Archives for posts with tag: Nick Aluotto
Staged.

Is this thing on?

Last night was the weekly open mic at Corridor – my comedy home. Every week is fun, but last night was a bit different.

I started off my evening of comedy by heading over to Michael Nieto’s place. The one and only Wade Word was over and they were recording their podcast, “Before the Show” (caution, language). I was surprised to see Curtis Hammill there. So this particular episode of BTS could be quite interesting. I know I had a good time. We wrapped up and headed out to Corridor.

As always, the show started late.  There were quite a few people in the main room at J’s Bistro, but the lounge was strictly comics. There was a new guy, who slightly resembled a Zack Galifianakis. The people in the main room? His friends. The kicker? None of them wanted to pay the $5 to get in. At first. Then they all relented and got themselves inside. And of course, Galifianakis-man had to comment on that. He was the first guy up for the night.

This guy wasn't there.

I had asked my good friend, Nick Kukowski to come out and run the camera so that I could concentrate on comedy. Last week, I showed up without the camera and it was a great time. I wanted to keep that going, so I asked Nick to help out. The deal was I’d split the cash we made. Which was $14. Go us! But I must admit, it was nice to be able to just do what I do without having to stress about the camera. I didn’t realize how much of a toll that takes on the comic side of myself.

I got everything set up, and Nick rolled in. I showed him how I had things set up and chatted for a bit while we all waited for Galifianakis, Jr. to get his people inside. And then we started.

Oh, I should mention, the guy who runs the place, Nick Aluotto, has been choosing the host of the open mic a few minutes before the show starts. That was another thing we were waiting on. He picked Paul Roca, and once he got the list together, we got rolling.

And what a ride it was.

I didn’t stay in the lounge area often, I stayed in the main room and talked with the other comics. It’s refreshing to talk comedy and life while comedy and life is happening. While Galifianakis Jr. was on, Curtis walked up to me and voiced his concern, which was the same concern I had just had myself.

We were both concerned that when this guy was done on stage, all his friends would leave and we’d all be stuck doing comedy for each other. It’s fine, we’ve done that before, but it’s an odd thing. Comics don’t really do comedy when it’s just comics, they talk smack and just do a bunch of ‘inside’ jokes. So even if someone walks in, they don’t get the comedy. Fortunately, the friends stayed and the show rolled on.

Later on, Curtis and I would realize that since the guys were scraping up funds to see a show, they’d get the most of their money and stay the whole two and a half hours. That’s two bucks an hour. What a bargain.

If I may digress here, one thing I’ve noticed about stand up comics is that when someone first starts doing comedy, they bring friends. Sometimes it’s four or five friends, but many times it’s something like 8 to 10. Then for the second outing, there’s fewer friends, if it was 8 before, it’s 5 now. And this trend continues until the comic can’t even get the spouse to show. And as time goes on, you get a bunch of comics watching comedy with a bunch of comics. Especially in San Marcos where comedy takes a back seat to drinking and dancing. In Austin, it’s not a big deal, because there are plenty of people who wander in, or specifically look for comedy.

Perspective

Like these people, comedy isn't always straight up.

I wandered in and out of the room, and noticed that the crowd wasn’t shy – meaning a couple of people didn’t mind joining in the show, even though they weren’t invited. One guy in particular was constantly heckling. I’m not sure what his deal was, but he was the sort of heckler that thinks he’s adding to the performance. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.

I’m going to take a minute and break the illusion of comedy. The reason comedy works so well is because it’s well rehearsed. It’s rehearsed to be energetic and off-the-cuff. Bad comedy is bad not so much because of the material, but because the performance. Imagine if Louie CK just mumbled his jokes in a very sloppy way. Or if Brian Regan just sat in a chair relating his Pie Joke in a very A.D.D. manner? It wouldn’t play. The reason it’s funny is because it comes of as new. Fresh. As if the comic just thought it up on the way over. If you notice, comics will almost always say something happened recently. They saw something on the way in. They had something happen yesterday. Or last week. It’s always timely. That’s part of the illusion. I saw a comic last year, and saw him again recently. He has an airplane joke. It was the same both times. And both times it happened last week. To the uninitiated, it comes off as he just thought it up. To the comics, we know that it probably never happened. But the illusion is there.

This is part of the problem with the heckler. The heckler believes in the illusion, and that the comic really is living in the moment. Sadly, most comics aren’t that great on their feet and can’t really handle the immediacy of an idiot in the crowd. Even more sad is the fact that the comics that can, usually default to verbally abusing the heckler. It works, and most times shuts up the heckler, but not always.

Heckler UMP

Not your typical Heckler.

So this guy was talking all night. Adding little comments here and there. I can’t say how the other comics handled it, because I was in and out of the room. I know a couple comics addressed it and did their best to shut him up. I imagine others just ignored the guy. Either way, it’s not a fun experience for the comic, and truthfully, the audience tends to really frown on it too. Any heckler video you see on YouTube usually ends with the crowd cheering the comic, because they really can’t do anything to the heckler to make them stop. It’s up to the comic or the establishment.

Which brings me to another point. A lot of comics look forward to dealing with a heckler. When they know there’s a heckler in the audience, they start ignoring their material and start concentrating on that heckler. They want to get some practice in dealing with these guys. The truth is, as a comic, you’re going to see a heckler fairly often. More often than one would like usually. So when a comic does get the chance, the comic will take it.

It’s not always the case. It’s not always funny. And it’s not always the best thing for the night. The trick to dealing with a heckler is to walk that line between doing material, handling the heckler, and not offending the audience. It’s a tricky, fun walk to take. I’ve personally had two hecklers in my short time on stage. Once was from a drunk lady who had been a bit distracting and practically ruined David McQuary’s set that night. She was leaving when I got on stage and I sort of agged her on. She stayed and magic happened.

Last night was my second time handling a heckler. I don’t have video up yet, but I will, and I’ll post the link in the comments. Hopefully.

After the show, the heckler stuck around and then apologized to various people about what he did. He actually told me, “I’m funny, I’m actually funny!” which was really annoying, because this is our craft. Imagine if you’re a CPA and some guy comes in and starts manipulating your numbers and then says, “I’m good with numbers, I really am!” Yeah, not funny either way.

But we all encouraged him to show up next week and get on stage. I don’t know if he will, but if he does, I’ll put his video up just on principle.

Hey, thanks for reading folks – I really appreciate it.

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This past Monday was the 30th birthday of the guy who runs Corridor Comedy Club, Nick Aluotto.  I feel a certain loyalty to him and the club because it’s where I started. It’s also the place where I feel a part of the ‘family’ of San Marcos (and surrounding communities) comedians.

This past week was sort of rough for the two of us – due to some errors in communication, we ended up being really frustrated with each other. But I wanted to make a bit of a surprise for him this week. I couldn’t really throw a surprise party for him, so I did the next best thing.

The open mic is held every Wednesday in the lounge at J’s Bistro. Corridor has been around just over a year – a year and a month. Usually there’s a fair turnout of comics and audience. Last night, we had quite a few comics, and a pretty good audience. Thanks to the cooperation of both comics and audience, I was able to pull off a great practical joke – AND – keep him from knowing it was me (until another comic told him).

I was a bit worried at first. I was able to talk to all the comics no problem, and they were able to tell their friends too. That part was really easy. And all of them thought it was a great idea. Well, most. One guy thought it wasn’t a great idea, the other thought it would be a bad idea. The hard part was getting the people who were just there, just ‘true’ audience members. I couldn’t just walk over to those people and let them know what was going on. And I couldn’t figure out just how to get that info to them.

I thought I could get the host to say something if Nick was out of the room. I had it orchestrated. I told the host to announce it, and I got another comic, Anthony Torino, to take him into the bar and talk to him – distract him. And it was going great. Until the host slipped up and just introduced the next comic.

I wanted to just run up on stage real quick interrupt the set, and say what I wanted to say, but I refrained.

On try two, I was trying to keep Nick occupied, uh, not in a military style, but just keep him out of the lounge. It sort of worked, but then it didn’t. The host, Aaron McDavis, started telling the crowd the plan, but Nick wandered in. Harrison Drover saw this and tried to warn Aaron, but not in a cool, quick way. It was more like this – Harrison saw Nick coming in and then turned and whisper yelled at Aaron to STOP. Or QUIT. Or NO. or something. I was behind Nick, and this is what I saw –

Aaron was in the middle of the room, talking to the crowd. When Harrison told him to stop, he did. He did it with the look of a guy that just got caught taking money from the “help a cripple” jar. With a big “Uhhh” Aaron went back on stage. Nick was a little concerned, and asked what was going on… And everyone froze up and did a “Nothing” sort of answer. WORST. IMPROV. EVER!

Things went on, and thankfully Nick stepped out for a bit, and I was able to keep an eye out. Aaron was able to quickly tell the audience the plan and they were all on board. BOOM it was on! Fortunately, Aaron was able to do this one comic before Nick’s turn. Whew! Talk about close!

I suppose I should let you in on the prank. I had told everyone that when Nick starts his set, that give him no response. No laugh, no boo, nothing. Then, when he gets frustrated, we’d sing Happy Birthday.

We all clapped and cheered him getting on stage. Then for next three minutes, he told jokes. And no one made a sound. NOTHING. I knew people were really holding back, because I could see some people biting their hands and covering their mouths. At about 3 mins and 15 seconds, he asks what’s going on. Not frustration so much, but just enough to push it. So Aaron and I lead the singing, and everyone joins in.

The results were awesome. I was so happy that it all worked out. I was sweating it, because if anyone didn’t know, or someone broke the silence, it’d be over. The fallback was that we’d just sing happy birthday at some point.

I went on after Nick and therefore was able to avoid him for a few minutes. At some point, Nick came into the lounge and said something. I could tell he was happy. Apparently Ethan Moore had spilled the beans. Those around him at the time said he laughed so hard. I wished I could have seen that.

All in all, it came off great, everyone enjoyed it, and Nick ended up having a nice surprise.