I was surprised to get asked to perform in the first place. I have steadily improved my act over the last nine months since I started doing the standup comedy open mics again.
Just as everyone seems to be abandoning Facebook, standup comedians rely on it for maintaining contact with other comedians. First, I received a friend request, which I immediately accepted because it was from a comedian I had seen perform. After I accepted his friend request, he then messaged me asking me if I had ten minutes of material. When I said I did, he asked me if I wanted to perform at The Comedy Shrine on Friday, March 6, 2020. Of course, I did!
And to think that someone else noticed that my act was improving. The pay for this show will be a videotape of my performance. So now I have to drum some audience members so we have a full house for the videotaping.
Okay, as you’ve probably already guessed, yes, that’s why I’m writing this post! I would like to invite all my readers to come out to The Comedy Shrine to come see me perform standup comedy. Of course, there will be other great standup comedians, too. If you see the show, your laughter will also be recorded!
Well, I’ve started going back to the comedy clubs after more than thirty-three years. Things have really changed since then. So many changes! I think the changes are for the better.
I was surprsed by how many comedians go to the so many available open mics in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. And the comedians are so supportive of each other. Of course, that’s not surprising because Chicago is one of the comedy breeding grounds for the U.S. If you are a new comedian, you may perform every night of the week, multiple times per day. And, there are no hecklers. I was very surprised by that. I remember always dreading my confrontations with hecklers. Some of my best shows, of course, were when I was able to handle the hecklers.
Gone are the smoke-filled comedy rooms since smoking was banned indoors, which is great for me since I have always been a non-smoker. But I sort of miss the ambience. However, I think the audiences are nicer now that they don’t smoke.
Back in 1986, I occasionally earned money as a standup comedian. Now, many clubs have a two-drink minimum for comedians who want to participate for the open mic. Yes, I understand that this helps keep the clubs open, but I remember getting paid five dollars and getting two drinks for performing at the open mic at the Higgins Street Cafe.
Back in 1983, all the open mics started at 9:00 or 9:30. Now they start much earlier, often as early as 6:00 PM. This is a much more convenient for aspiring comics who must get up early the next morning for work.
There are so many comics attending all these open mics. Yes, I’m one of them, too. Last night, I went to the Comedy Shrine and there were forty comedians signed up! And about half of them are very funny. Not only do I perform, but I also enjoy watch the other comedians perform.
When I started performing this go-round, I wrote all new jokes. I had my friend Vito look over my jokes and he contributed some very funny jokes, as he did for me back in 1983 and 1986. Most of the jokes went over very well. Afterwards, several comics would ask me, “How long have you been doing comedy?” I suppose you can take that both ways: 1. That I sound like I have some previous experience as a comedian, or, 2. You must be really new at comedy!
Well, I am finally overcoming my stage fright and getting more comfortable on stage. My new jokes are getting laughs at all the right times. Plus, I have been inserting my old jokes in there from time to time. At first, I was afraid to tell the old jokes, but I told one or two from time to time. Some of my biggest laughs come from jokes that are more than thirty years old!
I’ll keep working at standup comedy for the foreseeable future. I enjoy hearing the laughter. Maybe I’m crazy, but I think I finally found my true calling.
I often try not to think about comedy clubs. Then, suddenly, Riddles is put in my path. Why is there a comedy club here? I usually drive up and down 111th Street. A very mundane experience. I know all the usual landmarks by heart: Beverly Arts Center, Burrito Station, the fire station, Mount Greenwood Park, the Oak Lawn Dolphin Club. All the usual landmarks that I begin to not see after seeing them so many times. But then one day, I see the Riddles Comedy Club! And I can’t avert my eyes. I’m staring at it with my mouth gaping.
Just a few years ago, I visited the Riddles club in Orland Park with the hopes of performing at their open mic night on Thursdays. I wrote some jokes. And you better believe that they were very, very funny. So funny that I was afraid that someone would die laughing. I went to Riddles a few times just to check out the ambience. My very first night there, I was told that I wouldn’t have to pay a cover charge if I was an open mic performer. As tempting as this invitation was, I politely declined. Okay, I admit it. I was afraid to go on stage! I had flashbacks to when I actually did go up on stage.
Anyway, when I was finally comfortable with the club, I decided to perform. I wrote some more killer jokes. I thought about rehearsing, but I was afraid to sound too rehearsed. So, I didn’t rehearse. But believe, I was ready! Oh, yes, I was! Or so I had fooled myself into believing When I get to the club and tell them that I want to perform for open mic, they tell me that open mic has been cancelled. How disappointing! Well, not really. What I really meant was, “What a relief!” Especially, since I was invited to stay to watch the show without paying a cover charge. Well, open mic night was cancelled because the starring acts had arrived a day early and want to perform in order to warm up for their weekend performances. I must that I thoroughly enjoyed the show. I was also greatly relieved that I didn’t have to perform.
Whenever I get the urge to perform again, I get really motivated. But then, I lose the urge when I realize that I would have to leave the house about 8:00 pm and return until after midnight. I used to enjoy that, but I didn’t have to get up early to go to work. I would usually wake up at the crack of noon, go running, and then relax before I went to the comedy clubs. I have become such a homebody lately. I really enjoy staying home! Of course, I occasionally leave the house. I not exactly a shut-in.
I plan on going to Riddles very soon. As a spectator. Luckily, they don’t have an open mic night. Yet!
I have been watching Woody Allen movies for a long time. Once, in the 1970s, we–Vito, Jim, and I–saw four Woody Allen movies for a dollar (Only on the north side!) I remember his earlier, funnier movies, to quote Stardust Memories.
Later, when we lost track of each other, Jim would call us up so we could go out to see his latest movie. Of course, no movie after Annie Hall was as funny for me as his earlier efforts. So, today, I saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona. And it was okay. Certainly not as funny as Annie Hall. I did enjoy the shots of Spain in Barcelona and Oviedo. The movie reminded me of my trip to Spain. I haven’t actually been to Spain, but when I do go, I plan on visiting Barcelona where I knew a couple of people. I really will go to Spain someday!
But back to the movie. The plot was easily identifiable as a Woody Allen product of obsessive attention to the minutiae of life. In his typical fashion, he exaggerates details that most normal and sane human beings would overlook. In one scene, Scarlett Johansson apologizes profusely and I couldn’t help but picture Woody Allen directing her into acting as she did–that is, a Woody Allenesque neurotic tirade complete with the exaggerated hand gestures.
Of course, if Woody looked anything like Scarlett, he would have had a completely different career. The one thing that really bothered me about the movie was the narrator. If you’ve ever taken a writing class, you know that one thing that is drilled into head constantly: Don’t tell, show! Well, the narrator constantly explains the actions that we see on the screen, rather than letting us think about them and contemplate what the characters are thinking about their dilemma. Okay, the actors were great in this movie, but I guess I was mainly focusing on Woody Allen as the writer and director. For some reason I’m always attracted to his movies even though I don’t think they’re very good. But I will immediately go see the next one that comes out.
I actually saw the movie Stranger Than Fiction because it was about a writer writing a novel. I liked the way the line between reality and fiction was blurred. I bought the DVD when it came out and I actually saw it soon afterwards. I only say this because I have a stack of DVDs that I bought years ago and have yet to see.
Another reason I wanted to see it was because I have a personal connection with this movie. It was filmed partly at UIC. In fact, I had to change classrooms because they filmed in my classroom. One day, as I talked to a student in the hallway, another student said, “Did you see who just walked behind you?” Of course, I didn’t. Because I like to make eye contact when I talk to someone. Well, it was Dustin Hoffman! And I didn’t see him! People at UIC who were around the film crew said that Dustin Hoffman was actually funnier than Will Ferrell in person.
So that was my brush with greatness. And I missed it!