March 30th, 2009

I had no idea what I was getting into when I went to my 1st comedy open mic. I had written about 5 minutes of material that may or may not have been funny. I wrote jokes in a notebook. I timed it with the stopwatch on my cell phone. I practiced in the shower and in front of the bathroom mirror.

I thought I was ready. And I was, in that I was ready to get on stage and give stand up a try. But I had no idea what world I was getting myself into.

Thanks to the World Wide Interweb, I found the essential open mic resource, BadSlava. I looked at the plethora of open mic choices, and opted for the closest comedy club to my apartment, so that I could run home if disaster occurred.

I was greeted by the warm and friendly face of Pudge Fernandez, who informed me that for the price of one overpriced drink from the bar, I’d be entitled to humiliate myself on stage for 5-6 minutes. Alright, sign me up! Cool, there’s one spot left.

I wrote my name down. I was to be the “headliner” of the open mic, the 24th comedian and final comedian on Uncle Pudge’s Monday Open Mic Marathon.

The label “marathon” was much more true than I anticipated. I sat attentively for two hours watching “comic” after “comic” get on stage and display everything from talent to confession. It was a lot. I was surprised and confused. As I proceeded through several beers, I felt relieved that many were so awful that I knew I wouldn’t be the worst of the lot. At the same time, I felt deceived because I was sure this was supposed to be comedy, and there was a distinct and obvious lack in that quality going on.

Sure, some had good material and poor delivery, others had poor material and good delivery. A couple seemed to be pretty funny.

But those were fewer and farther between. Several stood up and talked about their day, using the audience to fill the obvious void of a companion/friend in life. A few seemed to be making their best efforts to creep out the crowd. Many forced laughter out of sheer awkward tension. I was so nervous that many times when I wanted to roll my eyes at the oddity occurring in front of my face, I ended up laughing.

Some told hack jokes, which were at least attempts at humor. Every once in a while, when I wanted to write someone off, they had a couple of good lines mixed in their set.

I didn’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t what I was seeing.

“You know when you’re a kid and your Dad locks you in the closet for a week?” one guy asked. No, I don’t. Maybe you should be on a couch, not a stage.

This wasn’t comedy, it was a support group for losers.

By the time it was my turn, I was half-drunk and half-nerves.

The lights were bright. It was hard to see the audience. I opened with a line I could only use once, “This is my first time doing comedy… that’s right, I’m a virgin… which means this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”

For five minutes, I went. I rolled through my material. I remember seeing some smiles, hearing a laugh here and there. I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe until it was over.

Three days later I got an e-mail from Pudge entitled, “Monday Marathon re-cap!!!!!!” The beginning read:

Hey Gang!!!
Thanx for everyone coming out on Monday. We had a very productive and fun mic. At this time I would like to welcome all the new members of the Monday Marathon Mic……………….
Justin Grey      Clayton Gumbert     Max Boyajian      Rachel Arbeit
Congratulations, now your screwed!!!

Like the crazies I’d met on Monday, I separated myself from myself for a moment to have a thought: “Oh, Rachel, look at what you’ve gotten yourself into… now your screwed.”

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