I did it. Back in late April or early May, I entered Acme Comedy Company’s annual Funniest Person in the Twin Cities contest. My original performance date was scheduled for June 5th but with Natalie passing on the 19th of May… there was no way I was going to be ready. I emailed Acme and the coordinator was kind enough to reschedule me for August 23rd. Even with all that extra time to prepare, I was still utterly unprepared. It took six weeks for me to even be able to get downtown without having a panic attack.
Sunday night I texted my boss asking if I could have Monday or Tuesday off to prepare. I got Monday off and I CRAMMED. I’d gone over it enough to attempt the Open Mic night. What an experience!
Nothing spectacular happened, not in a good or a bad way for me… It wasn’t my first time. I’d done other open mics, been on stage and under the lights, the scrutiny of judgmental drunks… but for a few others…
Really one in particular… I won’t mention her name because it is my hope that she was so shitfaced that night, that she was in a blackout and won’t remember a thing.
Her name is called. She gets on stage. Her voice is strong and loud. She starts with the self-deprecating humor that affords many comedians leniency when it comes to their act. She moves around, she’s animated, she’s wearing mismatched clothing so she certainly entertaining but her material… was shitty. It was really too bad because I knew, if she’d had anything even remotely funny to say, she would’ve been a hit!
Each performer gets three minutes. That’s it. At 2:30, a solid red light comes on. At 2:50, the light begins to flash. That’s your cue to get off the stage. It’s written in at least one place that those who go over their time, will NOT get time again.
Miss Sunshine is still onstage, seemingly unaware of the gigantic red light. The light starts to flash and she ignores it. THEY TURN OFF HER MICROPHONE AND SHE CONTINUES TO TALK! The audience, from what I can tell, is split down the middle. Half of us are frozen in horror over the blatant disregard for the rules, while the other half are sitting on the edge of their seats, smiling and waiting to see what the club will do next… They turned off the lights. A booming voice from out of nowhere stated “MA’AM YOU NEED TO GET OFF THE STAGE, NOW!” She sort of stumbles off the stage and ironically, this is when the crowd erupts with laughter while I dread my new worst nightmare.
But that was Monday night. Practice night. Tuesday was the big day. I worked for a few hours and crammed again, with new material.
More specifically, “the Natalie jokes”. The jokes I’d agonized over telling or not for weeks. I decided to tell them for three reasons. One, after the open mic, I went out to smoke. There was a man already smoking. “You did good up there” he said to me. “Thanks. I think I did alright I guess.”
“Comedy is hard” he said.
I nodded and said “I have a few jokes I’m debating on telling tomorrow, my sister died of an overdose and while I feel like if I can laugh about it -anyone should be able to, I don’t want to scare people away or alienate anyone…”
“My son was on stage tonight too. The guy joking about his crazy aunt? Sometimes tragedy is gold. It can work. His aunt he was talking about? That’s my sister, Natalie.
So, I kinda took that as a thumbs up from her that it was okay to do those jokes.
The second reason was because while talking to Shar, she told me a white dove was out in front of her house. Just sitting on the sidewalk. She looked it up and one of the meanings is to let go of inner turmoil over a subject. Ok, DONE.
And the last reason? Lots of people told me Natalie would be with me on stage, I figured she’d want to be in the spotlight.
So, I opened with my Natalie jokes. They went over well, I thought. No crickets on their end, no tears on mine…
Then I went into my main joke, which was more of a story about THE ONE TIME I had my eyebrows waxed.
I felt good about the job I did. The people who came to see me agreed that it was between me and one (of 5) other guy.
The other guy won. Sorry other guy, I don’t remember your name… I didn’t even get to hear your set but I could tell by the way you were NOT at the open mic/practice night and the way you were actually reading a book instead of pacing the floors or constantly looking at and resetting the timer on your phone that you were much more prepared, rehearsed and deserving of the win.
Saturday the top 25 scores of the summer will be posted and I may or may not advance to the semi-final rounds. Either way, I’m really glad I went up and did it. It’s important for me to keep some balance and even if I only made my friends laugh? That’s good enough for me.