Jump to: My Performance (video) | Lessons Learned: Cut! / Fuz ’em (Kathleen McGee) / This is a Gym (Jean Paul) / Jokes When Jokes Don’t Hit (John Hastings, Gilson Lubin, et. al) | Ian Sirota KILLS
Why I Really Wanted To Do Well Tonight
Jean Paul was hosting tonight, and he’s traveled all over North America, UK, and the Caribbean with his act. I had to bring it tonight…
My Plan To Engage the Crowd
A lot of the crowd that came in early were of the African American variety. I’ve talked about the importance of getting the crowd invested, and I therefore crafted a series of jokes aimed at engaging them, because I wanted to get them on my side.
As always, I wrote down my notes carefully so that I would start strong:
Boy did that backfire…
Wowzers. That was rough.
I just wanted to go home after…drown my sorrows in a Big Mac combo (Quarter Pounder on the side, fries upsized). But then I rememberd something Darryl Purvis, a professional comedian, told me:
Write as many jokes as you can, see as many GOOD comics as you can, and perform as much as you can.
So, as painful as it was to sit in a room full of people that just saw me drop a WMD, I took a seat in the back, trying not to make eye contact with anyone.
As it turned out, tonight was one of the most USEFUL experiences of my short career.
Lesson Learned #1: CUT! (via Meditation and Nick Flanagan)
In my first bit, 2-3 out of 6 lines get consistently strong laughs. The rest are hit and miss.
Resolved: I’m going to keep those few lines and discard the rest, even though that reduces what was once two and a half minutes to about 30 seconds. It has to be done. Nick Flanagan mentioned the same to me after the set. He said, ‘Sometimes it’s good to let a set build, but other times it’s better to condense a bit so you start strong.’
It’s tough to continually cut down a bit, especially when the original bit in its entirety had you laughing. Alas, the customer is always right.
Or are they? Mark Cuban wrote an interesting article about NOT listening to your customers.
Lesson Learned #2: Fuz ‘Em (Kathleen McGee)
The entire front row consisted of young black women from Scarborough, which is a predominantly less then affluent part of Toronto, if you catch my drift. Kathleen McGee, a professional comedian that’s toured with Russell Peters, is a white comedian from Alberta. She couldn’t have had a more polar opposite front row to work with.
When I did my set, it was tough because the front row was talking and making snide remarks after almost every line. ‘Really?’ ‘Seriously?’
That probably happened to Kathleen, but she went up there and did her thing! She had everyone in the back cracking up, and even addressed the front row and played dumb when they didn’t get a joke.
Resolved: Fuz ’em. If you know your jokes are funny, and if you’ve gotten laughs at more than a few places before, don’t let an audience mess with you.
Lesson Learned #3: This is a Gym (Jean Paul)
After the set, Jean Paul thanked me for going up first (which is called, ‘Taking the Bullet’). I dejectedly replied, ‘Thanks man, it was rough up there.’ Immediately, he responded:
It’s an open mic. there are no [fuzzin’] bookers here, there are no festival producers here, it’s just an open mic. If you were a boxer, this would be a gym where you’re putting in work and taking shot after shot. Keep doing what you’re doing man.
Resolved: While my instincts intially said NO, I have to kill wherever I go, after an hour I realized some people in the crowd weren’t laughing at hilarious material that I was dying over…so he was right.
Lesson Learned #4: Writing Jokes To Use When Jokes Don’t Hit (John Hastings, Jean Paul, Kathleen McGee, Gilson Lubin, etc.)
When some of the comedians were having rough sets, they often made fun of the fact that the jokes didn’t hit. It sounds weird I know, making fun of the fact that your own joke bombed.
But these, ‘jokes about jokes’ KILLED last night, especially with the comedians in the room. And, since it got the crowd laughing, it helped the comedian transition to the next bit without having dead silence lingering in the air.
I’ve seen many comedians use this technique, most notably John Hastings. I’ve seen him compare a joke that didn’t work to a fetus born with birth defects, which KILLED.
Resolved: Create jokes for when jokes don’t hit. For example, ‘…wow. So that’s what Simon and Garfunkel were singing about. [hum Sound of Silence]’ If another joke didn’t hit, I could do a call-back (reference to the simon/garfunkel joke) by humming the next part of the song. Furthermore, I’m going to practice imagining that a joke doesn’t hit, and then follow-up with the joke-joke so that when I’m on stage, I’ll be prepared to deliver the instrument well.
Ian Sirota KILLS
I leaned over to Nick Flanagan after his set and asked, ‘What’s his name!?’
Ian Sirota KILLED. I haven’t heard a set like that…maybe ever. It was so thoughtfully put together, with all of the elements of comedy I’ve studied on display for those who understood what to look for.
It really inspired me. One on hand I asked myself, ‘Could I ever be as good as that?’ On the other hand, when I looked Ian’s name up, I found out that the guy has been nominated for a COUPLE of Gemini’s. Phew. He’s a pro. He’s opened for NORM MACDONALD. ‘Nuff said. He’s a pro, and what one man can do, another can do…albeit after many years of hard work and dedication.