I wanted to do something different here since my life is well, a little out of the ordinary. In addition to managing the cutest cupcake shop in town and crafting nearly anything that includes buttons and felt, I also perform on stage at night in dingy bars, where I typically only make a few dollars.
It's not what you think. Or maybe it's exactly what you think, if you know someone else who does this. One girl on stage, surrounded by tens of men all starring at her- some in awe, many confused.
I'm a stand-up comedian. Today, I'm going to give you an idea of what that is like on a Tuesday night in Pensacola, FL for Back Porch Comics.
After coming home and showering from a long day of frosting and sprinkles, I snuggle with my pups Apple and Gus for a few more minutes before its time to go. Of course, I would rather stay home with them, in my jammies, to eat, nap, and cry, but- show business calls. Well, that and I'm driving my husband there tonight so, I kind of have no choice.
I pick out my usual “open mic outfit” consisting of leggings, an undershirt, long t-shirt, cardigan and flats (which is nearly the exact same outfit worn by any other female comic in the area and almost always from Target).I used to get my hair done at a salon, buy a new outfit, and spend hours on my makeup for a show, but after 4 years doing comedy I realized that wasn’t what was important. It doesn’t matter how spiffy you look at a show, but how funny you are- and how confident you are in your own skin. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still wear make-up to the shows, but fake eye lashes? A thing of the past!
We arrive at open mic at the Back Porch Bar and Grill. It used to have a different name, but the owner decided to rename it after our local comedy group, Back Porch Comedy.
My husband and some of the other comics begin setting up the room for the night (we move the tables and chairs into a position more suitable for a comedy show). We get the old-run down carpet out of the dark and damp closet and set it up along with the mic (this is very glamourous, if you couldn’t tell).
The sign up list for the night has already been started. I usually like to be the one in charge of it when I'm there so that I have complete and total control, but I've been loosening up on that. Maybe I don't need to be the dictator of everything all of the time- what a novel idea!
There are several comics already here and a small crowd for the audience is beginning to form- mostly just people who happen to still be lingering from happy hour. Within a few hours this will change and (hopefully) we will have a large audience ready to laugh. Or, they will just stare at us and after each one of us bombs on our set, we will kindly say to each other when retuning from the stage "hey... It was a weird crowd man, it isn't you!" Let's hope for the former.
This is when the show is supposed to start, but it rarely ever does. I go outside to wrangle up all the comics and tell them to double check their names on the list. Sometimes a comic might get moved up or down on the line up. If this happens, I try and keep them aware of what's going on.
This night is particularly tough, because we have over 25 comics signed up. In some big cities, that's nothing, but in our relatively small scene it's a big turnout.
Every comic gets five minutes of stage time. They get a light at four minutes so they know to wrap it up. Lucky for me, a friend of mine is hosting and therefore on "light" duty tonight. I always feel so guilty lighting someone, especially when I know they are starting a bit that is going to be another 4 minutes. Then sometimes they don't see the light and you have to keep flashing it over and over in just the right spot. It's a whole thing.
The show is officially starting. I squeezed myself in somewhere around 10th. At this time I'm just drinking my ginger ale (I try not to drink alcohol at open mics if I can help it) and rewriting my set list over and over in an effort to remember it. I'm trying out some new stuff tonight and I'm a little nervous.
I still get nervous, even though this is my 4th year of doing it. You're in a very vulnerable position when you're own stage. You're standing all by yourself, no podium to hide behind, with material that YOU wrote and sometimes are saying out loud for first time!
My husband always says "if it's funny to you while you're up there, that's all that matters." I guess that's true. Every comic is unique and their comedic style varies.
It's important to watch the crowd and kind of gage where they are at. Although I feel that no topics are off limits in comedy, it's good to try and be mindful of your audience. If you have a joke that you feel you just HAVE to do, no matter what- then do it. I usually like to get the feel of the room first, and then I might decide to take away or add jokes to my bit.
Here’s a picture of my husband on stage because I’m overly critical of how all my shots came out.
I'm on deck (I'm next) and I'm nervous. As predicted the crowd had grown and there isn't a seat left in the room. I'm not as prepared as I usually am, because I have been working extra at the shop and only had minimal time to go over some new ideas.
Well, it was okay. Some of my jokes I didn't get to because I took too long up front on some other topics. I got laughs, but more at the stuff I said off the cuff/ work I did with the crowd. This is a feeling that's rough, because I'm pissed at myself for not doing as well as I would have liked, but I don't want to give off too much of that vibe and get pity, either. I'll go over what went well and what went wrong with my set about 20 times in my mind because I am crazy.
The show wraps up and the crowd leaves. My husband and some of the other comics move around all of the chairs and tables to put it back to its original set up. I would help with this, but I don’t want to. We go outside and mingle for a little bit, while the bartender gets our total bar sales (profit) for the night.
At this point, I'm exhausted and must get home to sleep because I have to get up in a few hours for work. Many of the comics will be going into work tomorrow morning with dark circles under their eyes, but I am sure that they feel the same way I do when I say, that it was all worth it.