Friday, January 27, 2006

I'm Here All Week! Next Time, Try the Veal!

I’m working from home today, with the intent to get a good handle on some writing that I need to get done for a project. I can concentrate here much better than I can at work, where a hundred interruptions fill my day, ranging from pointless meetings to e-mail requests and phone calls to people just popping their heads in the door to say hey. Also, it means that I get to work on a much better computer – the computers at the Random Non-profit are beyond ancient – at least 6 years old, which IS ancient in computer terms . . .

However, my mind seems to be wandering elsewhere this morning.

Last night, Mr. Random and I went to see our friend, J, perform at a comedy open mike in Downtown DC, held in a basement room of a small hotel. I had never been to such a thing before, and it was a rather interesting experience – lots of people trying it for the first time, or having only done it a few times, and a few folks who had really honed their act and that you could tell they were about to make it to bigger rooms and bigger audiences. You sit through a lot of mediocre material - worthy of only a chuckle; a lot or horrible material - in which you sit uncomfortably, hoping that the person’s set ends quickly so you don’t have to sit through anymore of the foulmouthed, misguided attempts at jokes; and then, if you are lucky, you get to sit through some pretty funny stuff.

The organizer of the open mike was I fellow that I had read about in the Washington Post Magazine – his life had been profiled for a couple of months in a feature the Magazine did to follow the lives of “real” Washingtonians for a set number of weeks. His story was actually one of the better ones, and I was very sad when they moved on to another subject – which if I remember correctly was a couple of slacker guys who were flooded out of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, and then managed to screw up any opportunities they were given here in DC. But I digress . . .

When I first walked into the room, I noticed how small and dark it was . . . there couldn’t have been more than 10 small cocktail tables with 3 or four chairs around each one. It was still a bit early and there were a few guys hanging around, waiting for the show to start. My first thought was . . . ugh, these MUST be the comics. Comics are not known for their striking good looks (although J is rather handsomely adorable looking, so he doesn’t get lumped in of course) but there is probably a reason they aimed for comedy, rather than, um, acting or modeling . . .

The stage was a small, square, black metal riser at the front of the room, in almost kind of a cubby, with barely enough room for both the tall, wooden stool and the tall microphone stand that stood on top of it. There was a white pot light attached to the ceiling that acted as a spotlight, and it shone almost directly in the face of whoever was onstage. The lights in the rest of the room were on dim, with most of the bright light coming from the doorway leading in the room from the hallway.

You could not order food and drinks at your table. You had to go to the bar upstairs and place your order and then the server would bring your food down to your table. At the end of the evening, you had to go back upstairs to the bar to pay for you stuff. It was annoying, and the food was expensive, but Mr. Random and I had no choice since we had spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find a place to park in downtown DC at 7 PM on a Thursday night . . . those who know the area will recognize the pain of that search . . . which was compounded in its painfulness by the fact that I REALLY had to go to the bathroom . . . REALLY bad. Yes, I had gone before I left the office, but I had had a lot of liquids yesterday. We had planned on going to Julia’s Empanadas, which Mr. Random had not yet tried and which I loved when I used to work down there, but it was not to be.

The room filled up with people – random couples, friends and family of the comics, hotel guests. The show started. J was supposed to be number 6 in the order, but the MC screwed up and called him earlier than planed, which entirely threw J off, since he wasn’t mentally ready to go on yet. He was a bit shaken, and the set did not start well, but after a while some of his old bits came back and people began to laugh, but then he tried some new stuff which didn’t go over so hot. When he got off the stage he felt pretty bad, but for someone who hadn’t done that in 6 months we were just in awe that he was able to get back up there and try, regardless of how he did. He’ll get better again, I’m certain of that. It will just take a bit of time . . .

. . . We are now in the point of the story where I could either go on about each of the other comics or I could just end it right here . . . and I’ll have to end it right here, since I’m getting a bit tired. It was quite fun to go out on a “school night” and experience something that I hadn’t before. Who knows, I may go to another one sometime now that I know that they aren’t too horrible.

Has anyone else ever gone to an “Open Mike?” (comedy or otherwise?) Have any of you ever performed at one?

1 comment:

jo(e) said...

I love open mike nights. I've been to hundreds of them -- some at comedy clubs, some music ones at coffeehouses, and some for poetry. It is such a great way to get practice working with an audience.

I've read poems at poetry open mikes more times than I can count.

What I really love about open mikes is the informal atmosphere -- and the audience is forgiving if someone makes a mistake. The great thing too is that you can have someone sort of famous performing right after some high school kid ... everyone is equal.