One of the beauties of comedy is open mic night. It’s where we ALL started. Jerry Seinfeld, Larry the Cable Guy that co-worker you dared to do comedy and ME. Some nights there is a real crowd. Some nights there’s only a few people in the audience. As a new comic it’s your chance to get on stage and try it out. It’s the place where you learn to tell a joke, hold the mic, what do do with your hands and the power of the pause. As a more seasoned comic it’s the place where you try out new material - write - create. In LA it’s how you start to integrate yourself into the local scene. It doesn’t matter if you’re funny or if you headline clubs “on the road” or if you’ve been doing it for years - You start with open mic.
Tonight, Dale & I went to the open mic at the world famous Comedy Store. There were a good 50 people there to put their name on the lotto list. They pick 16 - Thanks to a friend Dale & I were both able to get on the list tonight with the opportunity to perform THREE minutes for a crowd of ZERO. Fifteen comics in the back of the room (who don’t laugh at shit) and exactly ZERO audience members. And if the comics don’t laugh what does that mean - You’re damn right - You do your THREE minutes to silence.
Even though you watch the comics before you - Even though you know it’s going to be silent - You somehow think “I’ll get them - they’re going to laugh at me”. And when you’re three minutes of silence is over you start to wonder if you were ever funny.
First - I feel sorry for the comics that start out in LA - All their time is spent on stages in front of no one - I don’t know how they ever figure out what works and what doesn’t. Second - I’m grateful for the chance to stand on a stage that so many “GREATS” have stood on. There’s magic in it. BUT....and here comes the BUT - HOLY HELL - Doing 3 minutes to a crowd of no one and no laughter is depressing and heartbreaking and discouraging....and even though I held them back the tears were right there just wanting to show themselves.
Every road comic knows the drill. We’ve all done hell gigs. We’ve all done nights where there were only 2 or 5 or 10 people in the audience. Sometimes they were the right 10 people and sometimes they weren’t, but live or die, at least you had a chance. I wonder if the powers that be here in LA only ever see me without a crowd, how will they know what I can do with a crowd - How will they know I’m funny - How will they know that blood sweat and tears are behind every tried and true joke I deliver and that on most nights I can rock a crowd. Which all boils down to....What if I don’t have it - what if they never see it - what if I’m wasting my time.
Every comic that’s been here tells me the same thing....Time, it just takes time. Go back week after week and they will love you. But as I sit here in the glow of my computer screen I wonder...how will they ever love me if I can’t love myself in the silence. How do you shine when all you feel is defeat?
There is no quitting though. That’s not an option. I will swallow my pride and perform for no one or all the years I’ve been on the road will have been for nothing. So, tonight I will snuggle in my bed, eat a crunch bar, maybe shed a few tears and do it all again tomorrow....probably for a crowd of exactly NONE.