At the microphone

Is this thing on?

Not too long after I started doing stand up comedy, a fellow comic and friend asked if I was going to sign up for The Velveeta Room Open Mic. I told him that I didn’t feel like I was ready, that I wasn’t good enough to go. He pointed out several people who “weren’t ready” and they’ve been going for quite some time. And I signed up for the next week’s open mic.

Recently a friend of mine told me he was thinking about doing stand up comedy. He said that he’s been told to try it out, but has been afforded the privilege of not having to due to there not being any venue available for him to start out. That is, until recently. He found out that there is a place near him that does open mics and he’s considering going. He’s known that I’ve been doing stand up for a while and asked me if it was “worth it?”

Spice Mining?

This isn't the spice I was looking for.

My wife had been watching “American Idol” recently when Ryan Seacrest mentioned that a contestant was “putting it all on the line.” I thought that was really odd, because it wasn’t like losers get shot or sent to the Spice Mines of Kessel. If a contestant doesn’t make the cut, that person goes on with life like it was before the audition. The “putting it all on the line” was really stretching it in my opinion.

Like American Idol, getting into stand up comedy isn’t something that you really have to think about. You show up, you put your time in, and you see if you can keep it going. The cool thing about doing stand up is that you can keep going back week after week. But with comedy, there aren’t any judges to keep you from going to Hollywood. Or New York, for that matter.

While I got excited about my friend looking into doing comedy, I thought about the ‘worth’ of comedy.

I know a lot of aspiring comics. I know many working comics. I’ve met some big name comics. But I’ve never thought to ask if it was worth it. I know comics get into it for different reasons – I did it as a chance to realize a dream. Another friend of mine did it because his Facebook friends suggested he do it. Some do it to test out their writing. Some do it to overcome stage fright. A few comics I know are theater majors and use the stage as a chance to try out ‘characters.’ The value of the stage to them I would imagine varies greatly. I can’t speak on the others, but for me I would say stand up is very much worth it.

Flinstone bowl

Thankfully Fred picked bowling over stand up comedy.

I think of stand up like a hobby, like bowling. You get into it because you’re curious, interested, and possibly have some talent. You try it out, you hang out with people who have a similar outlook on life. You spend a night or two a week honing the craft, and if you get good enough and someone notices, then you get a chance to move up. In bowling, maybe you move to a bigger, better league. In comedy, you move into an opening slot or a hosting gig somewhere. You get paid to tell jokes for a few minutes. If you keep at it, you can move up to a feature spot, and eventually a headline gig somewhere. I suppose in bowling, you could eventually start entering tournaments and become something like a pro. I’m not sure. My grandfather bowled, but it was always the senior leagues. Not too much TV coverage there.

I really can’t think of a time when comedy wouldn’t be worth it. The absolute worst that could happen is that you do so horribly that the club owner/manager asks you to never come back. But that rarely happens, because the stage is one of the last bastions of free speech. I’ve seen a guy make horrible racist comments get heckled off stage and he still came back months later. He may say that “joke” wasn’t worth it, but obviously comedy was worth him coming back to stage.

I can safely say stand up comedy is worth it. Jump in with both feet. Get out and perform. And then do it again. Keep doing it, until you’re done! Or, pick up a bowling ball and hit the lanes. I can say, however, that stand up is a cheaper hobby than bowling, mostly because there aren’t any stand up leagues.

Comedy League

Welcome to NSUCL, The National Stand Up Comedy League.