Four Minutes to Make You Laugh

Earlier this month I started doing stand-up comedy again. I say “again” because yes, I used to do it a long time ago.  When I lived in Memphis, I was a regular open-mic’er at the local comedy club. Going to open mic every Wednesday night was fun and a good stress relief.

It is also a very strict way to practice creativity and timing. I say strict because you had 3 minutes on stage. So time was valuable, pacing was important, and you had to try to make people laugh in a short amount of time. It’s not easy!

Going to open mic even landed me a chance to be the opening act for a comedian who was hired to do a fundraising event for the Memphis Gay Bowling League. It was fun seeing my picture on a flyer all around town. I got to do 15 to 20 minutes of material to a packed house which included lots of my friends and coworkers.

None of this was ever a paid gig, but I loved doing it.  I’ve missed doing it since moving to St. Louis, and not really sure why I haven’t looked into doing it here until now. That all changed last month when I found out a new hire that I had to train at work was a local comic. After talking to her about it, I decided to check out the local comedy clubs and get back on stage.

The big difference here is that you get 4 minutes of time. Yep, just one additional minute to tell jokes and make people laugh. Might not seem like much, but it’s actually comedy gold for those doing open mic.

Though there are lots of late night open mics in bars and coffee houses here each week, there are two main St. Louis comedy clubs – Helium and Funny Bone – which have weekly open mics, both on Tuesday night. For Helium, you sign up online the week before and find out the weekend before if you get to go up. For Funny Bone, you show up that night and sign up and get picked randomly.

I signed up a few weeks for Helium but never got picked, so I decided to give Funny Bone a try the first week of May.  My coworker comic friend told me to note that I was a first timer, because first timers usually always get to go up. And it worked! I made the cut. But there was one drawback. The St. Louis Blues hockey team made it to the playoffs this month, and there was a game that night. Being a sports town, any game pretty much affects any venue that doesn’t have a television on.  So the audience was small that night.

I was seventh on the list of about 12 to 15 comics so it gave me a chance to see some other locals and to get a feel for the audience. I had already worked out my set in my head. And my coworker friend was there for support. I ended up getting lots of good laughs and my timing was perfect. I probably even had about 30 seconds left over but didn’t want to risk going over because that gets frowned upon.

I was out of town the following week, and signed up again for Helium the next week but didn’t make the list. With an upcoming local comic competition about to start, Helium decided to devote last week’s open mic to a practice session for those in the competition. But Helium has another chance for open mic that Funny Bone doesn’t offer.

It’s called the Bucket Show and takes place on Tuesdays in the bar before the big open mic event starts. You show up and put your name in a bucket and if it gets drawn you get 3 minutes. I decided to give this a try last week and went with my friend who is actually in the competition and was going to do both the Bucket show and the open mic event that night.

I had just put my name in the bucket and got a drink when my name got called!  There were about 20 people in the bar.  Most of them were comics who were there to do the open mic event, but quite a few were regular patrons.  I again had a good solid set and got lots of laughs. I stayed to watch the open mic show that night and there were actually less people in the audience for it than there was for the Bucket Show.  And almost all of those were comics.

For some reason, Helium isn’t doing the Bucket Show this coming Tuesday, and again they are giving the open mic night to those in the competition for a practice run. So I’m going to head back to Funny Bone for another try.

I’ve been really excited about doing open mic again, and I have been writing lots of new material. It feels great to have another creative outlet finally and I’m looking forward to doing it again each week!

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