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  1. Brain Juice (My Week In Stand-Up)

    Saturday, October 20, 2012

    By:  Lisa Harmon

    Sunday night, before the mic that I host, I was in the bagel shop across the street, talking to one of the mic regulars.  A very funny guy and nice person.  I realize this is comic talk.  Civilians say “he’s a nice guy” and that’s it.  But for a comic to like you, you have to be nice AND funny.

    He and I were talking about a show at a youth hostel I was supposed to do.  He asked me if I thought it would help me.

    I suddenly got so depressed.  I answered “I don’t know.  I’m ready to quit.”  He said, “you can’t quit, you love it too much.”

    He was right.  I do love stand-up.  But it is pure torture.  Always out there, an easy target, talking about personal things in front of strangers.

    But it is like a drug or like a roller coaster.  My emotions are over the top.  It is exhilarating and scary.  This is legal and free dope. 

    Stand-up was something I started for fun and pursued with an eye to a career.  Now I think of it as more of a sort of semi-cerebral, interesting diversion.  Listening to comics keeps my brain juices flowing.  Brain juice.  (Sorry about the medical jargon.)

    And performing jokes keeps me from sitting in the house all night, channel surfing between jersey shore, honey boo boo, political news, shows about vampires and chefs yelling at each other.  Watching that shit is a bigger waste of time than trying to get Romney to release his taxes.  Than a girl getting all dolled up for a date with John Travolta.  Than me, cleaning up after my cats.  OK.  Breathe.

    With stand-up, you never know what you’re going to get.  Not to go all Forrest Gump on your ass but, it’s always a crapshoot.

    After the mic I ran with a friend and comic up to the hostel on the upper west side.  There were only two audience members down there.  Two young ladies.  The host was there, and a few comics, and these two girls.  One didn’t speak much English.  I was impressed at the lengths one comic went to to patiently explain his jokes to her.

    When I got on, there were four comics at the back wall and these two girls. 

    I’m telling jokes and suddenly, boys start filing in.  One, two, five, ten, twelve, I don’t know how many young guys.  It was like a clown car.  They kept coming and coming.  They had to be between nineteen and twenty-two years old.  A whole boatload of them, filing in, and quietly sitting down.

    I tried talking to a couple of them but I got no answer.  I don’t know if they were drunk, high, didn’t like me, couldn’t speak English, or what.

    I launched into a Dane Cook impression.  I never did that before.  It had to be fresh in my mind because Jason Sudeikis had done it the night before on SNL.  It was hilarious, by the way.  Everything that Sudeikis does is hilarious.

    I don’t know what the hell happened but the comics went berserk.  I don’t remember who was clapping and laughing and hollering but it was such a huge laugh I said, thank you, goodnight!*

    When I got down all the comics stood up and shook my hand and told me how fantastic I was.  I wish I knew what the hell I did!

    Of course I didn’t tape it – when I went up there were two girls there.  I didn’t expect to have the set of the month that night.

    Totally unexpected great set.

    Tuesday night I hosted my mic again.  Afterwards I headed to Queens to do a show in a bar.

    The show got cancelled, but the host and I got to talking comedy.  He was trying to give me some career advice.  He told me I’m not hungry, I don’t have drive.  Some of his regular audience members that I’ve become friendly with were also getting into the conversation.  Everyone was ganging up on me!  “You’re funny, you need to get out there, you don’t work hard enough.”  My husband, who had come to pick me up, was actively ignoring us from the corner.  I turned to him and yelled “anytime you want to jump in is just fine…”  Of course they meant well. 

    Totally unexpected comedy intervention.

    Last night I had benefit in New Jersey.  I had a great time with the comics.  The crowd was restless though.  They never shut up, not through my set and not through anyone else’s.  The room was huge and the voices were coming from all over.  I don’t have the type of voice that carries.  I have a voice slightly higher pitched than Minnie Mouse.  I did my twenty minutes and got off the stage.

    Totally unexpected unruly crowd.  Also, not totally unexpected, more like pleasantly surprised, people telling me I’m hilarious and “fuck them” (the audience).  Oh, sir, you read my mind!  And you made my night!

    This business is never what you expect.  I never expected to have the set of the month at a youth hostel show.  I never expected the benefit show to be so difficult.  That’s what I love about comedy – the unpredictability.  Stand-up, you never know what you’ll be walking into.  And not only are you going to walk into the unknown, you’re expected to control the room which is never easy, even in the best of circumstances.

    That’s my week in comedy.   I love doing it, I love interacting with people that work at it and I love when I’m killing an audience.  But I also feel that if quality programming came back to TV I would probably quit, go straight, and enjoy my middle years with some dignity.


    *Note to Hosts:  When a comic says “thank you, goodnight!” come get them off the stage!  Jeezus Christ, that was the second time I’ve done that and the host didn’t come get me!  WTF!
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  2. 7 comments:

    1. It's fun to read a week in the life...

      My weeks are swamped with working at the jobs and at home for one of the jobs because of an upcoming special event. So your week in stand-up was 100% more than mine. I think the only comedy in my week was laughter that occurred spontaneously between my students and I, between my best friend and I, watching stand-up on Comedy Central, reading Tino's facebook statuses, and I thought of and wrote down one new tiny funny to say when I eventually get to your mic.

    2. Lisa Harmon said...

      Thank you Mindy! Anytime we write a new joke that's a good thing. And everyone loves Tino's status updates.

    3. Lady Ha Ha said...

      Great post. The last line! OY! I was asked to do 12 at one place a couple of years ago. The host left the room. I finished my set, said thank you, goodnight... and just stood there.... deer/headlights. Hosts. Stay on top of things... especially if there's a newbie up there!

    4. geez, i guess i broke all the rules at times. i have stepped off when i was done whether the host was there or not. i didn't even realize i wasn't supposed to. oh goodness.

    5. Lisa Harmon said...

      You're still a good host Mindy. Yes you're not supposed to leave the stage till the next person gets there. We learn as we go.

    6. Lisa, I meant I've done that as a comic more than once when someone else was hosting.

    7. Lisa Harmon said...

      Ha ha ha. Oh well! Sh*t happens! Thanks for the comments Mindy and Lady Ha Ha!

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