I learned a couple of things at the open mic last Friday. The first thing is that my true comedic style lies within my ability to tell a story. Because like Ed Byrne once so eloquently put it, we are never as clever as we want others to think we are. All of the things we “wanted” to say, or “wanted” to do are usually thought of after the fact. Sometimes years later.
Steve Hofstetter, in a podcast interview once said that he was not as happy with his material until after he stopped writing jokes and started writing down ideas. You can see the difference in his later acts where most of his comedy comes from current events, be it sports, politics, or society in general.
Similarly, when I experience something that I consider later to be a “failure of humanity” I obsess over the events so much that it can only end two ways. I let it destroy me, or I write it out, peppering the monologue with zingers and one-liners to keep the audience interested. It’s not so much what is happening in my life or that the story itself is remarkable, but it is how I have groomed it over the years to now be able to tell it in a way that is even partially entertaining to a reader or to a live audience member.
The second thing I learned is that for all I criticize others for not listening, my own listening skills can be a bit off. Since I had gone up first at the open mic, I was so surprised about how well I was received by this new group of people that the only thing I could focus on was what I would write next to present to this group. The entire time I was thinking of this, someone was reading poetry and all I was managing was a smile and a nod. Mind you, if you asked me what his poetry had been about, I would have blanked out.
For that, I apologize both to the other performers and to myself. Because this was something I realized I had to start doing when I was doing the comedy open mics more regularly. Listening to the other comics is key, even if you don’t laugh at their material, because sometimes a way to keep the crowd interested in you is by looking out for the jokes that you can tag during your own five minutes.
More to the point, listening to other performers is respectful and although this is going to surprise some people, I do try to treat others the way I wish to be treated.