A funny anniversary…my return to stand up comedy

Today marks a very small insignificant anniversary for me as a comedian, but I feel the need to blog about it anyway. Six months ago today I returned to the stage and did my first open mic after a long fifteen year hiatus from comedy.

On stage earlier this year. Yes, there was an audience there. I promise.
My very first attempt at stand-up was in the summer of 1990 at a band camp talent show. I took first place where my prize was exemption from “slave day,” the last day of camp where all the freshmen had to be slaves to the seniors. In the spring of 1991, I did comedy again in a school talent show and tied for 3rd place with a hip hop dancer.

I would not do stand up again until about ten years later when I started going to open mic every Wednesday at The Loony Bin Comedy Club (now closed) in Memphis. But that stopped in late 2001 when I moved to St. Louis. I never thought of doing comedy again until May of this year when a new coworker who was a comedienne encouraged me to give it another try.

The comedy bug bit hard and I’ve been doing mics almost weekly ever since. I just did my 25th mic two nights ago. Yes I keep track! Not sure why. It’s just one of those silly things comics do sometimes. I also have audio of every set recorded on my phone (minus the very first one). Because of a full time job and a long-term relationship, it’s hard to do more than one mic a week, especially when most of the open mics outside of the two comedy clubs here are late night mics at bars.

But I’m okay with that. I won a comedy contest qualifier in July. I got $75 for it and free entry into the club’s annual comedy contest next year. I got to be host at open mic last month at a club. And I have my first showcase coming up in two weeks at another club. It’s a new talent showcase where I get to do 8 minutes, and it’s also sort of a try-out to be considered for the host or feature act for future shows.

So what have I learned in six months? Well, comedy has been a great creative outlet for me. Being a published author, I’ve been in a writing slump for about three years now. I’ve needed a new outlet and doing stand up has become just that. Writing jokes is just as tough as writing a book sometimes, but I can get instant gratification by trying new material out on stage each week.

I’ve also made a lot of new friends. Most of that is thanks to social media. The regulars at open mics have friended me on Facebook so it’s kind of like a giant support group or network of indie comics. I’m even in a few local comedy groups where information about the industry and various shows is shared. If anything, I have people I can talk to or sit with at the shows.

I definitely never had that back in 2001 because we didn’t have cell phones and weren’t tapped in to the internet so easily, and comics didn’t really associate with each other, in or out of the club. I am still friends with only one comic from back then and can’t remember the names of any of the rest who came to open mics.

Back then, comedy was just a short-lived hobby, something to do on Wednesday night. It felt good to make people laugh. Today I realize it’s something I’m really good at. I still enjoy making people laugh and my biggest regret is that I didn’t pursue it harder back then. But honestly, I didn’t know how and was probably too afraid to fail at it. I think that’s what holds a lot of us back from pursuing something that seems so out of reach: fear.

One advantage I have now is more life experience. That definitely helps when it comes to writing new jokes. I can’t say I’ll be dropping everything and moving to L.A. or New York anytime soon to pursue comedy full time, but I might have done it back then if things had turned out differently.

So where do I go from here? Well, the three clubs in the local area all have contests next spring and summer. I’m definitely going to sign up for those. I’m already looking at comedy festivals that are nearby and might be submitting applications next year.

I’ve got some out-of-state traveling to do for my professional job next year and will try to hit open mics just to try out a new club. Ultimately, I’d love to spend a week vacationing in New York just going to mics every night of the week for the experience. And who’s to say that won’t happen, right?

For now, I’m just really enjoying this experience and trying to catch up on all the fun I’ve missed out on. It makes me happy. I’m making new friends doing it. I’m becoming a better writer. It’s been a long time since anything like this gave me such joy and gratification so as they say, seize the moment!

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