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November 17, 2010

I did my first open mic, and this is the analysis.

I am happy to announce that I did not suck at my open mic comedy thingy last night. Considering how badly I have sucked the first time around at other activities (bicycle riding, using a pogo stick, and sex), last night was good. I'd even call it a marginal success - maybe a 52%  vs 48% on the good vs suck ratio.

Before I tell you about the act I'll delve into how I prepared. First, I figured out that the performance aspect would be my biggest hurdle. The writing would take a backseat (in terms of the investment of time and energy) to memorizing the lines and practicing the delivery. As Jon Stewart said on the Daily Show (to paraphrase), "I just read the news and make funny faces." Second,  I did have to write out the material. This took a few days of coming out with a few funny stories about this being my first time at stand up, Fox News, and atheism. Third, there was the sexy part of the process: practicing and editing, editing and practicing, and then some editing and then some practicing. After a while I didn't even know if the material was funny anymore.

What didn't help is that I've been doing a lot of overtime at my job.  This past weekend I basically lived at work. Unsurprisingly, working and not getting proper sleep does interfere with the funny centers of the brain. Regardless, Monday came and I brought the kids over to my wife's Aunt and sped  into Boston. I needed to pick up a friend and then go over to the bar.

People who are in recovery from drugs often talk about a moment of clarity. The moment of clarity is when the addict (who is actively abusing a drug (s)) figures out I am an addict and this is a problem. There is no way of telling when this moment will hit. I just finished Stephen King's memoir On Writing and his moment came when Maine started its can/bottle return law. He was piling up his cans of Miller Lite for the week and realized I am an alcoholic - this is bad. I had a moment of clarity while driving up to Boston on Monday night. What was it?

My biggest problem will be with the jokes.

I was not happy with that moment of clarity.

Not at all.

Somewhere in the back of my mind was the truth: I spent a lot of time on presentation. However, I didn't spend as much time as I should've with the structure of crafting jokes (set-up/punchline). What I did was write a funny piece that might be used as a blog post, and that would've been nice for a post. Using it for stand-up is a different story. There was a moment that I thought I should just chicken-shit run and try the open mic another week. Then I remembered: I'm the guy who almost killed himself in the bathroom, I'm the guy who asked a robber if he had a gun, I'm the guy who drank nasty spring water from Brockton.

I have a proud history of doing stoopid things in the past, and by gum I'll do it again!

And that's what I did.

So, when my time came I walked up to the stage and for those 2 minutes I believed that the crap that came outta my mouth was as good as the Gettysburg address - if the Gettysburg address was funny. I got a few laughs, but not a lot because...

the problem was with the jokes.

Two of my friends were there and we chatted about the 2 minutes of infamy and they reinforced my assessment of the situation: presentation was spot on (mostly), the jokes need to be worked on.

The wife asked me if I was going to take a week off before trying it again, and I said no. I need to feel the pressure to get me to focus on joke writing. If I take a week off I'll just procrastinate and then try to pull something together at the last moment. I need to feel fear. Fear is motivation.

But you knew that.

This is Purgatory.