My First and Worst Year Doing Stand-Up Comedy: Westwood BREWCO and Onward
3 years in. This is a rundown of some of my favorite things and most cringe-worthy moments that happened in my stand-up journey so far. It's a list to remind myself because I don't want to forget. Even the stuff I wish I could, like when the host cut the mic on me 3 minutes into a ten minute set because I said "cock."
I'm not a great writer, so I apologize if this style is hard on the eyes. I'll try to get my girlfriend Claire to proof-read it later. Maybe you can recommend a background color that's easier on the eyes. I'll try to include a lot of pictures and clickable links whenever I reference a particular open mic or venue, so you can see what these places look like.
In 2013 I told myself I'd give stand-up comedy a year and then decide if I wanted to continue. It wasn't so much a bucket-list, but a personal goal because I'd been doing comedy in different forms for a number of years. Plus I felt like my soul had bottomed out after a nasty break up and I think I was just trying to go balls out on something new and exciting.
I was listening to comedy podcasts, I started dating Claire and I saw a great show with her at the Improv with Jen Kirkman and Eddie Pepitone. I think the excitement of the possibility was building in my head. I tried to convince my friend Matt to start with me, but he went his own way. It was one of those weak pacts like,
"Hey man, you want to fast for 7 days?"
And then by the end of day one,
"Hey man, you want to hit Del Taco and split a chocolate cake?"
1. I went to Westwood BrewCo's final open mic, which was a long-running, highly regarded place run by Vance Sanders and Robert Yasumura, who were worshipped. Many great comedians had honed their craft there- it was a place that was serious about comedy. That night was more of a somber farewell with guest drop-ins. I was a total outsider and didn't know any comedians yet, but I worked just around the corner at the Geffen Playhouse. I got the idea that I was going to cause a stir- make an undeniable first impression. I was going to do something CRAZY.
If I got called up, the plan was to perform Robert Yasumura's material AS Robert Yasumura, as a sly nod, but mostly because it was a cocky thing to do and I could sort of mock him at the same time. We're talking a highly respected comedian, not to mention one of the FOUNDERS of BREWCO. Real dickhead plan, Marty, Good on you. Totally shitting on the event because I thought I had to go in STRONG!
I studied his routine for 30 minutes and convinced myself that I was ready. I honestly thought that everyone would love it. Oh man, he's doing Robert's material- that's so funny!
The merciful comedy gods were on my side that night. Robert didn't pull my name out of the bucket. He got to one newbie, but it wasn't me. Thank God. it would've undoubtedly been my first lesson in humility and would've backfired a million times over. I would've burned so many bridges, slurring through the routine with several beers in me, probably forgetting the jokes, while the other comics would just marvel at the idiot that was committing suicide at their mic.
What a total douchebag.
It didn't happen though. I'm so GRATEFUL I didn't get to make that first impression.
2. July 14, 2013.
I read about Marty's on Badslava. There were hilarious reviews and it seemed like the perfect dumpy place to get my first performance out of the way. It didn't sound like anyone would be paying attention, which was good. Like going to a whorehouse to lose my virginity. Quick, sad, and over. So I went there, paid my 5 bucks, and Marty brought me up.
"Hey, going to try and work out my jitters," I said.
I performed maybe 2-3 minutes out of a possible 10-15. My set-list was as follows:
My Last Name, Bob Marley, Cat-Clicking, Man of Steel, "You're Cuter!" and Normalize Breast Feeding.
A comic named Austin said,
"That was your first time? That was good man." I remember I loved one of his punchlines,
"It was the elephantitus in the room, but nobody said anything."
Chuck Bronson was there, along with some performance artist called DYSFUNCTIONAL.
I had survived my first mic. The next week, I went to Marty's again, then Sal's Comedy Hole, then Meltdown Comics. The Jon Lovitz Comedy Club was mysteriously closed one night and I never had a chance to go back.
3. After weeks of bombing I got my first "big laugh" at The Palace.
"Had a great open mic last night- my first break thru where I heard the whole audience laugh. Now I want to chase after that moment again and again. Been going to some really interesting venues- last night was the 2nd floor of a Chinese Restaurant." (from an e-mail to a friend.)
That was a game changer. I accidentally connected or something, but getting a small group of comedians to laugh was very special. I should've thrown the mic down and said,
"Holy shit, I'm done," and walked away from comedy forever. I'd never get a group of comedians to laugh again.
4. I was huffing it back to the train from the Dangerfield's 3 mic and I saw Paul Scheer and his transparent party tour bus slow down next to me. It was for the "Crash Test" pilot he was filming with Rob Huebel. I had my earphones in and couldn't make out what he was saying, but he was waving to me, so I just saluted back. I had my Long Shot Podcast t-shirt on and I felt like I was having my first comedy nerd moment. I've had Hollywood moments- I've been out here since '99, but that was the first thought of, Hey, I'm one of you guys! I'm doing comedy too! Can I get a ride? No? WELL FUCK YOU, HUMAN GIANT SUCKS!
5. I was consistently hosting at Echoes Under Sunset because no one else would. What a great opportunity! Christian was so cool to me and never hesitated to give up the reigns to young and eager comics. I was suddenly on stage, bringing people up, fucking up their names, apologizing profusely, bombing spectacularly, and often! Great way to start remembering names and faces though. I was writing helpful pronunciations on the side of their actual names,
I was so confused when comics were angry about me fucking up their name, yet they refused to tell me the actual pronunciation!
"No, let me have this to hate about you Wurst. Go fuck yourself new guy!"
Despite my bumbling on stage, I managed to make a few friends. One night I was doing a heckler character and I swear there was only two people watching, but one of them was Tony Bartolone. He came up to me after and said he liked my bit. He was really enthusiastic about it. He asked me if I could do a little improvised bit on a show he was doing. My first real booking!
"Jake Cannon told us all to leave." (from a Sal's set)
Dave Ross. I also marked the comics that were doing stuff outside of the box. Some of them I hated. Some of them I liked. Some I hated, started talking to them, and then realized I'd made a bad call. I made a lot of bad calls. First impressions were usually way off, with the exception of GT. I met comics and then listened to them being interviewed on podcasts. More confirmation that I had been wrong. So many interesting people.
7. Chris Putro saw me at The Other Door and put me on his Crispy Comedy Show. 8 minutes seemed like an hour, so I prepared a lot that night.
8. One night when I was bumbling through my hosting duties at Echoes, I brought up Maria Bamford. I barely got her name out.
10. I hosted at Tribal Cafe for 3 hours every Saturday afternoon for 6 months. I had plenty of time to practice by myself, because ...not a lot of foot traffic.. I was lucky to have more than 3 in the audience. Jeanne Whitney occasionally hosted with me. Anyway, it could be pretty bleak, but I met some cool people like Maagic Collins and Tamoy Sherman. Then there was the guy in the cowboy hat.
It was already a crazy day because earlier, a fight almost broke out. Some guy was performing and it was one of those aggressive uncomfortable sets and Tamoy made the mistake of telling the guy to tell some jokes. That escalated into a shouting match and it was clearly going to get ugly, so I cut the mic and told the guy to leave.
"FREEDOM OF SPEECH!" was his parting argument.
Yeah, we all thank our lucky stars for having freedom of speech whenever an asshole rants on the mic.
Anyway, so that left things tense. So then the dude with the cowboy hat enters.
He's an older man, not particularly funny, and I'm guessing he's just one of the many eccentric characters that hang out in Echo Park.
He made jokes about going postal and with a grin he opens up his shirt to reveal he's strapped with dynamite.
Claire was there, she can vouch for this.
Of course it wasn't real, it couldn't be, but the day had taken a turn and it would've been entirely appropriate for some dude to walk in and kill us all- that was the punchline! I told one comedian he had to leave and another popped in to blow us up! Hilarious.
Claire said it had to be candles. So now everything is weird in the room, he's still doing his set and next he unsheathes a samurai sword. I'd failed to notice he had a sword on him, I know this is surreal.
He's waving it around and there was no mistaking it, a real sword. It's a David Lynch moment, the dude is still grinning like he's my friend, he even asks me,
"Did I get the light?"
"I'm not going to light you, you got the sword," I said.
He finished his set and left. The bored, unaffected Tribal employee failed to notice this was even happening. The service always sucked there anyway. I called it a day and quit early.
I took the bus to Burbank and had my first audition at Flappers- nailed those 3 minutes. I practiced it until 3am the night before. I'm sure that was completely unnecessary. That lead to my exhilarating, but mostly painful experience with bringer shows, so I'll stop here. I can't wait to re-live the next chapter.
To be continued in the next day or so...
To go to the next entry about Bringer Shows, click here