Fast Times in Stand Up Comedy

By Jarrett Retz -June 21st, 2017

Why not?! Before I moved to Spokane I wanted to try standup comedy. "Oh so you think you're funny?" I think this thought is inherit with the idea that you want to go in front of a mic and try to make people laugh. Moment-to-moment I don't think I'm very funny, but I thought that I could craft some jokes with practice.

A better purpose for why I wanted to try this is that it's a daunting activity. You REALLY are putting your ego and pride out there. It takes courage to give it a shot. Another positive thing that I heard was that comedians look at the world differently. Having an ability to laugh at myself, surroundings, and make jokes about how society (or the world) is sounded beneficial.

I moved to Spokane, looked up an open mic, wrote some jokes, and tried something new.

OK, I went to Open Mic at The Spokane Comedy Club to see what is was like. There were some good comics there, but there was also some really bad ones that weren't funny. This maybe me feel more confident. It was ok to fail really bad.

I began working on material, and I had noted some ideas over the last month that could become jokes. What is interesting about writing jokes is how they transform from idea, to writing it, to saying it, and then to performing it.

I worked out five jokes that I put into a quick set, and set the date to perform. I didn't tell anyone, I wanted to go alone because I was too scared I was going to embarrass myself.

The first time, I headed to Spokane Comedy Club on a Wednesday and got signed up.

I approached a comedian sitting at a table who I had seen there before and asked him about the process. This was a good move, and he was very nice. He told me about the philosophy of an open mic. Comedians are there to work on their new stuff, there's a good chance a lot of things aren't going to be funny. It was nice to know someones name and I also sort of became part of an in-group when I did that. I became a guy that did open mics. If only for a night.

I wasn't that nervous early in the show but right before I went up my heart was pounding. I couldn't believe how nervous I was. Anyway I went up on stage and was taken back by how bright the lights were. I couldn't see the audience! I got started you could hear the nervousness in my voice. I was rattled. I told my first joke and a couple people laughed. Holy shit! Small laughs, but who cares. My next couple jokes were flops and something else crazy happened. I had a heckler! Some drunk guy in back yelled "cut him off" (he had just gone up and was mad he got cut off for talking too long) but I couldn't believe. I worked through my longer joke and after a punch line I got some legit laughs. I ended the short set by circling back to a name joke I had done earlier.

I felt amazing after. I couldn't believe that I had actually made people laugh. I was so deeply confident and happy that I had done it. Looking back at the video I took, the jokes the bombed really BOMBED. However, the laughs from the joke that was a hit was deeply pleasing.

The next week I showed up too late to open mic at the Spokane Comedy Club but went to a smaller open mic venue at Neato Burrito the next night which is much later. It's not as formal and is a more core group of comedians. I met a few more of the regular comedians but I was definitely not part of the group.

Actually a few of them in the back caught myself filming my set and did some obscene things in front of my iPhone (it was kinda funny). I tried a bunch of new jokes. What was nice about the smaller venue was I felt more comfortable. My jokes weren't a hit, a couple people found one funny, but this was really even more of a test run for these comedians and their jokes.

At this point I realized I needed more jokes. I didn't go to an open mic for a week, wrote some jokes I thought were pretty funny. I wanted to get a better practice.

Filming myself really shows you your raw capability later. What you sound and look like. How people react. My stage presence is weak. I made a commitment to practice. I recorded my jokes and sent them to a friend to listen to and get back to me. Now this friend is hilarious, and is not afraid to be straightforward with me.

The Only Way I Failed are times when I told myself I was going to go, but then didn't one way because of one thing or another. Even when I had a flat tire, even when I could hang out with friends, this is when I felt like really bad. Goes against everything I have been trying to live by. My work schedule didn't always line-up with the best time but I could feel myself using it as an excuse.

Third time, I talked for seven minutes at Neato Burrito again. The guy right after me said "Hey man, don't stop doing comedy because you ate dick at a burrito bar. That's why I'm up here because these jokes are half done."

One of the well liked comedians was making some comments that I couldn't tell were negative or slightly promising. At first I thought maybe it was positive but later after I thought about it, it may have been negative.

I also got compared to Steven Tyler? I can't remember, that was whispered around. Neato Burrito is mostly a comedians hangout so the people there get it. Most of them are friends too. "Guffayoself"

One of my jokes got talked about by other comedians, them kind of busting my balls about something I said about a butthole (of course). The highlight of my night was when I was standing outside the bathroom, waiting to go in, and the host, Casey just tapped me on the arm and said, "Hey.. I liked it." That encouragement, whether truly sincere or not was huge.

The comedian that talked about me eating dick was really funny. Quick, confident, used things in the environment to make people laugh and had a really "I don't give a fuck" mindset for many jokes.

Fourth appearance was at the Spokane Comedy Club again. I had 3-5 new jokes I had lined up. I also had two friends coming to see me, which made me a little nervous as well. I got there on time (an hour before the show started) to sign up. I didn't have as much time to practice the jokes like my last appearance at Neato Burrito, but I ran over them mentally before the show. I have also realized that I edit my jokes so many times, sometimes days after I think I'm done with it, to where it seems like it's constantly transforming.

There are some really funny comics at the Club. They have a delivery that I can't imagine, and know how to craft an idea into a joke. I like to think I'm getting a little better at that.

Right before I went on my heart was beating SO HARD, I could not believe it. However, I could feel my experience and as able to self talk some courage into myself. This was EASILY my best performance so far! I forgot to record it, but all my jokes got at least some response and some had some truly legitimate laughs. After I landed 1.5 decent jokes I had my confidence and I was able to deliver the next joke or two with more confidence. I didn't finish with a joke because I lost my train of thought, but I felt accomplished. I got a high five form the next comedian (which means more than it should). My friends were supportive—of course—and dare I say, slightly impressed?

Took me a while to get back out for my fifth go at stand-up. I didn't have any practice before, but I had some new jokes that I felt fairly confident trying out at Neato Burrito. It was a different feeling this time. I felt fairly confident, and more present word-to-word, but my jokes weren't quite ready. I had someone say something out loud to me again when I was on stage and it played into the joke quite nicely actually. I was making jokes about sexual frustration and Albertson's, she said, "Wow.. your sex life is sad." I responded, "Did someone say my sex life was sad? I don't fuck the cantaloupe, but it was on sale... so I thought about it." Which was something I was going to say anyway.

A rough patch came at the end when I forgot about all the jokes I was going to try and didn't have an exit plan. HOWEVER, something cool happened later. Another comedian came over to me and said I had good cadence in the jokes, and I should just keep going to open mics and be consistent because I could actually be ok at this thing.

I don't commit myself that much, and I make the choice because I do just like it as a hobby and new experience. However, I find myself working some of my material into conversations with friends. This happens secretly and spontaneously or sometimes people ask me to tell them a joke. My friend Austin actually called it out one time when I was talking to him. He asked, "Are you practicing a joke on me right now?". We both laughed as I admitted that I was.

This has been a benefit. I can be a little bit funnier in casual conversation because most of my jokes are based off things in my life, so when someone asks me about my life I can work in a joke that I had been thinking about.

This also makes me alert to more things in my life that are funny. The amount of situations that can be spun to sound ridiculous—and funny—are difficult to count because there are so many. When I was scanning for new jokes certain things caught my eye that definitely would not have if I did not

I did five open mics. I have felt the anxiety of silence, the rush of a landed joke, and the accomplishment of trying something new. Over the last few weeks summer has jumped up quickly, and there are many other things that I hope to experience and experiment with. I don't know if my run at open mic standup is over forever, but I'm damn happy I gave it go in the first place. For now, I will casually let my attention to writing new jokes (and setting time aside to go to open mics) slip to lower ends of my priority list.

What I really think I know now, that I wanted to know, was how difficult it really is to get up there try to make people laugh. I have huge respect for guys/girls that can go up on that stage and make it happen. That is a true talent and you have to work at that just like everything else. My appreciation for a well crafted joke has increased. because in the back of my mind I no longer think, "well I could probably do that."

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