Sometimes a few beers made me funnier (at least to me), but then I started writing Top 10 lists for friends’ weddings or going away lunches. Being the nerd that I am, I started writing down every funny thought or quote on a Microsoft Word file for my “material.” One thing led to another and I tried performing stand-up at a few Network of Indian Professionals dinners in Michigan where I knew half of the people. Those performances were more like reading essays but I got a few laughs. Then a friend and I took some improv comedy classes at Second City in Detroit. Improv was fun, but it’s not me. So I thought I should try to perform stand-up in front of strangers at a real open mike night. It wasn’t until I signed up for Acme Comedy’s Funniest Person Contest in Minneapolis that I made a point to write a real routine. I have since performed four times and I they were all unique experiences.
The first time I performed, half of my jokes were decent but the other half were nerdy. I realized that the young crowd at an open mike night generally doesn’t like cerebral jokes. I tailored the routine by throwing in some more dating and relationship type jokes. The second routine went twice as well, even had people whistle after I walked off the stage. I was psyched for contest night. Contest night was totally different. The crowd was older and they had paid to watch Andy Kindler as the headliner, not us five contestants. They laughed about 60% as much as the prior crowd. My friends who attended helped get the laughter going but when there are 70 people in the crowd, it can only help so much. I didn’t win the night but at least I was able to chat with Andy Kindler backstage and I got his autograph. I did one more open mike night at a comedy club at the Mall of America with the support of friends but the place was empty and hardly anybody laughed at anything. This is with 80% of the same material. I just didn't resonate with strangers in the crowd. It was not enjoyable for me or them.
My routine is full of small two liners that rely on exact wording so I chickened out in every performance by resorting to the use of a crib sheet with my jokes. I knew that I had many of them memorized, but I didn’t want to skip jokes or deliver them wrong. It probably hurt me on contest night for my delivery score, but my jokes retained their purity.
I may do an occasional stand-up routine here or there, but I am not changing careers. I feel I can be probably be funnier by writing than by performing. I don’t have the stage presence or professional delivery. Perhaps that just takes practice, but planning to perform takes time and effort. And even though I’m generally not nervous on stage, prepping can still be nerve-racking. Scheduling at some clubs requires you to show up to sign up with no guarantee of stage time. That doesn’t fit with my work schedule.
The other part of comedy that doesn’t fit well with being “a white collar professional,” is that the jokes that go over the best are the ones that tend to be dirtier, and those could hurt you if somebody does a background check on you for a job and is offended by a video they might find on-line. (This is why I haven’t recorded any performances to post).
Overall, I do recommend trying an open-mike night for any of you that think you’re at least somewhat funny or clever. It’s a character-building experience and it makes you realize that just like business or life, it’s all about the audience.
<<< A special thanks to all my friends who supported me by coming out to watch me perform. I really appreciate it. Also, that picture is of me singing but it's the only image I have of me with a microphone.>>>