Oh the Places You’ll Go…To Do Stand-up

Almost any time you have a group of stand-up comics talking the subject of the weirdest place you’ve performed comes up. There are more comics than there are stages, so if you offer us minutes, there’s a decent chance that we’ll say yes without sparing a second thought to logistics. We comics don’t tend to be terribly logical beings.

I’ve performed at a banquet hall near Bridgewater, a coffee shop in Robbinsville, a restaurant in East Windsor, a hotel on Roosevelt Blvd in Northeast Philly, the basement of the Hyatt Regency on Route 1 in Princeton, a grill and bar in Naples, Florida, and a barn in Basking Ridge. I spend Wednesday evenings on the second floor of an insurance agent’s office broadcasting on The Robbinsville Trainwreck.

The New Jersey Turnpike and I have a love-hate relationship and I’m actively contemplating installing  a dash cam in my car to capture what I’m told are my funny road rage-fueled rants and my ridiculous facial expressions while parallel parking. Until recently I had only parallel parked successfully once: when I was 17 and taking my drivers test. I grew up in rural South Jersey, so being a country bumpkin I had no real use for fancy city parallel parking until after college. Road rage and parallel parking challenges aside, if you offer me minutes and a mic there’s a good chance you’ll probably get me there. No matter how bad the ride there was, I’ll forget all about it the second that mic’s in my hand.

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Picking Up the Mic

As we all while away the final hour until Game of Thrones premieres, I thought I might give you all something to entertain yourselves. I’ve been asked before how I get the courage to pick up the mic. The truth is that other than the fact that I’m a Gryffindor, I have absolutely no idea. What I can tell you is exactly what it feels like to pick up the mic.

My urge to do stand-up grew out of me being bored with constantly having to filter every word that comes out of my mouth because adulthood. Basically I write jokes based on all the things I’m actually thinking but don’t dare say because again, adulthood. My urge to stop having a filter is what got me to the stage with a good shove from my friend and comedy Mr. Miyagi Kurt Zimmerman. But what keeps me coming back?

Well, I can tell you it sure as hell isn’t the money. My day job feeds my wallet. Comedy, martial arts, and my work in rescue feed my soul. There’s just something about inspiring laughter in others that just makes my soul feel good. That feeling is enough to make me forget about my nerves, walk up onto the stage, pick up the mic, and start talking to a room full of strangers and bare at least a piece of my soul while I’m up there.

I don’t do it because I’m some sort of narcissist obsessed with the sound of my own voice. I do it because I know what it’s like to be unhappy. I know what it’s like to find this world we live in absolutely terrifying. I’ve been ridiculed, pushed around, and I’ve lost things that you will never understand. I also know what it’s like to come home from an absolutely shitty day, hear a joke, and laugh so hard that I forget all about the absolutely shitty day I just had. Others have done that for me, so I want to pay it forward and do it for others. It’s not really about me at all.

This is my second year in stand up and I’m still getting used to being referred to as a professional comic. Honestly, the joke’s on all of you because I have little to no idea what I’m actually doing up there. I actually think being called a professional comic is hysterical.

When I hear the host start saying all the nice things they do about me I immediately get the giggles like I’m about to play the funniest prank on everyone in the room. The air feels electric because I know as well as anyone does that any show could be THE show and I know I need to come up big. I take a deep breath as I walk up and pull myself together. I shake the host’s hand as he or she steps down leaving me alone with the stage. I HAVE to own it. Everything kind of slows down like time’s hanging in the air. I feel like Quicksilver in X-Men Apocalypse or Fry in Futurama after he drank 100 cups of coffee. I adjust the mic down; always down because 99.9% of my fellow comics are taller than me as are most 14 year olds. I start with it in the stand, but we all know I can’t stand still to save my life, so I take it out. By this point I’ve already cracked a joke about my size since it’s the most obvious thing about me and think to myself, “Suck it, would-be hecklers! Consider your thunder stolen!” I let the laughs hang, feel the weight of the mic in my hand and remember it’s only a conversation and I like conversations.

That’s what stand-up is, folks: A pleasant conversation between a comic and an audience. I really quite enjoy our little chats. Every time I get a little more comfortable. Every time I get a little more confident in how I’ve managed to feel out the audience so I know what I can get away with and what I should probably save for another night. Picking up that mic inspires me to connect with another room of people. The moment I touch it I go from being an unassuming nerd to someone and something else entirely.

 

 

Farmstead Arts Center: One Year Later

Friday night I returned to the English Barn at the Farmstead Arts Center to host the graduation show of my comedy Mr. Miyagi Kurt Zimmerman’s stand up comedy class. I affectionately refer to it as the barn my mother raised me in and the birthplace of the horse I rode in on.

I learned my lesson from last year and came prepared with a crapton of water and my cooling towel. Thankfully, it wasn’t on the hottest freakin’ day of the year like it was last year. I got up and did 10 minutes of my best material to warm up the crowd then before I got the show really started, I told the graduates how I got my start.

Kurt invited me to a comedy show at Take 5 Gourmet in Robbinsville, NJ. I thought I was going to be watching the show, but he offered me time, handed me the mic, and said have at it. I got laughs and applause, fell in love with it and never looked back.

I watched three brand new comics get their feet wet for the first time and had a blast doing it. When you think graduation, you think pomp and circumstance, but this was not that kind of party. Everyone did a phenomenal job and the crowd was very supportive and into it. It was a great show and I can’t wait to watch the video.