First stand-up: a comedy club I’ll call the Seaweed Lounge. Originally I was going to follow the instructor’s advice – attend one and perform in one. But that afternoon I was talking to someone from my pottery class. She asked what my routine was and I went through it fast. She couldnt help laughing. I decided if I could get there in time and find the sign-up place, I’d do it.
Around 9 PM I get a cab over. It’s a tiny dark place with a steep staircase. There’s a sheet on the counter. One of the young guys there tells me he’s Andrew and he’s been doing this for about two months. He’s a veteran. He explains that we sign up but are not taken in order. Five minutes with the light – the warning – at one minute. He tells me where the other good clubs are; this one is tough, that one is good Oh yes, “Don’t forget to tip the bartender.”
So I order a glass of ice water and give the bartender a dollar. Then I talk to someone else who’s been doing this for two years. He does stand-up almost every day, at a different venue. The evening’s host is a blond woman named Cait. I tell her I’ve never done this before, but I’m in a class with Chip and Mary. She knows them. I ask where’s the light and she asks this guy, “Are you the ight?” As they told us in class, the light is a cell phone they wave up and down to let you know you’ve got just a minute.
Then I take a seat at the bar. Comic after comic goes up. There were just a few when I signed in. Where did they come from? Cait hosts and she seems to know them. A few are pretty good but most are pretty rough; I guess they are trying new material. They do a lot of “fuck” jokes and a lot of detail about the human anatomy. I’m wondering about my own routine which is pretty clean.
I’ve written it out and practiced with the screen capture video program so I’m pretty comfortable with my material. I’m tense but after awhile I just get tired. I want to go on and get it over with. Then tehre’s a break. Then they explain they put people they know on first. Hm…nobody told me! “You can always go home and come another time,” Mike says. No way. I am psyched and I want to go to class and tell Chip and Mary I’ve done it. So I hang in.
Another guy tells me I’m fourth in the second half. I feel a little nervous as I watch the first three and ten the host – a different host for the second set- says, “Give it up for Cathy Goodwin!” I like the sound of that.
I make it up without tripping over the stage and get the mike off the stand. I’m surprisingly comfortable and I get a laugh right away, when I talk about advice for getting old: “It’s not ‘Learn to like drinking tea…” Then I get other laughs with the loudest of course when I demonstrate some good swearing.
I get the light just before the last bit so I cram it in and put the mike back. The host shakes hands. I find my seat. I know it went well. Elise leans over and says, ‘Did you say that was your first time doing this?” I say yes but I’ve had lots of speaking experience. She shakes her head. They are looking at me differently. They even ask if I want a beer but I say I’d fall asleep. They say it’s okay to leave and I decide I’d better.
At the door Cait from the first half shakes my hand. I’m feeling accepted in a new way. I say I’l be back and I know I will. I’m hooked. And when I get home I can’t sleep: it’s been forever since I did something well and got recognized. I see why people hang out at open mikes so they get five minutes air time. It’s a drug.
It’s also midnight. I’ve been gone just 3 hours. And a lifetime.