The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Adventures in stand-up comedy!

"You should be a comedian!"

I've heard it throughout my life, and (on paper) that would be a great career for me. I truly love to perform and make people laugh. I probably get that from being alone and bored growing up in the middle of nowhere before discovering the liberating power of the driver license. I believe it's called overcompensation, but I doesn't matter, I like that about myself.

The problem was influence, I was much more into making music for as long as I can remember. As much as I loved Eddie Murphy, I loved the Replacements more. They're both professions full of glory and heartbreak, but at least with music I had an instrument to protect me.

This didn't prevent me from keeping a modest notebook of stand-up ideas that I'd add to infrequently. It was kind of like a glacier of ideas, very slow in moving forward and occasional moving backwards when ideas ran past their expiration date (Sean Connery as O.J. Simpson, trust me, it killed!). Regardless of how comfortable I've been playing music by myself, I couldn't transpose that confidence to the stand up stage. But the desire to try still build up, and something had to give.

It came to a head October 2003. I had been researching open mics in the area for years, even getting the nerve to go to one, only to find out it didn't exist anymore. Through the internet, I found an active one in Dupont Circle here in DC and sent an e-mail to the host. She sent me one back saying I had a slot at the next show on October 7th.

But there was a problem. I found out the night before that the open mike was at a gay bar. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but most of my stuff was male/female, not relationship based. Fate, however, gave me a leg up but scheduling the California recall election the same day. One of the things that makes the Daily Show so great is that truth is truly stranger than fiction, if the last 6 years have thought us anything.

Before the festivities, I had a couple beers with a couple of the comics, just making small talk. I told them I was growing out my hair and beard temporarily because I was going to be Sean Connery that Halloween (It's called commitment to a bit), so I had the horseshoe of hair that aged me 10 year easily, and they told me recent gig horror stories. They were nice guys, but it was definitely different from any social situation I had ever found myself in. The smart assed comments that I often peppered my conversations with weren't met with a chuckle or a groan as I was used to, just a slight furrowing of the eyebrows, like they were examining what I was saying scientifically. It was probably the most humorless casual conversation I've ever had.

I sat upfront as the show started, just enjoying everyone's act. There were some genuinely funny people there, it made me really nervous for my turn in front of the brick wall. Most of the performers at music hootenannies were novice strummers, nervously playing "Friend of the Devil" or "Brown Eyed Girl" to varying degrees of success. But most of the people there were working comedians, using this as an opportunity to do hone their act. The only thing thing made me feel better was that they were as reliant on their comedic "set list" as I was going to be.

The time for my introduction was at hand, and I immediately fucked it up, missing the customary handshake with the host. I went into one of the bits that survived my revision, about my body hair.

"You know that little strip of hair underneath the belly button, the goody trail? Well mine turned into a four lane highway of fun...... with a back hair onramp!" I followed that up with a flash of the gut to drive my point home.

Then I got political about the recall election, "in DC we're so unimpressed, elect a crackhead governor and we'll talk." Nothing. I had heard Chris Matthews say some thing earlier in the day that I just had to make fun of.

"People keep accusing Arnold of groping, and he admits it, and it doesn't affect the polls. If he wins, this could signal a trend towards HONESTY in political campaigns"

I said," But you know they're gonna take it too far, eventually a candidate's going to say, 'I killed a hobo with my bare hands. That's the kind of passion I can bring to this office, in a non killing capacity."
"Remember me, the HOMO killing candidate!" Oooops. A loud “ooooohhhhhh” came up from the other comics and their friends that gathered at the front of the stage.

But I got a big laugh from the regulars of the place surrounding the corner bar, the look of absolute shock and horror on my face must have been priceless.

I wrapped up a bit early, I had done enough damage. I walked off stage like I had just gotten stuck on a runaway roller coaster. The host said I had good material, but delivered it too fast. One of the comics I talked to before suggested that I shave my head. “I do, I’m growing to be Sean Connery for Halloween like I said before. My whole life is a bit!

One guy said, “You stunk!” The host defended me, “No, you were fine.” I didn’t care either way, I loved the fact that somebody was honest about it.

I got the biggest thumbs up from the gay guys at the bar. I told one guy,“You know, that slip before....”
“Give me a break, that look on your face said it all,” he interrupted.

I also got positive reviews on my chest hair, inspiring an extra flash of the thatch. ”You’re what we call in the bidness a ‘bear’”, a term I had never heard before.
I asked,”the BIDNESS?”

I left the experience with a new appreciation for the art of stand up comedy. And no desire to do it again.

However I’ll leave you with this, if you love comedy, go see it live. From playing music and going to shows both comedy and music, you’re much more likely to have a good time at a comedy show. Besides, what would you rather see, somebody who thinks they’re cool or someone who knows they aren’t but couldn’t care less.

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