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first person: Carrot and Schtick 

I'm trying to find my place in stand-up comedy without becoming a joke.

I have a day job as a technical writer for Circuitcity.com, but this money means more. I've done about a dozen performances, and earned a whopping $125, two chicken quesadillas, a few pints of ale, and once got my parking validated downtown.

The stand-up comedy tape I pass out to local bars, clubs and colleges was filmed about a year ago at the on-campus bar of the University of Richmond, my alma mater; I graduated from the barstool next to the popcorn machine.

I've found that organizing a stand-up comedy show with little experience — and doing it in a city the size of Richmond — is like financing a night of drinking in well-to-do Shockoe Slip with the change in your ashtray. In both situations, you find yourself doing a lot of begging.

When I decided to try my luck at stand-up, I always thought the hardest part would be writing and telling the jokes — standing in front of a bunch of unfamiliar faces, sweating uncontrollably and talking freely about my family, fears, and midgets and colonics. This turned out to be the easy part.

Unfortunately, stand-up is more than memorizing jokes, stealing an electric-blue blazer from the back lot of "Star Search," and cracking open a Dirty Word Thesaurus.

The first problem I had was securing venues. The only thing I can compare this to is when you're about 8 years old playing Little League, and the league forces you to sell overpriced candy bars in a fund-raiser to pay for the mesh ball cap and post-game ice pops. You're always was forced to hit up family and neighbors.

This is what I did, seeking out friends — and friends of friends — employed at bars around Richmond who would let me perform. It works somewhat; for example, it's given me mic time on a Tuesday night at Sin é between the house band's sets. And when friends can't come through, there's also open-mic night at bars such as Chuggers, where one can fine-tune rants, craft body language and slowly gain confidence.

I learned that once a routine is set and a venue is secured, random complications explode onto the scene. Such as shaming your family. One of my greatest sources of material has been my family (God bless them). We all have one, and we all truly believe our family is just a bit stranger than everyone else's. At the first show I ever did, while I was still in college, I did a bit on my mom's past profession as a cage dancer in D.C. (true story) and suggested that had I known this growing up, I would have had her perform at my friends' birthday parties. I was ecstatic after the show and wanted to share this newfound passion with my parents, so in a temporary lapse of sound judgment I sent a tape of the show to my folks. Santa didn't come that Christmas, and now when Mom comes to visit, she wears a Groucho Marx glue-on mustache and refers to herself as my aunt. Needless to say, Grandpa won't be seeing the tape.

But I'm not deterred in the least. I'll keep making calls, interrupting peaceful meals at a bar near you, and one day, with a little luck and a lotta hard work, maybe I'll end up in a 1-800-COLLECT commercial with Carrot Top. S

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