Last night’s Halloween show at Seattle’s Comedy Underground wasn’t my best set, or even an especially good set, but it was the most productive stagetime I’ve ever had in my year-plus of doing stand-up comedy.
A couple hours before the open mic, I learned from the host — coincidentally, my friend Andrew J. Rivers — that comics who wanted stage time were expected to wear Halloween costumes.1 My own costume, a Great Caesar’s Ghost retread from a costume party earlier this year, had seen its fake-bloodied toga real-trashed beyond repair on Friday night. (Good party!)
Caesar CJ and Penguin Nam at an earlier costume party; I recycled this costume for Halloween 2010 Part 1 of 3 (aka Friday), whereupon it was destroyed.
So I had no costume, and frantically began casting about for something droolingly lame like a bedsheet. It might suck out loud as a costume, but it would at least get me on stage to try out my new material…
No costume, two hours before showtime
Then it hit me. Deep in the darkest recesses of my closet, in that place to which shameful things are banished indefinitely but not quite thrown away, lurked my salvation: an authentic Star Trek: The Next Generation Starfleet captain’s uniform top, purchased at a convention when I was seventeen years old. It was way too small, but still just barely wearable; I already had black pants and shoes to match. Along with a freshly shaved head, I just might be able to pull off a credible impression of one of my fictional heroes, Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
I was relieved to quickly find an unused Star Trek joke in my files, and set that as the obligatory opener. I started to run through my other new material when I thought, what the fuck am I doing? Was I really going to go with a bunch of jokes about Tuesday’s election and Lance Armstrong’s groin while wearing this goofy science fiction getup? It’d be insanely incongruous and detract from the material.
And then some more Star Trek joke ideas started to filter in…
Make it so
I ended up writing, rehearsing, and performing a set filled with entirely new material, 100% costume-appropriate Star Trek jokes. They weren’t very good, and some were terrible, but I did get a few laughs. More importantly to me, I made it through without panic, and got to experience the thrill of delivering completely new material without the safety net of proven jokes. I brainstormed a saver or two that dropped in perfectly, and instinctively put what I guessed (correctly) to be my strongest material at the end.
CJ Alexander as Captain Picard
at Seattle’s Comedy Underground
All within 90 minutes of the show!
It was an incredibly valuable experience, and a tremendous confidence booster going forward on my stand-up journey.
And while many comedians conclude their sets with the line “That’s my time, thank you!”, the Starfleet uniform of the stentorian, heroic Captain Jean-Luc Picard demanded something different from me. As a result, I got to leave the stage in a way that makes me feel as though this nerd can die happy: with technobabble and a profane Vulcan salute.
- This didn’t turn out to be true; comics in costume just got to go first, followed by everyone else, and there turned out to be space on the list for everyone. But I’m glad I didn’t know this beforehand, or I wouldn’t have pushed myself in the same way… [↩]