I am a quitter. It's a fact. When situations graduate to a certain level of difficulty, I tend to convince myself that they weren't that terribly important to me in the first place. It just seems easier to feign an initial lack of conviction than it does to be steadfast in the face of mounting adversity. It's a character flaw, I know. It's also the main tenet of hipsterdom: The importance of NOT being earnest.
When I was in high school I stopped playing soccer, because I grew weary of the regimented nature of team sports. Later, I dropped out of college, partially because I was frustrated with not being able to find a math teacher who spoke English to my satisfaction. I went on to quit skateboarding, because most skateboarders were trendy dicks. Further down the road I quit playing music because most musicians are obnoxious and because I had decided that I had spent enough time in tight quarters surrounded by sweaty men, even if I loved those men and the music we made. Finally, I quit writing, because.....i couldn't find anyone that would pay me for it anymore!
Lately, I was presented with the perfect opportunity to quit something new: stand up comedy. I have been doing stand up on and off for about six years. Initially, I had been involved with writing both for a comedy troupe called The Popular Kids, and for The Raleigh Hatchet. My friends Kelly and Mike had been doing stand up for years and I was always fascinated by it, so I offered to write with/for Kelly. After a few meetings, she convinced (read:forced) myself and a few other friends to just get up there and do our own material, so we set up a night at Local 506.
I've always heard that “everybody bombs their first time”. This terrified me enough to really prepare myself for first time. I became so obsessed, as a matter of fact, that the night before, I was hospitalized with my first bona fide panic attack: A inevitable sense of doom that leads to sweating, shaking, and vomiting; like your brain and body being wrung out like a dirty washcloth, but at syncopated intervals.
After being released with a kiss of Thorazine and a handful of Xanax, I went home to practice my routine some more with the comfort of knowing that I had a pharmaceutical-grade glass case that I could break in case of emergency. But, I didn't need it. I never have.* It went great! It always has gone great, save for some curve balls such as drunks**, awkward pairings, etc.
But, as a thirty year old just starting out in the world of stand up comedy, I decided that it would be in every one's best interest that I not take myself too seriously. And I didn't. Not until the past year or so, anyway.
After sitting through hour after painful hour of wanna be comics, it started to dawn on me, “hey, this is something I could be really good at.” Now, as a quitter, this is the tipping point. The event horizon. Because once I commit to something to that specific level, it's just a matter of time that I get all butt hurt and sensitive, then fool myself into believing that I didn't give a shit in the first place. And, like a well oiled, whiny machine, last week I got a gargantuan case of the butt hurts.
Ive been going to Charlie Goodnight's Comedy Club for years now. Ive devoted a significant chunk of time watching hack comics***, going to MEETINGS, and generally dealing with the hackneyed way that the club has been managed since my first visit. This is with no mention of how much I've spent on $3.75 plus tax Bud Lights I've paid for. However, I've always played the game, no matter how great the desire to be contrarian became.
But lately, I decided that I would test the mettle of the owner and manager who have a great length thrown around words like “professionalism”, and “the craft” without an inkling of irony. As I've had more and more people ask me when they could see me, I got pro active in the interest of not having to answer with a tepid shrug of my shoulders. I talked to the guy who runs the open mic nights about working with me a little on having some advanced notice for my appearances.****After not giving me a phone number for weeks, and saying that he was “bad with e mail”, I got frustrated and asked him how I was supposed to get anyone to come to see me if I didn't know when I'd be on myself. He told me that if I brought some people out, he'd bump someone else to get me on, which, obviously was not ideal, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to call his bluff.
The very next week, I showed up early, and had a few people there already that had said they would come to see me. I went to the manager, and he told me that they were having “a corporate event” and that he couldn't give me any time that night. I took a moment to process what had just happened, when he came over to me and said, “just so ya know, all the gigs from here on out are going to be corporate. No cursing, no sex, no religion, no nothing.”
The absurdity of that statement is still swirling around in my head. The same way George Carlin is swirling around in his grave. What the fuck is comedy without fucking sex or religion? Cursing, I can take or god damn leave, but no sex or religion? Comedy is, at it's best, a playful jab at the most sensitive aspects of the human experience. You know, like sex and religion. It's 2012. No one wants to chug margaritas with a belly full of fajitas while some dickhead in a shitty suit tells you how unsuitable airplane food is.
For whatever reason, this has motivated me to be more proactive about booking in other places, even if at unorthodox venues. After all, I realize that I live in Raleigh, not Chicago or New York. There's not currently a thriving comedy scene here. Hell, Goodnight's has enough trouble filling the house, and they would be happy to tell you that they are one of the top venues in the country for comedy. I mean, Jimmy JJ Walker sold out his show there this weekend, but he's completely relevant here in the year 1978.
Ultimately, like I've done with this blog, I plan on assembling some of the extremely talented people that I know, and just going rogue with it. You know, Sarah Palin style. All maverick-like. Because while I try not be quite so contrarian anymore, I do still enjoy a good old fashioned “stick it to the man” type situation. Not to mention, in appropriately ironic fashion, I think that the idea of me taking comedy seriously is hysterical.
In related news, Jeramy Lowe, Trent Bowles, and some guy named TBA will be hosting a stand up comedy night at Neptune's on December 26. Come out and laugh and drink. Or tell them they should quit.
*: This is the beauty of Xanax. Just knowing you have it is usually comfort enough to not need it.
**: On at least one occasion, I have been the drunk who made me have a bad show.
***: It should be noted that i have also seen a number of great comics, but the percentages are not good.
****: Our previous deal was that on the night of the show, I had to call the box office who would pass me to the open mic manager to tell me if I would be on in roughly two hours. There was almost always some level of miscommunication here.