Last night, I participated in a comedy competition produced by Neil Griffin at the Pickled Onion in Brampton. There were five people, and I came in fourth. Fourth? That sucks donkey balls.
Did I get laughs? Absolutely. So what went wrong?
I failed to accurately survey the nature of the crowd, which hurt my likeability in the end. Luckily, the lessons learned were well worth the loss.
Part 1 – Apparent Spontaneity Hits
Neil Griffin made a TTC joke right before I went on stage. I had other things planned to start my set, but have been working at being more aware of my surroundings and focusing on showing the crowd that I’m vulnerable, able to extract hilarity from the immediate surroundings to build a connection with them. So, I started the set with this:
Neil talked about taking the bus. I’ve been taking the bus recently, too. Question for you guys: Do Chinese people know about shampoo? This one guy sat in front of me on the bus, and his head smelled like sweat and XO sauce, and I’ve never had XO sauce…
That started things off with a laugh. Most importantly, they thought I made it up on the spot…I didn’t. I wrote that joke in November but never fleshed out the rest of the bit. It’s a device called Apparent Spontaneity.
Part 2 – Buying Shoes at Honest Ed’s hits
My second joke was about growing up poor and buying shoes at Honest Ed’s. There were parts of the joke that don’t hit, but the last part, ‘And how are these white shoes are turning yellow! How do shoes go bad?!?!‘ killed. If you haven’t seen it before, here’s how it goes (I rearranged the bit from the following video so I end the bit on a big laugh):
Part 3 – Racism In A Room Full Of Caucasians
Here’s where things went downhill. It was a room full of caucasians except for one black guy. The Kim Kardashian bit I have gets racial near the end, but it’s true for the people that live where I live. They didn’t laugh at the following part which serves as the climax to the joke:
I’m pretty sure they didn’t laugh because they felt uncomfortable laughing around the one black guy there. I think that lead them to vote for someone else. Now, I could be wrong; I’ll never know for sure. I heard today that the black guy liked the joke, which I already knew because he was laughing.
Lesson Learned: Survey the Crowd
Quinn C. Martin taught me the importance of surveying the crowd before deciding which jokes to use. Are they open to racial material? Do they like dirty material? Where are the laughs coming from in the crowd? Etc.
What I failed to do on this night was predict the comfort level of the crowd to racial material. Now that I have been introduced to a different way of looking at the crowd (what races make up the crowd), I can now include that variable in my process of deciding what jokes to use when I get on stage.
Ron Josol Is Surprised (I think)
Ron Josol, a comic that’s opened up for Russell Peters, was there last night. He asked how long I’d been doing stand-up, and I said eight months. With a tone of surprise in his voice, he replied, ‘Really? That’s good man.’ I took that to mean he was impressed given with my act given my time on the scene, which was nice.
Blowing off Steam
Even though I did P90x Chest and Back earlier that day, I was so pissed about not winning that I did 30 minutes of P90X Yoga, which is as far as I get into that routine right now, at midnight. It helped me clear my mind and look at the evening’s events with a fresh pair of eyes.
There’s something beautifully disarming about being in downward dog and having your arms tremble, screaming at you to stop…and then clearing your mind, breathing, and continuing into runner’s pose and onto the rest of the routine. It’s a great way to destroy your ego.
A Note About Critics
In the end, it was worth losing in exchange for the lesson about surveying the crowd. With another tool in my belt, I’m off to Groove Bar tonight for another set.
Failure is part of success. Getting criticized is part of success. And when people fail and quit, I find their ego becomes really defensive. They try to explain away the success of others as luck, selling out, etc. There are only two ways to have the tallest building: create the highest structure, or tear everyone else’s down.
In the end, anyone that criticizes me is looking at what I’ve done in the past, not what I’m going to do. Now I don’t mind constructive criticism, but sometimes people are simply trolling or being negative. I’ve gotten a ton of critics recently, and for the most part I do my best to kill them with kindness, going as far as sharing my connections in the comedy world with them. But sometimes even genuine kindness doesn’t work, which is when I have to put them in their place. Oh, and you’ll be surprised how nice they get when the veil of anonymity is taken away.
But what really perplexes me is when people continue to follow that which they hate. If I don’t like a band, I don’t go around saying they suck and negatively commenting on their videos; that would be a waste of time. Instead, I find a band that I do like and listen to them. What a concept! However, it would appear that not everyone shares my passion for surrounding myself with things I like. It’s unfortunate.
So, if you’re someone doing something that you love but are getting criticized for it, don’t worry. Lions don’t pay attention to the idle chatter of sheep.
I’m having a ton of fun right now, and now that I’ve been able to put bombing/losing into perspective, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m more willing to take risks on stage. So, while things might get a little less traditional in the months to come, they will be getting more like me, whatever/whoever that is.