This weekend I accomplished something pretty significant.
On Thursday and Friday night I hosted a couple of shows at Laughing Devil Comedy Club, right here in Queens, NY. I’ve hosted open mics and bar shows before, but this was the first time I had ever been asked to host a show at an actual club.
Hosting at a club is a completely different animal. When you host an open mic or a bar show, you’re allowed a certain amount of freedom to mess around and goof off. Also, it’s almost guaranteed that the show is free. However, a comedy club is a much more professional setting. For better or worse, people are coming there expecting to see a professional comedy show. The irony is that alot of times the show will feature a few up and comers. Most likely the host will be the least experienced comic on the show, especially if you’re seeing the classic host/feature/headliner style comedy show.
The host is the voice of the show. The host is responsible for setting the tone of the entire show and, if another comic totally bombs, it is the host’s job to bring the energy back up. Most importantly, it is the host’s job to know when to just keep the show moving. If a comic goes up and totally kills, just go up and say, “Keep it going for so-and-so, now welcome your next comic THIS GUY/GAL!”
The only real way to climb up the comedy ladder is to start from the bottom. You can’t climb higher until you’ve proven yourself at the lower level first.
Jerry Langford: Alright, look pal, I gotta tell you… this is a crazy business, but it’s not unlike any other business. There are ground rules, and you don’t just walk on to a network show without experience. Now I know it’s an old, hackneyed expression, but it happens to be the truth. You’ve got to start at the bottom.
Rupert Pupkin: I know. That’s where I am, at the bottom.
Jerry Langford: Well, that’s the perfect place to start.
(Jerry Lewis and Robert De Niro in “The King of Comedy” 1982)
When I was asked to host a couple of shows at Laughing Devil I was excited for the chance to show that I could do it…but also very afraid that I would be terrible at it. I was scared that if I did a bad job it would take months to get a second chance. As is often the case with comedy, it can take a long time to make people forget how terrible you were. Case and point, I used to mop the floors at Laughing Devil Comedy Club.
When the club first opened in December of 2011, I got a job working the box office. I sold tickets and, after the shows, I would sweep and mop the place. About once a month I would sign up for the new talent shows to audition for the club, and for the first 6 months or so I would have mediocre (at best) auditions. I don’t remember the specifics, but I’m pretty sure I was horrible. Luckily, comedians have an amazing ability to forget. That’s what gets us back on stage after bombing.
I worked at Laughing Devil for about 6 months before quitting. I liked being there, but I was exhausted constantly. Between my full time job, the box office job, and doing open mics in NYC I had about 2 hours to sleep. Eventually that took it’s toll and I knew something had to go.
I kept auditioning every couple of months and finally had a good set in January of this year. I got another audition date for July, had another really good set, and that finally convinced them to pass me and let me perform there more regularly. December 2011 to July 2013. About 18 months is what it took to bomb and then get good enough to erase that bomb.
Now, in November of 2013, I am hosting professional comedy shows at the club where I used to mop the floors. But the question is, how did it go?
I couldn’t believe how great it went. People liked me, people loved the show, the energy was up and their spirits were high. It was a great couple of shows. I proved to myself that I could host, and I hopefully proved this to the club as well.
In New Hampshire I really didn’t have many opportunities to host. I was only performing at open mics and I really had no idea what a real club show was like. That’s why I jumped at the chance to work at Laughing Devil when it opened. I didn’t just sell tickets and mop floors for minimum wage, I got to see real comedy shows every night. I watched people do well, and I watched people do awful. I got to see good hosts and bad. I watched every comedian I could and tried to learn something from them. I went into my box office job assuming that I knew nothing and that the comic on stage knew everything. If I knew everything, I thought, then I’d be the one on stage. This helped get rid of any ego I had and allowed me to actually learn from the shows I was working at.
I remember watching comedy specials and episodes of Comedy Central Presents when I was in middle school/high school. I remember having that feeling of wanting to do what those comedians did, but having no idea how you do it. It took me until my senior year of college to do a stand up open mic, mostly because I had no idea that open mics for comedy even existed.
This weekend I hosted a show at a comedy club. People paid to see a great show, and that’s exactly what they got. 10 years ago I was just some kid watching comedy and wondering how you did that.
“Am I doing this?” is a question I ask myself frequently. Trying something and succeeding in comedy feels like when you ride a bike without training wheels. ”Am I doing this?”
This weekend I proved to myself that I have been working towards something and that I have been getting better. I am improving and the effort has been worth it. Honestly I’ve already made it way further in comedy than I thought I would when I did my first open mic almost 4 years ago.
I used to ask myself, “What am I doing?”
Now I find myself saying, “Wow, I’m doing this!”Leave a comment →