I took the Open Mic stage for the first time on July 23, 2008, at Giggles Comedy Club in Seattle. I had been writing, rehearsing, and preparing myself for months, and was certain that the material I brought was pure gold. I couldn’t wait to get up there and share my genius with the crowd.
Still photo from my first
open mic performance.
I bombed. Hard.
After an initial laugh or two, I told a couple jokes that fell flat, at which point my confidence shattered and everything spiraled out of control. In my mind’s eye, the room was just crickets and tumbleweeds, then an audience with torches and pitchforks. I fled the club wanting nothing more than to go home and take a three hour rape shower.
It felt like an abject disaster, at the time, and I wasn’t sure I’d recover from the smoking CJ-sized crater I had left up on stage. Part of it was simple nerves; the other part was that I was a newbie, and made some very obvious (in retrospect) newb mistakes with my act structure. And—I now realize—some of my stuff just plain wasn’t funny.
Second Time Up
I licked my wounds for several weeks, eventually forcing myself to listen to the recording I had made of the carnage. As the initial horror subsided, I slowly realized that it hadn’t been as bad as I originally thought. None of the worst case scenarios had come true: I hadn’t forgotten any material, I hadn’t messed my pants on stage, and I had even received a few fledgling laughs.
A few more weeks of cowering went by until I finally went back for my second Open Mic, armed with new jokes and the confidence that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes. This time, I was certain, would be different.
I bombed again.
…but not quite as badly as the first time. I only took a two hour rape shower afterward. This, I felt, was progress.
Fancy Fast-Forward Montage
For the next six months I returned to Open Mic intermittently, sometimes getting back on stage but usually getting bumped.1 Then life intervened and I left town for a couple months, during which my distance from the stage helped recharge my commitment.
I came back to Seattle with renewed purpose. No more half-assing it; it was time to give stand-up comedy my full ass. I would write every day, I would rehearse religiously, and I would be at every single Giggles Open Mic—and eventually other open mics at more distant clubs, too.
Which brings us to the present, May 2009. I have some reliable material that gets regular laughs, and can do a solid 7-8 minutes at an open mic without too many crickets, tumbleweeds, or homicidal mobs. I still bomb sometimes, especially with new material, but it’s more of a learning experience now. Best of all, these days I only take rape showers when I actually get raped.
- The rules for getting stage time at Open Mic vary by establishment, but a newb is usually only guaranteed a spot if they bring paying audience members. I’ll discuss the entire Open Mic pecking order in a future entry. [↩]