Last night I made my stand-up comedy debut in this Baltimore rock club, The Hexagon. I went on first, because I was planning on leaving early to go see Skeletons play in another neighborhood. I stuck around because a few of my friends were also to be telling jokes, and then by that point the appeal of getting paid a few dollar induced me to stay on for longer still.
Most of the comedians were Baltimore locals, that I would largely associate with a music scene. One performer who did pretty well was a playwright. The people who went on last were actual touring comedians from southern Maryland, who received the blankest reactions. It's not even that they were the worst: Most of the people on the bill were doing ironic/conceptual comedy of the "The whole idea of telling a joke or doing a bit seems stupid to me" school. I talked briefly to them afterwards- the headliner, Will Carey, told me I was "out there," and that he usually performed for rednecks. I really wanted to talk to the two of them at length, actually, because I just felt so much empathy for them, but I didn't want it to seem condescending. They probably were used to being in situations where they told jokes that were "too hip for the room," and here they were in a room that was too hip for them- One guy was wearing a Pizza Hut t-shirt, the other was wearing a The Starting Line hoodie. When the dude in the Pizza Hut t-shirt (Brian Preston) told a joke about how he wanted to be a writer for Dane Cook, and the first thing he wanted to write for him was a suicide note, I thought of L.A. comedians I've seen on Youtube doing anti-Dane-Cook material that went over really well, even as it seemed really weird and inside, and here it was playing to a crowd not engaged in that culture to really have processed it and come to conclusions. As someone who is a comedy nerd, but was performing pretty much on a lark, as a dabbler, to see people who are committed to the idea of it doing so poorly where I did pretty well felt pretty bad. I wanted to talk to them about Aspecialthing.com, maybe point out the Louis C.K. interview where the advice was given to have the confidence to not look down ever. Or ask if they heard the Louis C.K. set where he was opening for Yo La Tengo at a Hanukkah show at Maxwell's where he bombed real hard.
I didn't feel like I was performing for my friends, really. I felt like I was performing for acquaintances, because I don't really feel like I have that many close friends here, and even though I was glad that certain people came specifically to see me, it still felt good primarily to get dark and weird in front of that kind of audience, as it afforded me an opportunity to be a real person to some degree or another.
Oh, and after the house took it's cut, the money was split so that my cut was five dollars, which I think is also what the people travelling got. But these headliners also said that this was the best show of their tour- Maybe it was good for them to have an audience that was just laughing at their smart/weird material, and not responding very well at all to the gratuitous/desperate/casual swearing. But at the same time, "don't try so hard" is a lesson I would never want to teach anyone, probably.