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THE

SHALLOW
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A Year In The Life Of A Young Stand-Up Comic

Jay Light

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#0: Ringing in the New Year
12/31/2012: East Coast Rockin’ New Year’s Eve!, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I enjoy having the ability to perform at work. Being able to take a break to do a set
in the Yoo Hoo Room at, well, not quite my leisure, but whenever there’s an open
spot in the lineup, is a great boon to my growth as a comic. Stage time is the
number one thing I need at this point, and I’ll overcome the weirdness of having to
perform in a tie and suspenders to get a few minutes.

I clocked out, went to the Yoo Hoo Room, where the MC was waiting for me. “Are
you Jay?”

“Yeah, sorry. Had to clock out.”

“I was about to go looking for you. You’re on next.”

“I’m ready.”

“Great!”

The comic before me - my friend Parker - finished his set, shook the MC’s hand,
and left the stage, walking towards the back of the room, where I stood, waiting.
He patted me on the back, as if to say, “knock ‘em dead, dude.”

I tried.

I started with some crowd work, a habit I’m forcing myself into. I’ll never improve
if I don’t try. It went all right, but I could already sense that the crowd was pretty
lukewarm. I went into my prepared material, some of which worked (the Amtrak
joke, the NC rape laws joke) but a good chunk of which didn’t.

I tried not to show it on stage, but the lack of response threw me more than it
should have.

Later that night, my friend Reilly told me that he thought I needed to try having
more swagger on stage. That I needed to not give a shit so much. He said he could
tell when I fell out of the moment, and that confidence and swagger in the face of
that would do wonders for my stage presence.

So I guess that’s a starting point.




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#1: So, What's The Deal With Racial Tension?
1/3/2013: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I always enjoy the bar mic, even on nights when I go up close to last, like
yesterday.

The bar mic runs Wednesday through Saturday nights, lottery style, with a
different host each night. The comics all put their names into a pitcher and go up
for their five minutes as they get drawn.

Thursday night’s host is a big, jovial black dude named JC. JC is the man, and gets
a lot of comparisons to Bernie Mac. (He does look and sound uncannily like Bernie
Mac, if Bernie Mac wore a fedora all the time.)

The show started out with an unusually large audience. About 3/4 of it were
comics, and the last quarter was a group of four Hispanic youngsters - two girls,
two boys, late teens or early twenties, only one or two of them drinking - who
decided they wanted to come all the way from Santa Clarita just to watch the open
mic. And sit right up front.

Cue almost every comic asking them if they were dating, commenting on how
boring Santa Clarita must be on a Thursday, etc.

By 1:15, the room had cleared out, save for myself, five other comics, and the weird
Hispanic double date situation. It’s looking more like Thursdays usually do.

Around 1:30, JC pulls my name out of the pitcher, and I go up to do my time.

My boss Dave has been advising me to go on stage without prepared material. To
just talk about things. It’s tough getting used to performing off-the-cuff after
writing out every joke for the past four years, but last night I really went for it: the
most I had written out beforehand was the inklings of premises.

As I arrive on stage, I immediately notice that I’ve stepped into a cologne cloud. I
ask JC if it’s his, and we get into a little conversation that ends with me saying,
“that might have been the blackest I’ve ever sounded.” Cue laughter.

I turn to JC. “You just helped me unlock my inner -“

I want to say something clever about my inner black child being unlocked. I know
there’s something else that people call black kids. I realize that this term - tar baby
- is actually crazy racist. As I am not a racist, crazy or otherwise, I immediately
follow up with:

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“-nope, nope, not saying that.”

But then I think, well, it’s super late anyway, and as a comic I should be truthful
onstage. I guess let’s see where this goes?

“That was weird. I’m just going to say it - I almost said inner tar baby.”

Cue gasps, one person saying “Jesus!” JC’s eyes widen and he lets loose a shocked
chuckle.

I’m trying not to flounder. “I know, I know, I’m sorry, that’s why I stopped myself.
Let’s just move on. This is like comedy sandpaper - rough and uncomfortable.”

I solider forth, trying out new thoughts about the New Year (failure), the
impending shotgun wedding of some college friends (not fleshed out enough),
calling girls cum dumpsters (too wordy, needs some editing), and Pokémon
bestiality (the most solid one of the bunch).

JC gives me the light. “Alright, that’s enough, the end.”

“Give it up for Michael Richards everybody, Michael Richards. Be sure to stick
around so I can kick your ass after this!”

Cue nervous laughter.

I felt horrible, sitting in the back of the bar but everyone assured me that it was no
harm, no foul. JC especially, who reminded me that it’s all in good fun, that he
knew I didn’t have the malice that’s usually behind those words.

“It’s just jokes. Don’t worry.”

Or, as another comic put it, “looks like you can pull off a little racism.”

I’ll just stick to the jokes, thanks.
________________________________________________________________________

#2/#3: Patience, Young One
1/5/2013: Rolling on Shabbos, Hollywood Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

Working at a comedy club is a double-edged sword. Even though I love my job, the
club, and my co-workers, only having the time to perform at one place for the
week is kind of a drag. So whenever I get a day off, I like to venture out some.

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Yesterday, I decided to hit up the mic at the Hollywood Hotel. I like it because I
can walk there from my house. It was the first show I ever did after moving to Los
Angeles.

It’d been nearly five months since I last went up there.

Sign-ups start at 6, but I arrive at 6:20. Big mistake: the list already has thirty two
comics on it. Thirthy-two. Thirsty too. Thirty-two. The bartender, the keeper of
the list, kindly lets me know that I’ll probably be going on sometime close to 10:15.

I order my required-to-get-stage-time drink - whiskey, Coke - and take a seat, and
the zany wackiness begins.

About an hour in, I start to nod off. This is abnormal. Usually I know one or two
people I can go hang out with and talk to while I’m at a show, but here I knew
nobody. NOBODY. I had no side conversation to keep me entertained when
whoever was on stage couldn’t hold my interest, so I got very distracted, very fast.

Now, I’m smart enough to know that if I actually fall asleep at the mic and
someone spots me, I’ll never live it down, so I walk back home, take a nap, watch
an episode of King of the Hill, and then head back to the mic.

When I get back at ten, I still have thirty minutes before I’m supposed to go on. At
least I’ve got more energy to wait this time.

I pace around the slowly emptying room. The host calls me, and I head to the
stage. I’ve got five minutes of new material. Maybe a minute and a half of it works.

This does not faze me the way it used to. This is a good thing.

I get off stage, walk home, and get in my car to head to open mic number two for
the day.

1/5/2013: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Joshua Snyder, an affable Jewish virgin with several killer Star Wars jokes, hosts
the Saturday bar mic. He always finds the time to work me in for a spot if I’m
around for the mic. It gets to around 1:15 when he finally puts me on, which means
I’ll only get three minutes, but I can deal with that, especially since I’m just trying
out stuff I did a couple of hours ago at the Hollywood Hotel anyway.

I get on, launching into a riff on the set preceding mine that wins the crowd over. I
smile, and continue down my set list. The material that I get to (I had to cut a new
bit about Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing that I’m not even sure if I’ll wind up
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keeping after this week) does better here than it did earlier. I leave the stage happy
that I could temper bombing earlier with a much stronger performance here.

I tried going to In-N-Out afterwards for a celebratory Double-Double, but they
were unfortunately closed. Luckily, McDonalds works in a pinch.
________________________________________________________________________

#4: Scouting New Territory
1/7/2013: Open Mic with Jay, Echoes Under Sunset, Los Angeles, CA

It was a new room for us. The tables were low to the ground. Their tops bumped
into my knees. They served Tecate and Bud Light in red Solo cups for the
economical price of three dollars. There were tea lights on the tables, each in a
different glass container.

The host, carrying a tiny, yappy dog, walks on stage, sets down the dog, takes the
mic. He welcomes everyone to the first open mic of the new year.

“We’re going to switch to a lottery system this year,” he announces up front, “do it
right.”

Parker and I look at each other, hoping that our journey to a new mic in an
unfamiliar neighborhood wasn’t in vain. This was our last chance to perform for
the night.

“First fifteen spots get five minutes, the rest of you get three.” He draws names.
Parker and I both get drawn. I’m going tenth. I get another Tecate.

The host brings me onstage. I start the way I know I need to: without prepared
material. The host and I have the same name, let’s go with that.

After verbally fumbling around for a bit, I eventually land on something: “Is your
real name Jay?”

“No, it’s Jason.”

“Mine isn’t either. It’s Jerry. Jerry Thomas Light the Third. Makes me sound like I
should own show horses.” Laughter emanates from the sparse crowd.

The set does not go phenomenally, but the jokes I tell that I know work do fine,
and the newer stuff could still use a little tweaking. But it ends well, with a more
fleshed out version of my Pokémon bestiality joke. (That’s a sentence I never
thought I’d write.)

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Immediately after me, a man with a ponytail and a lip ring goes up. He tells us that
this is his first time doing stand-up, ever, and we applaud. Then he does four
minutes on how people think he’s Jesus. Then he shows us what it looks like to get
tazed, falling to the ground, flopping wildly, screaming. Then he calmly gets up
and walks off stage.

Parker follows him, bringing the energy back to the room. He leaves the stage on a
big laugh, surveying the crowd, smiling. We watch another comic, then we leave
this little stand-up oasis. As the cold Los Angeles night reintroduces itself, we vow
to come back when we get a chance.
________________________________________________________________________

#5: Less Than Graceful
1/9/2013: Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Besides the elderly man who said he’d Jap-Slap me if I didn’t give him a senior
discount, it was a pretty uneventful shift at work. I was excited to clock out, do my
time, and go home. Of course, my easy shift led its way right into a challenging
mic.

The show is riddled with problems right from the start - a group of young, drunk
people are being loud and standing in a clump right in front of the stage for the
first twenty minutes, the speaker volume is too soft to be heard in the back of the
room, and, even after the rowdy kids leave, the prospect of anyone paying
attention is practically zero. These are not ideal conditions.

Right before I go on, a guy does some Reggie Watts-type shit. He sings a song
about Will Smith where the only lyrics are “Will Smith” and the rest is just sweet
beats. It is unequivocally the high point of the night. Then he kills all his songcreated momentum with some meandering and attempted jokes. He picks up his
keyboard and leaves the stage. The audience doesn’t seem to care either way.

I get called up to the stage to a smattering of polite applause. It’s the most
attention I get during my entire time onstage. Out of the couple dozen people in
the room, only four even give me the time of day, and half of them tune in and out
intermittently anyway.

I try to stay loose onstage, to not let the fact that nobody cares tonight get to me,
but it’s an uphill battle. Even an accidentally clever turn of phrase (“That went
nowhere, like me in this next joke. I was on a plane that got delayed…”) can’t turn
any heads. I express my disdain at the total lack of attention. I leave the stage with
a simple, “I’m Jay Light, watch someone else now.” This is my first true bomb of
the year. At least I got that over with.

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There’s a comic who was in a show earlier that night - let’s call him Harry - who
stuck around for the open mic and got wasted in the meantime. Harry is one of
those “Hollywood” types - egotistic, vaguely a producer, probably on coke. When
Harry finally goes up after me, he’s eight Jack and Cokes deep, swaying, mumbling,
telling misshapen material that would have trouble going over well in even the
kindest rooms. We are still not watching. Nobody is.

He leaves the stage, orders another drink, and starts bitching about how his jokes
usually kill, how this audience is shit. We try telling him to not let it get to him, it’s
an open mic, they’re supposed to be shit. He waves us off, and, for the next twenty
minutes, trash-talks every comic that comes to the stage. I count at least three
utterings of “this is the worst comedian ever”.

Harry, fed up, decides he wants to leave. He lurches from his bar stool, heads for
the doors with a friend of his, and storms off. He comes back in maybe five
minutes later, stumbling, bleeding from the head. His friend claims that Harry fell
down and hit his head on the street, and can we get him some Coke or something?

Our manager gets him a chair. Our bartender gets him a glass of water and a rag to
stop the bleeding. Parker and I get out of there, each one of us believing a little
more in karma.
________________________________________________________________________

#6: Big Boy Drinks
1/12/2013: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

After facing an endless stream of people coming to see shows from before we
opened until the doors closed for the last show - more than eight hours - I’d finally
clocked out of work. Somehow, I didn’t feel tired. I felt invigorated. No longer
having to constantly do something, I sat down at the bar and ordered an Anchor
Porter.

The bar was dead. Josh expressed his surprise that there were only five names in
the pitcher for that night. “They told me I had to bring up the numbers,” he
lamented, “but then this happened.”

Among those five: a girl from Alaska named Sassy. She talked about how her new
year’s resolution was to stop crying after she orgasms, but she hasn’t kept it. I
laughed. I made a mental note.

I decided to not go up with any prepared material. It was the first time I had ever
done that. I expected to bomb hard, finish my drink, and go home.

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Another comic from Dallas, Mark, showed up at the bar. He ordered two whiskey
waters that I didn’t realize were whiskey waters, and for him. I absentmindedly
drank it, immediately tasting the whiskey, coughing a little bit.

Mark said, “you don’t want that, that’s a big boy drink.” Justin, the bartender - one
of Mark’s roommates and another Dallas transplant - nodded his head. I
apologized, and they told me it was all good, not to worry about it. So I didn’t.

Josh called me to the stage. I took the mic and began to talk. First, I asked Sassy a
very important question: “Have you broken your resolution by not crying or not
having orgasms?” Laughter. Okay. Off to a good start.

I told a few stories about work, and then I told a story I’d never told before. It was
a story from the end of my first relationship, something I’d been ashamed and
embarrassed of that I finally felt I needed to get out. I even got to work a joke I’ve
actually written before in there. It was cathartic in a way. But most importantly,
people laughed.

I thanked the crowd, walked off the stage, and went to an empty barstool. I took
another sip of my whiskey water.
________________________________________________________________________

#7: Get Loose
1/13/2013: Drew Lynch Half Hour Special, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The best part about the Yoo Hoo Room is its size. You could call it intimate. A
crowd of ten can create the illusion of laughter of twenty.

We have twenty-four in the crowd. We get free drink tickets.

I have eight minutes, the most time I’ve gotten in LA so far. In North Carolina, I
was lucky enough to get a fair amount of longish sets - a couple headlining spots
for my college, a few fifteen minute spots around Chapel Hill, the time I’d do at the
monthly show I put on at a bar ten minutes from my apartment by foot - but out
here, since I’m still new to the scene, I’ve got some working my way up the ladder
to do.

I’m going with a setlist of jokes I’ve been building on for the past couple of
months, piecing them together, making them flow. I vow to be loose on stage, to
not be afraid to improvise, to stay in the moment.

Josh is MCing, and nearing the end of his time. He realizes he’d forgotten to bring
his copy of the lineup to stage, so he went with the first name to pop into his head:
mine. Okay, first. I can do first. I have to do first.
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I start off strong. I interact with the crowd. I try out material I’d written in the
hallway, things coming to me in the moment. I feel alive on stage.

I notice myself talking too fast at times, and make a mental note to slow down for
the next show - I wanted to make sure that the crowd could catch my jokes and
not feel like they missed something.

Despite that, the set goes better than I could ever have anticipated. I even land a
couple of applause breaks. I get the light, end with an old standby, thank the
crowd, and leave the stage.

The next comic approaches me. “Killer set, man.”

“Thanks.” I shake his hand. I exit the room, take my drink ticket, and get my
reward from the bar.

The entire show goes well. Wall-to-wall laughs. My friends and theirs approach me
afterwards, gushing praise. I thank them profusely for coming. Some of them
confide in me that they think this is the best set they’ve ever seen me do. I thank
them again. We walk outside into the cold together.
________________________________________________________________________

#8: Enter Chinaman
1/16/2013: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The usual host for Wednesday nights is Mike, a burly, intimidating gentleman
with tattoos, a denim vest, and an attitude. On stage, Mike seems like the kind of
guy who’d snap you like a twig if you ever crossed him, but he’s one of the nicest
guys I’ve met out here in LA. He’s funny, kind, and filled with great stories about
his days on the road in New York, when he worked with people like Louis C.K. and
Ray Romano. He’s up now, telling a girl that she should ditch her boyfriend for
him. “Hell, I’ll fight you and fuck him, if that’s what you want.” We laugh.

As Parker and I sit at the bar, waiting our turns, I realize I’ve forgotten my joke
book in my car. I internally panic. I’ve never gone on stage without my book close
by, whether it’s open on the table in front of me or hidden in a pocket. It’s like my
totem. I probably don’t have enough time to get it. But I’d already figured out what
I want to talk about, so I decide to suck it up and soldier on, bookless.

Mike calls me to the stage. Without my book, I feel strangely free, albeit a little
unsettled. Like I can do anything I want, but I don’t know which option to choose.
I’m at the Baskin-Robbins counter debating which of the 51 flavors I go with. I start
off talking about a little space heater I find on stage. Then I switch to some sort-of
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prepared material about how white homeless people are the laziest, which doesn’t
go over super well - having rewritten the joke earlier that day, I hadn’t taken the
time to really remember the exact wording I came up with. The joke suffers for it.
Nobody laughs. Okay, we’ll move on.

I talk about something I found at work earlier - a raffle card from the end of the
shows, where under “comedians you’d like to see here” somebody wrote
“Chinaman.” I figured this little weird gem would get some response if I talked
about it, so I tell everyone about my findings. The laughter comes in spurts - a
chuckle here, a guffaw there - but it comes.

Mike gives me the light. I close with the new, mostly finished version of my jokes
about Pokémon, incorporating a riff from Sunday’s show. Some people laugh,
others look incredibly shocked that I’m even suggesting that people would want to
have sex with Pokémon. I thank the crowd, wave, and leave the stage.

I sit back down at the bar. Justin comes over to me. “Chinaman is real.”

I’m dumbfounded. “Really?”

“Yeah. I was on the road with him for like three weeks. He just had his own show
in Vegas.” Justin pulls out his phone to show me a picture. An Asian guy wearing a
cowboy hat, sunglasses, and eyeliner appears on the screen. He’s sticking out his
tongue, making the sign of the horns. “He comes out to ‘Iron Man’ but the lyrics
say 'I…am…CHINA MAN!’”

Huh. So that guy wasn’t just being racist when he said he wanted to see Chinaman
- he was being serious. I try and wrap my head around the fact that there’s a
successful comic whose stage name is one of the more racist things you could call
someone.

That’s probably worth talking about.
________________________________________________________________________

#9: Furiously Exposing Himself
1/17/2013: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s a fairly busy Thursday. A couple of groups of young men sit at tables, waiting
for their friend’s name to be drawn. JC couldn’t make it, so Josh has taken his
place.

This show marks my friend Jared’s return to stand-up after a nearly two-month
break. He was trying new jokes. He’d grown a mustache and beard. Those two
facts are not related, but they are mutually interesting.
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I get drawn. I go up, and, remembering to not start with material, meander around
the stage for a second. The mic stand is loose. I pull on it and it rockets upward.
“Didn’t expect that to happen.” I pull again and it comes apart. “Didn’t expect that
to happen!” Josh comes to collect the broken mic stand and attempt to fix it. I tell
the crowd to applaud for him. He’s trying to fix my mess, it’s the least I could do.

I start talking about my girlfriend replacing me with a cat. It gets a lukewarm
reaction. Then I decide to switch gears and talk about something from college that
I recently realized I hadn’t ever talked about: the ‘Bater.

The 'Bater was the scourge of my college campus. The 'Bater’s M.O. was to sneak
up on girls - in their apartments, while looking through bedroom windows, while
driving - and expose himself to them. That’s what the cops always said, since they
can’t say masturbating. That’s unprofessional. He was just furiously exposing
himself.

I had never talked about that on stage. I figured it was funny enough, so I gave it a
shot. Good news: everyone else loved the 'Bater, too. They were fans of his antics. I
was pleased. I’d always hoped that story had legs.

I closed with some material on homelessness that I think I need to put out to
pasture for a bit - only about half the joke works right now, and it may be time to
just cut my losses and move onward with what works about the joke. I’ll keep you
posted.

Josh gives me the light. I reach for the mic stand, forgetting that Josh has it. I
motion for him to hand it to me, and he does, but the action throws my train of
thought off the rails. I can’t remember where I left off in the joke. Deciding to cut
my losses and stick to my time, I thank the crowd and walk off stage.

Some good practice before a busy weekend.
________________________________________________________________________

#10/#11/#12: Salem Witch Trials
1/18/2013, 5:30 PM: Set List Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I had the day off. I never get Fridays off, but I’ve always wanted to. I didn’t want
my first time doing the Set List open mic to be while I was working. The idea
sounds stressful enough: an improvised stand-up set culled from a pre-written list
created by the host. It’s an exercise in leaping before you look. It’s fearlessness
training. I knew it would be a good warm-up set for my later show.

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My name gets called, my list is placed next to me, and I begin. My topics are
Jealous Beekeeper, Zebraist, We All Belong To Zeus, and Pharmaceutical-Grade
Grave. I try to make my thoughts seem coherent and strung-together, to not seem
like I’m flailing around, grabbing thoughts at random.

I get a few big laughs, a handful of smaller laughs, and a minute or so of silence.
After I finish my set, the host tells me I had a great first time. I’m just glad that I
could make it through my first Set List show without getting flop sweat or
throwing up everywhere. Not that I’d anticipated either of those things happening,
but it’s still nice.

After the show I figured out my set for later that night, ate a burger, and hit the
road for Canoga Park.

1/18/2013, 9:00 PM: Handsome Fat Man’s Comedy Jam, Canoga Park Bowl, Canoga
Park, CA

The bar at the Canoga Park Bowl is one of the most interesting rooms I’ve ever
performed in. It’s circular, a sunken stage surrounded by tables. You’re performing
in a pit. You have lots of space to move. It’s inviting.

The booker for this room told me that we’d have close to seventy people there, but
their estimates were off. The audience ranges from a girl having a birthday party -
complete with cake - to a tableful of old folks that looks like they haven’t laughed
at anything since Nixon was impeached.

I’m up seventh, so I get to watch how the audience handles this crop of comics.
The booker tells me the old folks’ table has come to nearly every show. They laugh
occasionally, but all in all it doesn’t seem like a bad room by any means.

I take the stage. As per usual, I start out with an off-the-cuff observation. This
time, it’s about how the room is like the circle of life - young folks on one side, old
folks on the other, looping back on itself. The crowd eats it up. I tell a few other
jokes - stuff about moving to LA, being from Texas, and going to school in North
Carolina - and eventually start to feel some resistance from the crowd. That’s when
I make the mistake of asking a question of the audience.

An old woman says, “we liked you better before that ‘old person’ joke.” The crowd
goes, “oooooooh.” I can’t let her win. I walk over to talk to her, but am met by
feedback from the speakers.

“Is there some kind of force field here? Did you cast a spell? Did you survive your
trial at Salem?” The crowd has mixed feelings on this question. Some laugh, some
recoil. I shrug and move on.
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I close my set, thank the crowd, and leave the stage. The last few comics go up. I
get my free drink and $10, then decide I’ve got enough gas left in the tank for one
more show.

1/19/2013, 12:00 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The Friday night host for the bar mic is a comic named Ryan. He just started
hosting the mic. He does the lottery differently, drawing out all of the names in
advance and creating a list. By the time I get to the show, I’m stuck with the 24th
spot on the list. Whatever, more time to decompress.

Eventually, it gets to where so many comics have signed up that everybody left
only gets two-minute sets. I decide to try some reworked material on homeless
people and the joke about the 'Bater that went over so well last night. The
homeless jokes go well, the 'bater jokes do not. Before I know it, my two minutes
are done, and I’m back at a barstool.

What a whirlwind of a day.
________________________________________________________________________

#13: The Grind
1/19/2013: Headliner Saturdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

We were smack in the middle of a very busy shift. I wasn’t even thinking about the
set I had to do. I didn’t have the time. Once the madness died down, I took my
break, ordered my dinner, and went to check in with the MC at the Yoo Hoo
Room, Zara.

I was supposed to be going up first, but a busy shift prevented that from
happening, so I would be going up eighth. The room was packed wall-to-wall. I
asked Zara how the crowd had been. “Alright,” she said.

Zara calls me up. I have eight minutes, just like my last Yoo Hoo Room spot. This
time, my goal is different: try out some old material about my college sexual
experiences to see if it still has legs. I’m not looking for a great set here, I’m just
looking to take these jokes for a walk and hope they can still make it around the
block.

It’s not until I’m onstage that I realize that I’ve got a lot of nervous energy carrying
me. I try to relax, but my shoulders feel tense. I try to keep my hands moving
methodically. I don’t want to look like an unprepared lunatic up here.

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The set goes. Some jokes work. A lot of the old stuff manages to stay usable, but
could use some tweaking. There are stretches where I feel the crowd’s silence
closing in on me like a slowly tightening vice. Besides when I tell an older guy in
the front row he looked like a nice, sensitive young man, my attempts at crowd
work fall flat. I end with my Amtrak joke - a joke that always works, even on weird
nights like tonight - then leave the stage.

This “being interactive and fun on stage” business is tough. I feel like I’ve finally
gotten more comfortable with truly being myself while I’m performing, but that
definitely doesn’t mean I’m anywhere near where I’d like to be. I can’t do
consistently good crowd work yet, my off-the-cuff skills are still hampered by my
own nerves, and I’m still finding the best way to channel myself through both my
performance and material. But now, the climb to the top doesn’t seem as arduous
as it once did. It’s a climb I can handle.

I thank Zara, take my drink ticket, and clock back in. Back to the grind.
________________________________________________________________________

#14/#15: Sorry, Mrs. Drury
1/23/13, 6 PM: Happy Hour Audition, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

While working at the club does give me a leg up when it comes to getting stage
time, I’ve always felt it’s a good idea to show our bookers that I’m working to stay
sharp and hone my material. I usually work during the auditions, but since I didn’t
have to clock in until after they’d begun, I figured now was as good a time as any
to show off what I’d been working on.

Like most open mics, the audience is almost entirely comics, but I think there’s
something about performing in the main room instead of the bar that loosens
people up a bit when it comes to laughing at your jokes. You’re in a more
decidedly club-like atmosphere. It’s what people are expecting. While one of the
bookers thanks everyone for coming and gives them the rundown of how the
audition works, I look over my set one last time:

TV NEIGHBORHOOD

MS. THIRTEEN

ROADKILL

PILLOWY LIPS

DIRTY TALK

15

I close my book and put it back in my jacket pocket. I breathe deeply.

I get called up and jog to the stage. As I take the mic, I realize I’m chewing gum.
My eighth grade drama teacher would be furious. I try to slip it under my tongue,
then begin my set. I try to go slowly, to seem spontaneous, to speak with
confidence.

The set goes well, with the pillow lips jokes being the highlight, even though I
forget a consistently funny tag. I thank the crowd and leave the stage. I feel jittery,
like I could use a little more slowing down. I note that in my book.

1/24/13, 1 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The bar is packed for once, which can be both a good and a bad sign. You’re more
likely to kill, but you’re also more likely to bomb hard. When there’s no audience,
the pressure is not nearly as great, even when it’s just an open mic.

Tonight, my goal is to talk about some stuff I witnessed the other day, and to
string together a few jokes about stuff that’s happened to me at work. Dealing with
assholes and racists. You know the drill.

The comic before me, Joe, starts off great. I performed with him at Canoga Park
Bowl, and he does some of the same stuff here, and it goes over well. But then he
gets into it with some of the audience members, which leads to groans and booing.
He’s dug himself into a comedy pit and can’t get out. Joe finishes his set, leaves,
and sits back down, shaking his head.

Aaron calls me to the stage. Great, now I have to climb out of the comedy pit.

I start off with the unprepared stuff. An observation about mispronouncing the
names of foreign celebrities goes off okay, but needs some tightening. Talking
about the costumed characters on Hollywood Boulevard goes nowhere. My edited
work material does pretty fantastically, but also needs some work - trying to come
up with a fake B-52s song on the fly is more difficult than I anticipated. I thank the
crowd and leave the stage.

I meander to the back of the room, pick up my water glass from the table I left it
on, and drink a little. A piece of ice catches in my mouth. Ending a set well after a
rocky start is a great feeling. It fills me with energy. A comic I’ve never seen before
tells me he thought I did great.

This is nice.


16

#16: In-n-Out
1/24/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

My friend Erikka replaced JC as the Thursday night host. JC was getting busier and
busier with his new bouncing job, so I guess it just made sense. I think JC is great,
but Erikka is certainly a worthy replacement.

I’m trying to be more present these days. Not just on stage, either. I feel like there’s
a part of myself that keeps me more closed off with others than I’d like. The only
way to change that is to actively work to correct it. That’s why I sat at the bar
instead of waiting around in the back this time - I needed to mingle.

Erikka can’t figure out how to get the amp working, so I assist her. Our manager,
Will, fiddles with it some more, switching around plugs, tweaking knobs. The mic
springs to life, and Erikka’s voice fills the room. It’s time to start.

She launches into her material while I figure out what angle I’m going to take
today. I know I want to try out the “assholes and racist customers” material again,
since I’ve expanded it. But what else do I talk about? Too many ideas float through
my head. I decide to write it out, make it definite, but then I notice Erikka
reaching into the pitcher, fishing for a name. She pulls a piece of paper that looks
like the one I folded.

“Your first comic coming to the stage, give it up for him, very funny, Jay Light!”
Applause. I’ve got a full bar paying attention to me for once. Sure, I may have
gotten chosen before I could really plan out what to do, but maybe that’s how I
should be getting up here anyway. No real plan, but an outline, a list in my head to
work from.

I remove the mic from the stand and begin riffing on something Erikka’s set
brought up: going through death on a team would be a lot more fun than going it
alone, especially if you had to compete. Events include: tug of war, soap box derby,
whatever other shit. (my exact words.)

Then, I drop this sentence: “I did this mic last night, and then I went home and
jerked off.” More applause. Comics love hearing about masturbation. Deep down,
we’re all still immature kids.

I tell an embarrassing porn story that, despite being fairly half baked, gets some
laughs. At least I have a jumping-off point. I close with the work material, which is
uneven, but less unfunny than before. People really love hearing about the guy
who threatened to Jap-slap me.

17

I thank the crowd, get off stage, finish my water, then leave the club. Going up
early at an open mic is a blessing sometimes, and this is one of them. I sleep deeply
that night. I don’t recall any dreams.
________________________________________________________________________

#17: Super Sweet Sixteen
1/26/13: Headliner Saturdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

On Wednesday, my boss asks me if I can work clean. Then she asks me if I wanted
to work a 16 year old girl’s birthday party. How could I turn something like that
down?

This requires some planning. I’d already been working on crafting some sets of
various lengths - three minutes, five, ten - but none of those had been clean all the
way through. A TV clean eight minutes was what the situation required, so it’s
what I made.

I decide to bring out a lot of older material about my family. It’s good, it works, but
I haven’t told it in a while. I look over it before I put it in order. A joke I pick about
how I have weird medical questions I can’t ask my parents needs some tweaking
because I can’t say “penis”. The parents of sixteen-year-old girls don’t like “penis”
being uttered so close to their children. I decide to say I have suspicious bumps in
suspicious locations. It’s more subtle, but still carries the idea of the joke from it’s
original, less teen-friendly form.

Show time rolls around. I check out the room - it’s packed, wall-to-wall. The Yoo
Hoo Room has been getting great audiences lately, selling out some nights. Richy
is doing a great job getting people in the show room. But that’s beside the point. A
full audience excites me. I’m working to adjust my energy on stage, and having a
bigger crowd really helps me figure out how to better do that. It gets me excited in
a way that makes me want to do better. I get more focused, in the zone.

I’m the first comic on the bill after Erikka, who’s the MC for the whole night. Three
shows back to back. She’s excited to perform for sixteen-year-old girls first. She
goes up first, starts the crowd up, and says, “I understand we have a birthday in the
audience tonight?” A hand shoots up from the table of sixteen year olds, and
another one shoots up from the front row. Uh oh. Two birthdays. On stage, Erikka
looks pleasantly surprised.

An old man with a grey fedora and an accent of indeterminate origin is among the
partygoers in the front row. He points out that there are, yes, two birthdays.
Erikka’s face shifts. We have a troublemaker, ladies and gentlemen. She talks back
to him and shuts him down for a moment, but he starts talking again a few
minutes later. At the end of her set, Erikka politely asks fedora man to stop talking
18

during the rest of the show, because it’s not fair to the other comedians. Then she
brings me on.

The guy from the front row starts immediately. “Jay Late?”

“No. Light. Like, half the calories and fat of regular Jay." A smattering of laughter.
The man nods, satisfied.

I talk about my neighborhood and my family, working to not swear at places where
I might slip one in otherwise. The crowd eats most of it up, especially after I
remember to pause within jokes instead of in between them. The "bumps in
suspicious locations” joke almost completely fails. I try and save it by making it
about my joints, but it doesn’t work. I make a mental note to fix it later.

I forget the last joke I plan on telling. Shit. I pull out my notebook to jog my
memory. I absentmindedly utter, “what else should I talk about?”

Fedora Man says, “I want to talk about your back nipples.”

I shoot him a look. “You can talk to me about that after the show. Here’s my card.”
Laughter ripples through the crowd as I hand him my business card.

“Well, I’m not gonna end on anything better than that. Thanks, good night.” I
hustle off the stage and take my drink ticket. I feel my insides moving around,
gurgling nervously.
________________________________________________________________________

#18: Burgertime
1/27/13: Yoo Hoo Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It was more of a lark, really.

I didn’t expect to get any more stage time before the start of a new week, but the
new open mic that conveniently started right when I’d be able to take a break was
too good of an opportunity to pass up. We already had enough people trying to get
in for it that signing up early was a good idea. I put myself on the list and got to
work figuring out what I was going to talk about.

I take my break and head over to the Yoo Hoo Room. Luis agrees to put me on
second, since it’ll be easier to go up right now, when my break is newly minted.
Newly begun. I have to edit this entry later on anyway, why should I be afraid to
write whatever I want?

19

I’m doing a lot of reworked stuff today. Jokes about my grandpa’s Christmas gifts
to me, about porn watching, about tow truck drivers. I decided to riff on
something I mentioned to my friend the other day that he thought might be a
good joke.

Luis calls me to the stage, to a smattering of applause. I introduce myself, and tell
the crowd I just moved here. “I split my time between working here and reading
blogs about cheeseburgers.” Laughter from the back corner.

I meander through the rest of my set, trying to stay loose and relaxed. I pause so
people have time to laugh. Mostly, they do. My time finishes, and I leave the stage.
Simple. Elegant. I feel no stress, no tightness in my stomach. I’m improving. The
muscle continues to be exercised.
________________________________________________________________________

#19: Failing Successfully
1/28/13: Open Mic with Jay, Echoes Under Sunset, Los Angeles, CA

I was okay with not being able to perform that night. It’s the way lottery mics work
out sometimes - you put yourself in the bucket, you don’t get drawn, tough shit,
suck it up. Parker had gotten drawn, though, so we were waiting for his turn on
stage. He was going 9th.

We’re sitting at an open table right near the entrance. We could hear all the jokes,
but see none of the performers. This was fine. We were focusing on what to do
with our own jokes instead.

Right after the 6th person, Host Jay comes back to the stage and says, “well, we’ve
had another spot open up, someone had to leave.” I perk up. He draws a name,
calls it, gets no response. Then he draws another name. “Jay Light? Is he here?”
Some of the guys in the room begin to say no. They want to go up. I bolt up from
my chair over to the big archway between the bar area and the stage, poking my
head around the wall and waving my hands. “I’m here!” Host Jay looks at me.
“You’ve got spot number 26.”

Guess I’ll be going up after all.

Parker’s set goes okay. The crowd, all comics, is a tough one. But he makes them
laugh, and making your toughest critics laugh is one of the best parts of being a
comedian. Knowing that someone else thinks you’re funny is already a great thing,
but another comic thinking that? That’s just beautiful.

We leave Echoes, get some Burger King, return to Echoes. I’m up in five comics. I
have three minutes. Gaytan buys me a bottle of water. I thank him.
20

It’s my turn up soon. I mentally run through my set again. I’m working purely off
my thoughts this time around, what I can remember of things. The important
beats. I’m taking the leap.

I notice my energy is drooping. I go to the bathroom, do fifteen jumping jacks,
leave the bathroom. My intestines gurgle. This may have been a bad idea. I don’t
want to burp on stage.

Host Jay calls my name. I walk to the stage, thank him, and set down my halfdrank water bottle on the stool. “I just ate a bunch of Burger King then did
jumping jacks.” Another comic yells, “quit bragging!” People laugh.

I continue: “I’ll try and keep the weird guttural noises to a minimum.” Silence. So
this is how it’s going to go. Time to strap in.

I decide to tell another untested story, one about my failed attempt to become a
baseball pitcher. I told it straight, with act-outs to show me actually pitching in the
one and only game I was ever allowed to pitch in. I pretended to walk one batter,
then two. The crowd laughs.

Midway through my pitching, I get the light. I wrap up the story the best that I
can, then get off the stage. The crowd claps. I do a mental fist-pump. I’ve found
another story worth telling.
________________________________________________________________________

#20-22: Thumbin' My Way Into North Caroline
2/1/13: No Nonsense Comedy, The Idiot Box, Greensboro, NC

Parker and I plan our sets at a coffee shop across the street. I have fifteen minutes
tonight, the most time I’ve done in months. I try to remain level-headed.

We go to the club. I haven’t been back to the Idiot Box since I left North Carolina. I
remember open mics here, how they showed me a different side of the comedy
community in the state, a side that seemed rougher around the edges. My old
academic advisor is here with his wife. He waves me over and we catch up. While
we chat, I see some old friends - about a dozen of my fraternity brothers - walk
through the door in a slow, steady stream. They greet me like an old war hero,
handshakes turning into bro hugs. It’s great to see them. I swell with pride for a
moment, then nerves start to set in.

I go back to the table that Parker and I set up shop on and go over my jokes again.
Performing for your friends is fun, but nerve-wracking. I want to do newer

21

material, stuff that my friends haven’t seen. I want to make it seem like this is all a
good idea, that me doing comedy is the right move. I want to be funny for them.

Eric, the show’s organizer and co-booker, comes up to me and tells me I’ll be
closing out the show. Awesome. I can relax for a bit.

The show goes on. Some of the comics do well, some of them don’t. Status quo.
Parker goes up to do his ten minutes and lays waste to the crowd. Thanks to him,
I’m coming in hot.

The MC calls me to the stage. I walk on, shake his hand, and take the mic. I tell my
jokes. A lot of them go over well, but I’ve made the mistake of taking a few too
many half-baked ideas to the stage. The best part about my friends is that they
make a good audience. They don’t bullshit me by laughing at weaker material.
Near the end of my time, I forget the last joke I want to tell. I pull out my phone to
try and figure something out, and eventually settle on my reworked P90X joke. It’s
not the greatest thing to close on, but comparing myself to cotton candy gets the
job done.

I thank the crowd and leave the stage. I immediately feel uneasy about the set, but
my friends allay my fears when they tell me they think I did a good job. Sometimes
you just have to trust your audience.

2/2/13: NC Comedy Arts Festival, Local 506, Chapel Hill, NC

Local 506 is a tiny, dark concert venue with a bar wallpapered with posters for
indie bands passing through. We’ve got a decently-sized crowd. I’ve got ten
minutes. I decide to tell roughly the same set as last night, but without the halfbaked stuff.

Greg, the MC and a local comic, asks me what I want for my intro. I ask him to
mention that I’m from Los Angeles, and to say that I have half the calories and fat
of regular Jay (my old opener). He laughs and says he’s going to stick to the Los
Angeles stuff. I’m cool with this.

The show is uneven. The first comic does well for the first half, then tanks the
second half. The next one does pretty well throughout, but he’s a low-energy guy,
so things stay fairly mellow in the room. I walk out to the bar to go over my set a
few more times. A comic I was talking to earlier, Tabari, goes up and slaughters. I
order a Tecate tall boy and sip on it while I wait for my turn.

Suddenly, I’m up next. Greg calls me to the stage and I jog over, shake his hand,
and dance to the music I’m being brought on to. The crowd laughs. Good start.

22

Things continue to go well. I feel good and loose and alive. All of my jokes work,
even the one that I take a little too long to get to the point with. I end with a
nearly brand-new joke - a punched up version of a joke I told in Greensboro that
went over well there. It goes over even better here. I leave the stage to laughter and
applause. I shake Greg’s hand. I go to the bar to enjoy the afterglow.

2/3/13: NC Comedy Arts Festival, DSI Comedy Theater, Carrboro, NC

The final show of the festival’s stand-up week: a Super Bowl Sunday show during
the Super Bowl. The odds aren’t exactly in favor of people coming to see comedy,
but we get a decently sized crowd. I’ve been tapped to host. I have done this once
before and it didn’t quite go as well as I’d hoped it would. But I wasn’t as good
back then. I didn’t know how to really do it right. I feel confident in my abilities. I
stretch in the back to stay limber.

The comics file in and I check them off, asking what they want for their intros.
Showtime creeps closer. Our headliner, Eddie Brill, is presumably still at the hotel.
This doesn’t worry me. He’s a pro, he knows what he’s doing, he can be a little late
if he wants to. He’s earned it.

7:05 rolls around. The lights in the theater go down. Music starts. I’m being
introduced over the PA system. The music swells as the lights come up and I leap
onto the stage. Energy up, keep the energy up.

I tell the crowd to give themselves a round of applause for showing up even though
“that other thing” is going on right now. They do. A couple of them whoop and
whistle. I do my five, then: “are you guys ready for an amazing show?” More
applause, more cheers. I bring on the first comic, shake his hand, then get off stage
and start my stopwatch. Today, everybody gets nine minutes.

Eddie comes in during the first comic’s set. I see him in the green room near the
fruit tray that’s been left out for us (and mostly picked clean by now). I reintroduce myself. He remembers me from his workshop, asks how I’m doing.
Things are good, thanks. I check his intro with him, tell him I’ll light him at fifteen
but he can certainly go longer. He thanks me, then goes to watch some of the
other sets.

The show runs very smoothly. None of the comics run the light, and most of them
bring the funny to the crowd very nicely. That’s a weird sentence but that’s okay. I
stay energized and do my best keep the crowd up, too. A few of the comics float in
and out of the green room, checking the score. We breathe a sigh of relief when
the Superdome’s power goes out - maybe we’ll actually get to catch some of the
game.

23

I introduce Eddie, who brings the house down and does around twenty minutes.
He finishes his time, thanks the crowd, and I dash back on stage, shaking Eddie’s
hand. “Eddie Brill, everybody!” The crowd cheers. I thank them all for coming,
then give them a score update: “Ravens 28, 49ers 6, but the power’s out right now
anyway so who knows what’s going on.” This confuses the crowd. I tell them not to
worry about it, thank them once again, bid them good night, and leave the stage.

The comics all stand in the back as the crowd files out. Someone suggests we take
a group picture. We form a semi-circle, arms around each other, as the cameras
flash. Everyone thanks me for doing a great job as the MC, I thank them for
bringing their best. I’m hungry. I wander over to Parker and ask him if he wants to
go get some pizza. We grab my camera and tripod, wave goodbye, and walk out
the theater doors.
________________________________________________________________________

#23-25: Drunk Birthday Jamboree
2/6/13, 6 PM: Happy Hour Audition, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I decide that the best jokes to tell are my favorites from the North Carolina trip,
the battle-tested ones that haven’t yet seen the light of day in the audition. A
simple, funny three minutes. No sweat.

Parker and I wait around before the show with our friends Tre and Frank,
bullshitting about comedy, talking out ideas for bits, trying to figure out where
we’ll go after this. There are nearly fifty comics here today. We’d better get used to
waiting. Frank decides to go to the Hollywood Hotel mic, since he’ll have a better
chance getting on there. We tell him we’ll meet up with him later.

The show starts. Dave gives everyone the club’s rundown, then returns to the back
table and kicks off with the first-timers list. Twelve new comics. Some of them are
good, with the swagger or timing of somewhat seasoned performers. Some of them
carry too many nerves onstage. Their performances suffer. But this is a kind crowd,
so everyone gets some laughs.

The ringer is a Hispanic guy, mid-forties, mustache, who gets on stage and does an
incoherent impression of the introduction sequence to Disneyland’s Country Bear
Jamboree. My jaw drops. He follows it up with, “so, mother-in-laws, right?” I burst
out laughing. This is too much.

The list wraps up, and eventually I make my way to the stage. My first two jokes go
well, but before I start my final bit, I freeze. “What was I going to talk about?” I
pull out my notes from my jacket pocket. In the back, Dave groans. “I know, I
know.” I see my note - CRIME AGAINST NATURE - and tell the bit, but by now
the damage is done. Without the momentum of the previous jokes, it gets an okay
24

response instead of the raucous one I wished it could have. I thank the crowd,
leave the stage, and immediately write “don’t sabotage your own performance” in
my notebook.

2/6/13, 7:30 PM: Open Mic, Hollywood Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

We get to the show right as it’s starting. We sign up with the bartender, who tells
us we won’t be going on until around 9:40. We snag some McDonald’s, walk to my
house to hang out before the show, and talk about the future.

We head back to the show when it’s around time for us to go on. The hosts have
switched in our absence, but the list remains the same. I fulfill my one-drink
minimum. The bartender pours it strong. I’m not going up with notes this time. I
want to see where this goes.

The host calls me to the stage, and I begin. A group of tourists in suits sits near the
front. One of them smiles at me. I start with something new about living in a
house with six people. It’s not a bad premise, gets a chuckle, but it doesn’t have the
punch I need it to have yet. I talk about North Carolina. A guy in the back claps
and raises his hand. “What part of North Carolina are you from?” “A little town
called Graham.” Holy shit. “I went to Elon University.” “That’s right down the
road!” He asks if I remember West End and the Lighthouse. I tell him that
Lighthouse got shut down after the owner started running drugs, then bought
back by the school. It’s not necessarily a funny story, but I have fun telling it, and
get a couple laughs here and there.

Invigorated, I do the rest of my North Carolina material. The crowd, warming up,
laughs almost on a time delay. I pause so they can catch up. I finish my set, thank
the crowd, then go back to my seat. Parker and Tre keep the energy alive, then
heighten it. Parker even wrings two applause breaks from the sparse crowd.

Parker has to get up early the next morning for rehearsal, so he drives home. Tre
asks if I want to check out Westwood Brewco with him. I’ve never been, so, of
course, I say yes.

2/6/13, 11 PM: The Gauntlet, Westwood Brewing Company, Los Angeles, CA

We arrive mid-show. This isn’t your average open mic. I recognize a lot of the
comics here, and even think most of them are funny. There’s some semblance of a
crowd: drunk college students intermittently wandering in from the dance floor.
Tre introduces me to the host, who puts us on the list. We’ve got a while.

25

I sit and watch from a wobbly table in the back of the room, since there aren’t any
chairs. The crowd is lively, game for material of all kinds. I can’t even remember
anyone bombing.

After waiting for about two hours, I ask the host where I am on the list. He says
I’ve got two more, then me. He asks how to pronounce my last name (“Light. Like
a light bulb.”), then thanks me for having an easy one.

I get called to the stage, and the host hands me the mic. I start off with an old
standby that gets the crowd on my side, then try the six person house premise
again, trying to say what I really mean and tighten things up. It works better this
time. I’m onto something.

It’s a girl in the crowd’s birthday, so I wish her well and, since I noticed her accent,
ask where she’s from. “LA,” she says. Someone in the back goes “ooooooh!” “Hey,
that’s a legitimate question, and I was given a legitimate answer. I’m not from
around here.” I tell the North Carolina jokes, which do pretty well. I close with an
old bit about making the mistake of letting a friend drive home drunk that does
okay, then thank the crowd and hand the mic back to the host.

Tre goes up. When he acknowledges the birthday girl, the crowd starts to sing
“Happy Birthday”, but Tre shuts them down. He won’t be having any of that, not
after waiting so long to go up. He tells jokes about the fanciest McDonalds he’s
ever seen, about how people complain that President Obama isn’t black enough.
After listing his reasons and leaving the crowd howling, one audience member
tries to derail him by yelling out, “Why are you all agreeing with him?” Tre shuts
him down, maintains control, then his time is up.

While I drive Tre home, we talk about dealing with hecklers, how even though
we’re more comfortable with it now, it’s still something we’d like to improve on.
Tre says it’s all about saying the most obvious thing in a non-threatening way. He
may be on to something, considering how well that tactic worked for him tonight.
The valley is dark and ominous, but it makes for great scenery as we cruise down
the highway.
________________________________________________________________________

#26: Dammit, John!
2/7/2013: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Tonight, the bar is a sea of new faces. A couple of familiar ones stick out in the
crowd, but pretty much everyone else I don’t recognize. This is a good sign. It
means the stakes are even lower than usual. I relax a little more and decide to
forego planning my set out in advance. I need to talk some stuff out, anyway.

26

Erikka agrees to work me in, since I have to get up crazy early the next morning for
a meeting. After a few comics, she calls me up, and I take the mic. As I do, a guy
sitting up front, waiting his turn, says, “this is horrible.”

I have my in. “Horrible? You don’t even know yet.” I laugh to myself. “Don’t say
that. What’s your name?” It’s John. We talk a little bit, and I tell John I hope he
likes my jokes as much as I like his beard.

With no plan and no fear of failing, I feel free. I tell a story about how a guy
threatened to kick my ass, then walked away immediately afterwards. (The only
fight I’ve ever won.) I say I’m pretty sure I telepathically communicated with him,
then ask John if he knows much about homeless communication. He says he has
no idea. “Dammit, John! Talk to more homeless people. We have to learn.”

I talk about the law in North Carolina, revisiting a joke I’ve been telling for the past
few days. I talk about my family’s medical history. It’s uneven, but each of my new
ideas gets a little bit of a response, which is good enough for me. As long as there’s
something I can work with, I’m golden.

I finish talking, put the mic back in the stand, thank the crowd. I stick around for a
couple more comics, including a brand new comic from Austin who has a line
about candy bars that I like. I thank Erikka for putting me on early, then get going.
I’ve got an early morning tomorrow. I need to be in bed at a reasonable time for
once.
________________________________________________________________________

#27: In Sickness & In Health
2/9/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It felt like food poisoning. Nothing insane - no cold sweats, no puking - but I had
pain in my intestines, a headache, and the feeling that I was in for a restless night.
But the mic was fairly uncrowded, and I knew Luis (subbing in for Joshua tonight)
would work me in early if I asked him to. I could recover after my set.

The other day, Parker and I were talking about dedication to the craft. I told him
that sometimes I felt like I wasn’t taking all of the available opportunities to
perform, so I wanted to start doing mics in situations where I wasn’t necessarily in
the mood to do a set. You don’t get to perform under optimal conditions all the
time anyway, so I figure I should at least get comfortable being uncomfortable.

I sit down in the back and try to figure out what to talk about. Jimmy, one of
Flappers’ elder statesmen, tells me he thinks I should try a clean set tonight. I say
maybe.

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Luis calls me to the stage. As I walk on, a drunk gentleman near the front says,
“hey, it’s the weirdo!” I ask him what he means. He says, “you’re the weirdo.” I prod
him again, and his friend answers this time: “he means you’re a good guy. You run
a good ship.” “Ah, so I’m the deranged pirate captain of Flappers.” Laughter. This is
a start.

I run through the material about living in a house of six again, with some new tags
that go over pretty well. The joke itself could use some restructuring, but it’s
beginning to really take shape. I continue by talking about Abilify, an
antidepressant I saw a commercial for the other week. In the commercial,
depression is represented by an umbrella. I think that’s unfair to umbrella.
Depression serves no purpose other than to make you feel shitty. Umbrellas serve
many purposes - protection from the rain, improvised weaponry, etc. In the
moment, I can’t think of more than those two uses, but it’s enough for now. The
crowd is on board with the idea.

I wrap up by talking about some various alcohol-related things: the way people
drink in college, how I’d want to die from alcoholism than any of the other
diseases that run in my family, that drinking games are the only ones you can play
where the prize is projectile vomiting. They go over okay, but could use some more
fleshing out. Still, this is what I do open mics for - to see what thoughts are worth
exploring.

I thank the crowd, then head home. A guy sitting near the front pats my shoulder
and says “good job.” I thank him, then keep moving, clutching my abdomen. I
could use some rest.
________________________________________________________________________

#28-30: The Important Things To Remember
2/13/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I knew I’d be picking Sam up from the airport soon, and not getting much sleep,
but I wanted to get in at least one mic before she visited me since I knew I’d be
spending a lot of time with her. That’s what you do when your girlfriend visits you,
when you can see her in person for the first time since Christmas. You hang out.
You’ve missed each other.

Parker and I get off work late. He can’t stick around for the mic - he’s got to get up
crazy early in the morning for a shoot. But I will get at least an hour more of sleep
than him, so I wait it out, knowing Aaron will put me on eventually.

And he does. With about six people left in the audience, all comics, I walk onstage
and promptly hit myself in the face with the mic as I pull it out of the stand. So
that’s how this is going to be.
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I go over some new stuff, some old stuff. I refine the material about my living
arrangement and applying to be a sperm donor, and talk out a problem I had in
the house a while back involving parking. I try to keep the energy up, but I talk too
quietly at times, or too fast for people to understand. Gotta work on that. Nobody
will laugh if I mumble my jokes.

But things work, for the most part. I’m loose, even after smashing the mic into my
face. The crowd laughs in the right places, and in some places I don’t expect.
Afterwards, I feel good enough to stick around for the end, to watch the troopers
who have been waiting for hours to do this mic. They earned it.

2/15/13: Friday Funnies, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Part of the reason I was so excited for Sam to come this weekend was because I
had a booking. She hadn’t seen me do a set, live, in months. I knew she’d always be
supportive of me doing stand-up, but I still wanted to impress her with my new
material.

We have a decent crowd in the Yoo Hoo Room, maybe twenty. I was up fourth. I
had seven minutes. I plan out my set on three scraps of paper in the lobby while
the other comics perform, occasionally wandering over to the double doors to see
how things are going. John, the MC, comes outside and asks me what I want for
my intro, then goes back in to introduce me.

I walk to the stage, take the mic, and get right to the jokes. I talk about living in
Los Angeles, trying to find a job, Pokémon, and an old man who told me he would
Jap-Slap me if I didn’t give him a senior discount. I have a little fun with the crowd.
I feel relaxed on stage. I don’t rush. The laughter comes in waves, building to a
strong close. I finish my set, thank the crowd, and walk off stage to cheers. This
feels great.

On the walk back to the car, Sam tells me she liked my set a lot. I beam at her.

2/16/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There seems to be some kind of law of averages about stand-up performances. You
can never get in too many great sets in a row. There’s always a bad set to be had.
Whether that’s caused by a heckler, the testing of new material that goes poorly, or
just your own lack of preparation or focus, you can’t expect to kill all the time. So,
when you think about it, I was due for one anyway. It’s not exactly comforting, but
it’s the way things are.

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The crowd already wasn’t very responsive; a packed bar of comics, nary a laugh in
sight. Then, the guy before me talked how he’d been broken up with two days
earlier - yep, Valentine’s Day - via text message. Any chance of getting a chuckle
out of the audience died with this guy’s relationship.

Joshua calls me to the stage, and there’s some promise - a couple comics chant for
me from the back as I get up there - but I kill my own shred of momentum right
from the get-go by not getting to my jokes. Instead, I meander, trying to say
something funny off-the-cuff, but nothing good comes. Only silence.

I talk about Abilify and the depression umbrella again. It takes too long to get to
anything good. I talk about an award I saw being given out on ESPN sponsored by
Taco Bell. It dies a horrible death. I talk about my own relationship troubles, and
gain a little bit of ground. I talk about seeing girls at the gym wearing makeup and
earrings, and have their attention, but not their approval. At least not out loud. I
scan the crowd for smiles, a sign of something being salvaged, and find a few faces
that seem to be enjoying what I have to offer. I can live with that.

I thank the crowd, then walk off stage. Back to the drawing board. Glad Sam wasn’t
around to see that one.
________________________________________________________________________

#31: Yes! Jokes! Finally!
2/18/13: Open Mic, The Palace, Los Angeles, CA

When Tyler told us he knew about an open mic at a Chinese restaurant, there was
no question about it: we were going. We wanted a change of scenery.

Parker and I arrive as the drawing is just beginning. The restaurant part downstairs
is empty, save for a few diners. Upstairs, where we’d be performing, is packed wallto-wall with comics putting their names in the lottery. We wind up getting picked
to go sixteenth and seventeenth. We get three minutes.

Me, Tyler, Parker, and Trevor, another comic we’ve become acquainted with lately,
head to the bar to wait our turns. We drink and shoot the shit and munch on those
fried strips of something with sweet-and-sour sauce that Chinese restaurants
always have. Parker wonders aloud if they have sake, but we decide the prospects
are slim since it’s not a Japanese restaurant. I make a mental note not to drink here
next time - too expensive, at least for right now. The life of a comic making
minimum wage is a lean one.

Tyler’s spot comes up, so we wander upstairs to watch him do his five. The crowd
has thinned considerably. What was a packed room an hour ago has become filled
with tiny clusters of patient comics. Thankfully, they’re not a bad audience, and
30

Tyler doesn’t treat them like one. His jokes land. He does well. I finish my gin and
tonic. We watch a few more comics, then retreat once again to the bar. Parker and
I plan out our sets. I decide to try something new tonight.

Soon, Parker is on deck, and we’re back upstairs. He goes up and gets right into it,
telling stories about how he was almost born with Downs syndrome. I ready my
audio recorder.

Parker finishes, then the host comes back and brings me on. I start out talking
about stuff I’ve been working on for a little bit - living in a house of six, seeing girls
wear makeup and earrings at the gym - but I close with an observation I had at the
beach this weekend, when I saw a little boy yell out “YES! SAND! FINALLY!” as he
left the boardwalk. I appreciated his blind optimism, so I felt it was worth bringing
up on stage. Good news: I was right. Though my initial thoughts on the matter
weren’t as strong as they could have been, this is something worth exploring down
the line.

I actively try to give the sparse crowd some breathing room. Even in a room of
about ten people, each laugh counts, so I work to go slow and make sure that the
audience has time to laugh. They do.

I thank the crowd and the host, then watch some more comics while we wait for
Trevor to go on. It smells a little bit like french fries.
________________________________________________________________________

#32: "I had to travel by train recently." "Quit bragging!"
2/22/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Even though it was only a few days since I’d done a set, it felt much longer. The
rust had already begun to form on my jokes, and I needed to shake it off
something fierce.

All week, I’d been thinking about new stuff to try out, so I picked out some ideas
to talk about - almost entirely new material, aside from a reworked version of an
old standby I have about having to ride on Amtrak. I initially wrote that joke after
about two and a half years of doing standup, and haven’t changed it since then. It
needed a fresh coat of paint.

It’s late when I finally get my turn, around 1:15. The crowd is still pretty full, and
fairly attentive, save for a woman up front with her boyfriend, drinking a glass of
water and scowling. I make it my goal to eke a smile out of her, at least.

I start off talking about the US Postal Service’s decision to start a clothing line. I
fumble around at the beginning, can’t get my thought out clearly enough, but it
31

turns into something about how lame I was in eighth grade, which the crowd
clearly enjoys. Okay, solid start.

Next, I talk about seeing crayons that said “kids’ crayons” on them, which made me
think about the secret black market of adult crayons. I rattle off a list of colors
from my notebook - Pussy Pink, Smegma Silver, Fist Me Fuschia, etc. - and it goes
about how I hoped it would: some colors that work, some that don’t. I’ll do my
editing later, but now I just need to see what even has a chance of working.

Next, the Amtrak material. The old stuff sticks, and the new stuff, while a little
rough, gets enough of a response that I feel like I can continue developing it. Plus,
I get to do an act-out of a drunk guy, which is always enjoyable. The woman up
front cracks a smile. Good enough.

Finally, I talk about how I want to get arrested: by shaving a homeless person. This
is weird enough but also makes enough sense that a few people see where I’m
coming from, but I end the joke poorly - there’s not enough punch quite yet. I’ve
got to find the true end of the joke for next time.

I thank the crowd, put the mic back in the stand, then walk back to the end of the
bar, exhilarated. Feels good to be back in the saddle.
________________________________________________________________________

#33-35: Extreme Makeover: Joke Edition
2/23/13, 4:30 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It had been a productive afternoon. I was coming from a writer’s group I’d been
invited to a few weeks back. Seven of us sat in a circle in someone’s living room,
pitching jokes and tags and angles back and forth for three hours. I was itching to
try out some of the new material, so I hit up the Lab before work.

It was a surprisingly attentive room, despite only being filled with comics. The
atmosphere wasn’t cynical or angry the way it can be at other mics - here, things
seemed a little brighter, a little less tense. Maybe it was because it wasn’t at
nighttime.

Jake, the host, throws me on shortly after my arrival. I go up on stage with honed
versions of jokes I told Friday night, thanks to punch-up from the writer’s group.
Some of the new ideas work just fine. Some fall flat on their face. By the end, I have
a better idea of how to shape my new ideas, how to structure them to make them
funnier. I put the mic back in it’s improbably high-set stand - Jake is a tall
motherfucker - grab my bag, then go to work on my next round of material at the
bar next door.

32

2/24/13, 12:30 AM: Last Laugh Show, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

At that point in my shift, I’d resigned myself to being stuck doing the open mic
after work and nothing else. But then, a stroke of luck: one of the performers for
the late show didn’t make it. There were eight open minutes. Parker and I knew we
had to jump on this.

I close out my station and sprint to the bathroom to change while Parker clears us
jumping on the show with the Erikka (the evening’s MC) and our manager. Next
thing I know, I’m putting on my jeans in a bathroom stall while Parker talks about
ordering fake menu items at McDonald’s. I dash out to the Yoo Hoo Room lobby
and put on my shoes. Erikka looks at the list, then at me. “You’re next.”

She introduces me. I take a deep breath, try to collect my thoughts. I have done no
preparation for this other than changing out of my work clothes. I feel surprisingly
fine about this.

I talk to the crowd a little bit, trying to make sure they don’t fall asleep on me - it is
nearly one o'clock in the morning, after all - then launch into my material. I do my
scary neighborhood bit, my haunted house bit, and some new stuff about the
postal service and traveling by Amtrak. The crowd laughs a lot at the beginning,
but the jokes I tell at the end aren’t strong enough yet to be great closers. They still
laugh, but not as hard or as often as I’d like.

I thank them, then leave the stage, shaking Erikka’s hand. A wave of relief hits me
that I could perform in front of a real crowd tonight and not just another group of
bored, angry comics waiting for their name to get drawn out of a pitcher.

2/24/13, 6:00 PM: Open Mic, Sal’s Comedy Hole, Los Angeles, CA

Due to a shared “meh, who really cares” attitude toward this year’s Oscars, David,
ever the trooper, decides to come on an open mic run with me, even though he
only arrived in LA about six hours ago. We leave my house too late to make it to
the sign-ups for the Comedy Store, but I tell him I know a place I’ve always wanted
to go try the open mic at, just a few miles from my house.

Sal’s is in the back of the Vienna Cafe, an italian restaurant and coffee shop. It
smells like pizza. I recognize the host, but don’t remember his name. After the
first three comics go up, I get my chance on stage. There are five people in the
room.

When I was first starting out, I hated rooms like this. I felt like it was a waste of my
time to try and make a scant amount of people laugh. I would get so frustrated. It
just felt beneath me. But in this moment on stage, I realize that there’s a kind of
33

serenity to these shows. No pressure. No worries. I try to use that sense of ease to
my advantage, and tell more of the same jokes I’d been working on since Friday,
trying to treat this mic just like any other show with an audience.

Thankfully, the scattered few who watch my set give me good enough feedback
that I can effectively refine from here. I experience some of the same problems I
have in the past - not selling my material enough, or not getting to the point quick
enough - but those revelations don’t make me feel bad about my performance, the
way they would at a show with more people there. In a way, having nobody there
to watch you is liberating. There’s no reason to be self-conscious. Just tell your
jokes, learn from your mistakes, and move on.

David and I watch one more comic, then leave to try and make it to another mic. I
don’t get picked to go. It’s okay. We have to go celebrate David’s arrival in the city,
anyway. He’s gonna be a big shot soon.
________________________________________________________________________

#36: You'll Always Remember Your First Time
2/25/13: Potluck, The Comedy Store, Los Angeles, CA

No comic goes to the Comedy Store expecting to get up. It’s just a thing you have
to do. You wait around, sign up, wait around some more, and then go home
disappointed, but also kind of glad you didn’t get picked, because what would you
even say up there? Would anyone laugh? Would anyone care?

So, like on most Monday nights, I head over to the Store with Tyler. We get there
right as the line forms for sign-ups, so we make our way to the back. A skinny
Asian girl accuses me of cutting in line, so I let her go ahead - it’s not like your spot
in line matters all that much, really.

We put our names on the list, then peoplewatch. Usually, there’s a sea of comics
waiting on the patio or meandering around by the parking lot, but today it’s more
like a pond. Maybe this means we have better chances. It probably doesn’t.

At ten ‘til seven, the list gets posted in the window. Cue everyone scrambling to
see if their name is printed on the lineup. I make my way over to the list. I’m going
seventh. Holy shit. After months of putting my name down to no avail, I got
picked. I’m going up at the Comedy Store for the first time tonight.

Nervous energy immediately rushes through me, making my hands shake. I’m so
happy, I feel like I can run for miles and not get tired. Other comics congratulate
me on my first time getting picked. They all give me similar advice: just go up, tell
your jokes, and don’t let them know you’re intimidated. Act professional. Do your
job. Do it well.
34

Tyler goes to put more money in the meter while I figure out my set. I have three
minutes, and they need to be solid. In my book, I write down:

MS. THIRTEEN

HAUNTED HOUSE

ARRESTED

BROKE

…which should be just right. The glass doors open. Tyler and I find seats in the
back.

Like any open mic, the comics chosen for the potluck are hit or miss. The first
comic flubs his opener, tries to bail on it, re-tells it, then realizes he can’t
remember any more of his jokes. He gets the light and immediately leaves. Don’t
be that guy.

The next few comics do better. I try to to get a read on the audience. Most of it is
comics, but there’s six civilians today, all sitting near the front. This is good. I
won’t have to deal with silence. Theoretically, anyway.

Comic number six bombs hard. She tries to tell jokes, but nothing works. She
blames it on the audience. “Guess you guys don’t get this.” As Willie, the host,
points out afterwards, she has no punchlines. “You’re a shit writer,” he goads from
the stage. This is the way things are at the Store: if you can’t hack it, you’re going
to get run through the wringer. Thankfully, I don’t have to follow her - a drop-in
takes the stage. I stand up and pace around a little bit. You’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.

Willie thanks the drop-in, then calls me to the stage. I jog over there, thank him
and shake his hand, then take the mic and move the stand. I remember something
one of the audience members said about being from Wilmington. “Which one of
you is from North Carolina?” No response. “Guess he left.” I tell my crimes against
nature joke, since I’ve already brought up North Carolina. The response is almost
nonexistent, but I can’t let that faze me. Soldier on. This is a moment of truth.

I continue with my set as planned, and, lo and behold, people laugh. And not just
the six people in the front, either - comics, too. I move around the stage, trying to
look people in the eye as I tell my jokes. I feel like I’m in the zone. Before I know
it, the light comes on, so I wrap up, thank the crowd, and shake Willie’s hand
again as I leave. As I walk away, he asks, “this was your first time at the Store

35

tonight, right?” “Yep.” “Cool. We’re just popping cherries here tonight!” The crowd
laughs. I sit back down next to Tyler. We fist-bump.

So this is what validation feels like.
________________________________________________________________________

#37: Hot Streak
2/26/13: Happy Hour Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

John, the host, asks if I think I’ll be able to go up. I say I think I can get someone to
cover the booth for me, I’ll let him know. I go back to folding programs, then
consider what I’d do for a set, hoping that Parker doesn’t have to clock in before I
get done with all of my side work.

Luckily, he doesn’t. With about fifteen minutes to go until his shift, Parker lets me
know he’s about to clock in. I ask him if he’ll cover me so I can get a set in. He says
absolutely. I ask John to work me in. He says this guy and one more, pointing to
the stage with his thumb. I say that works. I throw together a set in my notebook,
run over it a couple of times, then clock out and wait my turn.

The more audiences I can work something out on, the better, so I do the material
I’d been working through this weekend, with a few tweaks here and there. New
crayon names, mostly. Those are pretty easy to come up with. People laugh, but
the jokes still need some fine-tuning. Some calibration.

To close, I tell the story of the ‘Bater again, but I mess it up and reveal too much
information, too early on, thus, ruining the punchline. My tags still work, but the
meat of the joke goes untouched. I thank the crowd, then give the mic back to
John.

I clock back in, take over at the desk, and jot something down in my notebook.
Something tells me I need to take another look at that story.
________________________________________________________________________

#38: Less Stripping, More Joking
2/27/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The bar is almost unreasonably full. Comics waiting their turns fill almost the
entire space. I watch the proceedings from the kitchen, sipping on Jim Beam,
trying to figure out what to do for my set.

I feel like I’ve made significant progress on all the material I’ve been working out
over the weekend, so I switch gears and bring out a mixture of old, tested material

36

and newer, half-baked stuff that I didn’t take the time to flesh out before. I just
want to see what’s still worth taking another look at.

As I finish cobbling together my set, Aaron swings by to let me know I’ll be on in
two. It’s not even 12:30 yet. This is great news. I take my drink ticket from the night
and order myself an Anchor Porter.

I start by removing my jacket, which elicits cheers and shouts of “TAKE IT OFF!”
from the crowd. I whip my jacket around my head for a second, then toss it to the
ground. Less stripping, more joking.

I talk about a few different things - my penchant for reading food blogs, the “Yes!
Sand! Finally!” kid, the ‘bater, drunk me being a bad friend. Most of it is worth
keeping, or, at the very least, salvaging one or two things that really hit hard. My
closing bit is a reworked version of a question I asked on stage long ago - what if
there’s something to getting into heaven that we don’t know about? - but it’s too
unclear right now. I have an observation with no attitude backing it. I say, “that
was a bad one to close with. I’m just gonna go drink now. Thanks!” then leave the
stage, thanking Aaron as I go. At least it wasn’t a total wash.
________________________________________________________________________

#39-42: Drink It In
2/28/13, 6 PM: Happy Hour Audition, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

My shift starts in fifteen minutes and I still haven’t gone on yet. I run to the
bathroom to change so I don’t have to worry about putting on my work clothes
after my set. I can hear occasional outbursts of distant laughter from the
showroom. I go over my three minutes in my head. I’m doing mostly the same set
from the Store, but with a different closer - the Postal Service jokes. I figure it’ll
work.

Dave calls my name. I dash over to the steps, get on stage, take the mic. “I’ll be
quick, I’ve got a family I need to sell steak knives to.” I’ve hit the ground running.

The set goes well, but I misjudge how much time I’ll have at the end, and get the
light right in the middle of the Postal Service joke. I have no choice but to get off
stage, so I thank the crowd and get off. Next time.

Later on, one of the bookers tells me I had a good set. I thank him.

2/28/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I get drawn late, around one-thirty, but there’s still a decent crowd, so I give the
people what they want. I talk out some ideas I’ve had for a while about drugs and
37

going to a horse race, bring out some old material about getting my wisdom teeth
removed, and banter with the crowd a little bit. They laugh, they’re game.

I’m actively trying to become comfortable with things that make me
uncomfortable, like going on stage without a real plan of action other than to talk
about some things. It feels like it’s working, slowly but surely.

3/1/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Wendi, the host, calls my name as part of the next five performers, so I ready
myself. I decide to talk about drugs and horse races again, but add in a new section
about the sex ed class I had to take through my church in ninth grade. The one
that we had to take with our parents there.

It’s hard to get a bead on the crowd - they’re diverse, ranging all the way from frat
bros to ex-skinheads who have head tattoos and yell out “METH” when I ask the
crowd what their favorite drug is. Because if you’re going to pick meth as your
favorite drug, you have to be enthusiastic about it. Meth isn’t something you halfass.

Yet, something about me gets the crowd on my side from the get-go, and my set
goes generally well. I feel at ease. The horse race stuff could use some tightening
up, but the rest gets solid laughs. I thank the crowd, then leave the stage, getting
nods of recognition as I walk to the back of the bar. The guy with the tattoos on his
head says, “you’re fucking funny.” How nice.

3/2/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Of course, as we know, they can’t all be winners. On this night, there is almost no
crowd to speak of, even at midnight. It’s eerie. I get drawn while in the bar
bathroom, so I get pushed back a spot while I wash my hands.

I try my best on stage, and get somewhere with a couple of ideas worth mining
later - the activities of summer camp, taking sex ed with your parents - but the
horse race material doesn’t click the way it has in prevous nights. I shrug it off, but
make a mental note to map that one out and see where it can be improved.

After my set, a couple of other comics in the back tell me I had a good set and offer
me a glass of wine. I thank them, introduce myself, and drink. Who am I to turn
down free wine? Besides, it’s time to relax.




38

#43-#45: Debuts
3/5/13: Early Late Night with Raf, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m counting out my cash drawer when I see Krista, the manager on duty,
approach the ticket booth from the corner of my eye. “Do you want to do some
time?” Uh, absolutely I do.

Raf, the host and producer of Early Late Night, follows right behind her. One of
the comics he’d booked was a no-show, so I was going to take his spot: a fiveminute set, then a five-minute interview afterwards. “You’re going on after the big
dance number. You can’t miss it.” I tell Raf I’m on it, not to worry, then he nods
and heads back to the green room. I grab a piece of scratch paper and start to work
out my set.

I figure the best jokes to do are old standbys. I can’t tell what the crowd’s like,
since I’m still wrapping out the ticket booth and not in the showroom, but I figure
that if I give them tested stuff then they’ll probably like it. I hear the dance music
start up, so I clock out and head into the main room.

The Early Late Night crew is lip-syncing “All That Jazz”. I write my set out again on
an audience raffle sheet. It’s my first time on the Flappers main room stage for
something besides the audition. Can’t screw this one up.

The proceedings on stage die down, and Raf takes a seat at his desk again. Then:
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for our first comedian of the evening.” My time
has come.

I talk about my sketchy neighborhood, my living situation, my financial situation. I
try to stay loose by looking directly at the crowd, picking out members of the
audience and speaking to them directly. I go slowly. I remember to take my time.
The crowd seems to dig it. Then, it’s time for the interview. I think this might be
my strong suit. I talk directly to Raf, working to not worry about the audience’s
reaction as much here. It’s just a conversation.

I do get lucky when Raf asks me what it’s like to work at the club. It’s a perfect
opportunity to tell the Jap-Slap story. I sieze it, and the crowd howls with laughter.
At the end, Raf asks the crowd if they’d like to see me back. They applaud. Raf
shakes my hand, and thanks me for coming. I thank him for having me, then walk
off stage. Luckily, I don’t have too much left to do after I clock back in.

3/6/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I decide it’s time for another round of “Let’s Talk About Old Premises That You’ve
Had Saved In Your Phone For A While And Never Talked About.” I’m about due.
39

I make a Holocaust reference in the first few minutes, which goes over better than
initially anticipated (because tonight people agree that living on minimum wage is
like trying to hide Jews from the Nazis), but goes nowhere since I have nothing
beyond the premise other than a bad German accent.

I talk about acronyms - the NCAA, the NAACP, MADD, and the ASPCA. I learn
that I shouldn’t talk about the ASPCA - at least not right now. The other jokes go
over well, but my ASPCA one isn’t fresh enough for the subject matter. After all,
Sarah McLachlan’s terrible commercials are chock-full of comedic fodder.

I tell a story about myself and an ex, which goes over alright but takes too long up
front, then a story about a girl’s nickname in college, which doesn’t do as well. I
guess I’m just not meant to, as the host put it, yell like a pimp.

3/7/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I don’t get drawn until very late in the mic, even though it’s not even one o'clock
yet. There just weren’t many people who showed up. Comedy suffers in the rain. It
just does. Something about wet doesn’t make people want to get outside.

I talk about being in my twenties from an angle that, afterwards, one of the
Flappers standbys tells me he thinks has legs. I talk about losing my virginity, then
tell the same story about my ex from the night before. Then I run the MADD and
NCAA/NAACP material by the crowd again - I figure since the ASPCA one isn’t
fleshed out yet, I should ditch it for now - and then I’m done. I get a few big
laughs, and most of them are the in the places I hope they show up at. Some of my
thoughts don’t go over so well, but I don’t mind that nearly as much any more. It’s
just an open mic. I’m supposed to do this here, and I’m getting better at realizing
that and rationalizing it as part of the process of becoming a great comedian one
day.
________________________________________________________________________

#46/#47: Organically Grown
3/9/13: Headliner Saturdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I was doubly lucky: nobody dropped in on the 7:30 Yoo Hoo Room show, and it
was time to clock out for my break right around when there was some open time. I
ask the manager if I can take the spot. “I don’t see why not.” I clock out, call my
girlfriend real quick, then get back inside to plan my set.

Josh, the show’s MC, comes to my table to tell me I’m up next. I ask how the crowd
has been. He shakes his head, “don’t even…” then walks back into the showroom. I
wander over there to see for myself. It’s official: they’re pretty dead.
40

Aaron is working the Yoo Hoo desk today. “Has it been like this the whole show?”
He nods. I exhale. Okay then. This is when I make the mistake of worrying. I’ll pay
for it later.

The headliner, Peter, sits on the couch outside the room, watching me write out
my setlist again. “You know, I appreciate what you’re doing, mathematically, but
you don’t need to do that.” I look at him. “You know your material, right?” “Right.”

“Then just do it. Let it be organic. You see what I’m saying?” I nod, then pocket my
newly-minted setlist. I appreciate the advice, but right now I choose not to accept
it.

I don’t bomb, not by any means, but it’s not a great set. The real problem is in my
confidence. I lack the energy I’ve been working to cultivate, the self-assuredness
that I was becoming more comfortable exuding on stage. The crowd responds in
kind - timidly, with the biggest laughs coming when I manage to sell a new
punchline with a fair amount of gusto. At the end, I thank the crowd, wave, and
leave, then clock back in and work on shrugging it off.

At the end of the night, one of the owners asks about the crowds at the Yoo Hoo
Room that night. “Shitty,” I say. He swivels in his chair to face me. “If you think the
crowd is shitty, then you didn’t work hard enough.” I mull that over. The point is
not to get discouraged when a bad crowd comes along - it’s to get encouraged. I
should be trying to turn the room around, not resigning myself to the fact that the
audience is tepid. Food for thought.

3/10/13: The Flappers Yoo Hoo Open, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’d been thinking about what Peter said the other night, about letting things be
organic, about how I know my stuff well enough. After that performance, I decided
that there wasn’t any harm in flying by the skin of my teeth in something besides
an open mic. I didn’t write out a setlist. I knew my stuff.

Tonight I have a guest spot. I am supposed to prove that I am a step above the
comedians who are competing by being funnier and more put-together than them,
more in command of my time on stage. I can do this. This is not a problem at all.

There’s a drunk guy up front running his mouth, and everyone is giving him shit.
One guy absolutely tears into him, saying he’s going to rape his face with his jokes.
It feels excessive to me.

After the competitors do their time and the ballots are collected, it’s my turn up.
Luis, the host, introduces me, then the crowd claps and I jog to the stage. I know I
41

have to address the heckler right up front, and I know just the thing: “Sir, do you
like drugs?” The crowd howls.

After using him as a springboard into my drugs bit, I talk about living in LA, about
my job, about being broke, about having to travel by Amtrak. Most of the set goes
well, and I do remember everything - and even manage to make things flow nicely,
which is wonderful - but there are times when I notice that uncertainty creep back
in. I leave the stage to applause, wondering how to stop worrying to much. Maybe
this “going organic” business is the right way to conquer some fears.
________________________________________________________________________

#48/#49: Elimination Round Participant
3/13/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I was on the phone with my girlfriend when Dave called my name. Thankfully,
we’ve been dating for a while, otherwise she probably wouldn’t take too kindly to
me stammerring “oh shit they just called my name uh uh I’ll call you right back!”
as I fumble to hang up and switch to the voice recorder.

For a Wednesday show, the room was pretty full. Normally this would have
resulted in me trying to tailor my material a little to the room, but since I was
literally being thrown on without having time to do prep work, I went with what I
knew. I started off with an old, old joke about Texas that still has legs (even if it
takes forever to get to the punchline, which should be changed) then work out
some new stuff about being in your twenties and how it’s alternately unfair and
wonderful. The punchlines work the way they should, but the setups take too long.
Next time, I’ll work on condensing. I thank the crowd at my four minute mark,
leave the stage, then go back to the lobby and call Sam again.

“Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay. How’d your set go?”

3/14/13, 8 PM: March Comedy Madness, Sal’s Comedy Hole, Los Angeles, CA

I get to Sal’s at the tail end of the open mic. There are seven people here. I hope
the crowd picks up some. I’d be surprised if it didn’t, but I still don’t want there to
be nobody here.

At 8, the audience slowly starts to trickle in from the street outside Sal’s. My
friends and I congregate under the awning, saying hellos, hugging. Most of them I
haven’t seen in a while. I’m glad they’ve come out to support me. It’s always a nice
feeling. A beer is bought for me. Some Italian bock. I take a swig then go check the
bracket inside.
42

The contest works like this: all of the comics start out performing one minute sets,
head-to-head. The audience votes by applause, and the winner advances and has
to perform double the time for the next round. Eventually someone comes out
victorious. While most competitors only have one person to beat in the first round,
I’m in the unique position of having to beat two comics to advance to round two.

I’d been thinking about my funniest minutes earlier in the day. Parker and I decide
that the best things to go with are Sperm Donor and Haunted House. They’re
quick, don’t require a ton of set-up to work nicely, and bring consistent laughs.

I’m in the first competition group to go on. Me and some guy named Julien. We’ve
both brought significant amounts of friends to the contest, which is evident when
I’m sitting on the chair on stage waiting my turn. When he starts telling jokes, one
pocket of the crowd starts to laugh uproariously.

(Let’s get something clear: “jokes” is generous. It’s more like he’s yelling and
expecting the audience to know the right time to laugh. His friends know, at least.)

His minute finishes, and I hop up and take the mic. Sperm Donor is up first, and it
goes over okay, but it doesn’t kill the way it usually does. I’ve underestimated the
amount of time I need to get to one of the biggest punchlines, so I don’t get to
close the joke the way I wanted, and it ends on an awkward silent moment instead
of a laugh. This might not be good.

Josh, the host and referee, comes to the stage with the applause-o-meter, then
gathers the votes. The results are inconclusive. Our respective groups of friends are
just too similarly loud. Josh calls for a joke-off, twenty seconds each. Julian goes up
first, shouts a sentence that’s met with a cool reception from the crowd. I, not
knowing what else to do, tell the last bit of my Amtrak joke - the one that usually
works, even if it needs some shifting now to accurately reflect my opinion. Its
reception is lukewarm, but it’s better than Julian’s joke, and this time I advance. As
I leave the stage, one of his friends says, “RECOUNT” as I walk past. Fuck you,
buddy. I’m funnier than your friend. Deal with it.

At the end of Round 1, I’m called up again to face my second challenger. Haunted
House hits hard, and though I face a more worthy opponent this time, I advance
handily to round two. Now I’ve got some more breathing room before my next bit.

I’m the last to compete in this round, and I’m up against a girl named Paige. She’s
really good, and we both do our best two minutes - me talking about being broke,
and having to work internships, and her talking about her giant tits (her words,
possibly paraphrased). It’s a close call in the audience vote, but Paige ekes it out.
Good for her. I shake her hand and get off stage.
43

After the show, I’m out under the awning again, talking to a couple of my friends,
thanking them profusely for coming, when Josh walks by on the way to his car.
“Hey, funny stuff tonight dude. We’ll have to do another show together
sometime.” I thank him, tell him to email me. He nods, then we wave and part
ways, and for the first time after a comedy competition, I don’t feel like I’ve lost.
________________________________________________________________________

#50/#51: Fight The Dream
3/15/13, 5:30 PM: Set List Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I show up in the middle of the mic and take a seat at the bar. I order a pizza. I want
to not be hungry when I clock in to work in about an hour.

I’m halfway through my pizza when I notice that I’m on deck. I wipe the pepperoni
grease off my hands, then stand up. Stretch a little. It helps me remember to stay
loose.

Before the host calls me to the stage, he talks about how even though he’s giving
us elbow bumps instead of handshakes thanks to his cold, he still is giving us a raw
deal since he’s breathing and spitting on the mic when he talks. I keep this in mind
when he calls me up and offers me his elbow, and bump mine against his. I take
the mic, then start: “I almost shook your hand. Glad I avoided that.” A few
chuckles. I glance at my setlist:

UNPLEASANTVILLE

IF YOU BUILD IT (maybe. my memory is foggy on this one.)

POST-SEX CANDY

CHESS DICK MOVE

“Getting sick would be a real trip to Unpleasantville.” More laughter. I soldier on,
but don’t get anywhere with the second bit. The third bit is okay - something
about developing a Pavlovian response to sex with my girlfriend - and the last bit
even shows a little bit of promise, with a forgotten story about me going to chess
camp when I was younger.

I end with a laugh and my fist raised in the air. “Fight the dream. I’m Jay Light.”
The crowd claps as I leave the stage. I elbow bump the host again, then go use
some hand sanitizer. Don’t want to get mic germs all over my pizza.

3/15/13, 11:30 PM: Last Laugh Show, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA
44

While on my break, I figure out a solid six to perform. I try to keep Peter’s advice
in mind - just do what you know - but think that there are some cases where
planning in advance can be helpful. At least it’ll be something to have in the back
of my mind while I finish out my shift.

I clock out and change into civilian clothes just in time for my set. While my
predecessor finishes up, I stand in the back of the Yoo Hoo Room. There’s a man
sleeping on his date’s shoulder two rows in. I doubt he’s been doing much besides
that for the majority of the show.

Josh calls me to the stage to polite applause. I take the mic, then tell the crowd it
feels like I’m at a debate competition, they’re so polite. A few people laugh. I tell
the room to wake up, then point in the sleeping man’s direction. “There’s a man
who’s literally asleep in the audience. It’s past his bedtime.” Laughter. “It’s past my
bedtime, too. I think my mom just put out an Amber Alert on me.” More laughter.
“I’ll try to make this quick.”

I talk about my roommates, being in my twenties and dealing with outside
opinions of my age, sex ed, and my relationship with my parents. Altogether, the
set goes very well, with a couple pacing hiccups in the newer material in the
middle that I need to rectify. But that’s just some routine tweaking. I decide I can
bask in the glory of my good set a little bit before getting back to business.
________________________________________________________________________

#52: A Wild Heckler Appears
3/16/13: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It was a long, hectic shift, and I just wanted to do the mic and get home. I had
some new bits to work out, some old bits to dredge up and shake the dust off of.
Practically no crowd aside from a handful of drunk twentysomethings near the
front and a few comics spread out amongst the tables. Same old, same old.

Josh throws me on. I take the stage. People are already smiling, which is a good
sign. I start with new stuff: a joke about dealing with a relationship across time
zones. It goes pretty well. People like my Disney princess references.

I start the next bit. “I saw a guy wearing an Ed Hardy shirt pushing around a
stroller.” The crowd laughs. A couple up front gasps a little, then makes eyes to
stage left. Sitting right at the front of the bar, barely two feet away, is a giant man
in an Ed Hardy shirt. But why stop? This joke isn’t about him.

45

I keep talking until the guy turns to me. “You making jokes about me?” I say no,
just your shirt, then ask if he has a kid. “Yes,” he grunts. I ask how old she is, but
he shoots back with: “You look like you’re twelve.”

We’ve got ourselves an asshole, folks. I’ve never dealt with a heckler before, so I
decide the best tactic is to treat him the way I treat shitty customers at work: by
smiling and deflecting. “Oh, I know. I’m actually ten, so I’m glad I look old for my
age.” Laughter from the crowd.

He keeps trying. “You look like a midget."

"Dude, midgets come up to, like, here on me.” I move my hand around my waist.

“How tall are you, five six?”

“Five ten, actually.” The crowd seems generally surprised.

“Yeah, on a good day.”

“Well, today is a good day. On bad days I’m four four.” More laughter. Now the
crowd just wants to know if I’m really five ten - evidenced by the few people who
exclaim that they don’t believe me - so I go off on a height tangent for a little bit.
The heckler returns to the beer at hand. I continue through my set.

The older stuff goes okay - my summer camp material still has legs, but the story
about my first time encountering late-night Cinemax falls flat aside from one
mention of a dude getting his head ripped off his shoulders after sex. (Because
that’s what’s on Cinemax at 2 in the morning.) I thank the crowd, thank Josh for
working me in, then get off stage.

Later, as I’m walking back to my car with Parker, we run into Ed Hardy Man and
his posse outside of the club. He tries again: “I just did your job for you.” I keep
walking, “yeah, maybe you should get on stage sometime.”

He doesn’t like that I don’t care about his jabs. “You’re not funny!” he yells after me
as I walk to the parking garage.

“Whatever,” I yell back, unfazed. I already won, dude. Deal with it. Some people
just can’t take a joke.





46

#53/#54: Homework
3/20/12: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m taking a stand-up class on Monday nights for the next six weeks. My boss
recommended it. Our first week’s assignment was five minutes of new material.
This week, we had to refine and retool what we brought in that week. I had a fair
chunk of new material to hone, so it was time to get to work.

Aaron calls me up. I bring my notebook with me so I don’t forget what I want to go
over. I feel a little bad that I have to use notes, but it’s an open mic, so who cares,
really?

I move the mic stand and begin with the Ed Hardy dad material that I tried a little
on Saturday, before the heckler derailed it. It works, and now that I can push
through the whole joke instead of getting sidetracked, I see that there’s potential
here. I like potential.

Next, I talk about my main topic for class: my long-distance relationship. I’d
written about dating Sam in the past, but I hadn’t really written much from this
perspective yet. I bring up the difficulties: dealing with being in different time
zones, bad cell phone signals, and that I can’t solve boyfriend problems when I’m
halfway across the country (like disproving the existence of ghosts).

For the most part, the crowd is receptive. The ghost material is the weakest of the
bunch. My imagery in it is too macabre.I guess it’s not really my voice. Dark isn’t
my strong suit. I’ll find a way to make it fit my performance. I thank the crowd,
shake Aaron’s hand, then head to the back of the room.

3/21/12: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

In the morning, I meet up with a classmate to write. It’s part of our homework. We
hash out new ideas for his material - about how his severa ADD and
procrastination have affected him throughout his life - and mine. Especially the
ghost-disproving material. After an hour sitting in Poinsettia Park on a sunny
morning, we’ve got some good new things to work with. While I won’t be working
on all of it tonight, since I want to devise a more fleshed-out version of what we
worked on in the park, I decide to take out the new Ed Hardy tags we come up
with.

Sitting in the bar, that’s the only thing I can come up with that I want to talk
about. A half-empty Anchor Porter sits in front of me while I wrack my brain for
some premise to work out tonight. I eventually decide to try out the stuff about
being viewed as an irresponsible twentysomething, and then mix in a new story

47

about a project I had to do in sixth grade that I totally phoned in but still got a
good grade on.

Erikka brings me on around 12:30, when the room is still full. A table of kids
around my age sit at a table up front. “You guys in your twenties?” They nod.
“Ages?” I point at the girl sitting closest to me, then realize there’s no way she’s
gonna tell me. Yet, instead of pressing the issue, I bail on the crowd work. (In
retrospect, I realize this was a mistake, because it could have been an opportunity
for growth, but I guess it’s good that I’m recognizing that.) “I should not have
asked how old a girl was. Rookie mistake.”

The audience is easy. Not overly excitable, but not worn out either. They’re paying
attention. The jokes about my twenties work, and some of the details of the sixth
grade story have promise. The Ed Hardy stuff works wonderfully. All of it needs
tightening up, but I expected that. I haven’t written anything out of these new bits
aside from a potential title for each. I’m working as loosely as I can until I need to
get something materialized. Now might be the time for some of this new material
to be put to paper. Just might be.

I leave the stage smiling.
________________________________________________________________________

#55/#56: I Got Hurt Feelings
3/24/13, 4:30 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There are eleven people on the list and we’re going to get to all of them. We’ll be in
and out of here in around an hour. No sweat.

Since this is the lab, I try not to worry about my own stuff right now. Instead, I’m
attentive so I can give good feedback. At mics like this, you get what you give.

Eventually, it’s my turn. I take the stage. Including me, only six people are still
here. That’s okay. Less pressure.

Today, I’m bringing out old stories about my time playing baseball as a kid. I
wasn’t good, but that’s what makes the stories funny. I haven’t told these jokes in a
few months, but the sparse crowd responds about as well as I can hope. A couple
chuckles here and there, general nodding and smiling. This is passable.

The feedback helps pinpoint what does and doesn’t work about the stores and my
telling of them. Mostly people just think I need to take the punchlines further than
I’m going with them now, especially an already-lengthy act-out that Jake, the host,
says could be made transcendent with some more length.

48

We’ll see what advice winds up being worth keeping, but at least those stories are
still worth telling.

3/24/13, 11:30 PM: Eleventh-Hour Comedy, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I was doubly lucky.

Nobody was booked for the “special guest” spot on the late show, and I was
deemed special enough to have the spot.
The headliner had to get up early in the morning, so he did his time in the middle
of the show. I became the new headliner.
I had been working the Yoo Hoo Room all night. I recognized all of the faces in the
audience. I sold most of them their tickets. They’re laughing at pretty much
everything. Most of them are more than a little drunk.

I have eight minutes. I want to try a mix of old, tried-and-true stuff and newer
jokes that’re still getting worked out. I write down:

DRUGS

MS. THIRTEEN

HAUNTED HOUSE

TWENTIES

JAP-SLAP

and wait my turn in the back of the room. Parker pats me on the back. “You’re
Batman.” The comic ahead of me tells jokes about Krav Maga that have the crowd
howling. He thanks them, almost exhausted, then leaves the stage.

Dave, the host, takes the stage once more. “Are you ready for your last comic?” The
crowd cheers. “Give it up for Jay Light!”

I jog up to the stage, shake Dave’s hand, then take the mic. “Bet you didn’t expect
to see me again! The suspenders are off, bitches!” The crowd laughs. I have them
from the get-go. Wonderful.

A girl who tried to get free tickets from me earlier looks like I’m about to run up to
her and slap her any minute now. “Why are you cowering? I’m a nice young man!”
She says, “I know.”

49

In that instant, I know to switch my material around a little. I start with the
twenties stuff. The setups are still too long, but the punchlines work well,
especially with the giant group of twentysomethings on my left. Then I loop
around into Ms. Thirteen, which I realize is not clear enough after the crowd fails
to laugh at a part of the punchline that usually works. If they can’t pick up on it, it
needs to be clearer. Thankfully, the tags still work. I have enough momentum to
go into the Haunted House bit and carry that through successfully.

A row of three people, including free tickets girl, all get a fresh round of drinks.
“You’re still drinking at this hour? Awesome. Never a bad time for more drinks!”
The three of them clink glasses, then say something unintelligible, but I make out
the word “stop” directed at me.

“Stop talking, or stop drinking? Because I’d rather you stop talking. You can drink
all you want.” They recoil a little. The girl says that I hurt her feelings. The room is
silent.

“Well, it hurts my feelings when you talk while I’m trying to say my things.” I’m
swimming in tension. “Look, let’s have a hurt feelings moment.” I walk over to her
and her friends, stick out my hand, and we do spirit fingers. “There. All better."

I walk back to the middle of the stage, exasperated, then look at the right half of
the audience, where all the people who aren’t in their twenties are, and yell, "see?
We’re so dumb! I just had to do that dumb shit because her FEELINGS GOT
HURT!” The crowd eats it up - applauding, whooping. The knot in my chest
loosens.

I tell a long-distance dating joke next, but it doesn’t land. I meander off near the
end, wonder aloud why I told a half-finished joke. After my set, I write down to not
scold myself on stage. If the crowd doesn’t think I have faith in myself, then how
can they have faith in me? Dave gives me the light.

I close with a tiny bit of the baseball material from this afternoon - just some stuff
about being an umpire after my baseball career ended. It works well enough that
I’m satisfied with it as a closer, so I thank the crowd, then head over to the bar to
watch Parker do his set at the open mic.
________________________________________________________________________

#57: The Nick Of Time
3/25/13: Open Mike Monday, 1306 N. Wilton Place, Los Angeles, CA

I knew I’d be cutting it close, but I didn’t expect an accident on the 101 to create
standstill traffic at 10:30. I’m stuck in the right lane, moving inches at a time. I’m
furious. Parker calls. “Are you almost here? There’s only one comic left, then you.”
50

“I’ll be there.” I continue my crawl towards the off-ramp, eventually just cutting
onto the shoulder and booking it to the side. I don’t want to be late for a new
show, when the host agreed to give me a guaranteed slot. That seems like it’d
reflect poorly on me. The light at the end of the street takes forever to turn green. I
call Parker back. “Is there parking on the street?”

“There’s parking across the street. I’m outside. I’ll see you when you get here.” The
light turns. I turn, turn again, park, and jog across the street to Parker. I made it
just in time.

The venue is a tiny room with bright lights, colors everywhere, and folding chairs
in neat rows. There are twelve people still here. Luis, the host, says he’ll stretch for
a few minutes so I can catch my breath. I grab a bottle of water while he tells some
jokes. The crowd is small, but attentive. Then, he introduces me: “give it up for the
Axl Rose of comedy, Jay Light!”

I take the stage. “I guess I’m just gonna release a bunch of albums, then disappear.
You’re telling my comedic future.” One guy has a big, booming laugh that fills the
room, making things seem more normal. I tell the baseball stories from Saturday
afternoon, to varying degrees of success. The act-out still needs work, some of the
punchlines don’t land (which means they need some revising), and my pacing isn’t
quite there yet. But the chunk as a whole is funny, and is recieved warmly, with
one line in particular about being an umpire getting a mini-applause break.

I don’t see a light but figure I’ve done my five minutes, so I thank the crowd, then
leave the stage, thanking Luis as I go. I’ll definitely be back. For now, there is
Bioshock Infinite to be played.
________________________________________________________________________

#58: Hot Chocolate & Poop Jokes
4/2/13, 7 PM: Open Mic, Rockpaper Coffee, West Hollywood, CA

Rockpaper is one of those mics that you go to not expecting to get much out of,
and this one was no exception. But it’s been a week since my last performance, and
I need to shake the rust off before my booked show at Flappers.

I arrive late and sign up at the end of the list, putting me in prime position to
watch every other comic do their time then get the fuck out of the building. Even
the host leaves halfway through the show to go on a date. I sip my hot chocolate -
never been one for coffee - then figure out what to talk about.

By the time my slot rolls around, there are only four people in the coffee shop: me,
the replacement host, the barista, and the comic going up after me. When I was
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newer, I hated these nonexistent crowds. It seemed futile to perform to no
audience. To some extent, it is, but stage time is stage time. Sparse crowds are just
an occupational hazard at this point. Though it certainly helps that I’m facing this
one in the early evening rather than at two in the morning after being bumped for
three hours.

I get on stage and immediately spill water all over the stool. “Josh, can you grab me
a napkin?” I set my notebook and phone on a nearby table, then grab the napkins
from Josh’s fist and thank him as I wipe up my spill. I don’t want to start with
material, so I ask a question that came to mind when one of the previous
performers was on stage: “Would you guys rather poop in the dark or in the light,
but there’s moths the size of your hand flying everywhere?” Two out of three go
with moths. Then I talk about the perils of pooping at summer camp and being
afraid of snakes flying up my ass. Then I decide that I should stop talking so much
about poop with a lady present.

I work out some of my long-distance relationship material from class, trying a
couple new tags and some reordered lines, then get the light and wrap up. I watch
the last set - a guy who unconfidently tells jokes about gay people - then grab my
backpack and head out, sufficiently warmed up.
________________________________________________________________________

#59: The Proving Ground
4/2/13, 10 PM: Tickle Me Tuesdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I get to the club at around 8:30, then say hey to my on-the-job co-workers. I ask
how the next show looks. It’s my first time to be booked for a show in the main
room, and I hope to actually perform. Jenna checks the computer. “It’ll be small,
but we’ll have a show.” Good. A show is all I need. I can handle small.

I go to the bar, order some food, shoot the shit with the bartender and a couple
comics. After a while, I retreat to the patio to plan out my set. I have five minutes.
I want them to be solid. I start with this:

HAUNTED HOUSE

MS. THIRTEEN

DAD HARDY

BROKE

SPERM DONOR

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JAP-SLAP

A nice, fairly clean set (even the sperm donor stuff is pretty clean despite the
subject matter) that should get the crowd laughing, no matter what kind of energy
they have. I close my notebook, then watch a TED talk on how happiness is about
staying in the moment and not letting your mind wander.

As showtime nears, I head to the green room. John, the MC, tells me I’m going
fourth, then makes off for the showroom. I grab a bottle of water from the
minifridge, then follow him down the hall.

The audience is twenty people who’ve all come to see one friend of theirs perform.
Their friend is going last. They have to sit through the rest of our jokes. Might as
well make them good.

John kicks things off well, then brings on Tone, a Flappers regular and great comic
who does a little TV here and there and always nods hello when he comes by.
Tone’s low, rambling energy takes the crowd on a journey laden with hidden
punchlines. Every time they laugh, they sound genuinely surprised at Tone’s
revelation. I envy the way he can manipulate the crowd through pacing, how by
pausing on the right facial expression or line can have a profound effect on how
big the laugh he gets is.

The next comic doesn’t do as well - he starts talking to the crowd, then gets too
wrapped up in crowd work to put the effort into his material. He gets some laughs,
but his five minutes feels longer than that. Silence can do that to you. I make a
mental note to bring good energy to my performance.

John introduces me by telling the crowd they may have seen me at the North
Carolina Comedy Arts Festival. As soon as I get on stage, I know I have to address
this: “I don’t think any of you were in North Carolina. Have any of you ever been
there?” One guy in the front row whoops. “Well, for the rest of you, here’s a North
Carolina fun fact: men can’t get raped there!” A couple laughs, a couple gasps, just
the way that joke usually goes. I haven’t told it in a while, but I soldier on, even get
a new tag out of it.

My predecessor and John both talked about watching porn, so I feel like I have to
chime in. “Any time I get the urge to watch porn, I just read food blogs instead.”
More laughter. This, too, is a joke that hasn’t been told in a bit, but the reaction
here is good enough to make me think this one is also worth revisiting.

I only get through Dad Hardy by the time the light comes on, so I get the mic
stand and talk about being broke for my final minute. At the end of my set, a guy
yells, “GET ‘ER DONE!”
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“That has nothing to do with what I was talking about. I guess I’ll get my hunger
done?” Laughter. It’s probably time to go, so I thank the crowd and make my way
over to the stairs, shake John’s hand, and go back to the table I was sitting at.

Jerry, another Flappers regular who I look up to, shakes my hand. “Good set,
brother.” I smile and thank him. I sip my water. I breathe. I relax. I can do that
now. I’ve earned it.
________________________________________________________________________

#60: Maybe I Remind Them Of Their Grandsons
4/3/13, 11 PM: Flappers Pro/Am, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

When I found out I’d have the night off, I immediately knew to ask Matt for some
time on the Pro/Am. Five more minutes in the main room in front of a real crowd
would definitely be a confidence boost. Matt texts me back: “if you’re not funny,
you have to buy me a beer."

"Fair enough,” I reply. “But I’ll be funny.”

The showroom is dark and empty. We’ve got an audience of fifteen, three of whom
are teenagers who already tried getting a refund. They sit in the middle and sulk,
flanked by middle-aged people who have come to support their middle-aged
friends who are deciding to give comedy a shot.

Matt’s shitting on the proceedings right from the start. Another comic and I sit in
the back, laughing at Matt’s pure, blind hatred towards running this show. We
wonder when we’ll get on. I go to the kitchen to figure out my five minutes.

After about an hour of wandering around the club waiting for my go-ahead, Matt
finds me in the showroom and tells me I’m up in two. Perfect. I summon Parker
and Jenna from the bar, then head to the back corner table I was sitting at before.

Matt starts my introduction: “He just competed in the North Carolina Comedy
Super Competition Of The World…” The crowd giggles. “Jay Light!” Applause as I
take the stage and shake Matt’s hand.

The teenagers are gone. “Where did the children go?” The crowd doesn’t know.
They weren’t paying attention. “I look like a child. There’s probably an Amber
Alert out on me.” Laughter from the middle-aged. This isn’t a bad place to start.

I bring out some old standbys: my relationship with my parents, living in a house
of six, dealing with racist old men at work. I try to stay relaxed, but not lethargic,
emphatic without being over-the-top. Midway through the set I find my emotional
54

groove and settle in for the last two minutes. The timing feels natural, like there’s
really a give and take between me and the crowd. By the time I finish, I feel very
content. The crowd was small but I won them over. I thank them, then go to the
stairs and shake Matt’s hand on the way down.

Since I don’t owe him a beer, I buy myself one. A Shock Top Pumpkin Ale left over
from around Halloween. It’s the most satisfying three dollars I spend all day.
________________________________________________________________________

#61: What Goes Up Must Come Down
4/4/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

My girlfriend and I are fighting. Long distance relationships make every fight
worse because it’s much more difficult to communicate than it is when you’re faceto-face with them. This time, it’s because I can’t get off work to go to her sister’s
wedding, like I initially thought I could. There is yelling and ignored phone calls
and I’m feeling shitty about the whole thing when, all of a sudden, I am in the
lobby of Flappers. My name is being called.

I jog to the stage. Thank God I’d planned out a set beforehand. “I’m sorry if I’m a
little discombobulated. My girlfriend and I are having a fight right now. HOO
BOY!” The crowd claps. Someone whoops from the back. This isn’t going to be a
train wreck, I don’t think.

I talk about the perils of being in a long distance relationship: fights like this that
get worse because we have bad phone signals and misinterpret text messages
because I don’t punctuate them correctly sometimes. I talk about a recent visit
when she tried to get me to not poop in her apartment, and thought about other
problems we might have when we’re not apart any more. The crowd laughs a little,
gasps a little, cringes a little. This is fine.

Then I talk about us seeing Peter Pan, which it turns out is not funny at all - just
me gushing how much I enjoyed the performance of the show’s 60-year-old star.
Once I realize this, the crowd laughs, but I note to not tell that story again in a
comedic context. It just doesn’t work.

My final thought similarly flops: a tiny tangent on how fun it is to be a douchebag
that isn’t thought-out enough to gain any traction with the crowd. I thank them,
then get off the stage. Not one of my better performances, but at least I got the job
done.




55

#62: Acquaintances, Etc.
4/5/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s a busy Thursday night in the bar. Comics fill the room. I’m at the point now in
my time out here in the LA scene - especially at Flappers - where I can sit down at
a table with some other comics and join the conversation. I know enough people
now that that awkward “who are you” phase is starting to go away. We’re opening
up to each other more onstage and off.

Erikka brings me up and I start with the Ed Hardy dad material, tightened up and
re-tagged with references to fist-pumping and Pedialyte. The crowd likes the new
tags. They’re worth keeping.

Next, I bring up my girlfriend. We’re still fighting. As soon as I say we’re doing
long-distance, someone in the crowd starts clapping, then the crowd swells with
some cheering and applause. I’m not sure why. The weird anger/love miasma that
my emotions are mired in intensifies. I can hear the exasperation in my voice as I
reminisce about the dumb things that we fight about that bad Internet signal and a
two-time zone distance difference make even dumber.

Yet, even in this weird state I’m glad to find that I can still come up with new,
decent tags and punchlines, to find humor in places that wouldn’t have occurred
to me if I was just blindly angry or frustrated or whatever. I close with a joke about
Skype sex that goes over pretty nicely, then put the mic back in the stand, thank
the crowd, and go back to my table.

Some of the other comics who I’m sitting with ask me about how our relationship
is going, if things are okay. One offers her sympathies - she just got out of a long
distance relationship herself, she remembers the problems. I thank them for their
concern, then watch the next comic, glad that I’m making friends. It’s always nice
to have a few more people on your side.
________________________________________________________________________

#63: Sleepy Saturday
4/6/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m practically running on fumes my whole shift. Getting three hours of sleep then
going to work doesn’t cut it for me. But I can’t get a guest spot and I feel the need
to get on stage, so I ask to go first at the open mic. Joshua seems surprised: “You
wanna bite the bullet?”

“Yes,” I say.

56

“Okay then.” He walks to the end of the bar by the stage with the half-full pitcher
of names. Comics are lingering, drinking. Saturday nights have been light lately,
which I guess isn’t terrible if you’re a comic - you don’t have to wait as long to go
up, which everyone likes - but it sure seems to make the club nervous.

Sam and I smoothed things over, and I felt like I’d squeezed enough jokes out of
our relationship for the time being. I want to talk about something else. I jot a
couple of ideas down - one that’s been gestating for a little bit, one that strikes me
right there at the ticket desk. It’s a start.

I hear Josh’s voice, so I head back into the bar. About five minutes later, I’m on
stage and my first new thought - one about how porn never starts off with a tender
moment - is bombing hard. I should have predicted this. I’m better than porn
jokes.

The next new thought, a series of stories about my time in Gifted and Talented
classes in school, goes over much better. Not everything elicits laughter from the
crowd, but enough things do that I can see this is worth mining for some comedic
gold.

I cap things off with a newer version of my jokes about weird laws in North
Carolina. More direct, with some new tags and a new point-of-view. It goes off
well. It’s worth keeping in this form. I’ll add the final touches later - for now, I’m
just glad I don’t have to toss this joke. It’s one of my favorites.

I thank the crowd, get off stage, then go home for some hard-earned sleep. I can
worry about making changes in the morning.
________________________________________________________________________

#64: "Sorry Ladies, All Three Of You, I'm Taken"
4/8/13, 10:30 PM: Open Mike Monday, 1306 N. Wilton, Los Angeles, CA

In class, we split off into groups of three and spend two and a half hours revising
each person’s five minutes. It’s the perfect lead-in to Luis’ mic, where I’ll get to try
out this five minutes. I take copious notes on what my group-mates think works
and what could be fixed. I won’t use all of their suggestions, but they’re worth
paying attention to.

One of my favorite parts about this mic is the room itself. It feels like it’s been
cobbled together with whatever the inhabitants could find, but it’s charming
rather than desparate-seeming or gross. Orange umbrellas double as lamp shades.
Shelves piled up with props for the adjacent theatre lean precariously on the walls.
The toilet never stops running. There’s an air of “this is all hanging on by the skin
of its teeth” and it’s wonderful.
57

I get inside. About twenty people sit scattered, either focusing on the performer or
fidgeting in their folding chairs. Luis, who has guaranteed me a spot for this hour,
says I’ll be going up in three. This is fine.

The best parts of when Luis MCs are his ridiculous introductions. Mine ends with
Luis telling all the women I’m eligible and handsome - a real catch, ladies! - before
bringing me on stage. Of course, I have to address this right off the bat.

Smiling, I take the mic: “Luis is overselling me. I have a long distance girlfriend…”
and go through the bits I worked on in class. Some of it lands, some of it I forget to
do entirely. One bit involving the Pony Express reveals a potentially nice tag
thanks to some in-the-moment observation. The audience, while small, is good.
They laugh in almost all the right places. I close out with my Haunted House and
Ms. Thirteen bits - also freshly polished from class - and go back outside, thanking
Luis on the way down.

I talk outside with Tyler and Brent for a minute, then decide I’ve earned a
milkshake. I drive to the Chick-Fil-A on Highland, order my reward, and relish in
this small victory of a set. It tastes like Oreos.
________________________________________________________________________

#65: Twenty Glorious Minutes
4/9/13, 9 PM: Lestat’s Comedy Night, Lestat’s Coffee House, San Diego, CA

When Christian and Rajan asked me to do their show in San Diego, I jumped at
the opportunity. It would be my first time to travel within California for comedy,
plus I knew they were both good guys. We’d hit it off at the NC festival. I trusted
them.

Most importantly, I’d be getting twenty minutes. Twenty glorious minutes.

When you’re starting out anywhere, you have to start at the bottom. At most LA
open mics, I’m lucky to get five minutes. Even when I get booked for shows at
Flappers, the longest I’ve ever gotten was eight. For people who don’t know me
that well to have enough confidence in my ability as a comic to book me for a
feature set…that feels nice.

I ride down to San Diego with Christian and Rajan. It’s nearly a three hour drive.
We talk comedy, relationships, youth, and food. They ask me if I’ve ever had a
California burrito: carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, tomato, and french fries
wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. I say no.

58

We pull onto a dark San Diego street at around 8, then walk to get burritos.
They’re delicious. At some point, it comes up that I’m very clearly the youngest -
Christian is 32, Rajan is 29. Almost as quickly as we bring it up, we realize it
doesn’t matter. It’s still something I’m getting used to about the real world and the
comedy world - that as long as I carry myself well, it doesn’t matter how old I am
to these guys. I’m just a fellow comic.

We get to Lestat’s, then walk into the tiny green room in the back. It’s less of a
room and more of a platform with a couch behind a wall covered in concert
posters. I plop down and go over my set list. I know I probably won’t stick to it, but
I want to have a rough outline to structure the set with. Christian and Rajan figure
out if they’re going to co-host the show or not, then check emails. Billy, the other
comic on the show, comes into the back. Introductions are made. The show starts
in five minutes.

Rajan takes me around to the stage door to show me where the light is. As he
points at a flickering red bulb in the rafters, I glance at the crowd. They’re packed
wall-to-wall. Easily seventy people, maybe eighty. This is going to be good.

Rajan and Christian take the stage for their opening ten. Billy comes back in with a
Sierra Nevada in a brown paper bag. He got it across the street, he says. How
convenient. I hear the guys ask the crowd if they’re ready for their first comic.

I put my recorder into my back pocket, go over to the stage door, and wait for my
name. When they call it, I jog on stage, shake both their hands, then take the mic
and start: “Thank you San Diego!” The crowd finishes clapping.

The twenty minutes go by swimmingly. I talk about a whole slew of different
things - a lot of old standbys, a few new bits that could use some more public
exposure. I feel loose and confident. I talk to the crowd often, make them laugh
with off-the-cuff remarks about math and getting stale food in the mail.

A couple of jokes don’t do quite as well as I hope they do, but that just means they
need some tweaking. A line removed here and there, a few better punchlines. But
for those minutes on stage, I feel like I am in control. It’s refreshing to know that I
am capable of this.

I close with my Pokémon jokes, which turn out to be a solid chunk to end with. I
thank the crowd for their time, wave to them, then head back into the green room.
I sit on the couch for a second, then decide I should celebrate a little. I go across
the street, get a big bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale, take it back to the green room,
sip it without removing it from the bag.

59

After the show, I hang out near the front and say bye to the crowd as they leave.
Many tell me they thought I was good, shake my hand, wish me luck. I should have
brought my business cards. Next time, I think. Next time.

Because now, I know there will be a next time. This is only the beginning.
________________________________________________________________________

#66: Two 1099 Forms Walk Into A Bar
4/11/13, 7 PM: Happy Hour Auditions, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I pace in a dusty, unused corridor of Flappers, on the phone with my dad. It’s quiet
here. He informs me that if I don’t get some tax paperwork sent to some people I
worked with last year, I could owe the government more money than I’m worth. I
breathe. Getting him the forms won’t be a problem, but knowing that my finances
hang in the balance like that gets me into a weird head space. I thank him for
letting me know, then hang up and head back into the showroom.

I have good timing: I’m up next. I look at the setlist I wrote out on the back of a
scrap of paper, then crumple it up and put it back in my pocket. I should address
my unease first. The comic before me gets the light and gets off stage. Dave calls
my name.

I jog to the stage stairs, take the mic, say thanks. “You’re welcome, sir,” Dave says.
Not knowing what to do next, I do a weird bow.

Then, a second later: “Not sure why I did that weird bow. I guess I’m trying to
appease your favor?” Laughter. I still feel weird. I’m talking too much.

I start talking about dealing with my taxes. I get a few chuckles, which is fine by
me - this isn’t a bit, just what’t happening. But my attempted segue into material
flops, and I mess up the order of my first joke (one of my favorite new bits, about
being 22). I’m not getting to the funny fast enough. Crap.

I salvage the first bit by the end, then my next two - jokes about my neighborhood
and my house - go over well. I have to rush my closer, and it doesn’t land the way I
want it to, but I leave the stage mostly satisfied. It wasn’t my best audition, but I
stayed honest to the circumstances surrounding my performance. It’s a step in the
right direction.






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#67: The Strategy
4/12/13, 5:30 PM: Set List Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s a beautiful afternoon. The sun hangs low in the sky, resting right behind the
highway overpass.

I’ve only done Set List a few times, but I’ve got the feeling I’m on to something: if I
talk about something involving my real life, I can just invent the rest and it will
still sound true to my comedic voice. That’s how it works with my written material
- to some degree, anyway - so why wouldn’t it work with an improvised set?

This is how:

CLOWNPOCALYPSE

SATANIC CONFESSION

SEXY COFFIN

becomes me wondering about when the next apocalypse prediction was supposed
to be (because I had to plan another end of the world party: Clownpocalypse 2013,
check your Facebook inbox), then talking about my Catholic familial roots in New
Orleans. Stories about how I never had to confess became exaggerated bits of
varying success: a half-baked idea about how my first confession was satanic
because I’d spent 13 years building up bad stuff, and a more successful story about
my grandfather getting Mardi Gras beats tossed into his coffin. Sexy.

I get off stage, and shake the host’s hand as I go. “Good job!” she says
enthusiastically. I can’t wait for the next Set List show. I need to test out this
strategy again.
________________________________________________________________________

#68: "Do you make out with each other from time to time?"
4/13/13, 12:45 AM: Last Laugh Show, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The booker couldn’t give me a guest spot on the 9:30 show, but he could slide me
in to the 11:30. I’d get five minutes. I thanked him. Five minutes is all I need.

I clock out, change out of my work clothes, and grab a drink from the bar. I get
back to the Yoo Hoo Room right in time. Aristotle, the host, pats me on the back.
“You ready, buddy?”

“Yep.”

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The comic onstage finishes up, thanks the crowd. He ended strong. The crowd
seems primed. Aristotle introduces me. I jog to the stage, thanking him as I shake
his hand. I take the mic.

The crowd finishes clapping. “Good, you’re still awake!” Laughter. “Is it past
anyone’s bedtime?” One girl goes “woo!”

“Why are you celebrating wanting to go to sleep?” More laughter. Good start.

The North Carolina sex law jokes go up first. The audience laughs. They’re on
board, except for one girl up front, who cringes. “You look scared.” Laughter from
her friends.

We start talking about where she’s from - Vermont - and how she’s here with her
college friends. I run out of questions to ask them. “Do you make out with each
other from time to time?” She laughs. The rest of the crowd follows suit. I’m in
control.

I talk about living in Hollywood, dealing with homeless people and gangs and
roommates I never see. The crowd stays with me throughout, and I close on a
strong laugh. I thank them, then get off stage. The headliner bumps my fist as I
leave.

“Good job, my man.”

I breathe. It was a good job.

This is becoming so much fun.
________________________________________________________________________

#69: At This Hour
4/18/13, 1:15 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There are ten people in the bar, including myself, the bartender, and the host.
Time to try some new stuff. No pressure.

Dayve brings me on stage. I shake his hand, take the mic, move the stand, check
my notes. I comment on the lack of people. Naturally, nobody responds, except for
Dayve, who thinks that I’m saying he is the same as five people. Dayve is a big
dude, but I’m not intending to make any fat jokes and I want to make sure he
doesn’t think I’m making fun.

Once we get that cleared up, I start with some jokes about drugs. The crowd likes
hearing about people smoking weed out of vegetables. A joke about bad trips has
62

some potential, but is muddled by a lack of focus at the end of the bit. I’ll flesh it
out more later, but for now I’m just glad that the other comics are on board.

I close with some material about living in Hollywood that I’d come up with for
class. It’s new, and still too lengthy, but a few laughs pop up. At this hour, I
consider that a victory.

I thank Dayve and the crowd, put the mic back in the stand, then get off stage. It’s
cold in the bar, and colder outside as I walk back to the car. I should have worn a
jacket.
________________________________________________________________________

#70: They're Paying Attention
4/19/13, 12:15 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

My manager gives me permission to get worked in, which is great. The bar is
packed tonight with comics and random passers-by. If I go up early, I might get a
decent response from the crowd.

I plan my set at a table in the lobby:

HOLLYWOOD

HOMELESS

DAD HARDY

DIVERSITY

It’s not all new - the Hollywood stuff I tried out in class, the Dad Hardy bit is one
I’ve been working out for a few weeks now, the homeless stuff has been kicking
around my head for months - but there’s enough new stuff in there that this set
will definitely be a learning experience.

Erikka calls my name. I stride over to the stage, shake her hand, take the mic. I put
my notebook on a table, keep it held open with the mic cord. “You seeing this
technique?” I ask a guy sitting up front. I look out at the crowd. “I’ll get to you
folks in a second, I have to show this guy something real quick.” They laugh, then
they are silent. They’re paying attention. I smile.

The Hollywood jokes work out pretty well for not being super fleshed out yet. I
transition into talking about Hollywood’s scary homeless population relatively
smoothly, fumbling a word or two, but keeping the crowd’s interest. They’re still
laughing.
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The restructured Dad Hardy bit goes over very well. Now, the moment of truth:
my first truly new joke of the night. It’s one that I pitched to some of my other
comic friends. Both of them told me it was iffy. But I had to test it out.

“Our country is more diverse than ever, but we need to up the diversity ante.
We’ve got a black president now. Next election, how about a blind president?”
Scattered chuckles. I soldier on, delivering part of my fake candidate’s fake stump
speech: “I don’t see red states, or blue states. I can’t see any of you people!” I pause.
Moment of truth.

They laugh. The bit works after all. It’s not anywhere near where I want it to be,
but the idea is solid. I have proof.

“I’m glad you guys like that stupid joke as much as I do.”

I thank the crowd, get off stage, and go back to the table in the lobby. Time for
revision.
________________________________________________________________________

#71: "I can taste baseball. I am America."
4/20/13, 12:45 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It was a strange day. The Boston manhunt was over, but dominated part of my
attention, even at work. We had a busy night, with over 150 people at both shows. I
forgot to bring a mid-shift snack. Everything felt heightened. I just wanted to relax
after my shift - but I knew I had to get a mic out of the way. I had things to talk
about.

Clarke, the new Friday night host, works me in after I get permission from my
manager. I’m ready. The crowd is lively. Comics and drunk thirtysomething
women talk in the back of the bar. I probably won’t win them over, but I don’t
really care. Tonight’s performance is for my sake, not theirs.

I start off talking about the manhunt, because one of my roommates called a
policeman in uniform a “guy in a Hurt Locker costume” and that was too
ridiculous to not be brought up. The laughter is scattered, and takes a second, but
it’s there. This is worth revisiting. My next observation - a bit about how weird it is
to associate 9/11 with terrorism all the time - is not as strong, but labeling Ludacris
and Harry Connick, Jr. as potential terrorists because they were born that day gets
some chuckles.

I tell the story of the puppy being dragged down Hollywood Boulevard, which goes
over well, but is too wordy. I can condense and refine.
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A brand-new bit - something about how we don’t care about losing technology any
more - falls flat. I haven’t thought it out enough, and I should revisit it before
trying to convery my idea again. It’s just not clear enough right now. I realize this
mid-sentence, when I realize I don’t even know what specifically I’m trying to say
with the bit. I’ll work it out later.

I close with a new version of the blind president joke. It doesn’t go over as well as
it did the night before, but it still has legs. It’s worth giving another shot.

I thank the crowd, get off stage, then meet up with Parker in the back of the bar.
“You ready to go, dude?” he asks.

“Yeah. Let’s get out of here.”

He downs the last of his Fat Tire, then we walk to the exit. We’ve earned some rest.
________________________________________________________________________

#72: Be Good, Or Else
4/21/13, 12:15 AM: Eleventh-Hour Comedy, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s a weird, varied night in the Yoo Hoo Room. The first show gets cancelled. No
audience shows up. The second show is over-full. Forty people show up. We’re
stuffing them into booths and at back tables, trying our damndest to make sure we
can put in all of the guests. They paid to see this, they deserve to make it in the
showroom.

The last show has just enough of a crowd to go on. Eight people. The comics are
happy, but I’m happier when I notice that two of the comics failed to show up. Add
that to the special guest spot, and twenty-one more minutes are free for the taking.
I tell Parker to ask for some time while I finish wrapping out.

By the time I’m done, three comics have gobbled up all of the available minutes. I
go to my manager with my cash box, hoping I’ll still be able to snag a few minutes.
I ask. He hesitates, moves his head around.

“You can have five minutes. But they’d better be a good five.” No sweat.

I clock out, change, and let Kyle, the host, know that I’ve been given permission to
do some time. He makes a note and lets me know I’ll be going on after the next
comic. There’s not really time to cobble together a setlist, but I don’t mind. I want
to wing this one. I know I can.

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Kyle ramps up the energy before bringing me on, which I appreciate. This crowd is
kind of dead. Two people drink coffee in the back. I jog to the stage, grinning ear
to ear, and shake his hand. I have to be up for these people. I’m the entertainment
they need right now.

I talk about living in Hollywood, dealing with an abundance of insane homeless
people, being in my twenties (and the stigma that comes with it), living in a house
of six, and being from Texas. Except for the coffee-drinkers, the crowd responds
well to pretty much everything. I flub the “in my twenties” bit, and make a mental
note to go over the setup to see what can be punched up within it. The Texas
border joke - a bit I haven’t told in a while because, well, it’s one of the oldest jokes
in my repertoire - winds up being a strong closer, and even though I know I’ve got
time for one more, I leave while the going’s good. I thank the crowd, bring Kyle
back up, shake his hand, and exit the room.

My manager sits with the headliner outside. “Nice job.”

I grab my backpack, take a breath. “Thanks.”
________________________________________________________________________

#73: It's Not Gonna Kill Anyone
4/21/13, 9 PM: Silly Sundays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’ve been lucky enough to get more booked shows at Flappers lately. They’re
gaining confidence in me. They’re seeing that I’m improving. Tonight, I’m booked
on a show with some of my favorite comics from the area - people who I can begin
to call my friends. We sit on the beat-up couches in the Yoo Hoo Room lobby
while we wait for our time. We shoot the shit, talking about everything from Louis
C.K.’s new special to being dedicated to performing to what happens when we lose
our hair.

Joanie, a comic who also teaches classes at Flappers, is also booked on the show
tonight. She’s trying out new material. One of the other comics turns to her.

“Aren’t you nervous?”

She laughs. “No! It’s just a joke. It’s not like it’s going to kill anyone.”

That’s something worth filing away.

I’m up right before the headliner. I glance at my setlist again:

HOLLYWOOD

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MS. THIRTEEN

HAUNTED HOUSE

JAP-SLAP

ADULT CRAYONS

I’ve learned by now that I probably won’t stick to it, but having something to fall
back on is always comforting.

David, the host, comes out and asks me for my intro. I give him my standard one -
a nice lead-in for the North Carolina sex laws bit, which works pretty well as an
opener - and watch from the back of the room as he introduces me. The crowd is
small, but they’ve made it this far. I’ll keep the energy up for them.

I walk briskly to the stage, shake David’s hand, take the mic out of the stand. I talk
to the crowd some to start, then launch into the sex laws jokes. From there, I talk
about living in Hollywood and dealing with their homeless people, and living in a
house of six people.

I switch things up here and throw in my joke about internships and experience.
“I’m not a Pokémon, alright?!” gets a big laugh. I’m glad I deviated from the plan. I
finish by talking about the man who told me he would Jap-slap me if I didn’t give
him a senior discount. Midway through, I get the light. It’s a good place to end, so
I scrap the adult crayons bit, thank the crowd, and shake David’s hand as I leave
the room.

It wasn’t a spectacular set, but I feel good about it nonetheless. The guys in the
lobby tell me they liked it. I smile. This is all starting to feel more natural. I like
that.
________________________________________________________________________

#74: Half Of This Entry Is About Cunnilingus (Sorry, Mom)
4/22/13, 10:30 PM: Open Mike Monday, 1306 N. Wilton Place, Los Angeles, CA

I get to the room while an Asian lesbian talks about how much she likes eating
pussy. The crowd is paying attention. I check in with Luis, then sit in the back in a
giant chair. My feet dangle above the floor. I feel like a kindergartener.

I look around and see some familiar faces. Handshakes and head-nods are
exchanged. Some other comic is talking bout eating pussy now. We’ve established
a trend. Luis tells me I’ll be up next. I know what I have to do when I get on stage.

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“I’ll get to the jokes in a second, but let’s talk more about eating pussy first.”
Laughter. I tell the crowd that I’ve realized I probably would have gotten laid more
in college if I’d just been cool with, in my words, “cunnilingus-ing.” One girl
cheers. One woman looks uncomfortable. This is the price I pay for talking about
vaginas.

I get into the jokes from there. I talk about living in Hollywood and dealing with
their homeless, about reading blogs about food instead of watching porn, and
about drugs. The laughter comes in spurts, but I pay attention to where the spurts
are. Those are the places worth focusing on for later.

As I get off stage, Luis takes the mic and launches into a tirade about how I
shouldn’t be nostalgic because I’m super young. “You shouldn’t be saying, ‘back in
the day!’ You have no day to look back on!” I laugh along with the crowd, but think
he’s wrong. I’m allowed to reminisce about things. Just because I’m young doesn’t
mean I can’t have regrets.

Maybe that’s something worth talking about.
________________________________________________________________________

#75: A Night Off, On The Grind
4/24/13, 12:45 AM: The Gauntlet, Westwood Brewing Company, Los Angeles, CA

Parker and I had the day off. We never got Wednesdays off. We had to take
advantage of this.

We spent most of the day at the beach with some of our co-workers, but we also
knew that we needed to hit up a mic at some point. I knew the perfect place.

As we drive back onto the 405, the lights of the city stretch out before us. “Wow,”
Parker says.

It’s a beautiful sight. So much city. So much opportunity.

We get to Westwood Brew Co. early, because it’s always a good idea to show up
early. We sign up with Chris, the host, and head downstairs. We talk at a table. We
wave to some comics we know. We drink water.

The show starts. We head inside, grab some seats. A comic mistakes us for random
audience members. “Hey! Thanks for coming! A real audience!” We tell him we’re
comics. His grin shifts a little bit, but he’s still excited we’re there.

We sit through as many comics as we can before we need to head outside to take a
break from the room. My favorite is a guy in a bumblebee costume calling himself
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Grumblebee. His only reference to bees involves their short lifespan, and a
throwaway reference to his grandparents’ corner of the hive. Parker and I are
crying laughing, doubled over in our chairs.

I get up to go to the bathroom. The comic who thought we weren’t comics pulls
me aside: “Where are you going? I’m up next!” I tell him I’m just going to pee, I’ll
be right back. He seems okay with this, but acts miffed when I come back in. I
don’t like the vibe, even if he is funny.

We head outside and mingle with other comics. We get offered cigarettes. We say
hey to familiar faces. We avoid drunk college kids as they amble up the stairs to
the room blasting dubstep remixes and offering $3 long island iced teas.

We’ve been there several hours when I figure the best way to see when we’re going
up is to just ask. I locate Chris, ask him if we can get on soon. He says sure, he’ll
put me up in two, Parker up after that. I thank him, then go back to leaning
against the wall next to Parker.

There’s actually a crowd by the time I go on. I get up there, do my time. I have no
notes for this set, so I wing it. I talk about Hollywood and its homeless population,
living in a house of six people, reading blogs about food, and, in a surprise twist,
bust out some old jokes about doing P90X from nearly two years ago. The
audience laughs at pretty much everything. I feel incredibly at ease. I thank them
for being so great, then get off the stage. Unfortunately for Parker, most of the
crowd decides to vanish after my set. He does his best, but it’s hard to perform to a
newly empty room. Once he finishes, we head back to the balcony.

Outside, the comic who was begging us to stay in the room during his set - the one
who thought we were random audience members instead of comics - tells me he
thought I did a great job. He gives me his number, tells me he thinks I’d be good
for a fake comedy rap show he’s doing on Sunday. I tell him I don’t know if I can
get off work, but I’ll see. We say some more goodbyes to some other comics, then
get out of there.

We loop around Westwood for a bit, trying to find Santa Monica Boulevard. The
streets are dark, then lit with ruddy lights that bounce off the palm trees. We talk
about our future here.

Eventually, we get back to Parker’s West Hollywood apartment. We part ways and
I go home. It’s around 2 in the morning. This all feels so right.




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#76: Slap The Customers
4/27/13, 1:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It had been a taxing day at work. People were acting entitled all night, demanding
ridiculous things of us, getting mad despite us doing the best we could to keep up
with their caterwauling about being “on the VIP list” or some other bullshit. I knew
that the only thing that would really calm me down was a chance to blow off some
steam at the mic.

I ask my manager if I can get worked in, and he okays it. But Clarke, the host, has
comics from last week to work in as well, and he tells me I’ll have to wait around
for a bit, and is that cool? I mull it over for a second, then decide it’s still worth it.
I’d still rather go up in front of a bunch of comics than go home and sulk.

1:15 rolls around. Clarke comes to my barstool to tell me I’ll be up next. Wonderful.
I’m ready.

He gives me a nice introduction. “He’s a very funny comic, and a very hard worker,
give him your attention!” I thank him as I get up to the stage, move the mic stand
out of the way, and begin:

“Sometimes I think I downgraded by taking this job. I used to work at a summer
camp, and that was the only place where you could slap your customers.” A couple
chuckles here and there.

With that off my chest, I go into some actual bits. I try some new tags. My joke
about my roommate’s obvliviousness to the Boston bombing gets a reference to
SAG added in. My puppy dragging bit now involves an analogy to a fake baby
being kicked down the street. Both of these go over fairly well. They’ll make solid
additions to the team.

I tell a story about how I wish my parents had warned me about how my first
relationship would end, since they apparently saw the heartbreak coming but
didn’t tell me until years after. It’s not a joke yet, but the premise gets some laughs,
and I tell the crowd I’ll flesh it out later.

I close with a bit about TV shows involving housewives that I just wanted to give
one more shot. It’s never really worked, and it doesn’t really work this time either.
It’s time to overhaul it or scrap it, and I’m leaning towards the latter. Some things
just can’t be salvaged.

I thank the crowd, then get off stage. They clap. I thank Clarke for getting me on.
Another comic gives me a fist bump, tells me he liked my set. A few guys nod with
approval as I walk past them to the back of the bar. My anger at the wya I was
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treated by the customers dissipates. This is about all I could have asked for - a little
recognition and approval after a rough night.
________________________________________________________________________

#77: Never Neglect A High-Five
4/28/13, 12:15 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m in the lobby when I get called up, so I jog to the stage through a sea of comics
and a surprising amount of people who wandered in off the street for a drink. I
accidentally leave a comic who tries to high-five me hanging, so I loop back around
once I put my stuff on stage, complete the high-five, and go back up. I can’t, in
good conscience, leave a high-five hanging.

I start my set with something new-ish about how I wouldn’t want a typical office
job, but the premise doesn’t get me far enough quite yet. It needs more emotion. I
need a reason to not want the job, instead of just the not wanting.

I talk about being in a long-distance relationship. Most of the jokes hit hard - I’ve
finally got a solid handle on the “keeping things interesting” joke - but others need
work. Their setups need to be clearer. More succinct.

I close with another iteration of the Blind President joke, which winds up working
out okay again. I’m on the right track with it, but it’s still not quite there. I just
need to get it to fit in right. The crowd still laughs, and claps as I leave, and that’s
good enough for now.

After my set, I get a call from Barry, the comic at The Gauntlet who liked me. He
asks if I can help with a comedy rap battle at the Store tomorrow.

Lucky me. I’ve got off work.
________________________________________________________________________

#78: The Ringer
4/28/13, 7:30 PM: Beginning/Intermediate Student Showcase, Flappers Comedy Club,
Burbank, CA

The club is packed today. A fundraiser for old people finishes up in the main room
while the students, eager to showcase, sit in the Yoo Hoo Room, heads down,
going over their notecards. I pace. For some reason, I feel nervous. Raul, a Flappers
staple, assures me I have nothing to worry about. “You’re the ringer.”

I’m going up first because, immediately after my set, I have to drive to the Comedy
Store to be a fake DJ in a fake rap battle. I tell the rest of the showcasers this. They
all react with sadness, but joy that I’ll be doing something at the store. Variations
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on “that’s awesome, Jay!” reverberate throughout the green room. Pats on the back
are abundant.

We get a final pep talk from our teachers, then we move to the main room, which
is finally available for our show. The crowd has filled in by now. It’s not a huge
audience, maybe fifty people, but it’s the biggest one I’ve ever performed in front
of in the main room.

I look at my notes again. Why am I nervous? None of my friends are here. This
shouldn’t matter, but it does. I breathe deeply, try to push the butterflies out of my
stomach. I’m not used to this uncertainty.

The show begins. Michael, the MC, gets up on stage, wowing the crowd with
juggling, magic tricks, and a balancing act involving people’s shoes. The crowd
seems game, albeit a little slow on the uptake. I make a mental note to bring some
energy.

Michael introduces me and I jog to the stage, shaking his hand as I go. I move the
mic stand, mutter some things, then start with my material. I talk about
Hollywood and its douchebag denizens, then talk about my living situation.
They’re on board, save for one punchline they don’t laugh at. I address the tension,
and it dissipates. Okay, we’re off to an alright start.

My next chunk is about being in a long-distance relationship. When I announce
this, nobody reacts. “That’s the right reaction, nobody should be happy about this.”
Laughter. Then, from the corner: “She is!”

I panic for a second, then say something to the effect of, “I doubt it.” Instead of
properly shutting down the heckler, I brush him aside and move forward. I’m too
hyped up to be focusing on random outbursts from the crowd. I soldier on with my
material.

Midway through, I blank on what else I wanted to talk about, so I pull out an old
joke about my last long-distance relationship. The one that didn’t go so well.
Thankfully, it still works, and I even get a new tag implying that my penis is
flavored like BBQ potato chips. I’ll keep that one.

The set goes alright from there, until the end, when I don’t notice the light and get
flashed off as I set up a new joke. Instead of ending on a laugh, I am forced to end
mid-setup, leaving the crowd hanging in awkwardness. I replace the mic in its
stand, thank the crowd, then dash off stage before Michael gets a chance to get up
the stairs. I feel uneasy.

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After the set, as I drive to the Comedy Store, I feel a little better. Sure, I may have
approached the handling of my heckler incorrectly, and I may have let my nerves
get in the way of my confidence, and I may have closed weak, but at least the
crowd was laughing. I can learn from my mistakes. I have no other choice.

For a week after, I get kind emails and handshakes from the comics on that show,
telling me they thought I was one of the best to perform that night. I’ll have to take
their word for it.
________________________________________________________________________

#79: Copping a 'Tude
4/30/13, 10 PM: Tickle Me Tuesdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I get to the club around 9. My show is in an hour. I kill time chatting with Parker
and Jenna, who are both working today in my absence. My friends Raj and Julia
show up. I talk to them on the patio, drinking a bottle of water. I can’t afford beer
today.

On my way to the green room, Dave, my boss, stops me, pulls me into his office.
“What are you doing tonight?” I run through my set, which I’d written out minutes
before. “I’m gonna talk about living in Hollywood, some long distance girlfriend
stuff…”

He stops me. “Don’t talk. Complain. It’s about complaining. Understand?”

I swallow my words and nod. “Okay. Thanks.” He nods back, then leaves his office.
I finish my trip to the green room for another bottle of water.

This is where Dave and I differ: I don’t think comedy is about complaining.
Comedy is about conveying emotions in a funny way. Sure, it’s easy to find humor
in complaints and anger, but it’s not the only way to wring a joke out of
something. What matters most is an attitude. And now, my attitude is “prove Dave
wrong.”

I’m going up second. The show just got started, so I watch the first comic. His set
is a poorly-designed roller coaster: a couple ups and downs, but mostly flat. I can -
will - do better.

Zara, the MC, calls me to the stage. I get brought on to the sweet sounds of LCD
Soundsystem, so I dance along, even after the music stops. “I’m just gonna keep
dancing awkwardly until you can’t stand it any more.” I keep going for a few
seconds, then the crowd laughs when I hit a second too long. I smile. “That’s my
one dance move. I know this one, too - ” I put my hands on my knees and swap

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them back and forth. I don’t know what it’s called. “I’m too young to know what
this is called.” The crowd laughs more. Good start.

I talk about living in Hollywood, where celebrities apparently exist. “The only
celebrity I’ve ever seen was three Spider-Men in progressively shittier costumes.”
The crowd eats this up. I feel so relaxed. I’ve got them in the palm of my hand.

I talk about the Ed Hardy Dad, living in a house of six, being broke, being
stereotyped as dumb for being in my twenties (not too far off, as it turns out), and
close with the Ms. Thirteen joke. I find good places to talk to the crowd, give them
little asides here and there. I smile. I am at ease. I get the light, thank the audience
for being awesome, then bring Zara back on.

I jog back to the back of the room, on the side where the comedians sit. I need to
let this soak in for a moment. The comfort came easy, but the attitude required
some effort. That’s not a problem. It’s just the next thing I need to get used to.
________________________________________________________________________

#80: "You're gonna do just fine."
5/2/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Richy tells me that I need to start hosting the midnight open mics for thirty
minutes at a time to get used to hosting. I say, sure, absolutely, of course, and
thank him.

Aaron agrees to let me do the first thirty minutes tonight. I’m beyond excited. He
asks me what I think a good host should do from across the ticket desk.

“Keep the show moving, keep the audience energized, keep things fun.”

He nods. “And get house work out of the way, too. House work is most important.”

“Got it.”

Aaron smiles. “You’re gonna do just fine.”

I’m clocked out and changed into civilian clothes by the time we get started. He
does his time, then brings me on so I can get my five minutes out of the way. I’m
grinning from ear to ear.

I talk about how I graduated from college a year ago, reminisce for a little bit. I talk
about being kind of a terrible person in college, and wonder if that’s how it was for
everyone. (Based on the reactions, I might not be far off.) It’s old material told with
a fresh outlook. It works better than it ever has before. Good to know.
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I finish my time, then draw a name out of the pitcher. Whoever it is starts their
way towards me. I tell the crowd to keep clapping until they make it to the stage,
then shake their hand, exit stage left, and take my seat at the end of the bar.

I like where this is going.
________________________________________________________________________

#81: Cutting Time
5/3/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m taking over again. Thirty more minutes. Erikka gives me the same rundown
that Aaron did the night before. I nod again. Just want to take it all in.

Erikka introduces me. I take the stage. I make the mistake of starting out with
darker material - the one about the guy I saw dragging a puppy down the street.
It’s unformed and poorly-structured. That doesn’t fly as well when you’re hosting.
You have to be a little brighter and shinier, a little more polished. You should look
like you know what you’re doing.

I bust out a joke about my long-distance relationship that has previously been
hampered by me not knowing the whole joke, but this time I nail it. I get a couple
laughs at the right places, which is all I can ask for here. It’s enough.

Then, I switch gears again and go with the baseball material. This is only the third
time I’ve done the act-out on stage, and I feel less nervous about it now than I did
when I started. I know it can be funny. It just has to be timed right. It’s so hard to
discern any of that from an open mic set, but I give it my all. Most of the joke does
okay, but, like always, I need to know the words better. All this fumbling around
makes me uncomfortable.

I finish up, then draw a new name out of the half-full pitcher. I tell everyone we’re
gonna have to go to four minute sets since there are so many comics tonight. I
know they don’t really care. They just want some time.

I feel a little relieved. Five minutes is a long time when you’re not the one telling
the jokes.







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#82: Learning The Hosting Ropes
5/5/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The open mic hosts have been crazy awesome when it comes to guiding me
through the hosting process. It’s not exactly a difficult job, but to be a good host
requires a fair amount of nuance that I didn’t expect before starting.

Most important: being in tune with the room. If you’re not on the pulse of how the
audience is reacting to things, or how a comic’s set goes, then you’re not paying
attention. A good host is present. A side conversation here and there isn’t a
problem, but if I’m not keeping an eye on things, I’m not doing my job.

You have to be funny, of course, just like any other set. I’m trying new jokes here,
but I have a good feeling that they’ll work. The crowd is lively and, after talking
some things out with Parker, I think I know some new ways to talk about old
things.

I talk about my new freelance writing job, about being in college, and how college
kids are pretty much terrible people. (I just was one, trust me on this.) The crowd
laughs loud at the right parts. The jokes aren’t perfect yet - hell, some of them I
haven’t told in about a year - but they are good enough for further consideration.
I’m happy with this.

After my set, I pull the next name out of the pitcher, call them up, and go back to
my seat at the head of the bar. I have thirty minutes to pay attention. Maybe I’ll
even find time to squeeze in a good riff.
________________________________________________________________________

#83: Warm-Up Room
5/6/13, 7:30 PM: Open Mic, Rockpaper Coffee, West Hollywood, CA

Rockpaper is not known for having receptive audiences. Hell, if you get an
audience at all, you’re lucky. Mostly it’s just comics waiting to go on at other
places, like the open mics at the Store or Meltdown Comics. Doing a set here is
like stretching before lifting weights.

I show up at around 6:30, buy a slice of coffee cake, and attempt to sign up. The
host, a lady comic I don’t recognize, tells me I probably won’t get up. This doesn’t
deter me. I’m just waiting, too. I find a table in the back, pull out my laptop, and
get some work done.

One by one, the comics go up, get out, and scare away the handful of normal
passers-by who happened to wander in. Near the middle of the list, a big chunk of
absent comics get called, then crossed off. I jot down a quick set list, just in case,
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then put my notebook back in my backpack. I start recognizing names as three
before me, two before me, I’m up next.

Right before I go on, a group of five comics comes in through the back, demanding
their skipped time. The host says she’ll loop back around once she finishes the list.
But, for now, “coming up next to the stage, Jay Light! Who didn’t even think he
would get to go on!” I emerge from my chair triumphant, whooping as I take the
stage and shake the host’s hand. “I made it! Thank God!”

I tell a version of the freelance writing job jokes from Saturday night, then delve
into some of my older jokes about working at a comedy club, with a couple tweaks.
I get maybe two laughs, maybe three, but I’m not here for the laughs, necessarily.
This is to loosen up, to see where I can rein in my words or heighten punchlines.
This is practice.

I get off stage, thank the comic-laden crowd, and go back to my corner. I check my
watch. The NerdMelt mic starts in about forty-five minutes. I should call my
girlfriend before then. She’ll wonder about me otherwise.
________________________________________________________________________

#84: Excuse Me, Ma'am
5/6/13, 10:15 PM: NerdMelt Mic, Meltdown Comics, West Hollywood, CA

It’s the first time the NerdMelt Mic is on a Monday, and the room is empty to
begin with. I feel like my chances of getting on are better. I shoot the shit with
some of the other comics. A flood of people comes in at around 8:15. No surprise
there - they must have read Comedy Bureau after all.

The names start to get drawn. I recognize about a third of the names that get
pulled. It’s more than usual, but it’s only because I’ve been around longer now.
They’ve come through Flappers or to some other mic I’ve been to in my free time.
While I take a minute to reflect on my nine months here, my name gets drawn. I
make my way over to the sign-in sheet. I’m going up 22nd. I’ve got a while.

I decide to drive home and make a burger, since I haven’t eaten a real meal in
several hours. I say some brief goodbyes and I’ll-be-backs, jog to my car, and speed
home. I cook a burger, scarf it down, then head back down Sunset Boulevard until
I find a parking spot right across from Meltdown. It’s been about an hour. I should
be going up soon.

I go in the back entrance to find a mostly empty room. The comics who are waiting
to go on still sit scattered throughout the darkness, a couple seated in the area up
front bathed in light from the stage. We’re in the late teens. The names sound
familiar again.
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My friend Emilio is up before me. I half-pay attention to his set, half-figure out my
set. I don’t need notes this time; I know exactly what I’ll be talking about. I do
catch Emilio referring to a girl he’s pretending to get a blowjob from as “ma'am”
and file it away. Emilio finishes, thanks the crowd and the host, and gets off stage.
I get brought up to a chant of my name and clapping from the back. “Hello! Thank
you! Hi!”

I know where to start: “Emilio, I liked how you referred to that girl as a ma'am. So
polite.” Laughter. I smile. “I haven’t had to talk to a girl mid-blowjob before, so I
guess I wouldn’t really know what to say.” More laughter. A single clap.

I talk about living in Hollywood and dealing with its douchebags, being broke, and
getting used to my new job as a freelance writer. I’ve told these jokes many times
before, but not here. They feel fresher somehow, more energized. I like being back
on this stage. Even performing to an empty room here feels better than usual. I
wonder why that is.

I thank the crowd and the host, wave goodbye, and get off stage. I wait for my
friend Joshua to perform, then we both leave. I’m his ride to the Comedy Store
tonight. He thanks me as I drop him off, and tells me he really liked my set
tonight. I thank him, tell him the same, and grin.

Two shows I didn’t expect to get on in one day. Not too shabby for a Monday.
________________________________________________________________________

#85: It's Rough To Be A Conjoined Twin, But…
5/9/13, 9:30 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I make an effort to pay attention to the room before I go on. I want to get a bead
on how the audience is reacting to things. I sit in a back corner, my hands and
notebook on the table in front of me. The room is pretty cold. Nobody is getting
much. Some comics look like this tepid crowd is affecting them, and their set
suffers for it. Some mask it long enough to get a few good jokes in before their
time is up.

Eventually, I’m up next. Standing next to the camera, I drink some water and
watch the comic before me eat it. He gets a few chuckles out of the crowd, but
otherwise, not much. They’re not feeling him. He says something about birth
defects that makes me think of a one-off about conjoined twins that is so dumb, I
have no choice but to open with it.

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Josh introduces me. I take the stage and say my line: “It would definitely be rough
to be a conjoined twin, but at least you’d be great at three-legged races.” Two
people laugh out of the twenty or so in here. Okay then.

I try to transition into material I wrote a long time ago about the Paralympics, but
I botch the telling. I’m getting nowhere. I’ve got to switch gears. I tell some jokes
about living in Hollywood, dealing with the homeless, seeing people dressed in
shitty superhero costumes - and shitty Ed Hardy shirts - and about living with six
people. I talk about being broke. I close with a new joke about a Holiday Inn
Express commercial that’s too long, but has a solid punchline. Most of my jokes get
the audience going, except for a dip in the middle that needs some tightening.

As I get off stage, I feel relieved. I didn’t murder, but I didn’t suck. I hit some kind
of sweet spot in the middle ground. I stayed confident up there, tried to not worry
about if they didn’t like me. I’m trying to get used to thinking It’s not a huge deal.
It’s not a huge deal. Just keep that in mind and it’ll all be alright.

And it was alright. More than alright.
________________________________________________________________________

#86: Necessary Evils
5/9/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I start things early tonight because we’re expecting an onslaught of comics.
Thursday nights are busy. Erikka wants me to take the last thirty minutes, but I
have to get up early in the morning so I decline.

I go up and tell a bunch of old jokes about college, still relishing the fact that it’s
been a full year since I graduated. This new angle works for most of the jokes, but
some of them lack the punch they possessed when I was actually in college. I’ll
punch up the ones worth saving later.

I try to put some emotion in my voice. I need to get the energy up before the mic
starts, make the comics feel like they have a shot at a decent set. This audience
isn’t giving me much, so I don’t really know what those chances are.

I get a few laughs, then finish up and draw the first name out of the pitcher. I have
until 12:20-ish to keep things running smoothly.

Not a lot changes. The audience stays cold. Nobody really gets much done on
stage. But open mics are necessary evils, which explains why thirty-two comics
show up and eat it in front of their peers for three minutes at a time.

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Still, I’m grateful. Nights like this remind me how lucky I am that I don’t have to
stay until two in the morning unless I choose to.
________________________________________________________________________

#86: Just A Bunch Of Sriracha
5/10/13, 5:30 PM: Set List Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I don’t have to clock in until 7, which means I have time to do one of my favorite
mics: Set List. I haven’t done it in about a month. I miss it. The crowd is small, as
always, but the experience of flying by the seat of my pants is much more
important than getting a super strong crowd response.

My set list for today:

CHEATING LETTER

EMERGENCY LOCKER

SHIVA HANDJOB

UNIQUE CUPCAKE

I’m fully committing to inventing details today. I start out with one nugget of truth
- my poor math skills - but from there, I spiral into a yarn of elaborate calculatorbased cheating on tests, culminating in me setting my calculator on fire, then
setting a letter from the school saying they were going to un-graduate me on fire
as well. “I’m dealing with a lot of my problems by burning things, these days,” I
deadpan.

My emergency locker is apparently filled with firestarting implements:
blowtorches, matches “of the short and long fireplace variety, because you never
know when you’ll need something to burn for a few seconds longer,” fire
extinguishers in case I change my mind. Then, the next bomb: “I’ve been getting
off a lot on this lately, guys. Lots of burning fantasies.”

I throw in a story about having a wet dream involving Shiva, the Hindu goddess of
destruction, that left me a eunuch from her burning hands. So I decide to open a
cupcake bakery to channel my newfound lack of manliness - “or a cupcakery, as
they’re sometimes known,” the biggest laugh of the set - where I serve unique
cupcakes like Roasty Toasty Marshmallow, Car Tires, and the Eternal Wrath of
Shiva, which is just a bunch of sriracha sauce. I thank the crowd for following my
crazy ramblings, then get off stage.

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In the back, another comic shows me a sriracha cookbook on Amazon. Apparently
my cupcake idea isn’t too far off.
________________________________________________________________________

#87: Someone Starts To Clap
5/10/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I haven’t opened things up on a Friday night yet, but Clarke is more than happy to
accomodate me and let me kick off the mic. I start before the late show lets out to
try and draw in any curious patrons.

I get on stage, turn off the music, grab the mic, and stare out at the crowd. Before I
say anything, someone starts to clap. “Yes,” I intone, “it’s time for the mic.” I feel a
giddy energy take over me. This might be the most exciting hosting date yet.

I give the rundown of the rules, then start on my material. It’s all new tonight: a bit
about my car getting broken into after I first moved here, some mild outrage at a
guy I saw wearing two hats on top of each other, a story about learning to
masturbate, and a bit of commentary on a news story I’d seen earlier that day.
Even though the material is more premise than punchline, my delivery helps sell it,
and the crowd laughs at at least one part from all of the new jokes. This is a set
worth honing altogether.

People are leaving the showroom now. The “get out” music emanates from the
lobby. I see a few more interested parties in the back, give the rules again, then
reach my hand in for the first name. I’m on the clock now. Time to step up.
________________________________________________________________________

#88: "It smells like farts in there!"
5/15/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s a slow Wednesday. I never noticed it before, but nobody really shows up to
these mics until around 12:15, maybe 12:30. Dealing with a light crowd is just an
opportunity for me to learn how, as a host, to set the bar and get the crowd to pay
attention. Even though I’ve been doing this for four and a half years and I’ve
become so much more confident in front of small crowds, it’s daunting to host for
one.

I get up on stage, make the house announcements, then start on my material. I’m
working out some new things tonight, and some reworked things. The consensus
on my jokes tonight seems to be that they start alright but go nowhere. Bits about
a customer telling me he needed drug money, a friend’s job working for the
government, working at a summer camp, and the US Postal Service all get solid

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laughs up front, but nothing further. I need to push myself and find the
punchlines.

People wait in line for the bathroom as the main room show trickles out. As I tell
the Postal Service jokes, some drunk asshole opens the bathroom door, screaming.

“It smells like farts in there! So many farts!”

He shuts the door. I look over at the line, then back to the comics at the bar. I
remember what my friend Tre said about crowd work: say the most obvious thing.
"You shouldn’t be surprised that a bathroom smells like things that come out of
people’s butts.“

He pokes his head out again. "So many farts!” Then the door is closed again.

I shake my head. "Fair warning, it smells like farts. Let’s hope he stays in there with
them.“ As I start the next line of the bit, a comic comes up to drop his name in the
pitcher. He can’t find it. I show him it’s in my hand, shake the names, and he drops
his name in after apologizing.

This set has gone off the rails. I decide to cut my losses, abort the bit, and start the
drawing. I feel like I have a lot of work to do after tonight - honing my crowd work,
tinkering with the premises to find where the punchlines are. Even my energy
seems a little too low. But I’m recognizing my problems, and trying to figure out
how to solve them. That’s about all I can ask of myself.
________________________________________________________________________

#89: Makin' Sacrifices
5/17/13, 1:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

True to my word, I tell Erikka I’ll take the last thirty minutes of this week’s mic. I
can tell she’s glad: a ton of people are still in the pitcher, which means we’re gonna
have some angry comics on our hands. We talk at the end of the bar about how to
handle this, and decide that it’s better to get everyone up, so before bringing me
on, Erikka announces that everyone will be doing two minute sets from now on.
She’s met with groans and boos, but she grits her teeth. “Would you rather wait
and not get on? Didn’t think so.”

She introduces me, and I take the stage. I don’t remove the mic from the stand - no
time. “Makin’ sacrifices, guys! Yeah!” I tell the crowd I have two things to say: one
is that I wish I didn’t have so much useless information in my head - specifically,
the names of the members of the Black Eyed Peas - and the other is a brief story
about a customer who asked me to break a hundred so he could buy drugs later.
The first bit goes pretty well, gets a couple claps, and the second one definitely has
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potential, but I can tell something’s off about it. The angle I’m coming from isn’t
quite right. But I can’t worry about fixing it now.

I grab the pitcher and Quincy, another comic, asks if he can draw the names for
the last section. I shrug. “Why not. Guest puller Quincy Jones up in here,
everyone.” I keep the chatter in between comics to a minimum - don’t want to
have any more irate comics on my hands.

We get through fourteen comics in just under half an hour. I feel simultaneously
exhilarated and run down by the end of the show. I thank everyone for coming, tell
them to get out and go to bed, then turn off the mic and start packing up.

One of the comics comes up to me and tells me how unhappy she is that we had to
cut time to two minute sets. Says it’s disgraceful, almost insulting. I want to tell
her this isn’t my fault, if you didn’t want to do two minutes, you should have left,
but I tell her I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do right now, and we’re working on
getting things started earlier. She’s still miffed, but she leaves. I’ve got no problem
with her shooting the messenger. I’m wearing the bulletproof vest of not giving a
shit.

Me, Parker, and the bartender are the only three left. We all give each other the
same “what the fuck is she talking about?” look, then laugh about it. These are the
perils of hosting: pissed-off comics and drunk audience members. These, I can live
with.
________________________________________________________________________

#90: I've Got Abilities
5/18/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I narrowly finish changing out of my work clothes in time to find Clarke and
confirm that I’m starting the mic. I bolt to the stage, pitcher of names in hand,
then set up my area at the end of the bar. I don’t know what I’ll be talking about,
but the crowd seems lively for an open mic, so I decide to mix in some old stuff
and some new stuff.

I make the standard announcements up front - last call for food, tip the
bartenders, you get four minutes - then start in on the “…for drugs” story. It’s not
where it needs to be, and gets a flat response past the premise. I need a real
punchline for it. I don’t want to tell jokes that won’t go anywhere, so I tell the story
about the old man who told me he’d Jap-slap me if I didn’t give him the senior
discount he was entitled to. That one does the trick, garnering some laughs and
boosting my confidence. I end with an extended version of the story, involving him
calling someone a Chinaman. It doesn’t get a huge response, but it’s tough to get
that here, even with flat-out amazing material. I’m keeping it in the act.
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Then, it’s time to draw names. Kept it short and sweet. I’m still trying to figure out
how to be a truly great MC, but until then, I’ll do what I can to make the crowd of
comics waiting their turns happy. Because when you’re a host, it’s not about you.
It’s about making sure everyone has a good time, to the best of your abilities. And
believe me, I’ve got some abilities.
________________________________________________________________________

#91: Girlfriend-Approved Material
5/18/13, 9:30 PM: Sensational Saturdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

After I pick Sam up from the airport, we immediately head towards Flappers. She
asks me what jokes I’m going to tell tonight, and I tell her I’m not sure. “I’m
probably gonna talk about you, at some point.” She’s cool with this.

We get to talking about a disagreement from a few days ago, and a
miscommunication during that which led me to believe we might be breaking up.
Thankfully, I was wrong, but in telling her how worried I was over what turned out
to be nothing, we discover that it’s actually pretty funny. “Maybe I’ll bring this up?
Is that cool?"

She grins. "Go for it.”

We eat dinner at the bar. I write out my set list:

HOLLYWOOD

DAD HARDY

AXE BODY WASH

COLLEGE

LONG-DISTANCE

It’s probably too long, but I can cut stuff out of the middle if I need to.

Sam gets seated while I talk to the host about my time and my spot in the order.
I’m going on third, doing eight minutes. Eight is enough. I can do a strong eight.

The Yoo Hoo Room is almost totally full, and the crowd is lively, if a little slow on
the uptake. The first two comics get solid response. I notice that this crowd needs
a little time in between jokes, so I make a mental note to take it slow when I feel
the need. Slow is good.
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Kimrie, the host, begins to introduce me. One of my bosses stands in the back of
the room, claps me on the shoulder. “Don’t jog up there. Walk. Make them wait for
you.” I nod. “Have fun. Don’t fuck this up.”

I glance over my shoulder. “Thanks.” Kimrie calls my name. I walk to the stage,
then shake her hand and take the mic.

After some awkward talking up front - a habit I need to break - I start on the jokes.
The Hollywood chunk goes well. The rhythm of the room takes some getting used
to, but by the time I’ve synced up with the crowd’s lagged response time, I feel at
ease. I’ve got them in the palm of my hand.

I tell the Axe Body Wash joke - an oldie, but a goodie - then decide to skip the
college material in favor of the long-distance dating material. After telling a
planned bit - one about how Sam and I keep things exciting from a distance - I
decide now is the time to talk about the miscommunication from earlier. The
setup is long and not very funny, but the punchline hits harder than I expected.
This is a story worth telling again. Thank God.

I close with another bit from the long-distance chunk, then wave goodbye and
thank Kimrie again. I leave the showroom. Some of the other comics tell me I had
a good set. I grab a bottle of water, then sit down next to Sam. She leans into me,
whispers, “That was so good!” I thank her. She kisses me on the cheek.

We’re proud. It’s working.
________________________________________________________________________

#92: Yelling Into The Void
5/22/13, 11:50 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The bar is lively tonight, but nobody wants to pay attention. Everyone’s clumped
up into groups of their friends, drinking, talking, and not caring about who’s on
stage. Not that open mics are places where people will give a shit about what
you’re doing up there, but it’s rare that the crowd is this self-absorbed.

I turn on the amp, knock on the mic, then start my intro. I’m practically yelling
into the mic because if I wasn’t, nobody would hear me. The chatter of
conversation is overpowering the speakers. I soldier on, because nobody wants to
hear me struggle or get mad at the crowd, especially from the get-go. Other comics
can get away with making the crowd dislike them, but not the host. The host has
to be your friend.

I talk about the Guatemalan dictator who got convicted of genocide and sentenced
to only 80 years in prison. The crowd gives me nothing. A group of girls talk in a
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circle near the bar. I smile and try not to ramble, because there’s nothing else to
do.

I tell a slightly altered version of the joke about me and Sam’s argument from the
other day that had me thinking we might break up. Just like the other night, the
punchline hits very hard, while the setup leaves something to be desired. I haven’t
written the joke out word-for-word yet, which might explain why I haven’t been
able to make the setup funny at all. Another thing to work on later.

As I finish the joke, one of the cooks sits down at a table right near the stage. His
loud cackle of a laugh shuts the room up just enough. Maybe they’ll laugh more
now that they’re actually looking in my direction.

I tell a joke about one of my roommates calling an member of the military “that
guy in a Hurt Locker costume.” The crowd laughs, led by the cook up front. I grin.
This joke may be getting close to finished, but that only means that now I just have
to come up with tags. I have to find ways to improve. I’ve got some ideas I’ll try out
next time.

I close with jokes about college that I’ve been kicking around for a while. They
both get laughs, but my joke about making the mistake of letting a friend drive
drunk goes over much better than my impression of nineteen-year-old dudes
getting drunk. They can both be improved upon, but at least I know which should
take my focus first.

The crowd goes back to talking in clumps, and I know there won’t be another way
to get them to care. So I draw tonight’s first name out of the pitcher. Maybe they’ll
be captivating.
________________________________________________________________________

#93: Epiphanies and New Angles
5/23/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Tonight’s crowd is sparse and inattentive. I’m not surprised. What does surprise
me is how much this excites me. I only don’t mind the lack of a crowd tonight
because I finally have new things to talk about - and a few old things to talk about
in new ways - and it just feels better to say these new, half-baked ideas to no one
instead of to a packed bar.

I check to make sure everything is ready - timer, light, pitcher filled with names,
bottle of water - then flip on the amp and begin. "Are you ready to get things
started!?“ One person cheers from the back. This is where we’re starting from.

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I give the house announcements, then start in on material. First up, a tangent
about a guy who I used to know in high school who is a gay furry now. My angle
made more sense to me when I came up with the idea to talk about this: good for
that guy, because he used to get picked on in high school, but now he clearly
doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks. My initial thought that this angle is funny
is swiftly disproven when nobody laughs. Even the three people paying attention
don’t nod or smile. Maybe it sounds like I’m poking fun at this kid. I’ll have to give
it all another look. Maybe it’s not worth talking about.

I switch it up to the story about the guy who came in to work and asked me to
make change…for drugs. I have a new angle this time: he shouldn’t be timid when
doing drugs, he should do them proudly! This angle winds up having some legs,
and I make a note in my book next to my set list. This is worth mining. I do some
of my other "drugs” material to close, and it goes pretty well. I’ve developed those
jokes fairly well at this point in terms of being streamlined and consistently funny,
now it’s just a matter of writing it out.

I finish up, then start drawing names. Nobody is paying attention still, so I start
talking to whoever is looking at me. Just a couple of questions, nothing crazy, but I
have a realization as I draw the first name. The comic comes to the stage. I shake
their hand, get off stage, then write down my epiphany: “Nobody is paying
attention…but talk to the ones who are.”

I think I just discovered a new way to beef up my crowd work. I shut the notebook,
host my thirty minutes, then drive home and flesh out the drugs jokes. They’re
worth writing out.
________________________________________________________________________

#94: Crowd Work Ahoy
5/24/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Having finally seen the other night how easy it is to just talk to the audience -
especially as a host - I know exactly what to do today: practice crowd work.

As I grab my belongings and make my way to the end of the bar, I scan the room.
The crowd isn’t huge, but I see a few new faces. These are the folks I’ll make
conversation with. I give my notes a once-over, then switch on the amp and knock
on the mic to check if it’s on. Heads turn toward the stage. A lone comic claps in
the back. Let’s get this started.

I tell a story about an overheard conversation at work: a girl and guy are on a date.
The girl tells the guy she wants to have sex with him. Cue him giving me a
knowing look. I’ll seat them in the back. “Handjob section, sir?” Laughter. This is a

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new bit, and not even close to fleshed out yet, but this inkling gets enough of a
response that I file it away for later use.

I tell a story about a friend who works for the government that doesn’t go over as
well. I’m still working out the kinks - I just haven’t found the right punchline for
the bit yet. It’s harder to make talking about PowerPoint presentations funny than
I imagined it would be.

I look at a guy sitting close to the front. “I like my job. What do you do?” It’s as
simple as that. You just need to ask questions. I don’t know why that never
occurred to me before. The guy tells me about his job working for The Leak. “Some
kind of plumbing company?” A few chuckles.

I find out that he’s just an intern, which gives me the perfect opportunity to tell my
Pokémon internship joke. It doesn’t go over as well as usual, but I don’t mind. I
know that one usually works, plus I’m pulling off crowd work and not feeling
awkward about it, like I have in the past.

I close with another quick work story, then grab the pitcher and draw a name out.
I shake their hand, go to my station at the end of the bar, and scrawl a note in my
book: “CROWD WORK AHOY!” I want to remember the thing I was most proud of
during this set.

At some point, before I swap out as the host with Clarke, a comic who isn’t getting
anywhere with his jokes says that the crowd is “just a bunch of eyes, all staring at
me.” He sounds uncomfortable. I want to tell him that the eyes aren’t anything to
be afraid of. Just talk to them. Make them feel at ease. Maybe that way you won’t
feel like you’re being stared at.
________________________________________________________________________

#95: Standard Joke Maintenance
5/25/13, 4:30 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There’s a pretty sizable list by the time I get around to signing up, but I’m not
fazed. I don’t have to clock in until 6:30. I’ve got plenty of time to help out at the
Lab. 4:30 rolls around with no sign of Jake, the usual host, so I gather everyone up
and tell them to head inside the Yoo Hoo Room and take a seat.

Today, the lab is filled with willing participants. Everyone sticks to their time, and
a fair amount of people sincerely work to give good critiques. It’s a far cry from the
last time I was here, when the crowd was sparse and the comics were hostile and
defensive. Things have certainly changed for the better.

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After Jakes shows up and I relinquish hosting duties to him, I grab a seat next to
Parker and figure out my set. I feel like it’s a good idea to try some newer stuff, see
how this group appreciates it (if they do at all) and if they can come up with any
new tags to try or points of view to consider. This is a workshop, after all. What’s
the point of coming if you’re not workshopping bits?

My name finally comes up. I trot to the stage, set down my audio recorder, and
begin with the story about my roommate calling a guy in the military a guy
wearing a Hurt Locker costume. The crowd doesn’t laugh immediately after I say
this ridiculous revelation, but I count to two in my head, and they’re all in
hysterics. I add on a tag about not properly protecting stuntmen that gets a couple
chuckles. It’s worth keeping.

I move to the story about the “…for drugs” guy, this time addressing the new angle
I came up with a few nights ago: “If you’re going to do drugs, don’t be so timid. Be
proud about it!” This line gets a few laughs, and an act-out heightens things even
more. This angle is certainly working better than the old one ever did.

I close out with the bit about my freelance writing job, telling stories of irate
customers with ridiculous requests. The crowd laps it up. I fumble a couple of
words, and accidentally end on a part of the joke that should go near the front of
the bit, but all is still well.

The notes session proves helpful. I get new ideas on …for drugs and the freelancing
bits, both bits that could use a little more polish and improvement. After a couple
minutes, the crowd sits silent, having said all they need to say, and Jake tells them
to give me a hand as I go off stage. I wave goodbye, glad to have some food for
thought in my comedy lunch box.
________________________________________________________________________

#96: Stories Worth Telling
5/26/13, 12:45 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s a busy night, so I don’t get to clock out until late, but Josh is still more than
willing to let me do a little hosting by the time I’m changed and ready. I don’t
really have a set planned out, I just know I want to try out my revamped chunk of
material on drugs and alcohol.

The comic before me tells a joke about big tits. I go over things with Josh. “Four
minutes until one o'clock, then three after that, right?” Josh nods.

The comic before me finishes, shakes Josh’s hand, gets off stage. Josh introduces
me. Someone yells my name from the back of the room. As I take the mic out of

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the stand, someone in the back lets out what sounds like a roar. “Someone’s really
excited that I’m up here. Or they just pooped.” Laughter from Josh.

Thanks to Eric, I’ve got boobs on the brain, so I tell everyone a fun fact: the first
porn site I ever went too was called Massive Mammaries. The name gets a few
chuckles, which is about all I hoped to get by telling that anecdote.

I go into the material. Drinking stories from college up front, stories about
working at Bonnaroo - everyone’s favorite music festival/mystical drug haven -
bring up the rear. The ordering works out alright, and the drinking material is
solid. The Bonnaroo stories are less captivating, but I haven’t worked on the funny
parts to the extent I’d like to yet. I’m still trying to remember the important parts
of things, to make sure that I get the right details before trying to make jokes out
of them.

I thank the crowd, then grab the pitcher and draw out a name. I shake their hand
as they take the stage, then go to my station at the end of the bar. This wasn’t a
groundbreaking set by any means, but at least I got to see if those old, dusty jokes
still worked, if those stories were worth telling. And they are - they’re just not great
stories yet. That’ll come with time and editing. Lots and lots of editing.
________________________________________________________________________

#97: Two Drink Maximum
5/26/13, 7 PM: The Flappers Sunday Open, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m drunk. I’ve been drinking and watching Arrested Development all day. I
shouldn’t have driven to the club, but I don’t realize that until later. Right now, I’m
sauntering through the front doors, saying hello to all the employees, looking for a
bottle of water.

I can’t remember the first thirty minutes or so of being at the club very well. I tell
Parker and Jonas how good the new season of Arrested Development is. I repeat
myself a few times. I take a seat and write out my set list. I move to the Yoo Hoo
Room lobby to stay out of Jonas and Parker’s way. I drink more water. I probably
down two bottles before I go on stage.

I’ve got a feature spot near the end of the show, so I watch the room while I wait
for my time. This week, the contestants at the Open have the crowd laughing more
than usual for an amateur competition. Some of the comics don’t show up, which
means guest spots abound. These seasoned comics regale the crowd with stories of
all kinds. I’m grinning like an idiot in the back corner. I have seven minutes.

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Eventually, Luis brings me up. (“I find him challengingly handsome.” Classic Luis.)
I swagger to the stage and whip the mic out of the stand as the crowd claps. “Yes, I
am handsome, thank you.”

A girl up front is drinking something questionable-looking out of a wine glass. “Are
you drinking wine with a straw?” Big laugh. She explains her drink, something
with champagne and vodka. “Well, I’m drunk. It’s my day off!” The crowd laughs
more at this revelation. I haven’t performed like this in a long time. I feel no
anxiety. It’s half alcohol-fueled, half me-being-awesome-fueled.

I tell my stories about living in Hollywood, dealing with homeless people and
douchebags, living in a house with six people, and dealing with gangs. Pretty much
everything works, and I’m able to recover fine on the jokes that don’t work. But
something’s off. I’m not as precise as usual. I mumble and ramble. My thoughts
stutter. I run the light, trying to end on a bigger laugh than the one I should have
ended with. The gamble doesn’t work and I have to leave during a groan instead of
laughter.

I leave the Yoo Hoo Room and it finally hits me: I was shitfaced two hours ago
when I first got to the club. I try not to dwell on it, because I had a good set, but I
let the embarrassment seep in a little bit. I’m not at my best like that. And on
stage, I feel like I should be at my best. Next time, I’ll stick to two drinks.
________________________________________________________________________

#98: The Trial Run
5/30/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The second show in the main room gets cancelled, so the proceedings tonight are
free to get started very, very early. I putter around the club for a bit before I decide
it’s a good a time as any to get started. Enough with the waiting. I snatch the
pitcher of names, take it to my station at the end of the bar, and set up the mic.

I’ll be hosting the whole show tonight. The fate of two hours and twenty-eight
comics rests squarely on my shoulders. I’m ready for this. It’s what I’ve been
waiting for. I switch on the amp, start my recorder, then knock on the mic. “Knock
knock. Who’s there? Oh, it’s just the THURSDAY NIGHT OPEN MIC!” Clapping
and cheering.

I open with the requisite announcements, then move to the jokes. There’s a table
of two up front - a super drunk girl and her burly boyfriend - that appears to be
our only actual audience tonight, so I make sure to talk right to them. I tell the
Jap-slap story, which goes over well. I talk about being 22 and people not expecting
you to do anything worthwhile or adult at this age. When I get to the part of the
bit where I talk about a friend of mine who hooked up with a guy to get his extra
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iPhone, Super Drunk Girl decides to voice her concerns. “I get it if it’s a case of
Coronas, but, wow…”

I stare at her. “An iPhone’s not cool, but a case of beer is? You need to raise your
standards.” Her and her boyfriend laugh, which is all I’m hoping for, really,
because not many other people are paying attention. I can’t expect to get much
response from the early crowd, especially when it’s mostly comics I’m telling jokes
at. But the real people laughed, and that’s good enough for me.

I close with two stories about my girlfriend - one about keeping things interesting
with technology, and one about an argument we had that was made so much
worse by technology. The first joke is tight and punchy, the second one is overlylong and not where I need it to be. I manage to close on a laugh, then thank the
crowd and grab the pitcher of names. The first person gets drawn.

Rinse, repeat, write down interesting things people say. One of my favorite parts
about open mics is hearing ridiculous statements, like “All cows are rape babies,
guys,” and “I recently had an audition today.” I force myself to pay attention so I
can capture these nuggets of goodness. It keeps me sane as the show runs on and
on, with the number of names yet to be drawn staying in the double digits until
close to one in the morning.

By 1:30, we’re done. I thank the crowd for sticking it out, apologize to a comic
whose name vanished from the pitcher and had to be put in at the last minute,
then tell everyone to go home and go to bed. I gather up my belongings, put
everything back in the ticket booth where it belongs, and head to my car.

Not bad for my first “true” host spot. Not bad at all.
________________________________________________________________________

#99: She's Arrogant
5/31/13, 11:30 PM: Eleventh-Hour Comedy, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I don’t get to clock out until close to midnight, but that’s just fine - Aristotle, the
host, isn’t putting me on until right before the headliner, anyway. I’ve got some
time to kill.

I check out the comics before me to get a feel for the room. There are twenty brave
souls who’re here for the late show, and, for the most part, they’re receptive. A big
chunk of them are clearly here to see a friend, a guy who looks younger than me
and sits at the end of a long booth filled out with six of his friends. I probably
won’t watch his set.

I step back into the lobby and plan out my seven minutes:
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BROKE

INTERNSHIPS

SUMMER CAMP

JAP-SLAP

…FOR DRUGS

ACADEMIC CONTENT

BASEBALL or COLLEGE or DISPUTE

I give myself options with the closer because, out of those three bits, I don’t know
which one will be the most optimal one to end on. They’re still being worked out,
but tonight will be a great proving ground for one of them. But that’s to be
determined.

Parker and Jenna both get off relatively early, so I ask Aristotle if I can be bumped
up to go next instead of in two more. He says sure, asks for my intro, and we
disappear through the double doors into the showroom. The comic before me is
just finishing up. I crack my neck.

Aristotle introduces me. I walk up to the stage, shake his hand, then take the mic
out of the stand. I start by talking to a woman up front who was drunk but has
switched to water, but the cord falls out of the microphone. “OH NO! AGH!” A
couple people chuckle while I fish for the cord and reconnect everything.

Once all is right again, I get back to talking to water lady, telling her that I’m too
poor to afford any drinks besides water. A solid transition into the “being broke”
bit. From there, I decide to tell the Jap-Slap story in lieu of the internships and
summer camp bits, which proves to be a great choice in the moment. The crowd
laps it all up, like kittens eagerly drinking milk. They laugh in waves; the four-top
in the front right gets things started, the group of six here for their friend finishes
things up. I round out the first half by talking about my more recent freelance
writing jobs, because this crowd loves hearing about my problems.

I decide to drop the internships bit in here, but a bit more crowd work needs to be
fit in first. I ask a girl in the group of six if she’s ever had an internship. She says
no, she’s never had to work one. I’m flabbergasted. “I don’t even have anything to
say to that. I’m just impressed.” She says, “you should be.” I emit a single laugh,

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then look back at the four-top that’s been so good the whole show. “I’m impressed,
she’s arrogant.” This comment seals the deal. The room roars with laughter.

I finish the internships bit, almost making the girl I talked to do a spit-take when I
talk about Pokémon. I decide the best thing to close with are the college jokes, so I
tell a still half-formed story about feeling old the last time I visited, then transition
into talking about dumb stuff I did as a college student. I close with a story about
letting a friend drive home drunk that leaves the crowd howling, even though I
almost ruin the joke by slipping in the punchline too early. The crowd thankfully
doesn’t catch it, but it helps remind me to know my jokes through and through for
next time. I thank the crowd, put the mic back in its stand, shake Aristotle’s hand,
then gather up my friends. We’ve got some hanging out to do.
________________________________________________________________________

#100: First-Timers
6/1/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There are a lot of people in the bar, and some of them aren’t comics, which is
always good to see on a Saturday night. I’m getting off work late and scrambling to
change, get set up, and get things going. I try to remember to pace myself - when I
get frantic, things go badly. Keep a level head, dude. Don’t go so fast.

I gather my thoughts, then shut off the music and knock on the microphone.
“Knock knock.” Someone yells, “WHO’S THERE?” from the back of the bar. I grin:
“Oh, it’s just the SATURDAY NIGHT OPEN MIC! YEAH!” Nobody responds. “Oh,
come on guys. You can do better than that. Get excited!” They finally clap. A
couple people cheer.

I introduce myself, give the rundown of the rules, tell everyone to tip the
bartenders, and start on my material. It’s all work-related jokes tonight: the racist
old man who threatened to Jap-slap me, the two guys who asked for directions
then, after I graciously provided, said I was no help, and the guy who asked me to
break a $100 for drugs. The comics don’t give me much, but there’s a table of kids
up front - one of two of them too young to drink - who laugh like normal people.
(Their response informs me that the “no help” and “for drugs” stories need some
punching up.) But that’s not the only reason I like them.

They’re clearly here to see someone go up for their first time. My guess is the guy
in glasses smiling a lot and fidgeting in his seat. I remember feeling that first bout
of nervousness. I was eighteen. My freshman year of college was in its infancy, and
I was kind of a mess. My relationship with my girlfriend at the time was rocky. I
didn’t hang out with my hallmates, too shy and withdrawn to think they’d want
me around. I was sad more than I was happy. But then, one night, my friend Luke
told me that there was an open mic at the Lighthouse Tavern, and that we should
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go and play Hey Ya together. Parker and I had been talking about trying stand-up
out since March, collecting ideas for jokes in Moleskine notebooks. This was my
chance. “Okay,” I said. “Let’s do it. But I want to try something first.”

The bar is covered in wood paneling and musty. It seems like there are only
upperclassmen here. I’m almost scared. But I see the sign-up list, and write my
name down in the sixth spot, and wait my turn as musicians and poets take the
stage and do their time. If I was old enough to order a drink, I would. Something,
anything to calm the nerves.

My name gets called. Clutching my notebook like a security blanket, I take the
stage, shake the host’s hand, and smile as best as I can while I set my book down in
the conveniently placed music stand. “Hi. My name is Jay Light. I have half the
calories and fat of regular Jay, but all the delicious flavor. So…ladies?” The crowd,
standing, laughs. I make a gun with my fingers, point it at a pretty girl, and wink.
The nerves gripping my insides like a vice loosen up some.

I wish I could tell you how the rest of that set went, but all that remains in my
memories of that night is a single entry from my Xanga on October 10th, 2008: “I
did stand-up comedy tonight. It felt good.”

I close with a joke about working at a summer camp that I haven’t trotted out in a
while, something about how creepy it is to talk about working at an all-boys camp.
“It’s how I know I’m not a pedophile,” I deadpan. The kids up front eat it up, even
laughing loud enough for people in the back to notice. The likely performer slaps
his knee. I smile. I hope he has a good time tonight.
________________________________________________________________________

#101: The Closest I'll Ever Get To Working In A Factory
6/4/13, 7 PM: Open Mic, Laugh Factory, Los Angeles, CA

I’m having deja vu. A week ago, I was waiting in front of the Laugh Factory with
my friends Tyler and Brent and a bunch of other comics I’d never seen before for
the chance to perform on this much vaunted stage. Having successfully completed
that three hour wait in the early summer sun and signed up, we were given a
chance to perform today at the open mic. And now we’re waiting for them to open
the doors. I didn’t bring a book this time.

I see a group of people from Elon heading this way. One or two of the students
recognize me, and the professors embrace me, smiling and slapping me on the
back. We say our hellos and I direct them to the back of the line. They’re excited to
see me. I’m glad they’re here, but something bubbles up in my gut. A tiny knot, but
a knot nonetheless. I’ll deal with this later.

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We finally get inside at around 7. The showroom is much smaller than I imagined
after seeing the videos of this place. Everything is very condensed, with a small
stage raised several feet above the crowd. There’s wood paneling everywhere. It
feels cozy and inviting. I can see why people always say this is one of the best
comedy clubs in the country.

I check in with the host, who tells me I’m going up second. I thank him, then find
a seat on the left side of the stage and pull out my notebook to go over my set one
more time:

HOLLYWOOD

HOMELESS

HAUNTED HOUSE

For this show, I’m required to do three clean minutes. I’m up to the challenge, but
it’s a challenge nonetheless. There’s no room for error - if you break their PG-10
rule for the open mic, you’re immediately asked to leave the stage. I don’t want
that to happen, especially not my first time here.

I get called up, shake the host’s hand, take the mic out of the stand. I feel weirdly
nervous. My jokes are landing, but it feels like I’m speeding through things. I
haven’t been able to settle in. I’m using filler words - “uh” and “I dunno” - instead
of accepting silence as a necessary part of the performance. I close stronger than I
open, having finally eased my nerves some by making the audience laugh, but even
getting the light throws me for a moment, causing me to finish my set before I get
out the funniest line in the haunted house bit. I kick myself about this once I get
back to my seat, but Tyler and Brent both tell me they thought I had a solid set.
That’s good enough for me.

After the show, the manager, Jamie, is kind enough to talk to all of us about the
next step. We wait in line out front again until he’s ready to see each of us in turn.
I eventually get called inside to meet this comedy legend. He’s sitting on a
barstool, a leg in a stability boot propped up on another barstool. I introduce
myself. He nods, looks at his notes, and gives me a once-over.

“This is your first time here? You seemed a little uncomfortable on there. It’s a new
stage for you.” I nod. “I like you, but you need to be comfortable. I’d like to see you
again soon, so we can move you along, but you just need to get used to things
here. Don’t worry about waiting four weeks, just come back as soon as you can.”

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It’s not a pass to the next step - showcasing - but it’s good enough for now. “Okay!”
I say, grinning. Jamie says “okay!” and fist-bumps me. I thank him, then go back
outside.

I can’t wait to come back next week.
________________________________________________________________________

#102: They Can't All Be Winners
6/5/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I can already tell it’s going to be one of those mics where things just don’t work.
The bar is half-full of comics, none of them sitting near the front, all of them
talking to someone else or focusing on their notebooks. It’s not like I didn’t expect
this, but I always get a little downtrodden when I see nobody caring.

I open things up, give the standard announcements up front, then start in on
material. A joke about my real name being too fancy for me gets a chuckle, as does
the joke about objectifying burgers the way I used to objectify women. But after
that, nothing. Old jokes about traveling through Europe and dealing with cultural
differences aren’t as funny as they used to be, especially to a crowd that isn’t
paying any mind. I say “I dunno” too much. You can hear the lack of energy in my
voice.

By the end of the chunk, I’m more frustrated than anything else. I laugh to myself.
“This is going super great. Be prepared for more of this hot no laughter action
during your sets!” That gets a decent response, with a couple people clapping along
in agreement. I wrap things up with another joke about Europe that doesn’t land,
then draw someone’s name out of the pitcher. Hopefully he gets more out of this
mic than I did.
________________________________________________________________________

#103: Gotta Start Somewhere
6/6/13, 6 PM: Open Mic, Rockpaper Coffee, Los Angeles, CA

The only reason I’m here is because I need to push myself. I’ve decided to do three
sets today, and I’ve got to start somewhere.

I get there early enough to snag the second spot in the lineup, then order a mocha
and edit jokes for an hour. I’d like to do roughly the same set each time today, to
see what kinds of changes I can make to the material as the night goes on. I start
out with this set:

REAL NAME

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LEAST FAMOUS

LONG DISTANCE APP

DISPUTE

By the time six o'clock rolls around, there aren’t even ten people in the coffee shop.
An older couple walks in with a tiny, yappy dog on a leash. Nobody knows who’s
supposed to be hosting, so Tim, a comic I’ve seen around the scene some, saunters
to the stage and takes the mic. “I guess I’m doing this today.” The guy with the dog
says, “okay.”

Tim does his time, then a girl goes on, and then it’s my turn. Tim still doesn’t
know my name, looking around the shop as he calls for me. I wave, then walk to
the stage and shake his hand as the six customers clap.

Surprisingly, the room isn’t dead. The joke about my real name being too fancy for
me lands well, getting nods and a chuckle or two. A riff about having a good
rapper name also proves fruitful, especially talking about how I can’t be a rapper
because I’m not hard enough. “Real thugs don’t cry at the end of Wall-E.” The joke
about the long distance app that my girlfriend and I started using also hits nicely,
even if it is a little too wordy right now, and the one about a recent confusing
argument ends well.

There’s obvious room for improvement. The bit about being the least famous Jay
Light is too unclear to be funny right now - I’m not taking the attitude in my
performance that needs to come with that joke. I can’t rely on the writing alone.
They’re a package deal. The argument joke also is too wordy and unfunny during
the set-up, so I make a note in my book to tighten it up some.

I leave the stage, shaking Tim’s hand again, just glad I made people at this
nightmare of an open mic laugh. I gather my backpack then leave out the back
door into the gray June evening. Now, it’s time to go home, make some food, then
move on to the next show.
________________________________________________________________________

#104: A Pretty Shitty Vacation
6/6/13, 9:30 PM: Bomb Shelter, Hollywood Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

I descend to the basement bar, where the mics always happen at the hotel, and
check in with the host. I’ve got about eight more until I go on, so I buy my
required beer and watch the room.

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Things are fairly dead. The back is filled with comics, the front filled with almost
no one. A few groups of tourists flank the stage, but that’s it. I drink my PBR and
watch the cavalcade of comics doing poorly. It’s not all their fault. Sure, some of
the comics are legitimately bad, or just plain lunatics. But the audience is cold,
sitting their sipping whatever’s in their class, watching politely.

I finish my beer, then go to the lobby to work out some material. I’ve got a little
revision to do of the jokes I did at Rockpaper, and there’s plenty of time in
between me and whoever is on stage right now. I delete a few words, move some
sentences around, throw a word or two back in. I’m getting somewhere with these
bits, I can feel it.

I hear the comic before me get introduced, so I snap my laptop shut and go back
into the bar to watch. It’s a guy calling himself the Dick Mime. Decked out in
classic mime attire and makeup, he only mimes stuff involving penises. It’s pretty
hilarious, if a little drawn out, but the back of the room definitely enjoys his act,
especially when he takes suggestions from the crowd, cooking up mime routines
for “SMALLEST DICK!” or “SMELLIEST DICK!” as they get yelled by drunken
patrons.

His time ends, and mine begins. I start talking about my real name, with a new
act-out involving me talking about doing fancy stuff with a British accent. The
male half of a couple up front says that it was a pretty solid accent. I turn to them,
incredulous, to ask their real opinion. The girl gives me a thumbs up, the guy
waves his hand in that “eh, it was actually so-so” kind of way, but that’s good
enough for me. I ask them what they plan on doing while their in town. The girl
replies, “this,” and I tell her that if they plan on watching open mics the entire time
they’re in LA, that’s a pretty shitty vacation.

They laugh, the girl squinting as she does.

I switch into the relationship material here. The one about me and my girlfriend
having a dispute is still too wordy and garbled, and gets me nowhere comedically,
but I save the set with tried-and-true bits about technology’s impact on our
relationship. I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, then get off stage. After thanking
the host for doing his job well, I head back into the night to retrieve my car from a
couple blocks away. I’m not done yet - one show left to go tonight. I can’t wait.
________________________________________________________________________

#105: Don't Raise Your Voice To Me
6/6/13, 11:50 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

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I roll into the club, find Erikka, and check to see if she’s cool with letting me host
the first chunk of the show. She says sure. I thank her, gather the pitcher of names
and some paper to write the order on, and take my post at the end of the bar.

I’m doing the same set, so I don’t have to worry about re-doing the order, but I do
need to actively make sure changes are made. I think about what has and hasn’t
worked tonight, which parts needed the most help and which little asides wound
up working the best. I check my watch, wander into the main room to see if that
show is done (it is), then go back to the stage and flip on the amplifier.

I make the announcements over everyone talking. I find myself yelling into the mic
to be heard, a move that Parker tells me later severely undercuts my capacity for
vocal variety. Later, I make a note to try and keep my voice from getting too
distorted. But I don’t realize my error yet, so I soldier on, yelling about tipping the
bartender.

After an awkward exchange with a table of Asian dudes about the scotch they were
drinking, I start on some material. The jokes about my real name and having a
good rap name finally feel like they’re getting somewhere, with just a few lines that
need tweaking down the line. The joke about having an app that helps with my
long-distance relationship gets an unexpectedly big laugh, all thanks to a tiny
change in word placement. It still amazes me what a simple reversal of words can
do to make something so much funnier. Of course, it takes me a few days to catch
what swap wound up being the magic one, but tonight, I’m just happy it all worked
out.

I thank the crowd, then draw up the first name. I’m not proud of my performance
on this one - I relied on the writing too much, not letting myself be infused in the
act - but I’ve made progress. I should do three sets in one day more often.
________________________________________________________________________

#106: Fond Memories Of Meth Neighbors
6/7/13, 5 PM: Set List Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m a little tired today, but I know I can muster up the energy to do Set List. The
bar is empty, the way it usually is for this mic, so I’m not thrown off by any
surprise audience members or non-regulars to this show.

I get called up to go seventh. Tammy, today’s host, puts my set list on the music
stand:

SORRY, DIGNITY

MODERATE PANIC ROOM
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SIDWQPQJ KSOWQJNF (not an accurate reproduction)

KIND RACISM

“Oh, man,” I begin, “you guys ever have one of those nights where you regret
feeding that girl two slices of pizza so she’d have sex with you?” A couple chuckles.
I can live with that. “That’s when you just have to say, ‘sorry, dignity.’” I’m in and
out of the premise lickety-split.

I switch things up with a half-true, half-fabricated story about how my neighbors
in Texas used to cook meth in their garage, causing my mom to get so worried she
built a panic room in the attic. “But she wasn’t that scared, so we just had a
moderate panic room. Instead of a stockpile, we just had one can of pork and
beans.” Another chuckle. I try to extend the bit further, but it goes nowhere.

For item number three, I just speak gibberish for several seconds. The crowd
laughs initially, but they don’t stay with me very long. I probably should have seen
that coming.

I try to close with a wholly made-up story about kind racism, but can’t come up
with anything close to good, and leave the stage to relative silence, shaking
Tammy’s hand as I go. I think that these performances go better when I’m able to
infuse my real life into the premises. My imagination isn’t good enough at running
wild on the fly. Not yet, anyway.
________________________________________________________________________

#107: The Workout Room
6/10/13, 9 PM: Open Mic, The Palace, Los Angeles, CA

Parker and I decide we need a change of pace, and we decide after eating ChickFil-A that hitting up the open mic at The Palace - a spot we haven’t been back to
since the beginning of the year - fits the bill. We’ve been performing extensively in
clubs for the past few months, so doing some time at a Chinese restaurant is
enough of a shift that we go for it.

We climb up the stairs to the dark, half-filled second floor after the hostess directs
us there with an outstretched finger. We toss our names in the lottery, then find
two empty seats in the wings. We get decent spots in the drawing - five minutes! -
sign ourselves up, then go back to our seats and wait.

What we forgot: this room is incredibly tough. Nobody is here to just watch - the
twenty or so people present are all comics, silently thinking you’re not as funny as
they are, scattered into little clumps of three or four, avoiding eye contact. A few
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comics break the silence and wring some laughs out of the crowd, but most people
get little more than polite nods. This is what we affectionately call a workout
room, because doing a set here is like going to the gym. It’s where you go if you
need to knock yourself down a couple pegs or find some new motivation.

Magic, the host, calls my name, and I walk to the mic, shake his hand, then thank
the crowd for barely applauding. I start out with little bits about my rap name and
my real name that get at least some response, but not much. I switch into material
about my relationship with my parents that has a few high points, but is mostly
low points. A story about a girl I knew in high school who shoved a pool noodle in
her mouth goes over okay, and I even get a great tag out of this telling of the story,
though my lead-in is lame and I vow to come up with a different one. I close with a
joke about the long distance relationship app that my girlfriend and I both
downloaded that flatlines.

“You know what else is difficult? Making you people laugh. Thanks, I’m Jay Light.”
The crowd laughs and claps as I wave goodbye and go back to my seat. I nudge
Parker and ask if he’s ready to leave. He whispers, “yeah, let’s go,” and we go out
the side door leading to the parking lot. We walk back to my car, exhilarated from
the workout. That was tough, but man, was it ever worth it.
________________________________________________________________________

#108: Busy Wednesday, For Once
6/12/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Every barstool has someone on it. Every table is populated with two or three
people. I’ve got a good feeling about this. Lively Wednesdays don’t happen often.

I gather my belongings, take my post at the end of the bar, and take the stage. I
make my standard introductions and announcements, then start in on material
about my relationship with my parents. It goes over alright, but it can be
improved. Later, I realize that I need to put the joke in the present tense; it just
works better that way. (Theoretically, anyway. I haven’t tried the revised version
yet.)

I talk about working at an all-boys summer camp, and how inherently creepy it is
to talk about that. These jokes work the best out of my entire set, striking a chord
with a table of four up front. My next joke - a story about a slutty girl from my high
school - makes them laugh, but not as much as the camp stories. I think it may be
about the context I’m placing the story in. Maybe bookending the bit with
assumed parental disappointment is not the angle I need to go for.

I close with a story I’ve been working out for a few weeks now about a
miscommunication between me and my girlfriend that happened during a dispute
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on Facebook chat. It’s getting somewhere. This time, I throw in more of my
internal feelings about the situation, getting specific with my details and looking
people in the eyes as I talk. I get laughs in places I was hoping to, and a few I didn’t
anticipate. But there’s enough dead air that I know I need to do some editing.

I thank the crowd, then draw the first name out of the pitcher. The crowd claps
wildly as I read off the slip of paper. It’s going to be a good night.
________________________________________________________________________

#109: Tight, Butthole
6/14/13, 11:50 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

After changing, I come back to the front desk to see Jenna practically bouncing out
of her shoes. “You’ll never guess who just walked in to the bar.”

“Who?”

“Blake and Kyle from Workaholics.”

I drop my backpack in the ticket booth, then look towards the end of the bar. Sure
enough: they’re there, two hot girls and a schlubby-looking guy in tow. Holy shit. I
turn back to Jenna. “Did they sign up?”

“Their friend did, I think, but neither of them.” So they’re just here to watch. And
they’re sitting right up front. I have a moment where I wonder whether or not I
should do new stuff or tried-and-true material. I want to be funny for these
professional funny people. It makes sense.

Word spreads fast, but they’re only talked about in whispers. I write down my set,
scratch out jokes, and ultimately decide to just go with the flow. I don’t need to be
getting all up in my head about this. They’re just dudes.

I set up shop at the end of the bar, then take the mic and start the show. The room
is loud, but I remember to keep my voice even instead of yelling. I’m mostly
playing to the front of the room, anyway. I look people the eyes as I tell jokes about
my long-distance girlfriend, porn, and being threatened with a Jap-slap. I talk to a
man at the front of the bar who tells me he’s not a boob man, more of an areola
man, and I ask him some questions about why he’s chosen such a specific thing to
fetishize. Blake pays attention, nods at things, says, “okay” occasionally, but I can’t
tell if he’s actually into it or just fucking with me. The rest of their crew are
inattentive and talkative, which means there’s a possible shitstorm brewing. So
we’ll see where that goes.

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I finish my time, then start to draw a name out of the pitcher. One of the hot girls
yells, “THOMAS KELLOGG! THOMAS KELLOGG!” I look at her. “You know,
yelling his name won’t make me draw it faster.” She frowns, and I read the name
on the slip of paper. It’s not Thomas Kellogg. She frowns again while the crowd
claps.

Things go fairly normally. Kyle comes to my end of the bar at one point, gives me a
once-over. I ask, “how’s it going?” He gives me a weird look, says “okay,” pauses
again as I nod, then, “I’m just trying to get a Heineken,” and the bartender notices
him. I turn back to the stage, see that my time is almost done as a host, then find
Parker, who’s asked for a work in. I tell him he’s next. He nods.

Parker goes on stage and tells his jokes to a decent response. At one point, he talks
about the fact that Catholic priests molested boys, and Kyle loudly says, “NO.”
Parker turns to him. “Did you just say no? There’s proof.” Kyle looks away,
mumbles something about no, wasn’t him. “Am I hearing things? Did someone say
no?” Areola Man backs up Parker’s claim. Other cries of “I heard it!” come from the
back. Parker, deciding not to press the issue too much, says, “whatever,” and
moves on with the joke.

Later, we’re outside on the patio, hanging around, waiting for the right time to
leave. The Workaholics crew has moved outside by now. Parker overhears Kyle
tells the yelling hot girl, “man, I can’t believe that guy called me out,” then spins
the story to make Parker look like the bad guy. Parker catches eyes with Kyle,
glares at him. Kyle shrinks again. Parker takes a drag of his e-cigarette, then looks
at me.

“Time to go?” Parker nods.

On the drive back to Hollywood, Parker and I talk about the effect fame can have
on people. Sure, it can make you seem like hot shit, but there has to be a marriage
of confidence and humbleness. Otherwise, you just seem like a dick who can talk a
big game but can’t play. There’s no room for puffed-up chests and inflated egos
and preening. They’re all just distractions from creating good work. We don’t have
time for distractions.
________________________________________________________________________

#110: I'm In It For The Free Chicken Caesar Salad
6/16/13, 9 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’d tried to go to an open mic earlier, since I wanted to warm up a bit before my
spot here at Flappers, but the host of that show got blackout drunk and did five
minutes between everyone’s sets and I had to go before he could call me up. I was

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trying to suppress my rage on the drive to Flappers, but realized that would do me
no good. Why tamp it down? Why not just embrace the anger then move on?

I vent to my girlfriend and to Parker at the club, then decide it’s time to move on. I
have to be positive. Richy is counting on me to do a good job as a host. So are the
comics on today’s line up. So am I. Positivity, coming right up.

The crowd trickles in. A few friends have come to support my first MC gig, Other
people’s friends come too. We wind up with twenty-two in the audience. It’s going
to be a great show. I’ve got a good feeling.

Mihkel, the sound guy, introduces me, and I walk to the stage and gaze out at the
crowd. I’m pinched by nerves - nothing overwhelming, but enough to throw me off
balance a little bit. I tell jokes about my parents, about working at a comedy club
and as a freelance writer, about living in Hollywood and dealing with a house of six
roommates, but I’m fumbling words here and there, skipping parts of jokes, not
letting silence be a part of my act. What I intend to be my closing line - something
that always hits hard - gets zero response from the crowd, and, trying not to panic,
I switch gears and tell another joke. The one about how men can’t be rape victims
in North Carolina. Luckily, I’ve made the right choice, and this joke allows me to
close with a big laugh.

Satisfied, I bring on the first comic, then go out to the lobby to order dinner and a
drink. The other comics are reading through their notes on couches and barstools,
or smoking cigarettes outside, or just shooting the breeze until their time comes.
I’ll give them their drink tickets later. They’ve earned them.

The rest of the show goes off without a hitch. The last few comics - a visitor from
New York and two Flappers regulars - slay the crowd. I thank the crowd for being
so supportive, then wave goodbye and finish my gin and tonic. My friends tell me I
did a good job. The other comics thank me. I’m grateful. Even though I wasn’t
proud of my set, at least I have this praise to fall back on.
________________________________________________________________________

#111: Cool Baby Names
6/17/13, 9:30 PM: Open Mic, The Palace, Los Angeles, CA

As Parker and I drive past the restaurant, we see a spot right up front. Perfect. I
pull a U-turn at the light, only to find that some other asshole also saw the spot,
made an illegal U-turn, and is pulling into the spot. Parker flips him the double
bird when we drive past. We know we’ll see him inside at the mic, but we don’t
care.

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We park around the block, hastily eat our Chick-Fil-A, trudge to the restaurant,
and climb the stairs to the room where the open mic takes place. We put our
names in the lottery. Hopefully, we’ll get decent spots. We find empty chairs in the
back and claim them. Parker steps outside to puff on his e-cigarette while I go over
my set list for tonight one more time:

BLACKING OUT

FATHOM EVENTS

TWO HATS

DAD HARDY

It’s almost all new material, stuff I haven’t written a word of yet. This mic is about
exploring whatever terrible ideas I already have and seeing what can be polished
and refined. The drawing begins. I luck into one of the last five minute spots.
Perfect, plenty of time to play around.

This being a classic workout room, almost all of the comics do their time then get
the fuck out of there. Tonight is no exception; by the time I get on stage, there are
only ten people in the room, including me. But I can’t complain. This is what I
came here for.

My blacking out story gets pretty much nothing, save for one line that I make a
note about, so I don’t think the bit is worth exploring quite yet. My ranting about
the stupidity of Fathom Events’ attempts to bring opera to movie theaters and how
much I hated a guy who was wearing two hats get little more than nods and
chuckles, but that’s all I can expect to get here, especially with these half-baked
thoughts. Midway through Two Hats, I think I hear someone laugh in the back,
but it turns out they’re just having a coughing fit. I point this out and get the
biggest laugh of my set.

I close out with Dad Hardy, which goes over pretty well, like I was hoping it would.
I wave goodbye, shake the host’s hand, then go back to me and Parker’s post in the
back. “You ready?” He nods. As we leave out the back door, we overhear a kid say,
“you know, Shots would be a really cool name for a baby.”







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#112: Take Notes
6/18/13, 6:30 PM: Open Mic, The Laugh Factory, Los Angeles, CA

There are more familiar faces in line this week, waiting our turn to be called inside
to perform. Some of them have been hitting the open mic here for months, waiting
to move to the next level. They don’t understand why they haven’t advanced yet.

We get called inside, check in with this week’s host, and take our seats near the
front of the stage. I check over my set list, meticulously planned out last night with
Parker:

LONG DISTANCE APP

JAPAN

BROKE

INTERNSHIPS

POKÉMON

The prospect of having to be G-rated for three minutes is less daunting this week
than it was last time. I haven’t told a few of these jokes in months, but after some
minute revisions, I feel comfortable. I feel like this is a mic I’ll conquer. I sit back
and watch the cavalcade of comics before me. Some do well, some bomb hard.
This is to be expected.

My turn is finally up. I walk to the stage, take the mic out of the stand, and notice
a rubber band by my feet. I reach down, “I’ll save this for later,” and pocket it.
People laugh. I smile.

Every joke hits, even the ones with new wordings or fresh angles. The crowd
laughs wildly, clapping sometimes, and I end my set in the nick of time. I leave the
stage and take my seat, feeling proud.

After the show, Jamie, the manager, invites a third of the comics upstairs for a
chat. I’m part of the third. I climb the stairs and look at the apparent VIP area, all
dim lighting and curved couches and comedy memorabilia, and wonder if this is
the moment I’m hoping it will be, the moment when I’m asked to move on to
showcasing.

My turn to talk to Jamie comes up, and it becomes immediately apparent that this
is not that moment. However, this moment is equally important.

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Jamie asks what stand-up means to me. I think for a few seconds. “It’s a way for me
to be truthful. It’s hard to be honest about things, but on stage, I feel like I can be.”
Jamie nods, surveys me for a few seconds. He tells me that my material is solid, but
I’m not myself. He points at my face, “your eyebrows, your mouth, they are so
expressive right now, but on stage, nothing.” I fidget in my seat.

He says, “Trust yourself. You need to make the stage your home. Be as comfortable
there as you are talking to me.” I fidget again. “I know you’re uncomfortable now,
but you see what I mean?"

I nod. "Yes. Thank you.” Jamie extends his fist, “come back in a month.” I bump his
fist, tell him I’ll be back, then thank him and go back downstairs, back into the
June twilight.

My work has been cut out for me. We’ll see what he thinks in July.
________________________________________________________________________

#113: Sweet Time
6/20/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m tired and want to go home. I elect not to host the mic tonight, but I do want to
get a spot in, so I ask the manager if I can get worked in, and he says sure, so I let
the host know and wait until I’m called to go on.

The host takes his sweet time up top - doing nearly fifteen minutes - and draws the
ire of the already slight crowd. The energy in the room plummets to subterranean
levels. He gets a few laughs, sure, because he’s a funny dude, but this much time is
exhausting at an open mic, where the majority of the crowd is just waiting for their
turn.

He finally finishes up, then brings on the first few comics. I sit at the back of the
bar, looking over my notes for this week’s jokes. I need to try out the re-worked
bits on Fathom events and the douchebag wearing two hats. I want to attempt a
newish chunk about how technology has affected my long-distance relationship
that’s really just a few old jokes blended together and served up fresh. We’ll see
how much I can do in four minutes.

The host brings me on by saying I eat rusty nails for breakfast. I thank him, shake
his hand, and say, “glad to get a plug for my Rusty Nails O’s. Try them with motor
oil, they’re delicious.” A few people laugh. Decent start.

I tell the two hats joke, which works alright, save for a reference to The Sartorialist
that nobody seems to get. I’ll switch it to GQ next time. I’m feeling super loose. I
go off on a tangent about the girl the guy was with, then one about Dolce and
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Gabbana going to jail. “I don’t think any of you care, but, y'know, stay informed.” I
try out the Fathom Events bit, with a few new beats tacked on, and some of it
works, especially a line about my dad’s home movies being stolen. Neither of these
jokes are ready for primetime yet, but they’re on the road. They’re being crafted.

I get the light, so I know I won’t have enough time to do the whole dating
technology bit, but I tell the first part, which goes over smoothly and gets a big
laugh at the end, just like I hoped it would. It’s not like it’s this joke’s first trip
around the bar.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage, say my goodbyes, and drive home to get some
much-needed sleep.
________________________________________________________________________

#114: Standard Operating Procedure
6/20/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The second show gets cancelled, so I clock out early and have lots of time to
prepare for the show tonight. I go over my notes from earlier today, when I sat
down and wrote out more definitive versions of the Fathom Events and Two Hats
jokes. These will be my only jokes tonight. They’ll both run about two minutes,
and with a minute’s worth of announcements, I’m looking at a tight five up top.
This will be perfect.

I tell Erikka I’d like to get things started, then grab my materials and set up shop at
the end of the bar. I take the pitcher of names to the stage, switch on the amp, and
begin with “WELCOME TO THE MIC” and the standard announcements. The mic
cord falls out as I pull the mic out of the stand to start my jokes. I yell, “oh no!
What have I done?” as I scramble to put it back. The bartender dings the bell
behind the bar reserved for moments like this. Everyone laughs. This’ll do.

I finally reassemble the microphone, then start with the Fathom Events joke. It’s
definitely got some legs now, and while it’s far from perfect (although jokes are
rarely perfect) I can see the final form of it beginning to take shape.

The Two Hats joke goes over similarly: almost there, but not quite. The crowd
laughs in most of the places I hope they would, and it’s not much - comics, as you
know by now, are a notoriously tough audience - but it’s enough for me to know
where to adjust the joke from here.

At the end of the bit, I can hear someone go, “yeah, right,” in the back. I laugh. “I
am right. Thanks, random commenter.” A few guys chuckle. I say, “alright, that’s
enough. Let’s get started with the mic.”

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#115: Now That's What I Call Comedy! (Vol. 1)
6/21/13, 11:30 PM: Last Laugh Show, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I watch Parker pace around his living room. “I can’t believe I haven’t told you
about this before!” he exclaims. Then he spends the next five minutes explaining
the importance of tone in performance.

This is one of the best parts of the working relationship that Parker and I have:
we’re yin and yang. Parker went to acting school, where he spent four years
learning how to become a great performer, and I studied film, TV, and creative
writing, spending my four years focusing on learning how to become a great
writer. There are always new things we can teach each other to improve our craft
as comics. Today, that lesson is that I’ve been using my voice wrong in my telling
of jokes. “You’ve got to start low, then build,” he explains. “You’ve been doing it
the other way around. Don’t do that.”

On my break, after calling my girlfriend, I watch some of the comics performing in
the main room that night. I immediately notice that these comics - seasoned pros
of several years - are using the tone of their voice the way Parker described it to me
earlier. Building to a climax, undercutting at crucial moments for emphasis, going
from low to high instead of the other way around. Something clicks.

After I clock out for the night, I change out of my work clothes, write out a hasty
setlist, and check in with Mike, tonight’s host for the late show. I’ve got seven
minutes, and I’m going to spend them caring about my tone. The crowd is small,
only eleven people, but they’re going to get a great show tonight.

Mike introduces me and tells the crowd to give it up. I walk onstage, shake his
hand, take the mic, and look to my right at the one girl in the audience who isn’t
clapping. “You weren’t giving it up, shame on you! You’ve got to stay awake!” She
laughs. Everyone else joins in.

I run my Amber Alert line, which works as per usual, then start talking about
having graduated from college a year ago. It’s an old joke that I condense and
make better in the moment, drawing uproarious laughter from the crowd. I talk
about being broke. I point at a table and quip, “I can barely afford the ice in that
glass.” More laughter.

As I talk more about being broke and having to pick up random jobs to get by, I
catch myself almost falling back into my old speaking pattern, so, as a visual guide,
I make sure my hand starts out low, then moves higher up as I tell the joke. The
method works. My tone stays exactly where I want it to, building as the jokes go
on. The best part is how immediately I can see the change working in my favor.
Even one story that I can tell needs some revision in the middle - it’s missing some
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punchlines - doesn’t strike a chord of unconfidence in me the way not getting a
response used to, and by the end of it, the crowd is laughing harder than one ever
has at that joke.

I close with a chunk on how technology affects my long-distance relationship that
I’ve crafted by folding a few similar jokes into each other. They provide context for
one another very nicely, and I’m able to make my last line a callback to an earlier
joke from the beginning of the chunk. It’s the first callback I’ve ever pulled off.

“That’s my time, I’m Jay Light, thank you very much.” The crowd claps as I wave
goodbye. I head back into the Yoo Hoo Room lobby feeling exhilarated. Parker
drinks a Fat Tire on the couch, beaming at me. “That was great, dude!”

I nod, knowing that we’ll have much to discuss about this performance later. He
offers me the rest of his beer. I down it, then grab my backpack. It’s time to go
home and celebrate.
________________________________________________________________________

#116: Thanks, Friends
6/22/13, 4:30 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I have to help host a house party later tonight, so I opt to hit up the Lab instead of
doing the midnight mic. Besides, I already know what I want to talk about. I’ve got
two jokes I’ve been working on all week that I’m looking to finish polishing today.

The Lab is the perfect place for polishing, especially on a day like today when the
comics have come out in force and they’re attentive to boot. The show goes the
way it usually does, with the most captivating sets getting good notes and the
more “meh” ones getting pretty much nothing. That’s the beauty of the Lab. It’s
democratic. The room is designed to help the cream rise to the top and keep the
lesser jokes on the back burner until they can make this crowd give a care.

My turn comes up, and I take to the stage. I catch myself cheering when my name
gets called. I point this out as I put my notebook and phone on the stool. The
observation draws a couple chuckles. I’m just glad I’m getting better at staying in
the moment and commenting on it.

First up: the Two Hats joke. This mostly final form finds me talking about the
motivation of our dear friend Johnny Two Hats, wondering why the girl he was
with picked him, and being irrationally angry with clothing. The joke picks up by
the end, but gets enough laughs and smiles peppered through that I know I’m
getting close to the right way to tell this joke.

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My second and final joke is about my disdain of Fathom Events, the company that
asks the question, “did you know that opera is still a thing people watch?” A
reference to The Pirates of Penzance and a terrible New York Times quote both go
over very well with this crowd, but I trail off at the end and get not much response.
I need to find a better way to cinch this joke off.

Luckily, the comics in attendance are forthcoming with suggested improvements
and tangents worth exploring. They don’t talk for too long, but I get enough notes
to feel satisfied. I thank them, go back to my seat in the back of the room, and
write down what I was told. Next step: trying these in front of a real crowd.
________________________________________________________________________

#117/118: Welcome To The Jungle
6/25/13, 6 PM: Open Mic, Sal’s Comedy Hole, Los Angeles, CA

At 5, Grace - a friend from college who’s also a comic - pulls up to my house and
calls me. Today is her first day exploring the Los Angeles comedy scene, so she’s
tagging along with me on an open mic run. She’s graciously agreed to drive us. I
hop in the passenger seat, buckle in, and turn to Grace. “You ready?”

“Absolutely,” she says, grinning.

We’d gotten lunch a week earlier, so all of our catching up on what we’ve been up
to this year is pretty much done. Now, we mostly talk comedy. I direct her to
Melrose, in the direction of Sal’s, and squint to keep the sun out of my eyes. We
find a parking spot on a side street, make our way to the restaurant housing Sal’s,
and sign up. She declines performing today, citing that she just wants to learn a bit
more about the scene. I get it. She’s new. She’s got to test the waters. I order my
required beer, and one for her too, then we down them. I wipe my lips, put the
glass back onto the counter. “We’ve got to go.”

We make our way back to her car, then head north, towards Sunset. Our next stop
is at Rockpaper, where I buy my required croissant, sign up to go tenth, then head
right back out the door with Grace. If we time it out right, I’ll do my set at Sal’s,
then come right back here with a couple more comics to go until it’s my turn.

We return to a mostly empty Sal’s, find a table in the back. I survey the room: six
comics sitting in the strangely bright showroom, scattered to the far ends, not
talking to anyone else. Typical. The host gets the show going, then brings on the
first comic. He’s young and half-black and, oddly enough, talks about how he
thinks that Rosa Parks and the rest of the black people should have just had their
own separate bus back in the civil rights days. I laugh because I’m taken aback, but
also because I don’t think he realizes how racist he sounds.

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I get called up next. I take the stage, give the host my “I bought a drink here”
ticket, and look for the comic before me. He’s gone. I decide to talk about him
anyway, pointing out how white people probably spent all the civil rights money
on water fountains and extra doors. “Nothing left in the budget for more busses.” I
get a couple laughs, which is all I can hope for in a room like this. The riff makes
me feel a little uncomfortable, but ultimately I’m glad I took the chance.

I switch into actual material from here. First up are jokes about my relationship
with my parents, then jokes about being broke. Tried and true stuff. The jokes get
a decent response, which sets me up nicely to go into untested material. My first
new bit is about how I’d make a bad drug dealer because I know all the scientific
names for drugs. “Nobody wants to buy drugs from the smart kid,” I lament as I
hawk a fresh sheet of lisergic acid diethylamide to a girl up front who cheers. Ah, a
fan of drugs. How convenient.

I deliver my jokes about drugs right to her, getting some smiles and nods, and
close with some stories about going to Bonnaroo that I haven’t totally fleshed out
involving me being offered opium - which I declined, of course, since I don’t mess
with drugs popular in the Old West - and dealing with a fire at the food stand I
worked at. The opium bit gets a better response than the fire story, but I’ll take
some time to flesh them both out a little later on. I don’t see a light, but I know I
have nothing else to say, so I thank the crowd and leave the stage.

Grace and I dash back to her car. We’ve got places to go.

6/25/13, 6:45 PM: Open Mic, Rockpaper Coffee, Los Angeles, CA

We pull into a parking space on Fountain, walk up a block to the coffee shop, and
enter during a guy’s high-energy performance that mostly involves him yelling at
the table of three near the stage. They smile at him, but there’s fear in their eyes.
He keeps at it regardless.

I locate the host - a comic I’ve never met before who I only know is the host
because he’s clutching the list - and check to see where I am in the order, thinking
I’ll have a few more to go. Instead, I see a column of crossed-out names, leading to
my unmarked one. “I’m up next?” The host nods, “guess so,” and shuffles back
toward the counter. Alright then. I’m going in blind. This should be fun.

The comic on stage finishes, out of breath, then saunters over to a table near the
front of the coffee shop. The host says, “Coming to the stage, I hope you can meet
the energy of that guy, Jay Light!” The few people sitting down clap. The table of
three up front is still smiling, still into it, somehow. I shake the host’s hand and
take the mic. “Thank you. That’s impossible, but thank you.”

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I start with new-ish bits about having a good rapper name and having a real name
that’s too fancy for me, and am not surprised when they get a weak response, since
I’m never surprised to get nothing out of Rockpaper. The table of three is still
smiling. I transition into the drug dealer joke from Sal’s, saying basically the same
things in the same order, and get roughly the same response: general approval, but
nothing gut-bustingly hilarious. There’s something here, at least.

From here, I do the rest of my drug-related jokes from Sal’s, keeping the opium
story from the Bonnaroo section while leaving out the fire story. The chunk does
alright, but the opium bit doesn’t get the same reception it did thirty minutes ago.

I close with my jokes about freelance writing, and they go over about as well as I’d
hope they could. The table of three smiles at most of it and laughs at some of it.
That’s good enough for me. I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and go to the back,
by the milk pitcher and bags of sugar.

Grace and I catch eyes. I motion for her to come back with me. We leave through
the back door, out the gate that is actually locked, for once, and head back to her
car. That’s it for now.

Later that night, we go see a fantastic stand-up show called Holy Fuck inside a
movie theater. The show goes for nearly three hours, but I don’t even care; the
quality of the performers is so great throughout that it’s as much of a lesson in
performance as it is an entertaining evening. It’s the kind of show that, as I watch,
I can see myself performing on by the end of the year.

So there’s a goal.
________________________________________________________________________

#119: The Art Of Conversation
6/26/13, 11:50 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

From the get-go, I can tell this mic will be a good one. The comics are in good
moods. The room crackles with energy. As I take the stage, more people trickle in
and sit up front. I switch on the amplifier, then kick things off with the standard
“WELCOME TO THE MIC BLAH BLAH BLAH” and announcements about foods
and drinks and where the pitcher o’ names is. The comics clap.

I start out with the Rapper Name joke, which gets a decent response. The new line
about the croissant goes over well. From there, I tell the scraps I have of the “I
couldn’t be a good drug dealer” joke, and saying the real names of the drugs works
just as well as it always does. Next time, I’ll have a more fleshed out version.

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To break into the rest of my drugs material, I say to a guy sitting up front, “You
look like you enjoy drugs. What’s your favorite?” He bites. “Weed. No alcohol, no
nothing else, just weed.” This intrigues me. After telling him I like his style, I have
to ask: “why no alcohol?"

"Well, after I got arrested, I don’t want to deal with it any more.” Holy crap. This is
the meat. We talk about his arrest, for what he thought might be a DUI, he didn’t
know. My cries of “YOU DON’T KNOW?” get big laughs. We finish talking, him
still smiling, and after telling my one alcohol-related bit, I drop back into the drugs
material. Then, I thank the crowd, draw the first name out of the pitcher, and had
back to my station at the end of the bar.

On my way down, the guy I was talking to taps my arm. “Hey man, you’re a good
host. That was fun.” I grin. “Thanks, dude. Thanks for playing along.” He
introduces himself - Mason - and we exchange Twitter handles. Then I go back to
the clipboard, feeling proud. It turns out all it takes to get good crowd work is the
willingness to ask questions and be friendly. That’s not so hard.
________________________________________________________________________

#120: Engage Drunk Mexicans
6/28/13, 12:45 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I have to catch a plane early tomorrow morning, so I ask Erikka if I can host in the
middle of the mic instead of at the end of it. She doesn’t want to let me do it. She
just started a new job and wants to get some sleep tonight. I tell her I won’t be
sleeping tonight either, and I’ll also be waking up at six to make it to the airport.
She leaves with a defeated, “but you get to sleep on the plane!” before giving up
and letting me take a spot in the middle of the action.

While I wait to get the all-clear to clock out, I watch the cavalcade of comedians in
the bar, taking the stage one after another, hoping for laughs, getting few. I
wonder if open mics will ever seem less surreal to me. Although I’ve been doing
stand-up for nearly five years now, it’s still weird to watch an open mic. The level
of failure - even amongst good comics - is astounding.

I finally get my chance to take the stage after clocking out. A quick scan of the bar
before Erikka introduces me opens my eyes to the group of six young Mexicans
drinking heavily near the front of the room. This is my audience. Nobody else is
paying attention. At this time of night, the comics feel more inclined to talk loudly
about God knows what.

I start off with the joke about how I’d be a bad drug dealer since I know all the
scientific names of drugs. Name-dropping lisergic acid diethylamide draws some
big laughs from a girl at the table of Mexicans. She’s wobbling in her seat. I don’t
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get many opportunities to talk to drunk Mexican girls, so I take this one. I look
directly at her and ask, “you like drugs?"

Her friends burst into laughter. She holds up her drink. "Does alcohol count?” I tell
her of course it does, then lead into my own alcohol story: an old standby about
getting drunk and peeing on my belongings. They all laugh. Swell.

I ask her if she’s blacked out right now, and she says she’s not sure, maybe. So I ask
if she’s browning out, where she’s losing memories but still conscious. She doesn’t
know what it means, and keeps talking over my explanation, so eventually I just
decide to go with her interpretation and say to the bar, “I guess now getting drunk
while Mexican is browning out.” The table cheers.

I finish up with the last sections of my material on drugs, then thank the crowd
and grab the pitcher of names. I draw one out, go to my station at the end of the
bar, and start my timer. I have a few days off from mics after this. It’ll be nice to
take a breather.
________________________________________________________________________

#121: “I AM TRYING TO TELL MY JOKES!”
7/2/13, 7:20 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I get to the club while the open mic is still going on. I have a few hours until my
hosting spot, so I figure, “hey, better warm up, try out some new stuff,” and sign
up. I get the headlining spot. I have some time to kill, so I jot down a quick setlist,
shoot the breeze with a few other comics about the new Kevin Hart special, and
try to figure out what to order for dinner. I go with a pizza.

I’m hanging out at the end of the bar when a dreadlocked and suited-up comic
who has been frequenting the club lately starts yelling from the stage: “PAY
ATTENTION TO ME, YEAH, YOU, PLEASE BE QUIET, I AM TRYING TO TELL
MY JOKES,” so I watch him bomb for three more minutes. He gets off stage, still
smiling his crazy smile, and I look at the girl next to me. She’s as confused as I am.

After a few more names get called, mine comes up. I perform to five people. I start
with newer versions of the rapper and drug dealer jokes that involve me putting
myself in the shoes of both those professions. The change in point of view feels
more right, but I don’t think I’ve sold the material properly yet. It could use some
tweaking. For now, though, I’m just glad I’ve found the right tack to take with
these jokes, and doubly glad that I could make someone laugh out loud by
mentioning ego death.

I continue with a new bit about my most recent job as a swimming teacher, how
one of my students was a kid who almost drowned, and even though there’s not a
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lot of substance to the bit yet, the opening line - “It’s impossible to teach a kid to
swim after he’s seen death” - gets the best laugh I’ll get during the entire
performance.

I close with a little chat about my family reunion to New Orleans and how I didn’t
realize how drunk adults are all the time around children, and while it doesn’t
really go anywhere, I still see some smiles and nods and know that there is
potential here. I thank the sparse crowd, then grab my backpack from the end of
the bar and head to the Yoo Hoo Room. Time for pizza.
________________________________________________________________________

#122: Another Go-Round
7/2/13, 9:30 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The crowd starts off small, just north of the bare minimum required to run a show
here in the Yoo Hoo. But on my second go-round, I feel more solid in my hosting
abilities. This crowd may have fazed me before, but now, they’re just another
group of eight that I have to make laugh. Shouldn’t be a problem.

I take the stage after being introduced, make some announcements about the
bathrooms and tipping your waitstaff and filling out the raffle sheets, then start
with the jokes. I begin by talking about being too broke to steal from, then jump
into my internships bit. The crowd is a little too polite, laughing quietly instead of
uproariously.

I switch gears and talk to a guy up front about his job as an aerospace engineer.
Since my sister is trying to be an engineer, I actually have a little to chat with him
about. I use the scant momentum I get from this guy to segue into talking about
my own myriad jobs. The Jap-slap story goes over phenomenally well, and the
freelance writing bit gets a decent response too. I feel so confident that I even
throw in the one line from the swim teacher bit I tried at the mic earlier, and it
gets a similar response to earlier. It’s nice to know the bit has that kind of
potential.

I get the light, so I elect not to close with the jokes I’d planned about my longdistance relationship. Instead, I go with the Dad Hardy bit, which is a decent
choice, save for my final word: rape-y. That line, while a pet favorite of mine, is
unfortunately too controversial of a word to make a joke with. Even though my
joke isn’t about rape in any form, even mentioning it causes the audience to clam
up. I’ll fix it in post. For now, I diffuse the tension by saying how awkward I just
made things, get the laugh I was hoping for, then start with the first comic of the
night.

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A friend of mine in town from DC sits near the back with his lady friend, tells me I
did a good job, bumps my fist. He’s the best audience member the show even has.
While I’m a fan of all of the comics on the show, the audience has different ideas,
instead choosing to respond politely with chuckles and nods to most of the
comics. But I do my best to keep the show moving forward, and afterwards, my
friend and I go to grab a beer. He says it was one of the best local shows he’s ever
seen. I’m glad he had fun.
________________________________________________________________________

#123: Tired
7/4/13, 1 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m itching to host the mic for a bit then get out of there, but Dayve tells me he’s
getting ready to move and asks if I can host the last half of the mic, he’s just not
feeling it today. I tell him I’ll do the whole thing if he wants. He waffles a bit,
decides he’ll see how the first few comics go. “Sure, sure. Just let me know when
you’re taking off.”

Barry Sobel stops by for a visit. I hang out for an hour while waiting to host the
close of the mic. (my portion. that seems more accurate.) We talk at the back of
the bar and figure out what the hell each of us has been up to. He’s been in San
Francisco doing shows. I’ve been working my ass off.

I get my time. There are six people, all comics. I feel defeated before I even get to
the stage, and my performance is pretty phoned in. I try two new-ish jokes about
being a swimming teacher and going to New Orleans for a family reunion. The
swim teacher joke at least gets something, but the New Orleans bits don’t really
get me anywhere. Most of my time on stage feels a little wasted. I offer up a
defeated, “alright”, then grab the pitcher of names.

I get the six people out of there and leave by 1:30. I’m tired. It’s a late night . But
I’m glad to finish things up. It feels like a weird family gathering. As soon as the
mic ends, everyone is gone. Nobody hangs out outside. I miss everyone. All of a
sudden, I miss everyone, and want to hang out. It’s weird. I don’t get like that.
________________________________________________________________________

#124: Things Dead Kid Can Do
7/5/13, 11:50 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I change out of my work clothes and immediately figure out the situation for
tonight with Clarke. We decide two things: to get started early, and to give people
five minutes, since, well, it’s not overwhelmingly busy. I look over the jokes I’m
working on these days, pick out a few, jot them down:

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DRUG DEALER

TWO HATS

SWIM TEACHER

and take the stage. The Drug Dealer bit goes okay, but doesn’t get the response I’m
looking for. It’s not snappy enough yet. It needs some condensing. Two Hats goes
well, like it usually does, but also is in need of some cutting down. It sounds too
writer-y right now. Swim Teacher is improving, but, like the other two joke I’ve
chosen to tell, has too much setup and not enough punchline. They’re not
unfunny, thank God, but they can get to the funny faster.

I got through my planned material a lot faster than I’d planned on, and still have
about a minute and a half left. I throw in a few random bits that had been kicking
around my head in one form or another. First, I tell a story about working at
Flappers that I decide needs to be scrapped after tonight. It’s not funny enough
and too much of an inside story that it would be hard to tell at other places. Maybe
I can do something with its parts later on. Next, I tell an older joke about my
parents treating my moving out to Los Angeles with some trepidation. In the past,
this joke has flopped at a key location in the punchline because I didn’t make the
effort to really sell the act-out. This time, I sell it. Laughter scatters throughout the
bar. This is enough for now.

I take the pitcher of names, draw someone out, then shake their hand and head
back to my post at the end of the bar. I take out a pen and start making a list for
the Swim Teacher joke: THINGS DEAD KID CAN DO. I’ve got two down, I can
surely come up with a few more.
________________________________________________________________________

#125: Busting Out The Classics
7/6/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’ve got plans to grab drinks with a new friend tonight, so after getting cleared for a
work-in spot, I ask Josh if he can throw me on early so I can get out of here before
the bars start closing. He says sure, and just like that I’m going up third.

The bar is packed, thankfully, and the crowd is receptive early on. Josh brings me
to the stage. I set down my notes and take the mic out of the stand. Tonight, the
plan is to do a lot of material I’ve used in the past but haven’t brought out in a
while. Most of it has been re-tagged and restructured after the long, long
conversation Parker and I had the other night about what kinds of jokes do and
don’t work for me on stage. I’m coming to grips with all of my old material not

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being as good as I used to think it was and finally making attempts to salvage some
stuff but chunk the rest.

From here on out, I have to see if those old bits still work before I work hardcore
on newer bits. Luckily for me, most of what I’ve chosen to tell tonight still has legs.
I open with a bit about a kid who was really excited to see sand at the beach, then
switch into a joke about an Abilify commercial that could use some tightening in
the setup. A joke about Erectile Dysfunction/Premature Ejaculation pills that
Parker gave me a long time ago is weaker than I’d hoped it would be, but a joke
about losing my virginity brings the crowd right back into my hands. To close, my
“bad friend” joke gets mashed together with the death/benches joke and, in the
process, both jokes become sharper and funnier.

Closing on the laugh, I exuberantly thank the crowd, then wave goodbye, shake
Josh’s hand, and say some goodbyes as I walk down the aisle towards the exit.
Some comics smile and nod as I walk past, or put out their fists for bumping. I
oblige, of course. I can’t leave anyone hanging.

Later, my new friend and I drink Jim Beam on my back porch. The conversation
turns to standup. I find myself talking about the importance of control in
performing. When you’re up there, you have to have command of your words and
your audience. You want them to pay attention to your every word. Tonight, I feel
like I gave one of those compelling performances. Which is good, since I probably
won’t have a ton of those as I try out these jokes from long, long ago.
________________________________________________________________________

#126: Be Compelling
7/9/13, 6:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Parker, myself, and a few co-workers enjoy happy hour prices at the bar next door
while we wait our turn to go up. We’ve got about an hour, by my calculations, so
why not drink for cheap first? Parker gives me half of his sandwich while I stare at
my notebook. I’m only gonna have three minutes, since things are so busy, so I’d
better choose my jokes wisely.

After we’re done with our beers, we return to Flappers just in time. The population
in the bar is rapidly dwindling, with comics leaving to hang out in the lobby or on
the patio or at an entirely different open mic. Parker goes up first, does his time,
does alright. The crowd is on board with some of his dark musings, but by the end
they’re unreceptive. This seems to be the status quo for today’s mic.

Parker leaves the stage, and the host calls me up next. I thank him, shake his hand,
and take the mic, casually tossing my cell phone onto a table. It lands with an
ominous THUNK, so I check to make sure I didn’t crack the screen. “I can’t believe
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how nonchalantly I just did that. If people from back in the day saw us tossing
computers around the room, they’d probably be pissed.” A girl up front laughs for
a hot second, then quiets down again. I say something about throwing butter
churns around like they’re nothing, but it doesn’t get the same response. Maybe
there’s a joke to be had here. I’ll dig around a little bit later.

My first actual bit of the show is the story of the first time I had to break up with a
girl. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I prepared and rehearsed a speech. Yet,
when I got to her house, she basically told me she’d seen it coming, it’s all good,
and I left confused and angry. Why didn’t she say something earlier? I try to
convey this anger and embarrassment in the bit, but it doesn’t come off quite right
yet. I don’t get to the heart of the story fast enough, or show enough attitude. The
joke dies an untimely death. I’ll see if I can revive it later.

I then tell the Two Hats joke, which I’ve been honing for a couple of weeks now. It
also gets a lackluster response, aside from the lines that have worked from the first
time I told the joke. As I listen back later, it’s obvious why it didn’t go over well:
I’m not getting my attitude across. I sound bored, like I’m reciting lines more than
truly telling a story. This is unacceptable.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and write down ATTITUDE in my notes. I’ve
got to get better about having one. No more tepid storytelling. I’ve got to take a
firm stand. That’s what’s compelling.
________________________________________________________________________

#127: The Planets Are Aligned
7/10/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Things are lively tonight. The bar is full of faces familiar and foreign. I’m in a good
mood, to boot. This is going to be a good mic. The planets are aligned.

I take the stage, make the standard announcements, then kick things off with my
material. “I used to be a camp counselor.” I get some cheers from the table closest
to the stage. Good, someone to talk to. I briefly ask the table about their camp
experiences, then tell them my own. They eat it up, particularly when I bring up
how creepy it is to talk about working at an all-boys camp.

I decide to ask some more questions. A girl in the middle of the table appears to be
the resident camp counselor amongst this group of friends, so I find out that she
taught soccer for two years at a military camp where they had parades and
marched around. I wasn’t able to find anything really funny to say about any of
this, but I was glad to be having the conversation in the first place. It’s one of the
few moments that I’ve actively felt like I was engaging with the crowd, simply by
engaging with this one audience member. It’s about having a conversation.
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I go back into material, trotting out an old joke about getting Mavis Beacon
Teaches Typing for my birthday. It hasn’t seen the light of day in months, but I feel
like it deserves another chance. My instinct turns out to be right on the money.
The table up front loves the story, and the rest of the crowd likes it well enough.
The second half isn’t as strong as the first, but the final line of my joke is a decent
capper for now. Satisfied with my set, I grab the pitcher of names and make my
first drawing, hoping the planets stay aligned for the rest of the night. Everyone
deserves to have a set that good at an open mic every once in a while.
________________________________________________________________________

#128: Gonna Change The Game
7/12/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

After some initial confusion, Erikka and I work things out so that she can leave and
I can host the open mic for the second half. Things got started early, so she decides
to take off just before 12:30. I tell her I’ll be ready. She nods, then goes back to her
post at the end of the bar. I figure out what the hell I’m going to talk about.

Sean, a comic I’d been shooting the breeze with earlier, leaves as I put the finishing
touches on my setlist for the evening. I tell him to have a good night. He thanks
me, starts out the door, then turns and steps back inside. “You know what I like
about you, Jay?” I look at him, shake my head. “You’ve got a good soul. It’s too
good for comedy. But that’s why you’re gonna change the game.” I smile and thank
him. He nods, flashes a peace sign, then leaves into the night.

It’s about that time, so I wander over to the end of the bar and tell Erikka I’m
ready. She brings me on to a fair amount of cheering and applause. The bar is filled
with regulars. Comics line the tables, the bar, the walls. We’re packed to the gills.

I start with the typing software joke. It doesn’t work as well as the night before, but
certain parts that worked yesterday get laughs tonight. What it really needs is a
good analysis. There’s way more places to find punchlines than I’m giving this joke
credit for right now. I’ll keep it in the development pile for now.

Then I tell the story of losing my virginity, which goes over pretty fantastically.
Sure, there are little tweaks that can be made in the telling of the story, especially
right up front, but this joke has graduated from the development pile. It’s ready for
a spot in the stable.

The next bit is one about a church sign I saw proposing that April Fool’s Day is
atheist Easter. I offer up some other ridiculous atheist holidays, but the order I
choose to talk about them in leaves something to be desired. This is another bit
that’s got a lot of trial and error built in to find which tags get the best response
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from the crowd. I’m not too worried, though. The crowd likes what I’ve got to
some extent already, and the idea of atheist holidays is ridiculous enough to get
laughs right out of the gate.

I close with a story about a guy at work who wanted me to make change so he
could go buy drugs. I throw in one new line at the beginning - “You’ve come to the
right place, mysterious Armenian!” - and even though I step on the laugh after the
line comes out, knowing that it can still get a reaction is good enough for me. The
rest of the joke still isn’t quite to the level I’d like it to be yet, but these things take
time. You probably know that by now.

I thank the crowd for being so great, then start drawing names. We’re gonna be
here until two in the morning, we might as well try and get as many people on
stage as possible tonight.
________________________________________________________________________

#129: Typical Hollywood Bullshit
7/12/13, 11:30 PM: Eleventh-Hour Comedy, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m clocked out just fifteen minutes before the show’s supposed to start, only to
find that we’ve got a total of two people here. Great. Now, after being stressed due
to the busy shift I just came from, we might not even have a show? Fucking
awesome.

Some more people show up. A couple of guys I’d been helping with a pilot off and
on (it’s hard to help work on a shoot when the shoot happens while you’ve got
your actual, paying job) come by, ostensibly to support me, but they balk at the
two item minimum. “We don’t drink,” one of the guys says, and I tell him he
doesn’t have to get alcohol, just two things. Soda. Some cookies. Bottled water,
even. He says he’ll mull it over, then wanders outside.

We wind up with seven people right at 11:30, which means the show is a go. I grab
the sound guy to get things started, then take the stage to as much applause as
these seven can muster. “This feels like we’re hanging out in my basement.” A
couple chuckles. I can see everyone who is in the Yoo Hoo Room. They’re all
sitting up front.

After giving the standard announcements, I start in on material. My first joke, the
one about the optimistic kid I saw on the beach, I’m trying as an opener for the
first time, and thank God I did. Turns out to be a great one. The crowd loves it, I
love it. Everybody wins. I go into my material about living in Hollywood - a
surprisingly dangerous neighborhood - with six people, dealing with homeless
people, the old standbys, and they perform as expected. Ms. Thirteen is the only

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one that falls a little flat, but maybe it’s just that this crowd isn’t as up to date on
their information regarding gangs.

I talk to the couple to my left, ask them some questions about their relationship
that don’t really go anywhere funny or interesting, then talk about my own
relationship. The perils of dating long-distance seem to hit home with this crowd,
and I’m able to close as strong as I opened. I thank the crowd, do my best to fire
them up with a hearty, “are you ready for your next comic?” They are.

The first comic performs, and I leave the room to snag a bottle of water. Looking
around the lobby, I realize that my “friends” from the pilot have ditched me, after
being “so excited” to come check out my show. I shake my head. Typical
Hollywood bullshit.

Later, as I do my due diligence and analyze the set, Parker helps me realize that
I’m falling into old patterns. I’m throwing in filler words - uh, like, y'know, etc. -
and not using my voice to its full potential. I’m acting not as myself on stage, but
as someone I feel like is what a stand-up comic should be, like I did back when I
was getting started. It doesn’t feel right. I don’t like it. In my notebook, I write
Parker’s advice: “Stop being the comic you imagine yourself to be. Be the comic
you are.”
________________________________________________________________________

#130: Free Cupcakes
7/13/13, 4:30 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There are free cupcakes in the Lab today, and everyone is happy. I eat two. The
frosting is super-sweet. It leaves a weird, sugary taste in my mouth. I grab a bottle
of water to try and wash it down. I don’t want to be telling jokes with frosting
stuck in my teeth.

The turnout today is great. There’ve been way more comics showing up to the Lab,
which is always a good thing - the feedback is always better. More people are
willing to take a risk and say something constructive. I hate it when people are too
timid to voice their opinions at the Lab.

My name gets called. I take the stage, pull the mic from the stand. Today’s goal is
to knock out a bunch of material from my “development” pile. First up: the drug
dealer joke. This time I tell it with a new lead-in, and it works better than usual,
though the end of the joke needs some more punching up.

From there, I talk about the Abilify commercial that bothered me so much because
it equated depression to holding an umbrella all the time. There are funny parts to

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the joke, but a solid chunk of it gets no response. Might need to be reconfigured
from the ground up.

I continue with the joke about the pill that cures premature ejaculation and
erectile dysfunction, but it gets nothing. Absolutely nothing. Maybe it’s time to put
that one out of its misery.

I finish with the bit about losing my virginity, which goes over about as well as it
has been the past few times I’ve taken it out. I thank the crowd, then steel myself
for the feedback. The only critiques are directed at my opener and closer for this
set. People think I should name off the drugs more casually for the drug dealer
joke - to make it conversational - and to go off on weirder tangents when I bring
up LSD. They also think that it’s funny to talk about me doing creepy things, like
having sex near a playground, because I don’t come off as creepy normally.
Considering both of these points, I take my notes, wave goodbye, then walk off to
mild applause.

This was productive.
________________________________________________________________________

#131: Just To See How It Feels
7/14/13, 1 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I get off late, and most of the comics at the bar have stopped paying attention by
now, so I don’t expect this set to go too terribly well. But, in an effort to push
myself, I decide to do all “development” material, so I can see if anything is worth
keeping outright. If it does well with this crowd, it’s worth giving another chance.

Parker, who’s taken over hosting duties at this point, lets me know I’ll be up next. I
jot down a setlist:

AXE BODY WASH

TESTICULAR CANCER

TWENTIES

PE/ED

ATHEIST EASTER

then order my drink and brace for impact. The comic before me finishes. Parker
calls my name. I head to the stage, take the mic out of the stand, plop my
notebook on a table. Let’s get started.
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The AXE joke goes fairly well, which surprises me. I tell the different pieces out of
order by accident, but the audience doesn’t seem to care. It makes the cut. The
next joke, though - one about the first doctor’s visit where I was told I’d have to
check myself for lumps from here on out - gets supremely messed up. I tell it all
wrong, and get basically nothing from the crowd. I’ll have to learn this joke better
before I try it again. Hopefully it’s actually funny.

The jokes about me being in my twenties and not knowing how to be a real adult
get a few errant chuckles, but I don’t convey the attitude I’ve got written on the
page, and they get more silence than laughter. To cap it off, I spoil the punchline
by accident, meaning that these couple of bits are going nowhere fast. I like the
point of view I had when I wrote the jokes, now it’s just a matter of tapping back
into that frustration.

I tell the PE/ED joke one last time, just to hear nobody respond to it and certify
that it’s time to put the poor joke out to pasture. It’s done. The atheist holidays
joke works okay as a closer. It’s worth keeping around. Telling that joke in this set
was more so I don’t feel like this was a total loss.

And really, it’s not. Sure, I told some jokes that flat-out didn’t work, and the ones
that people did laugh at only got laughs for a few seconds each time. But I didn’t
expect this set to knock people’s socks off. This is for my own records. This is to
build off of.

I thank the crowd, smiling, then wave goodbye and walk off the stage. Parker still
has to host for the next hour, so I make my way out to the patio and shoot the
breeze with some other comics. I should do that more often.
________________________________________________________________________

#132: It Takes Commitment
7/16/13, 6 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Beforehand, none of us really know what’s going on. We’ve been told that they’re
switching the format of the mic, moving it to the main room and making it a
feedback mic for the Flappers podcast. The comics balk at this. We just want to
perform, we don’t want to get recorded and critiqued on top of it.

The feedback portion lasts for three comics, then end, luckily. I skate right past the
deadline for when they stop giving out feedback, so now I’m first up at the actual
mic.

I’m telling a joke I have never told to its fullest extent yet. It’s generally about my
experience playing baseball as a kid, but specifically about the one time I was
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allowed to pitch. I walked two batters, then they pulled me from the game. I was a
damn embarrassment.

The joke involves a long act-out from my point of view, which is a little nervewracking. It requires commitment to the bit at a level that most of my jokes don’t.
I have to give it my all or this doesn’t stand a chance. So I give it my all. It gets a
very warm reception from the crowd, about as warm as I can hope for something
so raw, and I’m thankful that I take the time to pitch all eight balls before ending
the act-out.

Sam, a comic I look up to who does a lot of shows at Flappers, tells me he likes the
bit. He can see where it’s going. He likes the potential it has. I’m happy to hear
that he enjoys something I made. I trust his judgment.
________________________________________________________________________

#133: Treat It Like The Real Thing
7/18/13, 8 PM: Open Mic, Echoes Under Sunset, Los Angeles, CA

My girlfriend surprises me for a visit, but at her request, we’re trying to not treat
things like a vacation. That means doing mics. I tell her these are the last open
mics she’ll ever have to come with me to. She seems relieved. She laughs.

I put my name in the lottery then order a drink. The bartender here remembers
that I drink Tecate instead of PBR, even though I haven’t been here for a few
weeks. He hands me a can immediately. I thank him and start a tab.

Eventually, I get drawn. I’m going twenty-third. Thankfully, everyone’s doing
three-minute sets, so I don’t have to wait for too terribly long - just about an hour.
The room, mostly empty save for a few comics who wait for their turns in the back,
ebbs and flows response-wise, with some comics just plain doing better than
others. Maybe that’s more about skill. Lately, it seems like it is.

The host brings me to the stage, shakes my hand. Just as I take the mic out of the
stand, I see people coming back into the room from the bar. It’s energizing. I start
my jokes with one about being a swimming teacher for a kid who almost drowned,
which I’ve been working out for a few mics now. The bit starts to feel like it’s
getting somewhere. Now it’s just a matter of discovering which avenue to turn
down next. I continue with stories about my other jobs, like the time a guy gave
me money and asked for change (for drugs), and the time I gave someone
apparently inadequate directions. The bit about directions goes over better than it
ever has before, though I’m not sure if that means it’s a joke worth keeping yet. I
already suspect it isn’t; it turns into a dick joke fairly quickly, which I’m afraid
comes off as lazy. It feels lazy to me, anyway.

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I close by telling some stories about dealing with technology in a long-distance
relationship, old standbys, and they work as planned. I thank the crowd, then
leave the stage and sit down next to my girlfriend again. The host calls me “Jay
Light, the bad boy of comedy,” and I raise my beer can to him. I tell my girlfriend
that we’ll watch three more comics, then leave. And we do, because we still have
another mic to go to.
________________________________________________________________________

#134: A Christmas (In July) Miracle
7/18/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Nobody is here. The shows were weirdly delayed tonight due to a sewage issue the
night before - long, unrelated story - and by the time I arrive, everything is long
done. There can’t be more than thirty people in the building - including the
employees. But the show will go on, of course, and after ordering a pizza and
drinks for me and my girlfriend, I get things started. I take the pitcher on stage,
turn on the amp, and start making announcements.

My set goes fairly well, considering the amount of people. I start with an old joke
that’s got a new bit. The new part gets some laughs, enough for me to know that
I’ve got something worth coaxing out. The next bits are ones I’m just dusting off to
see if they can make the jump to my regular stable of jokes - two stories about my
family. One’s about my parents being freaked out about me moving to Los
Angeles, the other is about my grandpa giving me Christmas gifts. They both go
over well. They’re both ready for graduation.

I close with stories about my other jobs as a swim teacher and freelance writer, and
they go over about as well as they have been lately. The writer bit gets a little less
of a response, but I mess up the telling, so I can wholly take the blame for that.
Regardless, I’m happy with my set.

I draw names out of the bucket for an hour and a half. We’re finished before one
o'clock. This has never happened before. My girlfriend and I go outside, talk to the
comics a little bit, then go back to my house. I have to give her a ride to the airport
in the morning. We need to try and get some sleep.
________________________________________________________________________

#135: Shave That Back
7/20/13, 4:30 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Jake decides to bite the bullet for all of us, taking the stage first once we’ve all filed
in to the Yoo Hoo Room. He tells his jokes - stuff about his parents, a topic he’s
been hitting a lot lately - then, when he’s finishes, looks around for raised hands.
Stuart, another comic, goes first: “Your back hair was distracting to me. I think you
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should trim up some.” I can’t stop laughing. None of us can. Jake nods, looking
bemused but a little defeated.

Eventually, my turn comes up, so I head to the stage and take the mic. I talk about
being broke, throwing in the new intro from last night about becoming a dad to
get free stuff. Then I talk about my love of burgers, and how I spend a lot of my
time looking at pictures of them on the Internet. It turns out to be the only joke
nobody gives me notes on. Next, I turn to a story about breaking up with a girl
only to find that she had already planned on breaking up with me. I get a few
laughs in the set-up, but my punchline gets nowhere. “Okay, that metaphor didn’t
work,” I mutter, checking my set list for the last thing I wanted to talk about.

That last thing: youth group. A brand new joke for today, I talk about how weird it
is to deal with hormones and learn about Jesus at the same time, and how we
didn’t really even do a lot of overtly Christian things in youth group. The lines go
over okay, especially my final sentence where I lay out what we really spent our
time doing. Thanking the comics, I replace the mic in the stand then pull out my
pen to take notes on my critiques.

First up, a suggestion to flip a couple of words in the youth group joke to make the
surprise of the punchline hit harder. Fair. Easily fixed. Good. Next, a comic tells me
that the metaphor I’m going with in the breakup joke right now - something about
how it was like I’d told her her roommate was dead - is way too macabre. “It needs
something mundane for her to react to,” I’m told from the back of the room, and I
finally realize why that joke wasn’t working. It was just too much. It needs to be
reined in some. Lastly, it gets mentioned that my opening bit from today - the one
about being a father to get free stuff - is completely irrational since babies cost a
bunch of money to raise, but that’s worth exploring even more. I grin. That’s an
angle I’d been considering since writing the joke yesterday, but hearing someone
else bring it up only makes me want to talk about it more. I’m glad we’re in
agreement.

I thank the comics again, wave goodbye, then hang out in the back of the room for
a little bit before heading to the bar to order some dinner. Gotta eat before I clock
in. Can’t be selling tickets on an empty stomach.
________________________________________________________________________

#136: Blame It On Comic-Con
7/21/13, 1 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There are five people left in the bar by the time I get off work, which is unheard of
for a Saturday night. Blame it on Comic-Con.

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I’m headlining, since I don’t really have any other choice, but this really is more of
a conversation than a typical performance. I take the stage with no plan, deciding
to talk about a new Kool-Aid commercial I saw earlier that day. The three comics
still listening talk back to me, ask questions about this new, CGI Kool-Aid man
that I describe for them, and we laugh and get weird and smile at each other.

“Hold on, guys, I have to take care of this, try out some actual material, you know.”
I lean back onto the stool, then tell a slightly tweaked version of the youth group
stories I’d told at the Lab earlier today. The changes, while minor, make a big
enough difference that I know I’ve got to keep them. I get the light, then put the
mic back in the stand and thank the crowd. That’s it.

We all drink for a few minutes, chat about whatever is on our minds, wonder why
nobody is here - again, Comic-Con - and, once my glass is empty, I decide now
would be a great time to catch up on some sleep. So I bid adieu to the bar and
head home. No sense in getting worn out over nothing.
________________________________________________________________________

#137: You Snooze You Lose
7/21/13, 9:45 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

As I wrap out my register for the night, I notice that one of the comics still hasn’t
shown up. I check the clock. It’s 9:30. The show started thirty minutes ago. If he’s
not here by now, I doubt he’s showing up. A plan starts to form in my head.

I bring my cash box to Will, my manager, then ask if I can take this latecomer’s
spot, since it’s looking more and more like he’s just going to be a no-show. Will
mulls it over, then nods. “Sure, why not.” I thank him, then clock out and change
into my civilian clothes. I hate performing in my work uniform.

Once I’m out of my tie and suspenders, I tell Kyle, the host, that I’ll be taking the
open spot. He double-checks on what I want my intro to be, then lets me know I’m
up in two more. Perfect. I don’t have my book on me, so I don’t worry about
planning out a setlist beforehand. Why bother? It’s been more fun lately to fly by
the seat of my pants.

I get called to the stage as a Flappers regular, then start: “I’m so regular, you just
bought a ticket from me. I’m literally a slave to this place.” The crowd emits a
collective cackle. We’re off to a good start. I talk about being a college graduate,
working a minimum wage job, and dealing with being broke. It’s slow going to
start, but I can tell they’re starting to warm up to me.

I decide to tell a surefire winner, the Jap-Slap bit. The first part of the joke shocks
them awake, but the second part is the real kicker, and my explanation of this
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racist old man’s ideal comedy club gets an applause break amidst laughter echoing
through the room. I take a minute for the crowd to quiet down before beginning
my next work horror stories: the freelancing jokes. My go-to story about an irate
client gets more big laughs and applause. It needs some condensing - the telling
this time is a little too loose - but I’m glad that even when it’s flawed, it does
alright.

I could go further, but I get the light, so I switch gears and talk about my longdistance relationship, and how technology isn’t as helpful in maintaining it as I’d
like it to be. I pause in between examples longer than I have in the past, which
works in my favor - the crowd laughs a lot longer. I end early, on the big laugh,
thank the crowd, shake Kyle’s hand, and get out. I call my girlfriend on the patio to
tell her about how well the set went. She always likes hearing about that.
________________________________________________________________________

#138: Be Our Guest
7/23/13, 5:45 PM: Flappcast Taping, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’ve been roped into being one of the guests on the podcast today, so I’m forced to
keep one eye on the main stage and one eye on my work while I wait for my turn.
A handful of people watch the taping, but this is far from your standard stand-up
show. The two hosts talk with the headliner for this week, an old comedic standby
named Jimmy Brogan who used to be the head writer on the Tonight Show. I’ve
been told that I’m going to do a set then get critiques, but I have no idea what to
expect. Especially from Jimmy.

I finally time it out right to where I can clock out immediately before getting on
stage, then after a couple seconds of waiting for my name to get called, I make my
way up. I start off with a throwaway line about my work uniform - “this is all from
the My Little Stockbroker play set” - since I feel obligated to talk about it. I go into
real material from there, talking about my relationship with my parents and how it
feels like they still aren’t cool with me living in Los Angeles. From there, I decide
to forego telling the rest of the planned jokes - more about my family - and talk
about my freelance writing job instead. Something in my gut tells me it’s the better
path to take. Turns out, it is: everyone in the room cracks up. It’s not an earthshattering laugh, but it’s strong enough that I’m glad I went a different direction
with my set.

I finish the bit, then thank the crowd and take a seat on the couch next to Jimmy.
He goes first, and doesn’t give me the note I expect: “When you started your set,
you were looking down. That makes the audience think you don’t care about them.
That’s not good.” He says my writing is fine, and I’m funny, but this one simple
note - a change that has never occurred to me, somehow - is one I can easily start
implementing. I thank him, impressed and grateful.
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My boss tells me I should come up with more jokes about my work uniform. I
smile and nod and take her suggestions, even though I know I won’t follow her
advice. I hate performing in my uniform and try to avoid it as much as possible, so
I don’t see the point in adding to a joke I don’t plan on using normally anyway.

My time as the guest comes to a close, so I thank everyone for paying attention,
then leave the stage and clock back in. Looking up when I start off. That makes so
much sense. How didn’t I see it before?
________________________________________________________________________

#139: The Worst Comedy Venue In America
7/23/13, 11:15 PM: Big Fish, Glendale, CA

In 2008, an episode of the TV version of This American Life about stand-up
comedy aired, featuring this particular show in the opening segment. I didn’t have
Showtime because my parents never spent money on the premium cable channels
- too many stray boobies for me and my sister to spot, probably - so I never saw
this clip until, after being booked to perform at Big Fish, I heard from my friend
Justin that it was featured. I’d heard horror stories from Justin and a handful of
other comics who frequent Big Fish, but this clip was all I needed to know what I
was about to walk into.

After I get off work, I drive the unlit streets of Glendale, looking for the bar. I spot
it on a side street - a tiny little shack - then pull over, park, and stroll in. The
comics all sit, scowling, by a pool table. A group of four people sit up front. An
empty pitcher and one full of beer both sit on the table. They’re talking to the
comic as she tries to tell her jokes. She talks back. She has to. There’s no other
choice.

I check in with the host, Swan, then sit down next to my buddy Emilio and pull out
my notebook to try and cobble together a set list. Yet, as soon as I write down “Big
Fish” and underline it, I realize that there’s no point in making a plan. Trying to
fight to finish a set from start to end is just going to make me frustrated here. I
shut the book, then get my recorder ready on my phone. The immortal words of
Bill O'Reilly echo in my head: “we’ll do it live. Fuck it.”

The comic before me finishes, and says her goodbyes while Swan rollerblades back
onstage. He starts my intro: “this guy has never been here before, so give him a
classic Big Fish welcome - Jay Light!” Someone at the drunk table whoops. I make
my way to the stage, shake Dave’s hand, then, as I take the mic out of the stand,
am interrupted by Drunk Woman 1, who asks her companions: “Is this Ted?”

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“No, I’m Jay. What’s your name?” It’s April. I tell her I have a friend named April
that I haven’t seen in a few months, so she can be my new friend April. She seems
happy to hear this. I start out with jokes about my age - sometimes, it still helps to
look like a child - and get scattershot laughs from Drunk Table, who join in on
making jokes with me, throwing out tags that amuse them more than they amuse
me. But some of them are worth thinking more about, particularly Drunk Man 1’s
suggestion that my face should be on a milk carton.

From there, I do a weird reminiscing riff on the games they had on milk cartons
back in elementary school. It goes nowhere, but I get a chance to connect with
Drunk Table a little more. I go back into material, talking about living in
Hollywood and dealing with homeless people and gangs and a house of six people
and yadda yadda et cetera. The jokes all land wonderfully, with the highlight of the
act being when Drunk Woman 2 finally laughs, nods, and says “That’s actually
funny!” when I tell a joke about superhero impersonators on Hollywood Boulevard.

The nice part is, unlike in the profile, the hecklers here tonight are relatively
harmless. Sure, at one point a heckler tries to make me unwittingly look like I’m
giving the microphone a blowjob - something I catch onto immediately, heighten,
and bring the Drunk Table to applause with - and one of them mutters “white
power” when I make a joke about gangs, but they’re not out to get me. They’re just
drunk and talkative. At an actual comedy club this behavior would get them
thrown out, but here, they’re just being good customers. There’s no point in
getting mad. I just have to win them over.

I finish with the haunted house bit, then thank the crowd and leave the stage,
high-fiving all four drunks at the Drunk Table as I go. Swan rollerblades back up,
then starts introducing the next comic. I sit back down next to Emilio. He nods,
impressed. Then we both decide it’s time to get out of here. We thank Swan for the
time, then go back to our cars. The streets are still unlit, save for a few yellowing
street lamps in the distance. I drive toward them.
________________________________________________________________________

#140: The Moment
7/24/13, 8 PM: The Sardo’s Comedy Experience, Sardo’s, Burbank, CA

The bus ride over to Burbank is less stressful than I thought it was going to be. I
read on the thirty minute trip. I see no reason to worry about my set.

I’m the first comic at the venue, so I order a drink and find a table. Mike, another
comic on the show, comes in, spots me. I wave him over. I’ve never really talked to
Mike, but I see him around Flappers all the time. Turns out, he used to work there
too, so we swap stories about our boss and talk shop. I lament my lack of

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substantial income, telling him that this is the first show I ever took a bus to. He
sympathizes for a moment, then asks how old I am.

“22,” I reply.

“Right now,” he continues,“you’re living in the moment. And that’s a beautiful
thing. Don’t let that pass you by.” I nod. There is something inherently exciting
about not totally knowing my next move. I’ve been feeling more of that lately.

The show gets started roughly on time. The host opens things up nicely, then turns
it over to a comic who doesn’t have the same luck. He bombs, and bombs hard.
The crowd gives him a little laughter, but most of his set is filled with bar chatter
and the hum of neon lights and air conditioning. I’m following him, which means
my work is cut out for me: just bring the crowd back. It’s a somewhat daunting
task, but I’m up to it. I’m still going up without a plan. I’d rather stay in the
moment.

I get called to the stage and dance to my “bring-on” music for a hot second while I
try to get the mic out of the stand, fumbling around until I’ve got my bearings. I
start: “I saw this kid on the beach,” and am immediately interrupted by a drunk
woman: “you’re a kid!” I sigh. “Yes, let’s get that out of the way. There’s probably
an AMBER Alert out on me right now.” Laughter. Drunk lady shuts up. I go back to
my original joke - the one about the optimistic kid who loves the worst parts of
things - then tell some classics: bits about being broke, about my myriad jobs,
about my parents weird feelings about me moving to Los Angeles. The Jap-Slap bit,
told in the middle of the set, gets the biggest laugh of the night, even garnering a
big applause break. My other jokes all land pretty well - save for the Swimming
Teacher bit, which is still being worked out, but I felt like telling it here - but that
one, far and away, is the best part of my set.

The crowd cheers and claps as I leave the stage. Another comic immediately pulls
me outside and starts giving me tags for jokes. I smile and nod as I listen to his
ideas, filing away a couple for potential future use. I go back inside, watch Mike’s
set, then pay for my beer and walk back to the bus stop.

I could get used to this.
________________________________________________________________________

#141: Crash and Burn
7/25/13, 11:50 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’ve been on a roll lately, so maybe I came into this one a little hot. I had a new bit
to try out, some stories from when I was in youth group as a teenager, and I

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planned on sandwiching it between other jokes I have involving religion. The joke
sandwich usually works at open mics. Maybe I was just too cocky.

My name gets called, so I saunter up to the stage and thank Erikka. Then, instead
of telling a joke right away, I talk about the masking tape on the microphone.
There’s no reason to talk about it. The crowd doesn’t react. I decide to start telling
jokes.

All three of my lead-in jokes to the youth group bit are met with silence. Stark,
unblinking silence. I feel my face drop for a second. “O-kay,” I mutter, looking out
at a sea of eyes all politely staring at me. I have no choice but to drop in the youth
group bit, which, amazingly, makes one person laugh. I’m ecstatic. Granted, it’s
only one punchline in the entire joke that elicits a response, but it’s something
other than silence, thank God.

I finish with my joke about teaching swimming, which gets silence. Then, I utter,
“looks like everyone’s got to tank sometime. Thanks, I’m Jay Light,” and wave
goodbye as I walk off stage. I hear Erikka crack up as I walk through the bar, my
head down.

I think my problem there was that I didn’t really honestly address the situation
during my set. Instead, I got skittish on stage and allowed the bomb to throw me.
I’ve bombed enough times to see that you can still manage to have fun during a
free fall. I should have at least made the effort.
________________________________________________________________________

#142: It's Good Luck
7/26/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m in charge of the mic tonight, and I’m feeling like pushing myself. I got pooped
on by one of the kids I teach swimming to - coincidentally, he’s already the subject
of my joke about teaching swimming - and since I haven’t talked about it, and
there’s not a ton of people at the bar, I decide, what the hell, I’ll tell the story and
see where it goes.

11:30 rolls around and comics are still trickling in from outside, but I take the
pitcher of names to the stage, switch on the amp, and take the mic. I start with the
standard announcements, then launch right into the “joke” portion of the
swimming teacher bit. A few laughs, but this is a story that most of these guys have
probably heard before, so I don’t expect much. I finish the written part, then start
my new story: “I felt bad for the kid until he pooped on me.”

A girl from the audience shouts, “it’s good luck!” I turn to her. “Is that what you tell
yourself every time you get pooped on?” A few people laugh at the bar. She stops
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talking. I finish my story, basically just laying out the facts, like Titus told me
months ago. I can find punchlines later, and even now I can see where the parts
worth highlighting are. People are interested in hearing about my poop
adventures. (I hope I don’t wind up having more.)

I finish with a slightly tweaked version of my joke about being a freelance writer,
changing a few lines so they have less words and better flow. That’s the other
tricky part about crafting jokes. The ultimate goal is to have the setup as close to
the punchline as possible, to get to the funny as quickly as you can. Yet,
sometimes, it pays to take the audience down tangents, or to throw in artful turns
of phrase that catch them off guard. As a comic, your point of view on whatever
you’re joking about should be obvious, but it’s surprisingly hard to make things
obvious. This joke, for instance, has been in my repertoire for about two months,
and I’m still finding ways to improve it and make my point clear. That’s always
been interesting to me.

I thank the crowd, then draw the first name out of the bucket. I wonder who else
will be actively working to improve their jokes tonight or just coming to the stage
and doing the same schtick they’ve been doing the entire time they’ve been
comics. It’s easy to spot the ones who care.
________________________________________________________________________

#143: Ol' Reliable
7/27/13, 11:30 PM: Last Laugh Show, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

We don’t have a huge crowd, but we have a great one for the late show. There’s
thirteen of ‘em, sitting primed and ready to laugh. I’m lucky enough to snag
Parker’s spot, since he’s still out of town with his family, and I’d like to get up and
get out. Mikey, the MC, obliges me, and asks if I want to go first. Looks like I’m
gonna bite the bullet.

Mikey opens the crowd up. They seem a little cool, a little slow on the uptake
maybe. They just don’t know what they’re in store for. He introduces me. I take the
stage, shake his hand, pull the mic out of the stand. I haven’t planned anything
out. I feel good about this. I’m just gonna ride out the room.

I start off with my joke about the optimistic kid at the beach, which I’ve been
finding works well as an opener. It continues to prove this as I watch the crowd
crack up when I do the act-out, even if I do go a little too fast. From there, I
transition into material about being broke, dealing with concerned parents, and
my own various jobs - comedy club doorman, freelance writer, swim teacher.
These all work just fine, although one joke I toss in the middle of the proceedings
doesn’t. It’s older, something about college, but the joke doesn’t ring as true as it
did when I was actually in college a year ago. Maybe it’s time to scrap it.
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I screw up the telling of the joke I intend to close with - the one about trying to
travel to Japan - so I take a moment to think about another piece of “A” material. I
wind up telling the joke about North Carolina’s sex laws, a bit I haven’t brought up
lately, but know always gets a response. I power through the bit, and the audience
roars. I’ve made the right choice.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage, then grab my backpack and head for the door. I
thank Mikey on the way out. Time for sleep.
________________________________________________________________________

#144: Just Make Them Laugh
7/28/13, 9 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There’s a solid audience tonight. They’re energized and perky and I can’t wait to
tell jokes for them. I get all of my intros from the comics ready, check in with the
sound guy - “ready to start? yeah? okay.” - and take a sip of my drink. I’m going in
with no plan other than make ‘em laugh. It seems to be a good strategy.

The sound guy introduces me, and the crowd cheers and claps as I take the stage. I
thank them, especially the back row, since they sound like they’re cheering louder.
I do a little cheerleading with the crowd - getting them to clap, pay attention to
the waitstaff, etc. - and make the standard house announcements. Then, it’s time
for jokes. I start out with a pared-down version of the joke about my real name
being too fancy for me. The joke does fine, and leads me to believe that maybe
there’s another underlying layer I’m not getting to right now. I should do some
more digging with it.

Next, the joke about being a freelance writer, which goes over as well as usual
despite me flubbing the order of a sentence. It’s weird how much it feels like I’m
set back when I make a mistake, even when the audience laughs. Maybe I don’t
need to worry about it so much, even if it feels like I do. The bit about being broke
follows, with a tiny, new observation about riding on the bus that I think might be
worth expanding.

From there, I talk about my relationship with my parents, who really just want me
to be successful. The ones about success are jokes I told the other night that didn’t
do so well, and tonight they aren’t up to snuff again. They’re in need of revision or
a trip to the joke graveyard. Only time will tell. The bit about my college major
doesn’t do great, either, but I can still see some form of potential. Who knows,
maybe all of this will get mashed up into a brand new joke about feeling
unprepared for life based on my education. That might be what I’m actually
getting at, anyway.

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I get the light, so I wrap things up with jokes about dealing with homeless people
in Hollywood and spotting fake celebrities. The celebrities joke has never seen
itself in the closing spot, but it holds its own, and keeps the audience alive after
the so-so middle section of my set. Everyone is still smiling and laughing and I
smile right back at them.

“Are you ready for your next comic?”
________________________________________________________________________

#145: Home-Cooked Meal
7/30/13, 9 PM: The Fat Tangerine Comedy Show, Lucky John’s 3, Stanton, CA

I’m stranded in Norwalk. I got off the Metrolink train into Orange County a stop
too early and, as the guard has so politely told me, it’s the last southbound train of
the night. Shit. Good thing I brought snacks. I text the comic running the show
and tell him I’m gonna be late.

I call my cousin, who is supposed to be coming to the show tonight, and see if she
and her boyfriend can come pick me up from the train station before the show.
Luckily, they can, so I spend about 45 minutes reading the Steve Jobs biography
and waiting to get picked up. The sun is almost done setting by the time my cousin
pulls up. I bolt up from the bus bench, raising my hands in victory. I can’t stop
thanking them as I buckle in to the back seat. They say it’s no trouble, they’re just
excited to finally see me do a show.

We get to the bar. I check in with the guy running the show, who says I’ll be going
on right before the headliner, a comic named Hampton who comes around
Flappers a fair bit. Hampton and his brother used to write a webcomic that I read
religiously for two or three years, so when I saw that he’d been doing standup as
well, I was excited to be in his orbit. I see him now, in the smoking lounge that has
become tonight’s green room, wearing that jean jacket he’s always got on. I’m
hungry.

I order a slice of pizza and a drink, then head back into the smoking lounge and
shoot the breeze with the other comics. Eventually, it’s just me and Hampton,
talking about doing crappy bar shows like this and trying to develop new bits and
flesh out old ones and what comedy does for us. I still don’t think he knows my
name, but he remembers me enough, and I’m not socially inept or overly gushing
about his abilities as a comedian, so he doesn’t retreat. I don’t know why I was so
averse to talking to other comics when I first started out. I never thought being
friendly would be so important. I’m glad I learned my lesson.

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The slice comes out, and it’s literally half a DiGiorno microwave pizza, supreme,
cut down the middle. I paid nearly three dollars for this. I should have known. Oh
well. It’s tasty anyway.

The host finally calls my name, and I take the stage to mild applause. The room is
dark, and the Dodgers are playing some team on every screen in the bar. A group
of guys play pool in the corner. I have competition as the most important thing in
this bar, but I can’t let it rattle me. So I smile and start.

Before I go into material, I riff a little up front about taking the bus down, getting
stranded and picked up by my cousin, and the host not knowing my name. I thank
my family for picking me up. They raise their glasses to me from the side of the
stage.

First up: jokes about my relationship with my parents, which go over quite nicely.
Then, I tell the jokes about living in Hollywood and dealing with homeless people,
which hit hard, but not too hard - I flub the order of the homeless section, and
compromise the integrity of the joke a little bit. It still works, just not as well as
usual. Gotta keep those mistakes on lock. Next, the Ed Hardy dad bit, which does
very well up until the last tag. Lately, that final tag hasn’t been hitting as hard. I
should find a way to beef it up some.

This is the part where I talk to a girl in the front row about her glasses, and how
mine are cooler than hers. She fires back: “At least I don’t look like Howdy Doody.”
Oohs and gasps from the crowd. I retort: “That was my goal all along.” It’s not a
funny retort. I’m still not great at coming up with those. But I do win the crowd
back when I say that Howdy Doody probably has more facial hair than I do, a quip
based on an old joke about my own lack of beard or ‘stache. The crowd likes it
enough, maybe it’s worth exploring some more.

I wrap things up with jokes about living in gang territory and sharing a house with
five other people, end on a few laughs, then thank the loud room and get off stage.
I think I need another drink. Gotta wash down that DiGiorno and these awkward
feelings with something.
________________________________________________________________________

#146: Jay Light Had A Dream
7/31/13, 10 PM: All Star Wednesdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Since I’m working tonight, they’ve bumped me to going right before tonight’s
headliner, a hilarious Flappers regular named Kira. I wave to her from the ticket
booth while I figure out if we’ve got the right amount of money in the cash drawer.
(Good news, we do.)

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After I clock out, I still have a bit of time to kill, so I grab a drink with my friend
Michelle. She’s leaving Los Angeles this week, and I haven’t gotten to see much of
her. We talk about her internship, her plans to come back here (probably), what
she’s going to do with her senior year. Earlier this summer, she did standup for the
first time, and I unfortunately had to miss it. It’s hard to tell from this conversation
if she’s been bitten by the bug, but I guess time will tell. I was told she did a good
job. Maybe that’ll help convince her.

On one of the bar TVs, I see the comic immediately before me take the stage. I
polish off my beer, hug Michelle, wish her safe travels, then walk to the back
corner of the main room. The comics are all there. I shake a couple hands, then
lean against the railing and try to get a bead on the crowd. This is the biggest
crowd I’ve performed to in the main room. I’m excited to see what they think of
me.

The comic before me finishes, leaves the stage, and the MC introduces me. I walk
onto the stage to Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle”, feeling loose and
prepared. I don’t have anything planned out, but I’m not worried, not one bit.

I kick things off with the former throwaway line that is quickly becoming a solid
opener - some variation on “there’s an AMBER Alert out on me” - and win the
crowd from the beginning. From there, it’s no sweat to transition into material
about my parents’ opinions about me moving to Los Angeles, then about the city
itself. I talk about spotting fake celebrities in Hollywood, seeing douchebags
roaming the streets, living in a house with six people. The crowd eats it up. I look
directly in people’s eyes as much as I can, taking my time, trying to pause and go
slowly. It’s hard. I’m too excited and this set is going well. It’s amping me up.

I finish with jokes about my jobs - how my college degree hasn’t done much for my
job prospects yet, and my two main sources of employment: freelance writing, and
working at Flappers. I close with the Jap-Slap joke, extending it to the fullest for
the first time in a while, then get off stage while they’re still laughing. I thank the
crowd and wave goodbye as I walk back into the comics’ corner. Kira, leaning on
the railing, taps me on the shoulder. “Jay! Great set! Very funny!” I beam, thanking
her.

The warmth of having a good set washes over me as I watch Kira effortlessly fuck
with the front row, making the room roar with laughter. “Damn,” I think, “I want
to be that good.” Tonight, that goal doesn’t feel as far off as it used to.





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#147: Cold August
8/1/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The open mic crowd is drastically different from the crowd I entertained not even
two hours ago. I’m not surprised at all, but it’s still jarring to hear the silence only
broken up by clinking glass or chatter in the back of the bar.

I’m getting worked in, because I have some new stuff to try out. I drink on a
barstool next to Parker while we wait our turns. There’s a group of five at a table
up front that I think might just be random audience instead of comics. Good, we
have a crowd.

I get called up to go. I take the stage and shake the host’s hand, then start with a
joke I’ve been telling for a few weeks now: the one about me teaching swimming
lessons. This time, though, I take the story of getting pooped on that I told a few
mics ago and mash it down to the essentials. The new bit works, and even though
a reference to “green slime” gets an equal amount of gasps and laughs, I’m happy
with its progress.

I thank the girl at the table of five for politely smiling at me. She laughs to herself.
The rest of the table starts to crack smiles. “We’ve got a smile train going!” I
exclaim.

From there, I talk about being in youth group as a teenager, expanding on the
initial telling of the bit after having delved deeper into why the bit is important
with Parker and Sean. A question I’ve found is helpful to ask myself when writing:
Why does this joke need to be told? What makes it so important? I’m starting to
chip away at the reason for this youth group joke, the real emotion behind why I
want to talk about it, and it shows in both the direction the joke is going in, and
the response that new direction gets: laughter. A good amount of it, too, for the
open mic.

I thank the crowd, then put the mic back in the stand and get off stage. Parker
finishes his beer, and we go. It’s kind of chilly for a summer night.
________________________________________________________________________

#148: Disgusted By Acronyms
8/2/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m hosting again, covering for Clarke while he makes money, and it’s as dead as it
was last time. Comics are here, but they lounge in the back, with only a few brave
souls even venturing towards the stage. But this all comes as no surprise, so
instead of getting weird and broken up about it, I take the pitcher of names to my
station at the end of the bar and just get things started. It’s what we all want.
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I click on the amp, then welcome everyone to the show and make the standard
announcements. Tonight, I’m doing a mix of new and old material, but nothing I
haven’t already been working on for a few weeks. I start out with the updated
version of my swimming teacher bit. When I talk about getting pooped on,
nothing happens, but when I mention the ARF acronym, a girl exclaims, “EW!”

“Really? You’re disgusted by acronyms, not the actual pooping?” The crowd laughs.
The girl, sitting in the middle of the bar, sheepishly puts her head in her hands.

I continue with stories about being a camp counselor that always go well. I like
these jokes a lot, but there’s something about my former work a camp counselor
that I know is funnier and worth talking about more than where I’m at with the
joke now, but I just haven’t found that yet. I don’t search for it tonight, but at least
I’ve got change on the brain.

I finish with the youth group bit, which does just fine. Like the camp counselor
story, it’s not where it needs to be, but it’s on the road. There’s way more I can do,
and I can’t wait to find what is funny about the situation.

As I draw the first name out of the pitcher, I consider that this wasn’t a bad set.
Sure, the response wasn’t phenomenal, but I shouldn’t expect it to be. I didn’t lose
confidence in the face of not getting laughs, and I used that confidence to help get
an even better response from the crowd at the end of my set. That’s something
worth being proud about.
________________________________________________________________________

#149: Round Of Applause For The Raisin Farmer
8/3/13, 11:30 PM: Last Laugh Show, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

We’re all waiting in the lobby with bated breath, because we don’t yet have enough
people for the show to start, and the one before us is running long. Suspense about
whether or not anyone will get to perform is never good. I’m hosting, for one
thing, and somehow I’ll feel like I’m disappointing the slew of comics on this show
- all solid ones - if we don’t have a show. At the last minute, a family of five walks
in, making our crowd jump from three to eight. Cue the sighs of relief.

Of course, we can’t be that relieved. A show for eight people at nearly midnight,
when everyone is tired and just wanting to see their friends before schlepping back
home, will not be a cakewalk. I’ve got no choice but to test the waters. I doublecheck with the sound guy about how much time I’ll be doing, and since he’s new,
remind him to pay attention to the light and the stopwatch. I’ve been told he
doesn’t have a great track record so far.

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The sound guy kicks on the music, makes a few announcements, and introduces
me. I waltz up to the stage and try my “dance awkwardly and wait for laughter”
intro. It fails miserably. “Alright, cut the music, they don’t like my dance moves.”
One comic laughs in the back. I introduce myself proper, make the standard house
announcements, throw in a little dig at the NSA when I talk about how the club
uses the guests’ info from the comment cards. That gets a tiny laugh out of ‘em,
but it’s still not much.

I go into some material from there, starting with the Jap-Slap story. I figure it’ll
make a good opener, it has in the past, but this time I figure wrong. I’m greeted
with silence, save for two comics laughing in the back. Wow. I smile through it,
but words keep tumbling out of my mouth. I can’t handle this silence. It’s too
uncomfortable.

I talk about my parents’ opinion of my decision to move to LA and pursue comedy,
which gets a slightly better response, then talk about being broke and having to
work a bunch of different jobs. The crowd warms up to this a little more. I try to
keep the word vomit to a minimum, but this prevalent silence makes it difficult.

I bring up my college major, then decide, what the hell, I’ll talk to someone, and
ask a guy in the second row what his major was in college. “Liberal studies.” And
what does he do now? “I’m a farmer.” What does he farm? “Raisins. From grapes.”

I strike: “Well, duh. You’re not making them out of your liberal studies degree.”
This gets the biggest laugh of all. He protests, saying that some people don’t know
raisins come from grapes, but I don’t think anyone believes him, and they laugh
anyway. I get the crowd to clap for the raisin farmer, then, since I haven’t seen the
light yet, shift back into material.

I bust out old standbys: the bits about living in Hollywood, dealing with their
homeless folk and their douchebag dads, living in a house of six people, and being
stuck in gang territory. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t. I can chalk up the
stuff that doesn’t work to more word vomit on my end - I’ve got to rein that in
better. I finally get the light, so I wrap up with my bit about North Carolina’s sex
laws. The laugh at the end isn’t as big as I’d like it to be, but it’s a laugh, and I have
to end on a laugh. It’s shameful not to.

I cheerlead a little more, then bring on the first comic of the night. I check my
time in the recorder. Fifteen minutes. Damn newbie sound guy. We’re gonna be
stuck here all night at this rate.




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#150: New Regulars
8/8/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I make it to the end of my shift in a pretty stellar mood, so after I’ve changed and
checked to see if I can get a work-in at the mic (I can) I hang tight near the end of
the bar until my name is called. Aside from a boyfriend and girlfriend who’re
probably around my age and asked about when the open mic started just before I
clocked out, the bar is filled with a decent amount of comics. I’m in a good mood.
This should be fun.

I get called up. I take the stage, unleash the mic from its stand, and notice the fan
blowing air towards the audience. “Why is this on? Are y'all hot?” I crouch down to
investigate the fan. “I’m going to get to the bottom of this.” I hear giggling behind
my back. I grin.

“Okay, so, it looks like this fan is just clipped on to the music stand…I could
probably kick it over. But I won’t.” More giggling. It’s the girlfriend half of the
couple. I look over at her and her beau. “Good to see y'all again.” The guy raises his
glass to me. I ask them why they’re here. She replies, “we just wanted to see what’s
up.” Hoo boy.

“This might not be so fun for you. Well, it’ll probably be fun, but more fun for
comics. What do…do either of y'all work?” The guy replies this time: “I work on
Criminal Minds.” We’ve got ourselves a conversation going.

“Wait, what do you do for them?” I shouldn’t start my questions off with “wait” so
much. I did it at the late show last weekend when I discovered the raisin farmer,
and it’s just filler. I don’t need to throw it in.

“I’m a PA.”

I cross my arms. “Alright. Imagine there’s a place where PAs go, looking for work,
but everybody there knows you won’t get a job by going there, so you just wind up
yelling at other PAs about your dick.” They laugh. “Welcome to an open mic.”

I decide to switch into material from here, and talk about my myriad jobs. First up,
the swimming teacher gig, which is colored now by new stories about getting
puked on by kids and kicked in the chest. I get one decent new line: “Kids are just
bags of gross fluid waiting to burst.” It’s not even the right way to phrase said line,
but the idea of kids being bodily fluid piñatas makes me laugh, and makes the
crowd chuckle. Good enough for an open mic.

I also talk about being a camp counselor. After covering the standard parts of that
bit - sounding creepy when talking about working at an all-boys camp, not being a
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pedophile - I toss in an old part of the joke involving one of the dumbest kids I
ever was put in charge of. A kid so dumb, he asked me if putting shampoo in his
dirty laundry bag would make everything clean. Thankfully, his idiocy is still
funny, and gets me one of the biggest laughs of the evening.

I leave the stage, and as I walk by the couple from earlier, they stop me and tell me
they liked my jokes. I tell them thanks, to have fun, and, after a little more small
talk, that hopefully I’ll see them around again.

The next week, they come back. Maybe we’ve got some new regulars on our hands.
________________________________________________________________________

#151: Women Love Specific Breads
8/10/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Parker is my ride home today, and he’s still finishing up in the sound booth, so I
ask for a work-in, tell Clarke (tonight’s host, back from his two week break), and
wait my turn. He’ll get me up in a bit, he says. Fine by me.

The crowd is lively. We’ve got a solid mix of comics and real-live audience
members, including a slew of people near the front who are clearly on the road to
being sloshed. They’re talkative. This doesn’t faze me. I haven’t gone up with a
planned set list in a few weeks now, I can handle a little interruption. There’s
nothing to really disrupt any more. It’s just all part of the performance.

I get called up. The drunk folks up front recognize me from when I told them to
come watch the open mic, clap, cheer, et cetera. I take the opportunity to bring up
one of my other lines of work, and talk about my horrific swimming lesson
experiences with the kid who almost drowned before I started teaching him. They
enjoy my stories about getting pooped and puked on, but in my head it feels like
things are dragging a bit. I’ll have to find a way to tighten this bit up for next time.

From there, I decide to launch into a totally new story based on something that
had happened while I was on my break. I’d been talking to my girlfriend when, out
of nowhere, an offhand remark about going food shopping soon turned into a fullblown argument about when the last time I went to the grocery store was. She
didn’t believe that it had been nearly two weeks since my last trip to Trader Joe’s. I
was aggravated and perplexed, but knew in the back of my mind it’d be worth
talking about on stage.

My recounting of the story goes over pretty well. Certain details stick out more
than others - the length of the argument, the fact that she doesn’t even live here
(so why does she care about when I bought groceries?) - and I make a mental note
to expand on those details later. Then, I decide to talk to a guy sitting up front who
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seemed to really click with what I was talking about. “What’s the dumbest
argument you’ve ever gotten into with a girlfriend?”

The guy lights up, and begins to slur a story about how one time, his girlfriend -
sorry, his ex-girlfriend, cue “dude, you don’t need to apologize to me,” followed by
laughter - got mad at him because he didn’t buy a specific kind of bread at the
grocery store. He couldn’t find it, so he tells me. I nod along. “Makes sense, women
love specific breads.”

A week goes by. She asks him where the bread is again. Two weeks go by. She asks
him where the bread is again. A month later, she asks again, and this is the last
straw. He cuts it off. I tell him I hope things don’t get that dire with me and my
lady, and he decides to tell me some sage advice: “There’s an old saying, dude.
Either cut it and let it go, or eat it like a burrito and poop it out and flush it down
the toilet."

I can’t help myself. "That doesn’t seem like a very old saying. I think burritos are a
pretty modern invention.” Drunk Advice Guy claps his hands, throwing his head
back while he does, and the crowd laughs once more. I know this is the right place
to end things. I thank the crowd, wave good-bye, and meet up with Parker at his
barstool. He’s ready to go, and so am I, so he polishes off his PBR and we walk out
into the night.
________________________________________________________________________

#152/153: On Recording Sets
8/10/13, 6:15 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA
8/11/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I try to record every single set that I do, so I can listen to them later on, take notes,
and improve. I find better ways to tell jokes, new tags that happen in the moment,
and tweak my performance style as necessary to improve. But occasionally, I slip.
This particular Saturday was one of those times.

I know what jokes I told, because I did the same set at both open mics. I talked
about being a swimming teacher, and getting a whole mess of bodily fluid
unleashed upon me by the various devil children I’m in charge of. I talked about
getting into a dumb argument with my girlfriend about grocery shopping,
throwing in a new segment about how sometimes she and my mom worry about
the same things re: my life. I busted out an old joke about reading a horoscope that
said the stars were blocked by clouds, so they had no idea what was going to
happen to me.

I know what I learned from the sets, since I took a couple of notes on a scrap of
paper snatched from the trash at work. The jokes all worked every time, but they
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could all use improvement. The swimming teacher bit needs some more focus and
a little extra punch in the middle. The groceries bit needs to push the
girlfriend/mom parallels, and also could use some exploring about why my
girlfriend doesn’t believe that I know my own grocery habits. The horoscope bit
needs some more actual jokes in the middle, or to be slashed and burned until the
funniest parts are the most apparent ones.

But, far and away, the biggest thing I learned was to always make sure that the
recorder was actually on before I start my set. Without a record of what I said and
did on stage, my growth as a comic is hampered. Can’t have that.
________________________________________________________________________

#154: Shorts & Hobbit Feet
8/11/13, 10 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

As the end of my shift nears, I’m excited to see that one of the comics still hasn’t
shown. No call to tell us he’s running late, no answer when I try him myself. I turn
in my cash box and ask the manager if I can take the open spot. She says sure.

Since I didn’t plan on doing a set tonight, and I don’t want to perform in my work
uniform, I’ve got no choice but to perform in the shorts and flip-flops I wore to
work. This is a huge comedy taboo, especially for dudes. Girls can get away with
showing off their legs on stage because, well, girls’ legs typically don’t look like
disgusting, hairy columns. It’s one of those weird inherent things about doing
stand-up. Never perform in shorts, always wear closed-toed shoes, like we’re
working with dangerous chemicals. Naturally, I get some shit from the other
comics on the bill while I sit in the lobby, waiting my turn, but frankly, I don’t
care. I’ll come up with something to say about it on stage.

The comic before me, a guy wearing a tank top who opens by talking about being
black and gay - “ALL DAY!” he adds - gets a good reaction from the small crowd.
There’s probably ten, maybe twelve people in the room who aren’t comics, and
they’ve had a good time so far. My only goal is to keep the energy up for the
headliner.

The MC calls me to the stage. I decide my best course of action is to begin by
stating the obvious: “I’m the polar opposite of that last comic. He was a black, gay
man showing off his guns, I’m a white, straight boy,” a girl starts giggling, “showing
off my calves.” A little more laughter. “You didn’t think I’d be performing, I didn’t
think I’d be performing, and now you get to stare at my hobbit feet.” Everybody
laughs. And we’re off.

I start out by telling the Jap-Slap story. I flub the opening by taking it too fast and
garbling my words, but the act-out works as well as ever. Then I talk about my
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freelance writing job. The joke works fine, but can tell I’m going a little too fast.
I’m not leaving enough time for the audience to really laugh as much as I know
they can.

I start to tell my joke about teaching swimming lessons, but get distracted by a
canoodling couple in the second row. I point them out, which gets a nice laugh,
and warn them they might not want to make out after this next joke. Yet, even
after the references to getting puked and pooped on, they’re back at it. “You’ve got
a good one, dude. Keep her around.”

I ask how long they’ve been dating (a couple of months) then talk about my own
relationship. The first chunk about dating long-distance works well, and as I’m
getting into the part about how technology is supposed to help but doesn’t, the girl
yells out “Clone-A-Willy!” I’ve heard of this: a service that 3D prints a copy of your
man’s junk for “personal use”. We talk about this weird product for a second,
before I ask this: “Is that what you do? Do you have, like, a trophy cabinet of
cloned willies?” Smiling, she buries her head in her boyfriend’s neck while the
room explodes. I give myself a mental pat on the back.

I finish up the dating technology bit, with the reference to the long-distance app
that we mutually have getting a solid response, and close with the joke about
North Carolina’s sex laws. Although I add an unnecessary tag after the final
punchline, the bit still works fine. I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, then walk off
the stage. I’ve got a bus to catch.
________________________________________________________________________

#155: First Impressions
8/12/13, 9 PM: Kill Tony, The Comedy Store, West Hollywood, CA

I knew I’d be making a trip back to the Store for the first time in a couple of
months, but I didn’t plan to go on. This was more of an exploratory trip with a few
friends. The sign-ups for the potluck were closed, anyway. We’re waiting outside
the back doors, in the parking lot, when I suddenly get the urge to sign up for Kill
Tony, a weekly podcast-cum-open mic hosted by Tony Hinchcliffe where he and a
gaggle of guests hear one minute of standup from the brave souls who submitted
themselves in the lottery. Then, depending on how good the performer and the
material are, Tony and friends will either give you some tags, ask questions to
break the premise open a little more, or just tear into you and break your spirit. It’s
not for the faint of heart or the hobbyist comic.

Something stirs me to sign up, even though I was looking to just relax tonight. I
probably won’t get picked, right? Parker and I join our other friend Tyler in the
bucket, scrawling our Twitter handles next to our names on the sign-in sheet.

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Satisfied and a little scared, we make our way upstairs, to the Belly Room, where
this shindig takes place.

The room slowly fills up, with comics milling around in the back or smoking under
the awning and audience members getting their drink orders taken. The
proceedings start at around quarter after eight. Tony, his co-host Brian, their guest
comic Kevin, and their security guy Iron Patriot - yep, it’s just a guy wearing a very
elaborate Iron Man costume - hold court on stage, with a mic stand off to the side.
Now we wait.

The show is wildly entertaining. The hosts have a great, effortless chemistry,
tossing off golden lines with an acerbic wit. The comics who get picked to go are
all fairly decent, some better than others, but nobody godawful gets picked, so
nobody really gets torn to shreds. Then, Tony draws a name out, says “We’ve
definitely never had this guy on before. Give it up for Jay Light!” and time stops.

Music from Family Feud plays as I hurry to the stage, making sure to switch on my
recorder on the trip up. I’ve only got a minute, but I know exactly what to talk
about: my freelance writing job. It’s a quick bit that works well but isn’t where I
want it to be, and I get the feeling it’ll go over decently here. My nerves give me a
little too much pep, and I try to breathe and go as slowly as I can, but the time
constraint doesn’t help my psyche either. I get laughs, and the panel seems to
enjoy what I’m talking about, but it’s far and away one of the most nerve-wracking
sets I’ve ever done. I just want to make a good first impression.

My minute runs out, and the sound of a bear’s roar cues the forced end of my set
ten seconds later. I look over at the panel. They look back at me. General
consensus: I don’t suck. Their biggest critique is that I’m not explaining the job
itself well enough, nor am I really plumbing the depths that this topic can dive to.
They love the premise, telling me over and over again how it’s great and original
and hits a lot of cool comedic notes, but now, they point out, is the time to chop
the bit up and see what new jokes I can form from the pieces. They tell me to not
go with my first ideas, either, but to wait for the second or third one, just
something that isn’t obvious or crude. I can do better than that.

After about ten minutes, they send me on my way, and I thank them. Parker gets
drawn immediately after me - of course he does - then a few more comics go and
we’re out of the room by ten PM. Having sufficiently hung out at the Store for the
night, Parker, Tyler, myself, and a few other comedian friends make the mile-long
trek back to Parker’s apartment, where we watch Breaking Bad and play Grand
Theft Auto and decompress before passing out on Parker’s couch. I go to bed
happy that I got respect instead of ridicule from Tony and his crew. I can’t wait to
go back.

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#156: A Few People Like You When You're 23
8/15/13, 10 PM: Coming Out Comedy, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s my birthday. It’s been a wild day so far, one filled with a surprising amount of
yelling and uncertainty. This show is a bright spot on an otherwise strange
birthday. Of course, I’m booked to perform on the show meant for gay comics, so
I’m not totally escaping unscathed of weirdness. But what can you do?

After arriving at the club and checking in, I get a free beer (thanks, birthday!) and
chat with some friends of mine who are already waiting in the bar and kind
enough to check out my show. I don’t have the nerves about performing for my
friends that I usually do. I think those concerns about my friends not liking my act
are slowly starting to fade from my mentality. I like that. I don’t want the prospect
of a friend watching me perform to throw me off. There’s no need for that.

I’m going later on in the order, so I meander around the club for a bit, shooting the
breeze with comics and co-workers who wonder why I came in on my day off.
Parker, hidden in the sound booth, orders me a slice of celebratory cake. After I
finish, I check to make sure I don’t have any frosting in my teeth.

I watch a bit of the show. It’s all gay and lesbian comics, talking about mostly gay
and lesbian things. The crowd is light but lively, sixty-something eyes all watching
a comic in a wheelchair talks about going to gay bars. They’re laughing. They’re a
good crowd, just small. I hope they don’t care that I’m not gay, then realize that
this crowd probably isn’t the type to pass judgment on people.

Rob, the MC, brings me to the stage to a smattering of applause. I intorduce
myself, then, from the get-go, offer up some crucial information: “I’m not gay, I’m
just an attention whore. I like when people laugh at my things.” The crowd is on
board, chuckling to themselves. I launch into material from here, talking about my
parents views on me living in Los Angeles, then about living in Hollywood and
dealing with crazies and the homeless. I talk about living with six people and being
stuck in gang territory. Everybody is smiling and laughing and things feel good for
now.

I switch it up, talk about being broke, with a mild aside about getting drunk that
doesn’t go anywhere. I try recreating a line I said once several shows ago, but it
comes out wrong and isn’t funny this time around. To save myself, I finish up with
the Jap-Slap and freelance writing bits. I know I’m supposed to have changed the
freelancing bit after Kill Tony the other day, but I haven’t had the time yet to really
hunker down and break open that premise. Still, the current version of the joke
works just fine, and I even get an applause break in a place that has never seen one
before. It’s a good way to go out. I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and shake
Rob’s hand as I leave the stage.
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After Parker clocks out, we go to the Brickyard, my favorite bar in LA. We have a
couple beers and talk about being twenty-three, and how things don’t feel that
different from a year ago, even though they are.
________________________________________________________________________

#157: Vacation, Y'all
8/21/13, 10:30 PM: Eavesdropper Open Mic, 1306 N. Wilton Pl., Los Angeles, CA

After a nice vacation with my girlfriend back to her old stomping grounds in east
Tennessee, I land at LAX, ready to get back to the grind. My friend David drives
me back to the house while I formulate the important parts of my vacation so I can
talk about them on stage tonight. I’ve been granted a guaranteed spot at Luis’ mic,
the one right by my house that I can never go to since I’m always working
Wednesdays. For once, I have the evening to myself.

I finish unpacking then drive over to the venue. It’s nearly empty when I get there,
only populated by three comics, two audience members, and Luis’ producing
partner. I’m excited. All I have to do is be entertaining, and I get the feeling my
new stories will be plenty entertaining, even in their raw form.

One more comic goes before me, and then I’m introduced by Luis as
“challengingly handsome,” a line he’s used before. This time, since I’m performing
in my contacts instead of in glasses, I decide to run a test and ask him his opinion
of me in contacts. He says that I have good eyes, that I can pull it off either way,
and I see some nods of agreement. I grin. “Well, now that we’ve got my narcissism
out of the way…”

I start out with a new-ish joke about my girlfriend and I getting into an argument
about when the last time I went grocery shopping was. It’s a little more fleshed out
now than it was last week, but still could use some work on the back end. I haven’t
taken the suggestions from the Lab into account yet. There’s still time for that
later. Regardless of my own dissatisfaction with the joke, it gets good laughs, and
I’m glad it’s on the right track.

From there, I talk about the most interesting part of my vacation: going to Dolly
Parton’s very own theme park, Dollywood. I don’t have anything written other
than notes on what happened while we were there, so I try to describe things as
best as possible. I touch on the weird level of patriotism throughout the park, how
Dolly Parton is singing at you the entire time you’re there (mixed in with fiddle
music), and the weird Christian superstore at the park’s exit, complete with
copyright-infringing t-shirts extolling the virtues of Jesus. It’s all very rough, but
the crowd laughs at certain details, like a t-shirt that rips off the Glee logo and a
roller coaster that simulates riding on the wings of a bald eagle. I’ll flesh it all out
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later, especially now that I know I absolutely have some funny elements to the
story. For now, though, I thank the scant crowd, shake Luis’ hand, and leave the
mic. I’ve got to make a Walgreens run. I ran out of vitamins.
________________________________________________________________________

#158: Power
8/22/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s been a weirdly nightmarish shift, which is not exactly what I wanted for my
first day back at work after my vacation, but I guess I don’t have a ton of control
over that. By the time I’m clocked out, I’m exhausted. But I know I have to talk
about a few new things, so I order a drink and shoot the breeze with a few other
comics. We wind up discussing Charles Manson and cults, the charisma that
leaders need to get people to do their bidding, and how charisma and authority
play into comedy. We don’t come to a consensus.

Erikka, tonight’s MC, asks me to time her. I mosey to the end of the bar and realize
that I only have ten percent battery left. Should be just enough to time Erikka and
record my set…hopefully. She finishes up, gets a couple of laughs from the fairly
busy bar, and calls me up for my set.

I only have one thing to really talk about today: my trip with my girlfriend. I start
out discussing her family. The primary reason I traveled with her in the first place
was to meet them. After dating for nearly two years and not meeting them, I was
nervous, especially knowing that they came from Appalachia, where man-children
like me don’t get the best reception. But I won them over, luckily, and talking
about my very real fears wind up getting a couple of laughs from the crowd even
though I have nothing planned or written behind it.

From there, I talk about the most exciting thing we did on vacation: going to
Dollywood. I run through the same beats as last night, switching the order up a bit
and tossing in some new observations here and there. Some of the ideas work
again, some of them don’t, but since the whole story is so loose right now I’m not
concerned about the progress of the joke being negatively impacted by this. In
fact, I’d rather get a half-response on some of the bits. It shows me what needs to
be made clearer, either in the premise or my point of view on the subject.

I can’t remember the last bit I want to talk about, so I tap my phone. The screen
stays black. Uh-oh. It couldn’t handle its duties after all. This is a sign: time to get
off stage. I thank the crowd, shake Erikka’s hand, and say my goodbyes before
heading back into the night with my leftover pizza. I’ll save it for lunch tomorrow.
Maybe I’ll do some work while I eat.


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#159: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby
8/24/13, 12:45 AM: Kinky Late Night Laughs, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m exhausted. It’s been a busy Friday at the Yoo Hoo Room, and I’ve been
inundated with customers trying to see shows and comics trying to figure out
when they’re going on or how much time they have or where they can get a bottle
of water. I’m planning on clocking out and heading straight home when I notice
that one of tonight’s comics still has yet to show up. I’ve got a chance.

I turn in my cash drawer and ask the manager for the extra spot. He says sure, go
for it, and I let the MC know that I’ll be ready as soon as I change out of my work
clothes. After removing my uniform and snagging a drink from the bar, I meander
back over to the Yoo Hoo Room and take a seat inside. The crowd is good, really
good for the late show. The headliner really packed it out, but, then again, who
wouldn’t want to see a dominatrix tell jokes for ten minutes? I should have seen
this coming.

Rye, the MC, checks to make sure he knows my last name, then introduces me. I
walk to the stage, shake his hand, and take the mic while looking out at the crowd.
“You paid to see the ticket guy…ya made it!” They laugh. A few of them clap. Good
start.

I kick things off with the Jap-Slap joke, which goes over phenomenally. It’s one of
my favorite jokes, but this performance makes me wonder if the joke is too strong
to open with. I don’t want the rest of my set to pale in comparison to my opener.

From there, I talk about my parents’ opinion of my choice to live in Los Angeles
and pursue comedy, which gets a decent mix of laughs and “aww!” (from the girls
in the crowd), especially when I talk about being broke enough to eat hotel
hallway leftovers. I try to let them know they’ve got nothing to worry about with
my tone of voice, but maybe next time I should flat-out address that they shouldn’t
be concerned for my well-being. I’ve got it all under control. It should seem more
like that in the performance, too. There’s got to be a way I can tackle that.

From there, I talk about living in Hollywood, with a house of six people and a slew
of homeless folks at every corner. Almost all of this goes over very well, but I screw
up the word order on the homeless people bit and get more sounds of concern
than sounds of happiness. “This turned into a PSA real fast.” The first couple of
rows laugh, but the back of the room isn’t as on board. I have one more shot to win
all of them back: “If you want, you can sponsor me for the low cost of five cents a
day…” They catch on.

I close with the joke about North Carolina’s sex laws, which doesn’t go over nearly
as well as I’d hoped it might for the late night crowd. Maybe it’s that I’m not
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wearing my glasses tonight, maybe it’s that I put the emphasis on the wrong
words, maybe they just flat-out don’t want to hear about sodomy. It doesn’t totally
fail - the front two rows are definitely still on board, and at least everyone is paying
attention - but the bit, usually a strong closer, flops in my eyes. I thank the crowd,
shake Rye’s hand again, then finish my drink and go home. I’ve got some tinkering
to do.
________________________________________________________________________

#160: Boundaries
8/24/13, 5 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m going to a friend’s birthday party after I get off work, so I ask Josh if he
wouldn’t mind covering the front desk for a hot second so I can go up at the
afternoon mic instead of the late night mic. He says sure. I thank him and dash off
for a quick five minutes.

The Lab is dead today. It’s the emptiest I’ve ever seen it, with six comics including
me scatted throughout the room. I know the environment won’t be conducive to
getting laughs, so I try not to let it get to me. There’s no sense in getting shaken
up. It’s just an open mic. What are the stakes, really?

My goal is to work out the stuff about going to Dollywood with my girlfriend, and I
do just that. I try out a few new lines about the myriad go-kart tracks just miles
away from the park, and Dolly Parton’s career being plastered all over the place
inside, along with her terrifying visage, attempted smile and all. I make an addition
to an act-out that involves me coming off the stage and getting right in someone’s
face. The comic I select looks uncomfortable, but still cracks a smile. Good, good.

Although I don’t get much in the way of laughs, I get good feedback. The thing the
comics want from me this time is more explanation on my girlfriend’s family. I talk
about them a little bit, answering questions as they come up, and come away
feeling like I might have a new road to go down.

Later, I tell my girlfriend that her family got brought up at the open mic, and she
lashes out, not wanting me to talk about them at all. “They didn’t ask for this, you
have no right,” she angrily tells me on the phone, and she’s correct. Thank
goodness I didn’t have anything planned about them. There’s no joke worth
ruining a relationship over. Besides, this Dollywood material will do just fine once
I flesh it out and give it some real structure. I tell her not to worry about it, I love
her, and we end the conversation.




154

#161: Back In The Saddle
8/27/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There’s a mic on Tuesday nights now, thank goodness, and I’m ready to go up at it
and try out an addition to my joke about being a swimming teacher. It’s basically
just a clearer explanation of something I already talk about, but I’m hoping that
it’ll also be funny on its own merits.

Katie, the host, comes to check with me about getting things set up. I tell her we’ll
put the sign-ups out at 11, and she smiles and nods and we chat for another minute
or so before she heads back to the bar. I finish closing up shop, then get
permission to be worked in from the manager before changing back into my
civilian clothes. I ask Katie if I can bite the bullet. “Sure,” she says. She seems a
little surprised. Truth be told, I don’t mind going up first at open mics. I know
some comics have an aversion to it, including a younger version of myself, but
now, I just want to get up there and talk. I’m more confident in my abilities now,
and feel like I can open up a show nicely, even if it is just an open mic in a bar on a
Tuesday night.

Katie does her time up front then brings me to the stage. She’d talked about being
in Girl Scouts when she was younger, which dredged up some old memories about
being in Boy Scouts when I was a kid. I decided to follow the riff instead of starting
with my planned material, talking about how, despite being taught to follow all
these rules about being courteous and kind, etc. the other kids in my troop spent a
lot of time making fun of me and my friends. There’s no anger anymore, but my
incredulousness carries the riff well, garnering a couple of laughs from the handful
of comics in the bar. Cool. Maybe this is worth exploring later.

I talk about being a swimming teacher, with my new section - a bit about how my
difficult kid needs to pick something better and more manageable to be afraid of
than water - doing pretty well. It’s not anywhere close to where I want it to be (as I
realize in the initial telling) but the idea clearly has potential, evidenced by the
laughter. Good, this is going according to plan.

I wrap up with my bit about being a camp counselor. The joke works, as per usual,
but I can finally spot places within it that need some tightening up. Too many
words, or an unclear attitude. I’ll fix it for the next set.

I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and shake Katie’s hand as I get offstage. Katie
tells me she really liked my set after she introduces the next comic. I thank her,
then walk back to the parking lot to get in my car and drive away. It feels good to
be back on the grind again.


155

#162: Teenaged Hooligans
8/30/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Clarke asks if I want to take the lead tonight as I finish chewing a mouthful of
burger. I give him a thumbs-up while I swallow. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve
helped host the open mic, and I’m more than ready to start getting back into it.

Wrapping out takes a little longer than I expected, and by the time I’m all changed
and set to go, we’re running late. Luckily, this kind of shit happens all the time at
open mics citywide - nationwide, probably - so nobody is up in arms about it. I see
no torches and pitchforks in the bar, just a bunch of comics waiting to be drawn.

I grab the pitcher of names and mosey on to the end of the bar, then switch off the
music and turn on the amp. As I adjust the mic stand, it slams down on my finger,
pinching it and leaving a blood blister. “I’m bleeding for this mic, guys, I care,” I
tell the now-attentive crowd.

I give the standard announcements and get stared at by two tables of teenage
dudes all here to see their friend tell jokes in public for the first time. After kicking
off my set with the Jap-Slap bit, I ask one of them when he was born. “1995!” Sweet
Jesus.

“I didn’t think I was going to feel old today,” I tell them. A couple of the teens
laugh. I ask Mr. 1995 what his favorite part about the 90s was, and he says Rocket
Power. I commisserate, then throw out my own favorite 90s item: Pokémon. This
old bit works like new, a little more streamlined from forgetting the inessential
parts, and far and away gets the best response of my entire set.

From there, I talk about my girlfriend, dealing with long distance dating, and our
recent vacation to Dollywood. These jokes get a few laughs here and there, but the
Dollywood bit is woefully unorganized. I need to figure out the best way to
structure it for maximum comedic potential, because right now, it’s just not doing
the work I know it could.

I draw a name out of the bucket. Like so many others before him, Mr. 1995 shouts
out the name of his friend who he’s here to see. I glare at him, “nope,” then call up
the first comic and return to my station at the bar.







156

#163: For The Price Of A Cup Of Coffee A Day
9/1/13, 12:30 AM: Eleventh-Hour Comedy, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’ve got a nice spot right before the headliner, and eight minutes to fill. I’ve been
clocked out for about thirty minutes and drinking gin and tonic for fifteen. I’m in a
good place. I’m loose. I’m present. I’m ready.

The comics tell me that the crowd is good - polite, not laughing at things
uproariously, but not terrible. They’re probably just a little bit tired. It’s
understandable. It’s late. For a split-second, I worry about what topics I should
cover in my set tonight, but then remember that worrying is pointless. Stay in the
moment, dude. It’ll come to you.

The host introduces me and I make my way to the stage. After getting myself
untangled from the microphone cord, I start off with a quick quip about my
college degree before switching into my bit about North Carolina’s sex laws. The
joke doesn’t do as well as usual, but it’s my own fault: I throw in too many weird,
filler words. It still gets a good response, but not a great one.

From there, I talk about being broke. I briefly touch on my parents’ opinion of my
choice to pursue comedy before dropping in my standard line about trying to be
smart with my money. Yet, instead of continuing as usual with my tale of eating
room service leftovers from hotel hallways, I decide now’s a good time to try a new
line. “I’m so broke, I think I’m gonna try and get Save The Children to sponsor
me.” The setup gets a few chuckles, but the punchline - still in the early stages, but
a line I’m proud of - gets a better response. It’s not overwhelmingly funny yet, but
there’s potential there, and that’s all I care about.

I talk about my jobs from here - comedy club ticket salesman, freelance writer,
swimming instructor - with each new job getting more laughs than the one before
it. The swimming teacher bit does the best it ever has, and I’m feeling confident
enough to throw in a new line about how the kid who pooped on me should pick
something besides water to be afraid of, since he’ll have to deal with it all his life.
Just like my last new line, this one gets a good reaction from the crowd, even
though it’s incomplete and not flat-out hilarious. I’m just fine with that.

I wrap things up by talking about my girlfriend, our long-distance relationship,
and the perils of trying to use technology to keep things interesting. I really sell the
closing bit, more than usual, and it pays off by allowing me to end on what is
undoubtedly the biggest laugh. I take another sip of my drink, then thank the
crowd and wave goodbye. I leave the room, feeling a wave of good vibes wash over
me. The other comics were right, that crowd was awfully polite.


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#164: Early To Bed
9/3/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

This open mic is still very young - it’s only the third time it’s ever happened - so
the crowd is incredibly sparse. There can’t be more than fifteen comics here.
Parker and I get approved to have work-ins but we really don’t need them. To
appease Katie, the host, we just toss our names in the bucket and wait like
everybody else. It’s only fair.

I wind up getting called to go second, so I dash to the stage, set up my recorder,
and take the mic. I laugh looking out at the room. The emptiness seems absurd to
me.

I start off with the Save The Children line from the other night, which works well
again. Good to know it’s worth keeping in the repertoire. From there, I tell a
revised version of a one-off line from several shows ago about how taking the bus
is like having a designated driver all the time, throwing in a tag idea another comic
gave me. Admittedly, it’s not that fleshed out, but my attempt doesn’t go over well,
only getting awkward laughter as I realize the bit is going nowhere. I shrug it off
and laugh at my mild misfortune.

I tell a tried-and-true joke about the guy I saw wearing an Ed Hardy t-shirt and
pushing around a stroller. It works, but I feel like I need to give the guy a better
voice in the act-out. I continue the bit with a new section, repurposed from an old
joke. It lines up alright, but there are way too many words in its current form. I
need to clear things up and cut out the unnecessary words. But at least the
marriage of the bits works okay.

I close with a new bit on being a Boy Scout when I was younger, dovetailing off
what I talked about at this mic last week. This time, I talk about the ridiculousness
of Boy Scouts being forced to sell popcorn to make money for the troop. The bit
definitely has some legs, but struggles to stand on them. I’ll have to do some
reinforcement later.

Satisfied, I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and wait in the back of the bar with
the other fourteen comics. At least we won’t all be here until 2 AM today.
________________________________________________________________________

#165: Performance Review
9/5/13, 6:30 PM: Happy Hour Auditions, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I haven’t auditioned for the bookers in a while, and since I have the day off I figure
it’s a good time to sign up. After a swimming lesson and an audition for a Taco
Bueno commercial, I make my way to Burbank and check to make sure I’m still on
158

the list. Richy confirms. I thank him then meet Parker and Sean next door for a
beer before my set. We’re here to watch football. Parker and I both have Peyton
Manning on fantasy teams, so we’re hoping that he and the Broncos have a good
game.

I head back to the club around 6, so I can hear the general announcements and
watch the first-timers go on. Most of them are clearly very new at this, evidenced
by the plethora of shaky hands. With some of them, I can see the terror in their
eyes the moment they realize they didn’t prepare enough material and still have a
minute to talk. Others are probably just new to the city or new to the club. You
can tell them by their relaxed demeanor and presence of actual jokes. It’s been
nearly three months since I’ve sat in and watched the show, and I forgot how weird
it is to see people who are new at stand-up. I don’t envy them. That’s a tough
position to be in.

I get called up. I have three minutes, and I know what to talk about: my job as a
swimming teacher, and my relationship with my girlfriend. Both of these bits
prove to be solid choices. The swimming teacher bit gets more laughs out of the
two - I think it helps that it’s the first time I’ve really told it in this more-formed
state - but they both get a good response from the comics in attendance. I thank
them, leave the stage, and bump a couple of fists on my way to the back of the
room. I watch a couple more comics go up, then make my way back over to the bar
next door. After a rain delay, the game has finally gotten started.
________________________________________________________________________

#166: "Tell Your Other 9/11 Joke!"
9/9/13, 6:45 PM: Open Mic, Rockpaper Coffee, West Hollywood, CA

There’s nobody here, of course. Most of the eighteen comics signed up have gone
to the Store or Meltdown or somewhere else in the hopes of getting on at a more
notable venue. This is good for Parker and I - it just means we’re getting up earlier.
We shoot the breeze with the handful of comics in the coffee shop while we wait
for things to get going.

At 6, the MC kicks things off. She brings on people in between long, rambling bits
about her personal life. Normally, I’d be way more pissed off at a host doing so
much time in between comics, but today, I’m trying to just take it in stride. I’ll get
my time, it’s not a huge deal. Besides, she’s funny, and the comics who are here
aren’t as terrible as I was hoping they’d be. Sure, there’s a couple of real stinkers in
the bunch, but that’s a typical open mic. Today, we’re good and supportive and
friendly, which is pleasantly abnormal.

After six or seven comics, it’s finally my turn. I take the mic from the MC’s
outstretched hand and set my recorder down on the stool. I’ve got some new stuff
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to talk about today after a draining, performance-free weekend that left me pent
up with new jokes and nowhere to talk about them.

I start: “My neighborhood has some shady characters in it.” The first target is a guy
I’ve brought up in other jokes, a homeless dude I saw eating a block of cheese on
the street corner while wearing a crown. This time, I merge him with another
homeless person who got in a confrontation with me, and the results work out
nicely. I’ll have to test the combo out in a non-open mic setting to see if it still
holds up.

From there, I tell a new story about seeing a guy driving a car with tinted windows
a license plate that just said “PRISON”. He was letting out two hookers on my
street. I wonder aloud where he got the license plate from, and what some other
souvenirs at the prison gift shop might be. My examples get solid laughs. I’m
happy with the joke, and can see that it’s going to be easy to wring more out of this
premise.

I continue by talking about some of the experiences I had in Boy Scouts when I
was a kid. Most of it is old territory - selling popcorn, getting teased by my
troopmates - but a new line about visiting the Tarrant County Jail with my Cub
Scout pack winds up working very well also. I’ll keep that one around.

I close with a shortened version of my Dollywood story. The joke is funny and all,
but it’s incredibly unstructured right now. I need to really give that bit some focus
before I take it out again. It’ll benefit from that.

Satisfied, I thank the comics for paying attention, then leave the stage. Parker goes
next, talking about 9/11 and dying young and nursing homes and, at my request,
9/11 again. The crowd gives him a good response as well. He smiles as he leaves the
stage. We stick around for another comic, then head back to his place. We’re both
getting back into the swing of things. It feels nice.
________________________________________________________________________

#167: Ten Little Comedians
9/11/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Nobody knows where the regular Tuesday night host is, so we fend for ourselves.
There aren’t even ten comics here, so we’re inclined to get going and get out. Josh
steps up to be the host, and I sit at the front of the bar so I can be supportive and
clap and stare right into the eyes of the performers.

Since there are so few people at the mic, my request to get worked in is turned
down. It’s a while before I get drawn. I sit through some very entertaining comics

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and one or two less entertaining ones. Everybody says at least one thing that gets a
decent rise out of the sparse crowd, but it’s an uphill battle for most of the night.

I get drawn eighth and practically leap to the stage from my barstool. I start things
off by using my same opener from yesterday: talking about the shady characters
who live in my neighborhood. The homeless guy’s story gets a great reaction, and
the guy whose license plate just said “PRISON” gets an even stronger one. The one
hiccup I catch onto is that I don’t explain my feelings on the PRISON guy, which I
think should definitely happen. The weird combination of fear and indifference
that I felt when I saw that car isn’t being explored at all in my act - maybe that’s
the next direction to take things in.

I briefly touch on being a swimming teacher and having to teach a kid who almost
drowned, then switch into talking a little bit about Boy Scouts and a lot about
dumb fundraising schemes I had to take part in when I was a little kid. To make
money for school and various extracurriculars, we had to sell gift wrap, popcorn,
pizzas, magazine subscriptions, and scented candles, and it’s only now occurring
to me how supremely strange it is that my school had to basically enlist child labor
to raise money so we could have library books and decent lunches. The topic is
enough to get some laughs from the crowd, but I know that it’ll bear more
comedic fruit if I cultivate the joke some more.

I stick around for comic number 9, then say my goodbyes before the final comic of
the evening goes up. My eyelids are already drooping and it’s not even 1 AM yet.
What’s wrong with me? Is this what it feels like to be an adult - tired and
impatient?
________________________________________________________________________

#168: Entanglements
9/11/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s been slow all night, but things are starting to pick up in the bar, as they so
often do on Wednesday nights. The regular host is running late, so I’ve been
tapped for hosting duty. I finish my dinner while comics drop their names in the
pitcher.

I shut off the music, switch on the amp, and start the proceedings. The mic cord is
very long today, so I try to make a funny and walk all the way to the end of the bar
with it. I make it about six feet before the cable gets tangled in someone’s legs and
my bit falls flat on its face. I silently make my way back to the stage, trying to make
the cord play nice, and decide it’s best to stop wasting time and tell some actual
jokes.

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I start off with an old joke about having to give people directions at work. I’m
trying a newer version of it, with changed references to make it less “inside
baseball” and more general, but the joke still doesn’t land. It’s time to toss it in the
scrap heap.

I talk about teaching swimming lessons, which gets a few chuckles here and there,
then briefly talk about being a Boy Scout before going on a little riff about
fundraising when I was a kid. I hit the same beats up front as yesterday, throw in a
little line about child labor, and get some laughs, smiles, and nods, but the joke
still has a long way to go. It’s in desperate need of whittling down until I can find
the reason behind the joke.

I finish my set, then draw the first name out of the pitcher and return to my
station at the end of the bar. The regular host shows up, orders a pizza, and asks if
I mind delaying his introduction so he can eat. Not a problem at all, my friend.
Never separate a comic from his food.
________________________________________________________________________

#169: Comedy Tikka Masala
9/12/13, 11:15 PM: Open Mic, India’s Flavor, Glendale, CA

I get cut from work early, so instead of waiting around for the Flappers mic, I
decide to try out something new. I check the open mic list for the day and decide
to see what it’s like to do comedy in an Indian restaurant.

As soon as I walk down the stairs to the venue, I see all of the comics huddled
together at two tables in the corner, the sign-up list between them. I write my
name in the 12th spot, then shoot the breeze with the other comics. An old coworker of mine is here tonight. She lets me eat some of her tandoori chicken and
garlic naan.

Eventually, the show gets started. Atif, the host, says we’ll all be getting between
five and seven minutes, so keep it tight, because he wants to go home before
midnight. We can’t blame him - most of us do, too.

Unlike most open mics, I know pretty much all the comics here, and aside from a
couple ringers, they’re all solid performers with a few well-crafted jokes. There are
very few awkward silences. One of my favorite local comics has me dying in the
back at his extended lament on graduating with a degree in film studies. The
comic after him is nowhere to be found, so I’m going on a little early. No
complaints here.

I take the stage, gaze out on the mostly empty room, and start my set by talking
about my job as a swimming teacher. I get a few laughs, and find a new riff about
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the afterlife that I don’t delve super deep into but can see is worth exploring some
more. From there, I talk about my freelance writing jobs, getting solid laughs. I’ve
been telling that joke in a much shorter form ever since Kill Tony, since I haven’t
really had the time to explore the suggestions they gave me to improve the bit, but
I’m glad that even a hobbled version of the joke gets a good response.

I touch briefly on my parents’ handling of me moving out here and pursuing
comedy, getting in one new line that might be worth trying out again, then, not
knowing what to talk about next, wander aimlessly around the stage for a bit. This
still gets some laughs, so I’m in the clear.

I face the crowd again and bust out an old joke about those dumb Fathom Events
ads they play before movies. This time, there’s no awkward filler in the bit, and
even though my nerves cause me to mumble a few words and stutter midsentence, the bit works as well as it did months ago. I’ll have to ease it back into
the repertoire.

I finish up by talking briefly about Boy Scouts and having to do dumb fundraising
as a kid. The bit is slowly getting somewhere, but I don’t explore its possibilities
tonight. Instead, I get distracted by the four dudes who walk down the stairs, over
to the bar, and right back out again. “Thanks, guys.” The comics laugh. “You don’t
have to leave! I’m almost done, maybe you’ll like the next one better!” They don’t
take the risk, and walk back up the stairs. I’m out of time anyway. I thank the
comics for paying attention, watch one more comic go, then take my backpack and
get out of there.

All in all, not a bad open mic. Cheap beer, good comics, and the lingering sweet,
savory smell of Indian spices. I’ll be back whenever I can get a Thursday off.
________________________________________________________________________

#170: Bow To The King
9/13/13, 6:30 PM: Silverlake Lounge, Los Angeles, CA

After signing up at the Hollywood Hotel and realizing that there’s still a chance we
could make it into the lottery for the mic at Silverlake Lounge, Tyler and I hop into
his car and bolt over there. He drops me off in front of the bar so he can park while
I sign us both up. The bucket sits on the bar top, slips of paper all around. I scrawl
our names on two slips, fold ‘em, and drop 'em in the bucket. A minute later, the
host comes to collect the names to get things started. Good timing.

The host, Matt, ambles to the stage in the glow of the disco ball. He starts the
drawing and goes through about twenty names. Unfortunately, this is where I have
to start doing math. Here, everybody gets four minutes. I’m scheduled to go 16th at
Hollywood Hotel, which starts at 7 and gives everyone five minutes, so I won’t be
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going on until close to 8:30. Factoring in the five minute drive, plus a few minutes
of leeway for the hosts’ time in between comics, If I can make it to a spot
somewhere in the first 25, I’ll be fine. If not? Well, tough shit.

A few more names get called, then Matt pulls mine. I half-jog to the sign-up line,
and take a glance at the list as soon as it gets within view. I’m in luck: slot number
ten is open. I write my name down and strut back to the table Tyler and I are at.
Tyler gets his name pulled, signs up, comes back, and tells me he signed up in the
best slot available: 1st. Cool, looks like we’re doing three shows tonight after all.

Matt starts the mic and calls up someone who isn’t Tyler - I guess Tyler misread
which line he was on. He’s cool with it, he needs more time. The actual first
performer is a comic with a long name and a penchant for extremely odd bits.
Tonight is no exception; sporting a crown and a long cape, he spends his four
minutes wandering around the bar yelling “BOW TO THE KING!” at people and
staring at them until they bow. If they don’t, he kisses their feet. He makes it
around the whole bar before his time ends, but he only has enough time to thank
the crowd before getting ushered off the stage. I wipe the tears of joy away from
my eyes.

Tyler goes up, does his time, gets in a few good jokes, but this room is tough. The
comics here don’t care about you. They care about talking to each other and
judgment. It’s like a normal open mic with the intensity racheted up. One comic
quips that if open mics were rated like ski runs, this one would be a Black
Diamond.

I get called up, and decide to start with a new nugget of a story to see what I can
wring out of it. Since Jeopardy is playing on all the TVs in the bar, I bring up my
own attempt to be a Jeopardy contestant when I was a teenager. Yet, just like I
feared, my closing line - my only attempt to be clever - fails miserably. I pause
until I hear someone laugh, just so the attempt wasn’t wasted, but immediately
decide that story isn’t worth telling again.

Next, I decide to talk about the shady characters living in my neighborhood. This
time, I start with an old story about something one of my roommates said during
the Boston bombing manhunt that was completely, obliviously inappropriate given
the circumstances. The crowd also thinks, like me, that his ignorance is hilariously
innappropriate, and gives me one of the only laughs I get during the whole set.

From there, I talk about the guy with the “PRISON” license plate. There are a
couple of chuckles, but the room mostly stays silent. No matter, it just means I
probably haven’t found the true kicker of the bit yet. I close with Dad Hardy, a
tried-and-true bit that manages to wring another single laugh from someone in the
corner, before thanking the crowd and leaving the stage. As I walk back to the
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table Tyler and I are sharing, we nod. It’s time to go. We leave the bar, stop by a
pizza place for a quick slice, then head back to the Hollywood Hotel to pick up our
next spots.
________________________________________________________________________

#171: Wonders from Down Under
9/13/13, 8:30 PM: Open Mic, Hollywood Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

The bar is back-loaded with comics I don’t recognize pacing and going over their
notes. As Tyler and I slide onto barstools, the host comes up to us. “What’s up
guys, did y'all sign up earlier?” We did, we tell him, and point out our names on
the list. The host nods, satisfied, and retreats to his corner.

We’ve got a little bit of time, so I pull out my phone and try to clear some space so
I can get a recording of my set. I don’t want to repeat my mistake from the last bar.
Yet, every time I think I’ve cleared out enough space, an error message pops up
telling me I haven’t. Crap. I might just have to fly by the seat of my memory.

Only two actual audience members sit in the bar, an Australian couple in LA for
the first time. They’re newlyweds and shipping off to Las Vegas in a few days, but
for some reason they decided to pop down for a drink and a laugh in the
meantime. I’m not complaining. They’ve given me a perfect in.

My name gets called. I walk to the stage, try one last time to get my recorder to
work, fail, then just take the mic and go for it. I start off by talking to the Aussies,
springboarding into the always ready bit about my girlfriend and I being in a longdistance relationship. When I describe the ridiculous app that we use because it
totally, shamefully works at aiding the pain caused by the distance, they laugh.
Solid.

I notice out the corner of my eye that the TVs, which previously had been playing a
video of whichever comic was on stage, had switched to a screensaver. “Oh, good, I
was distracting myself.” The Aussie girl giggles. I look at the couple again. “That
must have been nice. If anyone was bombing, you didn’t have to look directly at
them!” The few people in the bar erupt. Again: solid.

From there, I decide it’s a good moment to test a new bit, so I trot out the one
about the "PRISON" license plate guy. I can still tell the bit has something to it. It
gets laughs, good ones at that, but it’s still not as funny as it could be. Maybe I’m
not highlighting the right angle. It needs some work. Luckily, I’m excited at the
prospect of improving the bit.

I thank the sparse crowd, then head back to the bar with Tyler and wait his turn. A
few more comics perform, then Tyler goes up. Once he’s done, we hop back in his
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car to make our way to the planned third show of the night. When we get there,
we find that the show’s been cancelled. Nobody is there besides the comics. He
offers us some water and soda, which we gladly take, and we head back to my
place, our night prematurely cut short. No big deal, though. We still did some
good work today.
________________________________________________________________________

#172: Because I Can
9/14/13, 10:30 PM: Headliner Saturdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I don’t want to be at work crazy late tonight, since I have to take the bus to get
home, so when I notice that one of the comics on the second show still hasn’t
made an appearance, I decide it’s time to try seizing the opportunity. I ask the
manager if I can take the spot. He’s not sure, since officially I’m not allowed to do
sets while I’m on break, but he’ll ask.

I wait a few minutes, then he comes back. “Official policy says no, but I’ll let you
go on this time. Don’t get used to it.” I thank him profusely, then ready myself. It’s
a good crowd. I’d better give them a good show.

The MC introduces me, and I start off by thanking the crowd over and over and
over again, even getting down to the individual people. People laugh, then stop
laughing, then start laughing harder, just like with any good “how long is this
going to go on for?” type of bit. “I know what you’re thinking,” I say, “why is the
young man selling tickets telling us jokes?” I glare at someone. “Because I can.”
Laughter spurts out of the crowd.

I decide to try some crowd work. A woman in the front row tells me her name is
Christine, and that she’s dating one of the two guys she’s sitting in the front row
with. The other one is just a third wheel. I tell him he should have a more
optimistic outlook. “You’re like a spare tire. If this guy pops, you’re good to go.”
The crowd eats it up.

I switch into material, starting out by talking about my girlfriend and our trials
and tribulations dealing with being in a long-distance relationship. The Dating
Technology bit works like a charm, further cementing its place in my repertoire of
solid material. From there, I tell another tried-and-true joke: Jap-Slap. Again, this
bit works wonders, getting the audience roaring.

I decide to downshift a little, talk briefly about being broke and getting sponsored
by Save The Children, then bring up my job as a swimming teacher. This time, I
talk about some new ideas I’ve been kicking around for the joke, but they don’t get
much of a response compared to the prepared parts of the bit. To be fair, they’re
not funny yet, but now it’s just my job to make them funny. No big deal.
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After another throwaway line about my inability to grow facial hair, I transition
back into talking about being broke, calling up the story about stealing room
service leftovers from a hotel hallway. It gets a decent response, but I mess up the
ordering of the joke, and accidentally cut out one of the funniest lines in the whole
bit. Next time, that won’t happen.

I get the light, so I do the first part of the joke about being a freelance writer.
Unfortunately, it fails. Something happens. I honestly don’t know. But I’m not
going to end on silence. I quickly decide to tell the Haunted House joke, which
does wind up working just fine, even though I cut it a little short. But cutting it
short isn’t a problem as long as I can still make ‘em laugh, which I do.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage, then head back outside to call my girlfriend.
She’s in town now. I want to make sure she’s doing okay at the house.
________________________________________________________________________

#173: Like I'm The Idiot
9/17/13, 7:30 PM: $2 Tuesdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The other comics and I wait in the lobby for just two more people to show up.
That’s all we need. But it’s showtime, and we don’t have enough of a crowd for the
show to go on yet. Just when it’s beginning to look like I may have taken the bus
out here in vain, a couple of confused-looking black dudes walk in to the club.
They don’t want to pay $15 to see the main room show, and they heard it was
cheaper over here. The girl working tickets smiles and sells them their seats.
Thank God. We’re on.

The barely-there crowd is attentive, even pleasantly receptive. They laugh at most
of the comics, though a few don’t tickle their fancy nearly as much. I’m not
worried about getting that kind of response. I know what works for shows like this.
I pace a bit so I can stay loose.

My set marks the midpoint of the show. I take the stage to light applause, and start
with a throwaway line referencing the fact that I’m wearing a cardigan: “I’ll be
quick, after this I’ve gotta run to the Land of Make-Believe.” Laughter.

I choose to open with my bit about being broke, doing a little crowd work by
asking a guy sitting up front if he invests (he does) and what he invests in. At this
question, he throws his hands in the air as if to say, “too many!” and I laugh. “Oh,
we’ve got a wealth of knowledge over here,” I quip to some sustained laughter. The
investor looks a little sheepish, but smiles.

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I talk about being a swimming teacher next. The bit does well, but I notice that
during the act out, I’m using a deep voice but having the kid call me “Mommy.” I
comment on it afterwards, getting another decent laugh, but realize that I just
need to fix it so there’s no problem. I doubt I could make some calculated mistake
down the line and get the same response - this was an organic revelation and the
humor brought out of it feels like it’ll only happen once. But maybe I can test that
out, too.

From there, I go into my bit about being a freelance writer. I tell a new story within
the bit this time, something about not getting adequate instructions from the
client and still being expected to know what to write. “I’m getting talked to like I’m
the idiot.” The rest of the story is ill-formed, but that line - along with a couple
others - are good enough to keep in some form.

I talk about being a camp counselor, too, which gets some solid laughs, then
transition into discussing my parents’ opinion of my decision to move out here and
pursue comedy. A girl in the crowd nods vigorously, so we talk for a minute about
disapproving parents (since she has some, too) but it doesn’t really go anywhere.
My crowd work this set hasn’t been as strong as it could be. I’m glad I’m feeling
free enough to talk to the crowd at all, but in the future I need to remember to ask
questions and push things further.

I close with the Haunted House bit, since it worked so well as my closer the other
night. Tonight, it also works, and I leave the crowd on a laugh, thanking them as I
go. I tap my girlfriend on the shoulder, and she follows me out of the room. We’d
stay longer, but we have a bus to catch.
________________________________________________________________________

#174: I Just Want To Play GTA
9/19/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

After a slow day at work, I wait for about an hour for the open mic to start. It feels
like forever. I pass the time by drinking a beer and shooting the breeze with some
of the other comics. We reminisce about our first times going on stage, and how
far we’ve come since then. Mostly, we’ve gotten darker and more analytical. It’s
just the way you start to see things after a while as a comic. Like life’s got a little bit
of an edge that you never noticed.

After securing a work-in spot, I ask Aaron, tonight’s host, if I can bite the bullet.
He says sure, looking pleasantly surprised. I just want to get on and get out. I have
Grand Theft Auto V waiting for me when I leave.

The bar slowly fills up, and, when the time is right, Aaron starts the show off. He
does his time, then brings me up. I know what I want to talk about today, vaguely,
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so I start ranting about one of my freelance writing jobs. I got another assignment
from someone who is clearly just too lazy to do the work themselves, since the
assignment is just a single page, double-spaced. I lay into my client for his sheer
lack of motivation to get the job done. I find a few lines worth expanding upon for
later, based on the chuckles the comics give me. This is what I came for: answers.
A guide on where to go next.

From there, I toss in two brief bits that I already know work: the one about getting
sponsored by Save the Children, and the one about being a Boy Scout. They both
work just fine, and that’s good enough for me. I’m not here to crack those open.
They just need to be kept fresh.

I finish on a laugh, thank the crowd, and get off the stage, saying goodbye as I walk
out of the bar. GTA is calling my name.
________________________________________________________________________

#175: Imperfect Ten
9/21/13, 11:30 PM: Last Laugh Show, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The room is close to full but this crowd is just too polite. They’re paying attention,
but not really buying what any of the comics are selling. They laugh like they’re
watching a golf tournament instead of a comedy show. We’ve got an uphill battle
on our hands.

I’ve been given the gift of ten minutes of stage time, a first for me at Flappers, and
my only goal is to make those minutes count. Things look pretty dire, but I’ve got
no choice but to do my best and soldier on.

The host introduces me. I take the stage, survey the crowd, and start things off by
talking about my job here at Flappers, since some of the crowd just saw me selling
them tickets. The bit works okay, but the laughter is quiet and ends fairly quickly.
So, yeah, this is gonna be a bit of work.

I talk about being broke, getting some good laughs out of the crowd (especially
with the new Save The Children tag) before transitioning into talking about my
other jobs as a swimming teacher and a freelance writer. There’s more silence than
laughter, but besides that the crowd seems to be on board, even if they are quiet. I
haven’t offended anyone yet, and I don’t feel like I’m bombing.

I talk about living in Hollywood and the shady characters I have to deal with that
live there - the gang members who I pretend are just territorial old ladies, the
roommates who make me feel lonely, the crazy homeless people, the guy whose
license plate just said PRISON, the Ed Hardy dad. Everything gets a response of
some kind, usually laughter, and although I’m not killing it up here, I feel decent.
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One thing’s for sure: I’m not letting the room rattle me. When I was a younger
performer, I would have gotten totally freaked out by this intense quiet, but now, I
am doing my best to embrace it. Difficult, but doable.

I finish off my set by talking about my girlfriend and our long-distance troubles,
like trying to use technology to make the distance more bearable, and end on a
laugh. I thank the crowd, get off the stage, and decide that this set, while not
perfect, works well as a ten minute chunk. Aside from refining this, my next task:
craft a new ten.
________________________________________________________________________

#176: Dating Lobster Girl
9/22/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The bar is full and the night is winding down. I’ve got half a pizza left over from
my shift and the itch to get on stage and talk about something new. It’s kind of
cold in the bar. I need to start bringing a jacket to work, or maybe a hoodie if it’s
not too bad out there.

I’m able to get the final work-in spot, and finagle my way into going up third. This
leaves me a little time to collect my thoughts. I drop off my pizza in the ticket
booth and head to the back of the bar, talking things out with some of the comics
there.

My name gets called, so I walk to the stage, shake the host’s hand, and ask if I can
turn the fan off, since it’s cold. He nods. I angle the fan away from me, since I can’t
find the switch, and lament how cold it is. This kicks off me complaining about the
temperature outside, and how, since moving to LA from Texas, I have become a
temperature pussy. Anything below 70 degrees starts to feel unbearably cold to me
now, and I go running for my jacket. As I talk, I realize I have nowhere to go with
this tangent, and flat-out say “I don’t even know why I’m talking about this.” The
crowd laughs.

Then, I realize I might have something relevant to this after all. My girlfriend, who
is moving here, is allergic to the cold. Literally allergic. She breaks out in hives. I
bring this up, then say: “I’m afraid that in, like, six months, she’s gonna get caught
in a light breeze and puff up, and I’ll be stuck dating Lobster Girl.” Laughter, again.
Maybe I can flesh this out some later.

I close out by talking about my freelance writing job, this time with the story of the
client who couldn’t write a one-page double-spaced piece of work for nursing
school. I raise the question: “If you can’t do that, how do you expect to be able to
save lives on a daily basis?” The crowd laughs some, and the comics grin and nod. I

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also bring up that it’s for an online nursing school, which doesn’t make a ton of
sense to me. “Here, just plug this IV into your USB port.”

I ramble on a little longer about the writing, then end with a simple, “that’s all, I’m
done.” I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and grab my pizza on the way out. I
hope my girlfriend will let me keep talking about her cold allergy. She might think
it’s as funny as I do.
________________________________________________________________________

#177: Gimme Shelter
9/24/13, 8 PM: Pot Luck Open Mic, Echoes Under Sunset, Los Angeles, CA

I am the second person here. Since this mic is first-come, first-served, I have my
pick of spots. I choose to go fourth. Sometimes it pays to take the early bus.

Moments after I sign up, a flood of comics I don’t recognize come in, peruse the
sheet, decide on their spots, then go out front to smoke cigarettes. I stay inside and
figure out what to do with my time while intermittently glancing at the movie
being projected on the wall. It's Madagascar. I’ve never seen it before. Doesn’t look
half bad.

The usual hosts aren’t here this week, so another comic takes the reins and starts
off with complaints about twerking. She talks for about a minute before deciding
to bail and start bringing up the other comics. Can’t say I’m not relieved.

The first three comics go up, to varying degrees of success, and then it’s my turn. I
get brought on to the strains of Petey Pablo’s classic, “Freek-A-Leek”. The host
doesn’t know the song, and since I do, she says I’m blacker than her. “Well,” I say,
“my lips help out with that, too.” She chuckles.

I know I want to talk about my misadventures playing Little League baseball when
I was a kid, but don’t want to start right with that, so I bring up some new stories
about my childhood.

When I was a kid, my parents sheltered me. They wouldn’t let me listen to
anything besides Radio Disney for years, wouldn’t let me play video games rated T
or see PG-13 movies until I was thirteen, and kept me away from a lot of the stuff
they deemed “not right” about the outside world. They dictated my activities for
me, and I went along with everything because I didn’t really know any better. Sure,
by the time I got older I was able to branch out and do some thinking for myself,
but those experiences seemed worth talking about now. So I do.

The stories work. There are random parts that work better than others, buoyed by
strong, specific details about my upbringing, and I can see where the jokes can be
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molded and crafted later on. I also talk about taking Tae Kwon Do lessons when I
was nearing age thirteen, and dropping out after a particularly bad sparring session
with an old man. I realize on stage how weird it is that my parents didn’t want me
playing video games where I’d fight people, but didn’t have a problem with me
fighting in real life.

I close out with the story of my attempt at being a pitcher, which works alright,
even though I haven’t told it in a while and the joke itself is in flux. I’m still trying
to figure out the best way to tell it. I can feel myself getting closer, at least. I end
on a laugh, then thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and shake the host’s hand as I
walk away. I finish off my beer, then head back to the bus stop. There are still
about twenty comics waiting their turns. Sometimes it pays to take the early bus.
________________________________________________________________________

#178: Celebrities Come First
9/26/13, 12:45 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The show was supposed to start at 11:30, but since Gabriel Iglesias and his posse
decided to run a show here tonight, we’re forced to wait until it’s over until we can
get the open mic going. The comics in the bar are all definitely not happy, but
none of us is about to leave. We’re not about to throw away a chance to get some
stage time.

The show finally starts at around 12:20. I’ve got the last work-in spot, so I kill time
by drinking and talking to the other comics about being mean on stage. One guy is
concerned that he comes off too much like a dick, even though he’s only like that
on stage. We tell him not to worry about it. He seems plenty nice to us. Later, I
hear him lamenting comics who make obscure pop-culture references and only
hang out at one open mic. “I just don’t get…those people,” he says, exasperated.

My name finally comes up. I take the stage and, as I pull the mic out of the stand,
the cord comes out. I wail, “OH NO!” and fix the technical error. “The stand really
had a grip on it.” Everyone is looking at me. At least I have their attention.

I start with a more extended, fleshed out version of the stories of my sheltered
childhood that I talked about last night. They sound more like real jokes now and
get a decent response (which, tonight, means that at least two people audibly
laugh). Another random detail from the past crops up when I talk about having to
buy one of my own Christmas presents from my parents one year, which gets a
shocked laugh from a comic up front. There’s a lot of potential here, I can’t wait to
see where it goes.

I talk briefly about doing Tae Kwon Do when I was a teenager, then speak on my
time spent playing other sports. Tales of being forced to play football against girls
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in middle school don’t go over so well, since I ramble for too long without saying
anything funny. Bringing up my time spent as a little league baseball player - and
umpire, after I quit - winds up being a better choice.

Now that I’ve got a bit more to work with, I thank the crowd and leave the stage.
My friend and co-worker is graciously giving me a ride home tonight. I don’t want
to keep him waiting too long.
________________________________________________________________________

#179: To See It Work Out, For Once
The bar is hopping tonight. I drink a Rolling Rock and talk to my friend Kasey
about what we did with our summers, since we didn’t see each other much. She
was off going to music festivals and traveling and having a ball. I worked in the
Burbank heat. I’m envious.

We wind up discussing relationships. She hasn’t been in one for years, I’ve been in
one for two now. I tell her my girlfriend is finally moving to LA and she smiles,
congratulating me. We talk about how hard it is, even though it’s been rewarding
in the end. She brings up the caveat that the grass is always greener on the other
side.

I’ve got the second work-in spot, so after the first three comics do their time, I’m
up. I go to the stage and decide that the most appropriate thing to talk about is
this newish development in my life.

“My girlfriend and I are moving in together.” A couple of people cheer and clap.
They’ve heard me lament dealing with long distance long enough. I tell them I’m
happy, but nervous. My girlfriend keeps reading articles about serial killers and
kidnappers, which is only stoking the fire of her nerves about moving here,
especially since I work nights and wouldn’t be around to protect her. “I can’t
protect her from imaginary murderers…or real ones, presumably.” The crowd
laughs.

I talk about the dumb argument we had a month back over grocery shopping. It
doesn’t have the punch it did back then, but the line about vegetarian hot dogs
still works. I just need to reconfigure this bit for my new situation. Hopefully, that
won’t be too difficult.

I close out by talking about doing Tae Kwon Do until I got beat up by an old man,
then talk about how I could only listen to Radio Disney for years before my mom
relented. The crowd laughs at each of these bits, and a new reference to the
Disneyfied version of Mambo Number 5 gets a few scattered chuckles. Maybe not
the strongest bit yet, but I’m still working it out. No reason to worry.

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I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and make my way to the back of the bar. Kasey
high-fives me as I go. I watch one more comic’s set, then head back to my car, to
my house, to the bed I’m sharing with my girlfriend. She’s coming down with a
cold, which is a shame, especially since she has to leave on Saturday. Nobody likes
flying when they’re sick.
________________________________________________________________________

#180: Angry Men Nobody Are Listening To
9/29/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The bar is louder than usual, thanks to the efforts of one guy sitting up front with
his friend, a comic who is dropping by the club for the first time. He’s heckling
everybody, yelling out incoherent responses during people’s sets, angry that people
in the back are drinking and talking instead of listening. I’ve got a work-in spot
later. I hope this guy quits by the time I get up there.

When my name gets called, I’m forced to find out that he didn’t when he begins to
sing my name, falsetto. It’s actually not too bad, so I think maybe this will give him
all the attention he needs. I talk about being long-distance with my girlfriend, and
at the punchline, he chimes in again: “that’s…that’s fucked up.” I look at him,
laughing, not really knowing how to address this. I go with, “okay, whatever,” and
carry on. In retrospect, I should have confronted him a little more, but tonight I’d
rather work on newer stuff.

I talk moving in with my girlfriend and her being afraid of murderers and
kidnappers, fleshing it out with the details I forgot last time. There are scattered
laughs in the back at certain lines, so at least now I know the next step is to get
those lines said faster.

I continue with a brief section on the app we downloaded to make dating easier,
the one with Thumbkiss, before taking on another fairly new topic: my parents’
sheltering of me during my childhood. I hit most of the same notes as before,
adding a couple of new stories, like one about them taking one of my birthday
presents and hiding it for three years because it was an R-rated movie. The stories
get good laughs, but like the moving in material, it’s too drawn-out. I need to get
to the funnier lines faster. Still, I’m glad it’s funny.

After my set, I have to change the letters on the marquee in front of the club, so I
miss a lot of the mic. I catch flashes of people’s bits here and there while I wait. I
distinctly remember the guy who was heckling everybody getting his name drawn,
then him going onto the stage, sitting down, not looking anybody in the eye, and
then just getting totally shut out by the room. He kept trying to get a rise out of us,
saying that yo, all of us in the back who aren’t listening need to go fuck ourselves,
for real.
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Here’s the thing about open mics: they aren’t supposed to be good shows. Sure,
they can become good shows, but if you’re getting mad at an open mic, you’re
doing it wrong. It’s taken me a long time to realize that, but it’s the way it is. Sorry,
dude. You got pissed for no reason.

After he bombs, he keeps heckling. Disgusted, I go back out to the ladder. Later
on, I see he and his friends leave the bar. I fight the urge to yell at them to show
some damn respect, but don’t want to push the issue. I didn’t press it on stage,
why do it here?

I get back inside for a few more sets, hear my friend talk about going to a mental
hospital when he was a teenager and being friends with alcoholics, and also with
another guy who was berating us and talking about how depressed we all were,
and how we need to come to the stage with prepared shit and not just talk out of
our ass, which, again, is another wrong perception. I just wish people would stop
trying to force their opinion of comedy down my throat.

I do have one good moment with that night JC, a comic I really admire who hosted
the shows that weekend and stuck around to do the mic. He told me he thought I
was really on the road to something good, which is super nice to hear. He told me
that I’m working through something, not just walking through it, which is really
great. I’m proud to hear he has faith in me. It’s nice to have someone else rooting
for you.
________________________________________________________________________

#181: "Daaaaaamn."
9/29/13, 9 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m in agony because I forgot when I asked to perform on this night that the show
was during the Breaking Bad finale. It just got started. My prayers for the show to
get cancelled go unanswered. I’ll have to bank on Parker and his friends being
willing to watch the episode a second time. At least I’ll get to go on early.

The room is unpopulated, only eight audience members. Nobody sits in the front
row. Everyone is clouded in darkness. It’s not the best omen. When the MC gets a
tepid response from the crowd, he confirms the obvious: this is going to be a tough
room to crack.

The MC wrings a couple of laughs out of them, but the comic following me - one of
my favorite comics in the scene - gets an icy response. If they don’t laugh at him,
what can I do to make them laugh at me? I try to not get worried, to stay loose.

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He’s laughing to himself. At least it looks like he’s having fun up there. I guess
that’s all I can do, too.

The MC tells everyone to clap for him after he leaves the stage, then introduces
me. I shake his hand and take the mic, moving the stand out of the way before I
talk. I tell the crowd that, yes, Jay Light is my real name, but only kind of - my real
name is Jerry Thomas Light III. The name alone gets a laugh from the back, but I
can’t tell if it’s from a comic or an audience member. I decide not to worry about it
and finish the bit.

The crowd makes me work at the beginning. I start telling my jokes about living in
Hollywood, but the first punchline is met with a cough instead of a laugh. I’m
quick: “That’s an appropriate response, Hollywood is pretty sickening.” Some
laughs. One girl claps. I look over her way to offer up thanks for her excitement,
then realize she’s clapping because her food was just delivered to her, not because
she thought I was funny. She just couldn’t wait to eat those buffalo fries. I thank
her anyway.

Finally able to continue with the bit, I finish up and move on to talking about
living in a house of six people, then about living in gang territory. The jokes don’t
get bad responses by any means, but the laughs definitely have to be coaxed out of
the audience more than usual.

I finish up with an old standby: the Jap-Slap bit. After my first punchline, a guy
sitting up front with his lady offers up his first response to my whole set.

“Daaaaaamn.”

I’m elated. “Thank you, sir.” I notice his fedora, accessorized with a red feather. “I’d
put another feather in your cap if I could.” The crowd laughs. So does he.

I finish up the joke only to find out that I can’t recall how it actually ends. I make a
dumb noise - “shabbadoo” - and thank the crowd, then leave the stage. Can’t let
that happen again.

As I gather up my stuff, my friend who went on before me pulls me aside,
laughing. “You know that guy in the front row?"

"Yeah.”

“It’s a woman, dude.”

I laugh out loud. “Oh, shit. Is it bad that I don’t really care?”

176

He shakes his head. We talk for a minute before he has to take off. Later on, Parker
texts me to let me know the people he’s with don’t want to watch the finale again.
Oh well. I’ll find a copy somehow.
________________________________________________________________________

#182: Worked Into A Lather
9/30/13, 10:45 PM: Open Mic, The Palace, Los Angeles, CA

After getting drawn to perform 36th at Echoes, I decide to take my chances here. I
wind up 22nd. Still, it’s better, so I’ll take it.

I watch good comics go on early. Comics who bring the house down. Comics who
are known and respected. Comics who got the best spots and will go on to do
other spots once they get off stage. I make it through seven or eight, then get
hungry for something besides Chinese.

I wander down the street to a pizza place offering 2-for-1 slices. I eat and think
about what to talk about. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be about being sheltered
when I’m a kid, but I don’t want to just say the same stuff I have been the past
couple of mics. I want to give this joke some life. Why do I feel this way about
being sheltered?

A conversation with my girlfriend from last week comes to mind. My parents are
fairly old-fashioned. When my mom was my age, she was marrying my Dad. That’s
fine and good, but it’s not what I want. There’s a fundamental difference between
what we want out of life. For most of my life, I thought my parents knew what was
best for me, but as I got older, I saw that thinking for myself wasn’t a bad thing at
all.

My parents act like I want the same thing they want. That’s why we disagree.
That’s the cause of some of the discord. I have it boiled down to an easy-to-say
sentence, one with some attitude behind it. I finish up, throw away my plate, and
head back to the mic. There are less people when I get back. The room is hit-ormiss at this point, with some people’s jokes soaring, and others crashing and
burning.

I get drawn to go eventually. I start off with the bit about being sheltered. I try to
channel the disbelief I feel now at the lengths my parents went to when trying to
keep me away from the things they thought would corrupt me, like Star Fox
Adventures and music not on Radio Disney. The attitude and the new line both
work out with a couple in the front row, who laugh throughout the whole joke,
with a few bonus laughs popping in occasionally from around the room.

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Alas, after the high of that bit, my second joke - the throwaway line about taking
Tae Kwon Do being allowed by my parents - doesn’t pan out. I end without a
laugh. I don’t really see any way around it. Next time, I’ll work hard for it, but then
I was too taken aback to know how to correct the situation.

I thank the crowd and the host, then leave out the front doors of the restaurant.
I’m going to hang out with my friend Sean. He’s finally back in town and I can’t
wait to play video games with him.
________________________________________________________________________

#183: Developing in New Markets
10/1/13, 6:30 PM: Open Mic, iO West Theater, Los Angeles, CA

Since I have Tuesday nights off now, there’s a whole slew of mics that have just
opened up for me. After checking the Comedy Bureau, I opt to head toone near my
house. Maybe I’ll see some familiar faces.

I do. We’re all waiting in a clump outside for the doors to open. The host comes
around and makes sure everyone who wants to perform is signed up. I make small
talk with a few comics I recognize until the doors open, when I make my way to
the bar and order my required drink. Today, I’m paying with quarters, so I opt for
something cheap. PBR in a pint glass.

I don’t know when I’ll be going on, but I know exactly what I want to talk about
today: being sheltered. I’ve got two chunks working fine now, and I finally think I
know how to get the last one going too.

Thirteen or fourteen comics go on before me, and it seems clear that I won’t be
gracing the stage until close to the end of the show, when out of the blue the host
says my name instead of whoever was supposed to go next. I scramble, turn on my
recorder, take the stage, and openly question the host for a moment before
deciding it’s better if I don’t press the issue.

The Sheltered bit is today’s news. The first two parts work fine, just like I’d hoped
they would. The third, involving juxtaposing my parents taking away a birthday
present because it was rated R with them letting me read the most violent book of
the Bible every week at church, gets a good response too, even earning a single
clap from someone in the back. I’ve found my angle. I’m happy.

I finish with the swimming teacher joke, and I try taking my time with it, but my
impatience gets the best of me and I kind of speed through the bit. I still end on a
laugh, albeit a weaker one than I’d like. I thank the crowd and leave the stage.
After another comic, I walk back to my house.

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That bit about being sheltered is really coming along. Now I just need to condense
it - it’s way too wordy right now. I have to cut to the chase.
________________________________________________________________________

#184: Let's Get Another Take
10/2/13, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

After a successful writing session with friend and fellow comic Liz last night, I’m
excited to test out my revamped material at the open mic. There’s even a crowd,
sort of. It’s mostly comics, like usual, but there’s a couple tables of people still
drinking after the fundraiser we had at the club earlier. Let’s see what they think of
us.

I have to wait a few spots for my work-in, but I don’t mind. I enjoy a beer and talk
to some other comics in the back of the bar, then make my way to the front to wait
my turn. Another comic runs his new bits past me to see what I think, but he
doesn’t talk loudly enough, even from two feet away. I practically have to put my
ear in his mouth to understand him. He’s telling me something else when the host
calls my name.

I take the stage, move the mic from the wobbling stand, and start off with a new
version of the Fathom Events joke that highlights the ridiculousness of watching
two hours of paintings. But, silly me, I forget the new wording and leave out a
couple crucial lines. The basic idea of the joke still comes across, and gets a laugh,
but without the nuance that makes it funnier it falls a little more flat than I’d like.
Get it next time.

Next up is a largely revised joke about the first time I ever had to break up with a
girl, when she didn’t let me get through my speech because she agreed. I stripped
it to the essentials - me being so nervous that I wrote and rehearsed what I’d say to
her - and built on the ridiculousness from there, using the act-out to make it seem
like a big production that said girl is ruining by not knowing her lines. It works,
but I still speed through a line or two and garble my words. Next time: speak
clearly, go slowly.

As I move the mic stand back in front of me, the stand part pops out of the base.
The crowd laughs, a couple people laugh, and the host yells, “What the fuck?!” I
don’t know how to fix it, really, so I do some minor screwing it back in. For some
reason, the whole situation reminds me of one of my firstopen mics, when a guy
who went up there with no material bombed hard, and, mid-bomb, grabbed the
stool off the stage, lifted it above his head with a Viking howl, and set it back
down, continuing with his set like he hadn’t just done one of the weirdest things
I’d ever seen on stage. The story doesn’t get much of a response, but I didn’t expect
it to. It just needed to be told.
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I finish with a quick revisiting of my bit about growing up sheltered. I only cover
the angle I talked about at iO the other day with violent movies being banned but
reading the Book of Revelation being a-okay with my parents. The laugh isn’t as
strong as it was yesterday, but my angle wasn’t as sharp this time, either. It just
needs some refining. No big deal.

I thank the crowd and leave the stage. Parker, freshly clocked out, is my ride home
today. We head off to the parking lot.
________________________________________________________________________

#185: Need For Speed
10/3/13, 11:50 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I was trying to get out of here early, since I took the bus today, but a series of
extenuating circumstances made me miss both the pre-midnight busses back to
Hollywood. So I drink a beer and figure out my next move. In the meantime, I
figure I might as well get a spot if I’m gonna be stuck here at the club, so I use my
work-in and ask to bite the bullet.

By the time Erikka starts the show and finishes her set, I’ve got five minute until
the next bus comes. I’ve got to make this quick. She calls me to the stage. I shake
her hand, set down my recorder, take the mic out of the stand - and pull the stand
out of its base, again - then start. “I’ve got a bus to catch, so I’m gonna say two
things.”

My first thing is a new story from work. A guy lost his credit card at work. I found
it for him and returned it. Instead of thanking me, he said, “hey, buddy,” then
made finger guns and clicked his tongue at me. Like a hotshot fighter pilot, or
something. I tell the crowd I hope he uses that as his thanking method in every
day life. “I’m sure it works out well for him.” I go into an act-out involving Finger
Guns getting a liver transplant. “Hey doc…*click-click*.” A few comics guffaw in
the back. Cool, this might have something to it.

My second thing is the Fathom Events bit, revised, without the final line that I
forgot last time about the art gallery movie getting reviewed in the New York
Times. The beginning and end of the bit both work out just fine, but the middle
gets no laughs at all. I need to adjust it, clearly. I just don’t know how right now.

I thank the crowd for their time, pull out the next name since Erikka is nowhere to
be found, then jog across the street to the bus stop. It pulls up moments after I sit
on the bench. Perfect timing.


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#186: Cut It Out
10/4/2013, 11:45 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

There’s no host tonight, and I’ve already got plans so I can’t take over. But the guy
who volunteered to host hasn’t started yet, and the main room show is over, and
the comics are getting antsy. I find him on the patio, looking at his phone. I
introduce myself and tell him I’m gonna get things started. He gives me this deerin-headlights look, then follows me inside.

I take the mic out of the still broken stand, gently shimmy the stand to the side of
the stage, and start giving the rundown of the mic’s rules. The replacement host
drinks at the bar and talks to another comic. He doesn’t seem to care too much.
Whatever. I should stop caring so much about him. I’m gonna be out of here soon,
anyway.

My only goal tonight is to try out these jokes I’ve been working out the past few
days. The crowd is loud, filled with comics, and not paying much attention, so this
will be more for me than anyone in the audience.

First up, the Fathom Events bit. This time, I don’t forget any parts, change the
order around some, and close out on a decent laugh. But I don’t want a decent
laugh. I want a strong, body-shaking laugh. I want to rock people’s worlds, or at
the very least make them do something besides nod and chuckle. I’ll give the end
some more punch.

Next on the docket: the breakup bit. The joke works fine, and the act-out does well
thanks to the energy I put into selling it. My only problem here is that I’m not
getting the story exactly right. I need to review my notes to make sure I’m not
adding in too much unnecessary detail. Can’t be slowing the joke down too much.

Finally, I talk about being sheltered when I was a kid. The crowd is generally a fan
of my childhood woe at not being able to watch “inappropriate” movies or listen to
non-Radio Disney music, but I can tell as I’m going through the bit that the joke
just doesn’t have enough punch right now. Albeit, I do forget the Revelation part,
but overall, the chunk needs to be slimmed down and punched up. I’ve got to cut
it out with the rambling and get to the funny faster.

I thank the crowd, then draw the first name out of the pitcher. I take my station at
the end of the bar. I’ve got about twenty minutes before the replacement takes
over. I can tell how much he doesn’t care about this. That’s not good when you’re
the host. Good thing I won’t have to watch the train wreck.



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#187: This Is The Joke That Never Ends
10/7/13, 6:30 PM: Open Mic, Rockpaper Coffee, West Hollywood, CA

I hop off the bus right as the mic gets started. Someone inside talks on stage. The
room looks super dark - I can’t tell if the lights are off or if it’s always been that
dark and I never noticed. My friend Jake signed me up, so I check with him about
when I’m going on (7th), thank him, then go inside to buy my one item. I opt for a
croissant. I’m hungry.

The mic is classic Rockpaper. Some good comics, some clunkers, all playing to a
room of mostly silence. I pay as much attention as I can, especially to the comics I
like. I want to see what they’re working out.

The host doesn’t recognize me, since I’ve only gone up on her day once, so she
misreads my name as another comic’s when she starts checking to see who is and
isn’t here. I stop her. “That doesn’t say Jak Knight, it says Jay Light.” She
apologizes, then starts with my intro.

She makes a couple correct educated guesses, like, “this next guy probably
watched cartoons for a few years too long…” I laugh immediately. I walk to the
stage, take the mic as she hands it to me, and thank her. Then I tell everybody she
hit the nail on the head. “But it wasn’t by choice, exactly. I was just not allowed to
watch anything else.” Little did she know she set me up for the Sheltered bit just
fine.

I run though it, getting laughs in the usual places, then switch into the Fathom
Events joke. The first two parts of the joke work fine, just like they have been, but,
true to form, the ending falls flat. I need to find a better way to wrap it all up.

I decide to close with the idea from a couple weeks ago about my girlfriend being
afraid to sleep after reading news articles about serial killers. “But what if you
murder me?” and such. The problem here is I haven’t written anything out, so
there’s only two lines that get any sort of response. The rest is nothing. To make
this joke work, I need to cut down time at the beginning and find an actual end to
the joke. Another time.

The comic who goes up after me spends his first minute on stage talking about
how much he liked my set. “Your parents probably drove you right to doing
comedy by blocking you out from all that other stuff.” I nod along. I consider this
angle. Why haven’t I brought this up in the bit yet? Food for thought.




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#188: It's Who You Know
10/9/13, 10:15 PM: Comedy Night, House of Tacos, Hollywood, CA

I get cut from work early, so I decide to go to an open mic I’ve always wanted to try
out at House of Tacos. My only problem: I’m in Burbank, the restaurant is in
Hollywood, and I took the bus to work today, which means I’m not going to get to
the mic until around 10pm, even though the show starts at 9.

Luckily, I know one of the hosts. I text him to see if he can get me on the list. He’s
not there, so I ask if he’ll tell whoever is there to put me on. Ten minutes later, I
get a text: “I told him you should be on”. Good enough. I thank him and continue
my travels through the valley.

I get to the restaurant, and check in with Valentino, the host tonight. He shows me
the list. Sure enough, I’m on there. I thank him and go order a couple of tacos. I’m
starving.

A few comics perform while I wait and talk to my girlfriend. When I go back
inside, Valentino tells me that if the next guy on the list isn’t there, he’ll throw me
on. I thank him and get my recorder ready.

“Seth Plummer? Are you here?” No response. “Okay, well then give it up for Jay
Light!” I go to the mic stand, shake Valentino’s hand, and start my routine. First up
is a punched-up version of the bit about being sheltered as a kid. Even though I
forget the section about not being allowed to play Star Fox Adventures, I can tell
that the joke is definitely getting somewhere good, but I still have too many words
cluttering the bit up. From this point on, it’s just going to be trial and error to see
what pieces to snip out.

As I’m finishing the bit, another comic brings me a lollipop. The kind you get from
the dentist for being a good patient. I thank him and slip it into my jacket pocket.

I decide to talk about my church-sponsored sex ed class next. This is a bit I haven’t
brought out in a while, and even though the punch at the end works well, I can see
that the rest of the story isn’t quite up to snuff. I really like this premise, and know
there’s a lot I can wring out of it, so now I have to revitalize the beginning of the
bit.

I close out with some jokes on being in my church youth group. These are a month
old, and despite me flubbing a couple of words, they work better now than they
ever have before. I guess they needed to marinate a little.

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I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and go to the counter to collect my tacos from
the cashier. I eat while I watch a few more sets, then check when the next bus
home is coming. Five minutes. I thank the host, then start towards the bus stop.
________________________________________________________________________

#189: Get Your Head In The Game
10/10/13, 10:45 PM: Open Mic, India’s Flavor, Glendale, CA

Work is slow again, and I get cut again. Time to hit a mic with some food. I’m
starving. India’s Flavor is the only close one, so I hop in my car and drive down the
5 to Glendale.

I descend into the restaurant, sign up, order some food and a beer, then sit down
with the comics, who have taken over a couple of tables in the back. We’ve got
about an hour before the show starts, so we talk shop: who’s doing spots where,
how our day jobs are, how much we hate getting unsolicited advice.

The show gets started. The first four comics do well, but the fifth is the night’s first
bomb. He keeps making excuses for the silence, but nobody is buying them. My
friend Greg and I play tic-tac-toe while we wait for his set to finish. I learn that I’m
horrible at tic-tac-toe. I’m not focused, missing easy moves and letting Greg defeat
me too many times. He looks up from the game after a particularly devastating
loss, an easy block that I somehow ignored, and says, “get your head in the game.”

One more comic goes after the bomber, then it’s my turn on stage. I’d already
decided to do the same set as last night, since the material wound up lining up so
well, but I need to make sure I make some tweaks.

First up: the bit about being sheltered as a kid. I swap the order of my examples,
ending on the references to the Book of Revelation instead of the ones to Star Fox
Adventures. This way, I can have a bit of a segue into my next couple of bits, both
of which deal with my religious upbringing.

I continue with the church-sponsored sex ed story, condensing a couple lines to
infuse more surprise in the bit. Surprise is very important to a joke. If the audience
guesses the punchline before you say it, it’s not even worth telling the joke. They
won’t laugh and you won’t like it. The new phrasing works, but now I just have to
figure out how to make it even funnier up front. Still a little sluggish.

I finish up with the youth group stories, getting solid laughs again. I think this
time I figured out what made the difference: my inflection. Putting some passion
and emotion into my words at the end of the bit is the key to this bit’s success, as
evidenced by the solid laugh I get on my final line. I thank the crowd, leave the

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stage, then gather up my belongings. Not bad. This set is almost ready for prime
time.
________________________________________________________________________

#190: Roshambo
10/12/13, 12:10 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m vying for the second work-in spot with Mark, a hilarious established comic
who drops by the club fairly often, because I want to catch my bus home before 1
AM. The next one comes at 12:23. Clarke, tonight’s host, says we have to play Rock
Paper Scissors to see who gets it. I trudge over to Mark. We agree on the rules,
then get down to playing.

I win two in a row. Mark shakes his head. I pat his shoulder. “Don’t worry, this’ll be
the only time I ever bump you.” I let Clarke know I’m the victor so he can give me
my spoils. He tells me I’ll be up next.

The comic before me finishes, and Clarke brings me up to the sounds of mild
applause and feedback from the speakers. I turn them to face outwards so they
don’t screech at me constantly while I’m trying to talk, then start in.

I do the same set I have been the past couple of nights: Sheltered, Sex Ed, Youth
Group. The set on the whole doesn’t go overwhelmingly well, but I didn’t expect it
to in a half-empty bar where most of the people are having their own
conversations. I get a few scattered laughs, forget some lines, but manage to make
my way through the entire set with about ten seconds to spare of my five minutes.

The goal tonight wasn’t to kill. The goal tonight was to see if I still felt like the set
flowed right. And it does, though a couple of the individual jokes could still use
some punching up. Nevertheless, I’m happy with how this little five minute chunk
has developed. It’s ready to show to a real crowd.

I thank the audience, wave goodbye, leave the stage, grab my leftover pizza and my
backpack, then wander out the door to the bus stop across the street. My phone
says I still have a couple of minutes before the bus shows up, so I plop down on the
bench and wait.
________________________________________________________________________

#191: Pulling A Dr. Bruce Banner
10/13/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Before I clocked in for work, I agreed to host the show. Then, it became a long,
stressful day, and I got angry and frustrated at a number of peripheral things that
had happened. I wasn’t about to back out of my obligation to host, but now I had a
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choice: I could either bring this weird, negative energy to the stage in my
performance, or I can put on a facade and perform as normal. The first option
seemed better for my comedic growth. I don’t perform angry often, maybe I can
get something out of it.

There weren’t even fifteen people in the bar. I hadn’t been up on a Saturday in a
while, and I didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect this. I
snatched the pitcher of names and a blank sheet of paper, lumbered over to the
end of the bar, and got things started by taking the mic and saying: “LET’S GET
STARTED” but stretching the words out until people started clapping, responding,
whatever it took. I just wanted them to pay attention.

I was surly, bordering on angry. I ranted on stage. I didn’t have a plan. I just
complained and ranted and raved and whined and yelled. I talked about being
called an asshole for joking about someone’s birthday when said person was
fishing for “happy birthday” compliments. I talked about a particularly frustrating
client I had to deal with for my freelancing job earlier that day who demanded I
change things and got mad for not doing it correctly the first time, despite the fact
that I followed their original instructions exactly. It all didn’t get much in the way
of laughter, but it felt cathartic. Good, even. Real good.

The night was fun. Hosting was a real trip. Some of the comics were great, some of
them were terrible, but nobody got any response. At one point, someone said it felt
like he was leaving a really lame voicemail. I agreed. For whatever reason, the vibe
in the air just wasn't one people wanted to laugh at.

But there were a couple of good ones. One comic made me collapse onto the bar
with laughter when he said, “So I’m pretty much sick of horses.” And there was, of
course, none other than Flapper’s resident decrepit old man Gary headlining the
night, with wonderful quips such as “I can’t read in my condition”.

After the show, me and some of my co-workers went to Barneys and had a quick
drink. We enjoyed ourselves. We had some conversations about football and
women. I went back to Flappers, shot the shit with the other people still killing
time there, then went home. It had been a long night.
________________________________________________________________________

#192: Start By Stating The Obvious
10/13/13, 9 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

A comic drops out of the show. I know what that means. As soon as I finish up
with my shift, I check with the manager to see if I can have the time. He says sure.
I thank him, clock out, and change.

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I sit down in the showroom to get a feel for how to tackle this set. The crowd for
this show is timid. Nobody sits in the front row, and most of them aren’t quick to
laugh. But I can sense potential in them. The comics on this show aren’t bombing,
they’re just forced to work a little harder to get the crowd to be on board. I take
this fact to heart.

JC, tonight’s host, calls me to the stage. I set my bottle of water down on the stool
and take the mic out of the stand. I start by stating the obvious: “Hello! I sold you
your tickets.” Laughter to my left. Then, the lights go out in the room. Someone in
the back accidentally bumped the switch. They pop back on, and I have one more
good line ready: “For a minute there, I was the only Light on stage!” One person
gets the pun in the back. I thank them.

I start off talking about working at Flappers and being told I’ll be Jap-slapped if I
don’t help an old man get his senior discount. This joke, like always, works great. I
transition into the bit about being a swimming teacher and dealing with my
students’ aquaphobia. This, too, does well, but I can tell now that there’s more to
the joke that I haven’t gotten at, something about fear. I’ll mull it over.

After winning over the crowd, I decide it’s the best time to trot out new stuff. I talk
about being sheltered as a kid, and about having to take sex ed at church. The
crowd winds up liking the new stuff, thank goodness, and I am elated to hear them
laugh at parts that comics never laughed at during open mics. There’s some bits
here and there that need tweaking, but performing the jokes at open mics to the
same comics every time won’t help me find places to improve on. That’s why going
up in front of real crowds is necessary. Without them, you don’t have a bearing on
what people think is the best part of your joke.

I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and leave the stage, shaking JC’s hand as I go. I
wish I had gotten to the youth group joke, but not this time. Next time, for sure.
________________________________________________________________________

#193: Heaping Bowl Of Guacamole
10/16/13, 9:30 PM: Comedy Night, House of Tacos, Los Angeles, CA

I get cut from work early again, and since I drove this time, I know exactly where
to go next: House of Tacos. I drive down and get on the list. I’ve got a few more
comics to go before me, so make my rounds and say some hellos. I’m hungry, too,
so I order some chips and guac. The waitress says it’ll take a few minutes, since she
has to make it fresh. Two comics later, I’m presented with a heaping bowl of
guacamole and a basket of warm chips. I ask around, but nobody else at the table
wants any.

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I eat and listen. I know a lot of the comics who showed up tonight, but haven’t
really sat down and listened to their new bits lately. I make mental notes about the
ones I like so I can be sure to tell them later on. After five comics, maybe six, the
host and eye lock eyes for a second, and he nods. I know what that means. I’m up
next.

The host introduces me as “the very funny, very nice, Jay Light,” which makes me
happy, but also makes me think about something that happened at work that
night, when I complimented a co-worker after a weird situation involving our boss
reprimanding her and made her cry. I didn’t know what to do, so I just hid behind
the front desk. To begin, I tell this story, acting it out, and my awkwardness gets a
nice little laugh. There’s something to this idea, maybe even to this specific story.
I’ll let the idea sink in a little bit longer.

Since the comic before me was talking about being cool in elementary school, I tell
a previously untold story of my own uncoolness from 5th grade. “For some reason,”
I start, “this girl was standing on a desk. And I reach across to grab a glue stick, or
some scissors, maybe, and she moves, and my hand touches her leg. And she looks
at me, and goes, ‘oh my God, what is wrong with you, are you gay?’” The room goes
silent, all eyes on me. I have their attention.

At this second, I find two major problems with her accusation.

1. She doesn’t understand what being gay actually means (which, to be fair, I also
didn’t know what the term meant, though that was due to parental sheltering
rather than my own childlike ignorance). This aired grievance doesn’t strike as
hard as

2. the fact that she turned out to be kind of mean and bitchy and unattractive
down the line, “so she should be taking all the gay friends she could make, right?”
This line cracks the crowd. Everyone laughs. There’s definitely something here.

I close with an old bit about going to a horse race. I haven’t told it in months and it
never really progressed from the version I wrote down then, but in retelling it I see
where the spots worth working on are. After I get off stage, a comic tells me he
liked that horse race stuff a lot, further cementing my thoughts on the matter.

I scrape the bowl dry with the now-cold chips as I watch a couple more comics.
When I can wring no more guacamole out of the bowl, I thank the host for
throwing me on, then walk to my car and drive to Sean and Parker’s place.
Hopefully, Parker will be back from work soon. He got stuck working the late shift.



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#195: Speaking of Pregnant Women
10/18/13, 5 PM: Set List Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m beyond excited to do Set List again. I’ve been stuck working Fridays for a while
now, and now that I have a rare day off to perform at another show tonight, I feel
like I have no other option but to get back on the improvised stand-up horse.

The turnout is lighter than usual, but pretty much all of the comics are on point,
save for one guy who tries combining the list the host provides him with stuff he
sees on the bar TVs. He ends on an awkward silence, a defeated “alright,” and we
collectively agree to never speak of it again.

My turn comes up, so I make my way to the stage. While the host prepares my list,
I talk to the crowd a little bit. I tell them that I’m feeling good today because I slept
with a pillow between my legs for the first time, and now my back isn’t killing me.
“I’m, like, the happiest pregnant lady right now.” Out of the corner of my eye, I see
the host drop the list off behind me, so I turn to check it. The first line: THE
FETUS FESTIVAL.

“Speaking of pregnant women,” I say to some mild laughter, “are you guys down
with music festivals?” I spin a yarn about how I’m starting my own festival - the
Fetus Festival, of course - involving celebrated children’s musicians and classes
where you can learn fetal massage. It’s weird and gets a few errant laughs, which is
good enough for today.

Next up: POL POT TWEETS. I talk about how much I like technology, though I
express disdain for the rich dictators who have monopolized the time machine
only in order to set up social media profiles. “Have you seen Pol Pot’s tweets?” I
drop in a couple Khmer Rouge references, but they seem lost on this crowd. At
least they liked my time machine section.

My last “joke” simply says BUT, ANYWAYY, so I talk about my dislike of extending
words by a letter or two during text messages. I have no idea where to go, really, or
what to talk about, so I just complain until I find a decent place to end. I thank the
crowd, tell them to meet me in the lobby to pick up some brochures about my
festival, and get off the stage.

I watch another set, then make my exit, feeling ready to tackle my return to the
Canoga Park Bowl later that night.





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#196: Spare Me
10/18/13, 10:15 PM: Handsome Fat Man’s Comedy Jam, Canoga Park Bowl, Winnetka,
CA

I walk through the doors of the bar attached to the bowling alley. Not much has
changed since the last time I was here. The lights are still weird, harsh fluorescents
and the crowd is mostly filled with people older than my parents. The one big
change: the pit in the middle of the room has been filled in with concrete, so now
when we perform we’ll be at eye level with our crowd. I get a little bummed out. I
liked that pit.

Luigi, the host, tries to get the order figured out. I sit with him and survey the
room. I know what I’d like to talk about tonight, but I don’t know how it’ll all
come out. Since I have work tomorrow and need to get some decent sleep, Luigi
lets me go second. I thank him and wander the bar some more, ping-ponging
between the comics I know, making small talk.

The girl who is supposed to be going first shows up late, and almost immediately
after she arrives, Luigi comes back over to me. “You’re going first.” I nod, and he
walks to the mic stand on the concrete stage. He starts things up, but doesn’t do
any material. Instead, he reads the intro I wrote for myself, then tells everyone to
welcome me to the stage. I take the mic, thanking Luigi and patting him on the
back.

I start by talking about the weird picture of a terrifying clown that’s hung up
behind the speakers, staring into my back with demonic eyes. The crowd laughs at
some stuff, but I ramble a little too long, and the laughs die down. My first real
joke is one I know this crowd will appreciate: the one about my parents’ opinion of
me moving to Los Angeles. The old folks hoot and holler when they hear me
comparing myself to an 8-year-old who ran away and didn’t plan it all out.

I talk about being sheltered as a kid. I’m a little nervous, since this is only the
second time this joke has seen a real audience, but I’m happy with the results. The
crowd enjoys the bit, some parts more than others, and I make a mental note to
punch up the weaker bits later on.

For some reason, I decide to tell a two-year-old joke about picking up girls at bars
next. This joke gets one laugh at the end and zilch before that. I don’t even know
why I decided to tell it, but I know for sure that I won’t be telling it again. It just
doesn’t fit in my act any more. I can’t play a douchebag well.

I salvage the sinking set with another quick joke about drinking, the one with me
peeing on a bookshelf, then go into my bit about being a swimming teacher. The
joke works out just fine, and I even get a couple shocked-sounding groans. I’m still
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not totally happy with the bit, since I feel like it’s missing some parts, but I’m glad
that the crowds are still on board with it.

I close out by talking about my freelance writing job. The first parts of the joke
land quite spectacularly, but the back half of it finds me rambling and complaining
with no real goal. I manage to end on a laugh despite this joke’s looseness in the
middle, but I don’t feel great about choosing this as my closer. It needs some
drastic punching up.

I thank the crowd, apologize to the old folks for making lots of jokes about
technology, then head to the back of the room to join some of the other comics. I
watch the girl who swapped spots with me do her set, then thank Luigi for the
time and go back to my car.

On the drive home, I feel bad about my set. I didn’t bomb, certainly, but it wasn’t
me at my best. Time to take a serious look at these jokes and keep them from
stagnating.
________________________________________________________________________

#197: It's Too Late, Brother
10/22/13, 11:50 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Here’s the problem: it’s 11:30 and tonight’s host has yet to show up. There’s only a
few comics even interested in performing tonight, but I don’t want to leave them
hanging. I check with the manager if I can clock out a little early to start the show
and get these poor comics onstage and out the door. She says sure, no problem, go
for it. I speed through the wrap-out, change out of my work clothes, and check the
pitcher of names. Two slips of paper rest at the bottom. I mentally facepalm.

I get on stage, grumbling into the mic, and explain the rules to the four people at
the bar. I ask the other comics I know who are sitting around if they want to put
their names in, they say no, I say okay.

“My name is Jay Light, I’ll be the conductor of this trainwreck.” I only have a
couple things I even want to talk about today, so I get them out of the way quick.
Concern about my ex-roommates thinking I stole stuff from them gives way to
weird questions about my baby cousin being born with teeth and hair. The bits are
loose and get the barest hint of approval from the audience. I’m not expecting
much.

The five comics who wind up signing up, after I goad them into it, perform to
varying degrees of success. A girl goes first, talks about staying with a peeping Tom
by accident. An older man from Cleveland goes up next and complains about his
tiny penis and how gay people make him uncomfortable (although, if he were gay,
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he’d totally fuck Elvis). A guy wearing tights, a tank top, and a fanny pack goes up
next, doing jokes about his inner voice, then delving into a series of barelydistinguishable impressions. I try my best to resist the urge to slam my head on the
bar out of frustration.

The last two comics do decently, since they have real jokes and have clearly been
at this business for a little more than just a couple of months. I thank everyone for
helping set a record attendance low, then shut off the mic and go back to the
barstool I was perched at before.

Five minutes later, another comic rushes in the door, looking for time. I tell him
that unfortunately, he just missed the mic. But he orders a beer and I order
another and we talk about religion and morality for twenty minutes. Then I help
him jump-start his car, say goodbye, and drive back home.

Surprisingly, this show didn’t feel like a total wash. Funny how that works.
________________________________________________________________________

#198: Unprofessional
10/24/13, 11 PM: All Star Wednesday, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The headliner cancelled, and the feature got her spot, leaving some open time on
the show. After clocking out, I check with the manager if I can have the open spot.
He tells the host to give me five minutes before the headliner. Fantastic, we’re in
business.

I have a few comics to go before it’s my turn, so I watch the show to get a feel for
the crowd. The headliner tells me that the crowd is good, that they’re really
listening and paying attention. I’m glad to hear it, and more glad to hear the strong
laughs they’re giving to the parade of comics. It’s a good omen.

The comic before me is funny, but the crowd doesn’t dig his awkward style of joketelling, so I know I have a bit of a hole to dig myself out of. But the task doesn’t
seem daunting. I’ve got an opener that always works and new material to try that I
think will go over well. The host calls me to the stage and I take it, smiling and
shaking his hand.

Right after I take the mic out of the stand, someone says, “sup, tickets?” Well, my
cover has been blown. “Yep, I’m the ticket boy. I’ll try and be quick, I’ve got an
Amber Alert out on me.” Scattered laughs. They need to be cracked open a little
more.

I continue with the Jap-Slap joke, which starts out strongly, but right as I’m getting
to one of the big punchlines, my cell phone starts to ring in my back pocket.
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You’ve got to be kidding me. I shut it off, say something about being
unprofessional, then continue with the joke, trying to gain my momentum back.
The last act-out does alright, but I can tell that the phone threw things off a bit.

I soldier on, telling my bit about being sheltered as a kid. The three examples I use
to prove my point get varying degrees of response, with the middle one - my fight
to be able to play Star Fox Adventures - not working as well as the two bookending
it. It needs a little more punchiness to it. I also wind up finding a new tag for the
part with Shaun of the Dead being taken from me, a re-working of one of the ten
commandments that gets some chuckles from the crowd.

I get the light, so I turn to my bit about being in youth group. This joke has never
seen a real audience before, but I pull it off wonderfully, getting the biggest and
best laughs of my whole set. Something about my intensity really makes this one
work, and I’m happy that the crowd likes the bit as much as I do.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage happy, and head to the back of the room again.
The headliner bumps my fist, tells me I was funny. I watch him to repay the favor.
He’s funny, too, but much more effortless about it. The kind of seasoned comic I’d
like to be some day. I bump his fist when he comes back off stage, then head to the
bar so I can sign up for the open mic. My work here is not yet done.
________________________________________________________________________

#199: Predictable
10/24/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The mic has been going for about half an hour now, but there are still lots of
names in the bucket. I try to fold my piece of paper in a way that I’ll notice when it
gets pulled, then take a seat with some friends. Open mics are always better with
friends. You can laugh together, or roll your eyes at each other, or whisper tags to
new jokes after you finish your set.

We wait a while, and none of us gets drawn. I lean in with a prediction: the three
of us will all go up before 1 AM. It’s bold, but Drew gets drawn at around 12:30, and
Brad gets drawn at around 12:45. The mic is pleasantly supportive tonight, with
good comics and good laughs. Pretty much everyone is doing well. Even Gary, our
resident decrepit old man, gets some laughs. Just when it starts to look like my
prediction will be false, my name gets drawn. It’s 12:59. I shake the host’s hand and
take the stage.

I start off with a slightly tweaked version of my new bit involving my girlfriend
being afraid of getting murdered, particularly getting murdered by me. This time, I
take a new angle where she becomes my accomplice in murder, not the victim, and

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it works. It’s not an outright success, since I still haven’t figured out how to make
this scenario as funny as it can be yet, but I’m glad to see the foundation forming.

I continue with the weird bit I brought up yesterday involving babies with hair and
teeth, but make it more about how I can’t ask my aunt questions involving her
body. It’s too weird. “I’m tangentially related to that vagina,” I say, to a decent
amount of laughs.

I move into a quick story I’ve never told before about getting an email from
someone who quoted herself in the signature. Her problem: the quote has no
punctuation, no capitalization, and makes her look dumb and self-serving. The
story gets some chuckles, even though there’s not really a punchline yet, but I was
surprised that it even worked. Maybe that’ll be worth talking about down the line.

I close out with the youth group material I did earlier, throwing in the bit about
taking sex ed at church. Again, it gets the biggest laughs of my entire set. I’m really
proud of the progress this bit has made. I really feel like it’s starting to come into
its own. I can’t wait to figure out what else to talk about regarding my youth group
experience.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and head back to the table. We exchange words
of praise, disperse, then go our separate ways into the night.
________________________________________________________________________

#200: A Change Of Scenery
10/27/13, 5:30 PM: Sledgehammer, UCB East, New York, NY

As I sit in this new room, in this city I am unfamiliar with, surrounded by people
who have no idea who I am, I feel nervous again.

I have lived in New York once, when I interned for City Parks Foundation after my
sophomore year. I had been doing stand-up for about a year and a half. I was still a
ball of nerves. I would look up open mics, then talk myself out of going to them.
The entire summer I did two shows.

Now, five years in and after a year in Los Angeles, I find myself back, feeling those
same nerves again. I breathe. Be calm. Go slow.

I join a comic at a table and talk to him, my hand shaking. I keep it under the
table. Being friendly works in Los Angeles, why shouldn’t it work here? His name’s
Dan. He went to NYU. He’s been doing comedy for two years. We talk until the
hosts come out with the bucket of names and start to draw. I start to feel more
relaxed.

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For lotteries here, they do five names at a time, with two minute sets. They go
through a lot before they get to mine. Some comics do incredibly well, some bomb,
but the room is honest about how each person’s jokes go.

Eventually, my name comes up in the middle of one of the five selections. I think
about what I should be doing for three minutes. I decide to go with the bit about
being sheltered as a kid. It’s new, but not too new, and I feel like it might get a
decent response.

I think wrong. There are a couple of laughs and claps at various punchlines, but
I’m also telling a new, recently rewritten version of the joke, and I haven’t quite
gotten it down. I fumble my words at times and go a little too fast the whole time.
By the end of my set, I’m able to ease in a little more, after looking some people
directly in the eye and delivering my jokes to them, but I can also tell this joke
needs a lot more work for it to become as funny as I want it to be.

The male host comes up to read more names, and sticks out his hand as he does.
We shake. He says, maybe sounding surprised, “Give it up for Jay Light, everybody.
Jay Light.” I go back to my seat, finish my water, and say goodbye to Dan after
watching one more comic. I have to get something to eat somewhere. I’m starving.
________________________________________________________________________

#201: Poor Untangling Skills
10/27/13, 10:45 PM: Child Support, The PIT, New York, NY

I drop four quarters into a jar, earning me a slip of paper to write my name on for
my second two-minute lottery of the day. I’m performing in a basement this time. I
will soon learn that this is not uncommon in New York.

The host appears to be a replacement. He starts things off by ranting about the alt
comedy scene. His New York accent is as strong as his comedy. He’s been at this
for a while. Most of the time, he sits in the back, minding the sound booth, but
always makes an appearance now and again to draw some new names from the
bucket. One time, he brings a guy on stage who declined to perform when his
name was called. It was his first time ever, and he was nervous, but the host, aided
by the cheers of comics, convinces him to do a set. He’s a little drunk. It doesn’t go
terribly.

After several rounds of comics, a few of whom I recognize from the mic I did
earlier today, I am drawn to perform third out of a group. The comic right before
me is a hot blond girl who the host has been calling out as “that slutty blond” all
night. She says she’s half Russian and does a bunch of sex jokes, culminating in her
putting the mic in her mouth. She leaves the stage without a word. The host, from
the back: “Keep it going for Jay Light.”
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I take the mic and pull it out of the stand. “Now I’m very tempted to put the mic in
my mouth…” I say, to one laugh. Gotta start somewhere. As I begin my set with the
joke about the first time I ever broke up with a girl, the mic cord gets tangled in
the stand. I spend a few seconds trying in vain to untangle the cord, so I turn to
the front of the room and decide to just not move around too much. At least the
crowd was laughing at my poor untangling skills.

I continue with the joke, getting a decent response with the punchline, but not the
one I’m looking for. My delivery of the punchline surely has an effect on this, but
so does the fact that there’s not enough laughs at the front of the joke. I’ll add
some more in my next round of rewrites.

I close with a quicker bit: the one about the guy whose license plate just said
PRISON. This one gets a nice response from the crowd, mostly because it’s a
snappier joke. I cut out words here and there, anything to get to the punches
faster. It pays off. I close on a laugh, then thank the crowd and wave goodbye. I sit
in the back, watch one more comic, finish my cup of water, and head back out into
the night. My feet are killing me. I hope I can snag a seat on the subway ride home.
________________________________________________________________________

#202: I Am Also A Small Hispanic Girl
10/28/13, 6PM: Open Mic, EastVille Comedy Club, New York, NY

After waiting in front of the club for it to open so I can sign up, I see someone pull
a folded sheet of paper from above the club’s mailbox. He writes something down,
then re-folds and replaces the paper. I ask if it’s the sign-up list - “yeah.” - then put
my name down in the earliest spot available: 12th. I overhear another comic saying
he knows someone who comes to sign up at 3 PM. I go back to reading my book
until the club opens.

After sitting in the bar for a while with the other four comics who got here early, I
go into the basement showroom and take a seat in the corner. Slowly, the
perimiter of the room fills in. I recognize a comic from my days waiting to go on at
open mics in Dallas, though she doesn’t see me. I hope I get to see her set. I always
liked her stuff back then.

I wait my turn, watching a cavalcade of mostly funny comics do their five minutes.
Nerves begin to creep through my stomach. I drink water to keep them down. The
girl I remember from Dallas is still funny. Another comic, a little Hispanic girl, says
she’s in town from Los Angeles. I don’t recognize her but I’m sure I’ll see her
around more.

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The host calls me to the stage. I shake his hand and put my phone on the stool so I
can record the set. I’ve noticed that here in New York, comics move faster with
their jokes. They make their setup as small as possible to get to the punch in
record time. I tend to ramble, so listening back to myself to see where I’m going
too slow or putting in too many words will enable me to get more in the rhythm of
these comics and improve my jokes.

I start: “like Rosa, I too am a small Hispanic girl visiting from Los Angeles.” I talk
about living in Hollywood and dealing with all of its denizens, from celebrity and
superhero impersonators to guys whose license plates read PRISON. The PRISON
bit doesn’t work as well as last night, but the superhero story does alright. From
there, I talk about being a swimming teacher for a kid who almost drowned. The
bit does alright, and the new tags I’ve added since arriving in town go over well,
too.

I briefly talk about my freelance writing work, but I can tell that the crowd isn’t
really interested, so I bail on the bit after the first major punchline. I need to get
that joke more sorted out, anyway. I switch into talking about seeing Fathom
Events ads before movies, and the first couple of parts of the joke work well. But I
forget a chunk entirely, and then the new ending to the joke fails to launch as well
as I’d hoped it would, partially because I can’t even remember the new lines. I’ll
nail them down later.

I close with the bit about my parents’ reaction to me living on my own in Los
Angeles, which seems to resonate with the only two people in here who aren’t
comics. I feed my last line to them, end on a lukewarm laugh, then thank the
crowd and wave goodbye. I catch the host’s hand again on the way out, then watch
one more comic’s set and show myself out. I pull out my phone so I can orient
myself with the East Village. My next set should be right around the corner.
________________________________________________________________________

#203: Leaving A Mark
10/28/13, 8 PM: Laughing Buddha Comedy, The Village Lantern, New York, NY

It was practically around the corner, just two blocks away from EastVille, so I’ve
got a lot of time to kill. I descend to the basement showroom, check in with the
hosts, pay my required $5, and order a burger. I’m starving.

The comics and audience file in slowly. I say hey to my friends who’ve decided to
drop by and support me. I’m excited for them to see my new stuff, though I can tell
that as the lottery goes on and my name isn’t called, they’re getting antsy. And for
good reason, really. The comics at the beginning of the show kill it, but the middle
is filled with highs and lows. It’s a real crapshoot. My only desire, really, is to do
well. My friends have earned it, and so have I.
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I get called to go near the end of the show, so I ready myself in the door frame
close to the stage. The second host introduces me: “this next comic knows who he
is, both physically and existentially, probably. Jay Light!” I thank her, shake her
hand, and take the mic from the stand. Let’s begin.

I start like I did with my first set today: by talking about living in Hollywood and
dealing with fake superheroes. I transition into talking about the shady characters
I deal with every day, like the father wearing an Ed Hardy t-shirt. As I do the fistpumping act-out for this joke, I accidentally punch a security camera on the low
ceiling. “That’s the first time I’ve ever punched something during that joke,” I
exclaim, checking my hand. The skin is white where I punched the camera. The
camera didn’t move. I get some minor word vomit: “That’s gonna leave a mark.
Leaving my mark on New York. Whatever.”

I compose myself, then talk about the guy whose license plate just said PRISON.
I’ve condensed it some from the last telling, and I also nail the punchline better
than I have before. It’s because I’m being deliberate, and keeping my excitement
from taking control and speeding me up. The joke isn’t done, I can tell that much,
but I’m glad it’s still on the right track.

From there, I tell my joke about being a swimming teacher. The bit works well, as
it has been lately, and the crowd loves my use of acronyms and pauses. The final
line of the joke also works better than it ever has before. I chalk this up to, again,
being deliberate with my words and timing.

I close with the bits about being in youth group and having to take sex ed at
church, but flip them around, since I had to take sex ed at church because of my
membership in youth group. This reversal winds up making the joke work better,
and gives me a stronger punchline to end the chunk with. The first part of my sex
ed woes still could use another punchline or two, but the crowd enjoys what I offer
them from the get-go. I’m smiling wide. I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and
shake the host’s hand as she walks back to the stage.

I thank all my friends for coming at various times. We talk for a few minutes, then
disperse. It’s the last time I’ll see many of them for a while. I’m just glad they came
by.







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#204: Like Being Woken Up
10/29/13, 6 PM: Two Nice Guys, The Creek and The Cave, New York, New York

I have some time to kill before the mic starts, so I go to the pier that overlooks
Midtown Manhattan. I sit on a bench and watch the sun set. I contemplate what I
should talk about tonight. I reflect.

I really enjoy the scene here in New York. I admire how the comics here cut
straight to the point with their jokes, like they instinctually know that there’s not
much room for fluff and padding. I like how I can go to at least two open mics any
given day of the week, three or four if I plan it right. I miss the camaraderie I feel
with the comics in Los Angeles, but I shouldn’t expect to have that here. I’m just a
tourist.

I check my watch, then make my way to the restaurant where the show is
happening. The mic takes place in a dark theater, filled with comics not talking to
or looking at each other. I drop my name in the bucket and wait.

The host, one of the eponymous “Nice Guys”, takes the stage, and doesn’t even do
material before starting. There’s just no time - we have to be out of here by 7.
We’re getting two minutes today. The first couple of comics, veterans who have
earned the right to get on stage without waiting around like the rest of us, do their
time. They get laughs, but not many. This is a tough room.

I got drawn to go fourth, so I watch two more comics bomb before it’s my turn. I
take the stage and tell a revised, expanded version of my bit on being a freelance
writer. In the entire two minutes, I get two laughs, both from the back of the
room, both lasting no longer than a single “HA!” The words feel better coming out
of my mouth, though the bombing nerves make me fumble some of the new lines.
Not like it matters to this crowd, though.

“That was okay. Thanks, I’m Jay Light.” I leave the stage, then watch one more
comic bomb before taking off.

I think what I liked the most about being in New York was the way I felt
performing. Being here was like being woken up with a blast of cold water to the
face: jarring, but strangely energizing. I feel like I can take on plenty now. The fear
I once had is slowly dissipating, and while it’s clear that it’s not all gone, I’m glad
to see that it’s being replaced quite well with confidence.

I take the subway back to my friend’s place. I wish I’d have time to do one more
show, but I’m meeting a friend for his birthday tonight. We’re going to see a show
at the Comedy Cellar. I want to see some professionals at work. Maybe I’ll learn
something.
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#205: Back Home
10/30/13, 6 PM: Happy Hour Auditions, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Almost as soon as I get home from the airport, I hop in my car and drive out to
Burbank. I don’t have to work today, but I do need to perform at this audition. The
bookers haven’t seen me do a proper set in a little while, and I need to give them a
little refresher.

One I’m at the club, I get a beer and talk shop for a while. People ask me about my
trip to New York. I tell them I had a great time, that I want to back ASAP, but I
missed being around here. And I did. I missed the people the most.

The show starts with a cavalcade of first-time auditioners. Some have clearly been
doing stand-up for a while, some have clearly done this on a lark. A couple of
comics tank. Maybe we’ll never see them again. Maybe they’ll think they have
something to prove and will return with new dick jokes. Only time will tell.

The bump list starts. I get called to go second. I take the stage to some applause,
and to one of the bookers yelling from the back: “Don’t fuck it up!”

I take the mic, smiling. “Let the not fucking up begin.” I start out with my bit
about Fathom Events, freshly re-tagged from my time in NYC. It works
wonderfully, though I feel like my act-out is a little lacking. I’ll change up the
voices to make things seem different.

From there, I go into my material about being in youth group as a teenager. These
jokes get a fantastic response. A mini applause break, even. I continue on into the
sex ed story, which I’ve found really does pair well with the youth group bit. This,
too, gets a strong response from the crowd, except for a tiny section up front
where there’s no punchline and there should clearly be one. I’ll tinker with it and
find out what to add.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and sit back down for a bit until I finish my
beer. I leave the club so I can unpack my bags some. Once I get home, Parker texts
me to let me know I won the open mic for the day, so I get a free pizza next time.
Hell yes. It feels good to be back.
________________________________________________________________________

#206: The Structural Integrity of Condoms
10/30/13, 9 PM: Comedy Night, House of Tacos, Los Angeles, CA

My friend David signed me up, since I had to come straight from unpacking. I’m
going on 13th. They’re on number 2. I’ve got some time. I eat chips and guacamole

200

and talk to the other comics in the back of the room. They ask about New York. I
say it was good.

This room seems tougher than usual tonight. Save for a couple of people, nobody
is doing great. But the vibe isn’t dark, it’s just intense. These comics aren’t mad -
they’re just not that impressed.

Right before me, the host talks about how the first time he ever had sex, he got the
girl pregnant, despite the fact that he was wearing a condom. It reminds me of my
first condom-related mishap, when one broke after I kept it in my wallet for four
months. I didn’t realize that you weren’t supposed to do that unless you wanted to
ruin the condom’s structural integrity.

I tell this story after I get called to the stage. The host and a couple others nod
along, but nobody else seems to be on board. I can already tell this will be a rough
set.

I continue with a new bit, never before told, about an ad for the “Patriot Survival
Plan”, a disaster preparedness plan created in the name of protecting hardworking
Americans from the impending apocalypse caused by Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of what the plan boiled down to other than
a bunch of “weird tricks” to help things happen. The idea doesn’t have legs yet. I
need to cut out the fat and leave the important, funny details.

My next bit is also new. This one is me talking about my time in a fraternity in
college, and how fratboys are misunderstood. It’s a tough sell, and I don’t have the
right angle to sell it with yet. The crowd doesn’t give me much in return. Next
time, I’ll have a stronger angle to come from.

I close out with the new tags for my joke about being a freelance writer. They
sound alright when I say them, but at this point the crowd isn’t going to give me
anything. I finish up, then quickly thank them and return to the back of the room.
I watch a couple more comics, then leave. I have to finish unpacking.
________________________________________________________________________

#207: I Thought I Had More Penguin Jokes
10/31/13, 6 PM: Happy Hour Auditions, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The club is dead today, but we still have a few people come by to perform at the
open mic before going out for their Halloween festivities. They all like my
costume: a penguin outfit.

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I’m performing in the pizza spot today, right up front. I take off the penguin
costume, then, after getting a surprised look from the booker at my decision, put it
back on again. He gives me a thumbs up.

I take the stage: “Well folks, I just got here from Antarctica…and boy, are my
flippers tired.” Some laughs. I continue: “Emperor penguins be all -!” Not much to
it at all. Harmless words. They get some laughs. I can’t think of any more penguintype jokes, so I continue with my set as normal.

I start out with the swimming teacher bit, freshly punched up from my stint in
New York. The crowd is a big fan of it. I don’t think most of them have seen me
working this one out at the late-night mics. It’s definitely a good thing, or else I’d
probably be facing a room of silent, smiling faces.

I continue with the bit about my freelance writing work, knowing I won’t be able
to cover it all with my remaining time. Just like I anticipated, the crowd alternately
loves and hates different parts of this joke. It’s being refined alright, but it’s
definitely got some more honing down to to before it is ready to be considered a
joke I’m really proud of. Yet, even now, as I tell this joke in a penguin suit to an
audience of maybe twenty-five people, I feel good about where this is all going.

I enjoy my pizza in the ticket booth, then get cut from work early since nobody
bought tickets to come see anything tonight. And here I was thinking I was due to
have a boring Halloween in Burbank.
________________________________________________________________________

#208: A Toast
11/8/2013, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m hosting tonight. Clarke had to work and I knew I’d be off in time. I’m happy to
do it. It’s the first time I’ll be doing a show since learning of my grandfather’s
death. It’s been a week.

I find myself feeling a little more fearless than usual.

When the show in the Main Room ends, I take the stage and welcome everyone to
the open mic. I ask who’s never been here, who’s here a lot, then go over the rules.

I ask people how their weeks were. The first guy I talk to gives me dumb one-word
answers, not wanting to interact with me for reasons unknown. I ask another
comic what he did this week. “Open mics,” he replies. Of course.

“I’ve had a weird week. I went to my grandfather’s funeral this week. He was a
great guy.” I guess I knew I’d have to talk about it. I don’t even know if it will be
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funny. I tell an old joke about Christmas gifts my grandfather gave me. I haven’t
told it in a while. I ramble through it, screwing up the timing, but still able to see
where the real heart of the joke lies.

I talk about being there, with my family, trying to recall the general way I felt. I
wasn’t aiming to be funny - just to get the feelings out there. I find one note that
may be worth refining, but only time will tell if I even go back to the topic again. It
just feels cathartic.

I try to start drawing names, but first accidentally pull the mic out of the amp,
then knock over the pitcher, scattering the slips of paper all over the floor. I yell,
“this is just a comedy of errors, eh, folks?” A few comics laugh. With the help of
another comic, I gather the slips back up, and draw out the first name. The
proceedings begin.

Later, Mike, the comic who helped me gather up the slips is on stage. At the end of
his set, he looks at me. "What was his name?“

It takes me a second to realize what he means. "Victor.”

“Last name?”

“Menefee.”

Mike raises his glass. “Well, then everybody who has a drink, raise your glasses. To
Victor Menefee.” He looks at me. We drink at the same time.

I hug him as he comes off stage. “Thanks, man.”

“No problem.” He goes back to the barstool he’d been at all night.

Things are starting to seem a little more normal again.
________________________________________________________________________

#209: Dramatic Lighting
11/2/2013, 11:30 PM: Eleventh-Hour Comedy, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The room winds up with nearly twenty paying customers in it, a younger crowd
looking for something good to do on a Saturday night. They’ve come to the right
place.

They prove to be a tough crowd. They’re laughing at stuff, but not everything. At
least one comic before me tanks, and the rest do fairly decently. Decent is
something I can definitely hit. I’ll aim higher and fall back if I need to.
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I get introduced by the host, shake his hand as I take the stage, and pull the mic
out of the stand. I start my set off with my jokes about North Carolina’s sex laws.
After a couple bumps, the bit works out. They weren’t digging this, totally, so now
I have to switch gears.

I decide to go with the Jap-Slap joke, which is a good decision. The crowd, as usual,
eats this one up. I briefly talk about being broke, throwing in a new line about how
almost all of the clothes I am wearing were paid for by my mom or grandmother,
then go into my swimming teacher bit.

Oddly enough, this one falls flat on its face. Guess this crowd isn’t a fan of mild
existentialism. “That one went right over your heads, didn’t it?” They laugh.

Almost all of the lights go out for a split second. “Whoa. This is some really
dramatic lighting.” They don’t laugh at that one, but I’m happy with it. I’m
thinking quickly again. I’m staying in the moment.

I talk about my freelance writing job, complaining about unreasonable clients, and
find myself slimming the joke down as I tell it. The problem I always have with this
one is the length. There’s too much to tell and too little that’s been polished and is
funny. It feels like I’m getting the hang of it some more, so I don’t worry too much,
but I know that soon, I need to sit down and really craft this joke into something
great.

I close with my youth group and church-sponsored sex ed material, which proves
to be my best decision of the night. The crowd loves it. One guy, skeptical at first,
is laughing the hardest by the end of the joke. I thank the crowd, leave the stage,
and head back out to the lobby. I’ve got the night ahead of me. Some of my coworkers are heading next door for a drink. I join them.
________________________________________________________________________

#210: Because You Love It
11/10/2013, 1:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

We drink at the neighboring bar for about half an hour before we get bored and
decide to come back to Flappers. The open mic is still going on when we stumble
in. I debate whether or not to do a set. My friend Jake convinces me: “What do you
have to lose? Why not?” I talk to Josh, the host, and sign up. I’m going last.

My times comes. I’m introduced. I take the stage and shake Josh’s hand, then take
the mic out of the stand. “Thank you! Why am I doing this! Why! Why!”

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A girl up front says, “because you love it.” She’s right. I turn to her. “What’s your
name?”

“Rosie.”

“Rosie. How long have you been here for?” We have a tiny conversation about
sticking around too long at the club and having what she dubs “stalker status”.
After we have a few laughs, I talk about my real name, and how it’s too fancy for
me. An old bit that somehow still has legs. I don’t totally dig this bit any more, but
it’s still funny, even if it does need some revitalizing. Maybe I’ll work on that one
later.

I ask Rosie how her week was, what the most exciting thing she did was. “Bought
these boots.” I ask what animal died to make those boots. “Little Chinese kids,” she
says, cackling.

“Oh, snap, those are some Chinaman-skin boots? So soft.” Laughter from the
crowd. I talk about the most exciting thing I did all week: attend my grandfather’s
funeral. I tell a story from the actual day that I was able to find some humor in
(one the crowd seems on board with, too), then decide to tell a story about my
grandfather that my grandmother told me while we were at dinner.

The story involves my grandfather getting his ego shot down by my grandmother
after he catcalled some pretty girls on the ski slopes. After he rode next to a guy on
the ski lift with a sun allergy and pointed out that the girl in between them was
lookin’ mighty fine, she yelled up: “Hey! Do you see what’s all over that guy’s face?
The other one’s got it down his pants!”

The crowd likes it. I smile. “You know what, I’m glad I did this. Went way better
than I expected. Thank you, I’m Jay Light.”

I go back to the end of the bar, then finish my beer and shoot the breeze with the
last stragglers in the room. One girl apologizes for laughing when I mentioned
someone playing “Taps” at the funeral. She wasn’t paying attention. No big deal,
though. I can’t expect to win everyone over.
________________________________________________________________________

#211: Too Much Of A Good Thing
11/11/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’ve just finished performing a sketch in a show in the main room when I see the
donuts. Two whole boxes of ‘em, sitting in the kitchen, free for the taking. I grab
two. I’ve already had a beer and some pizza. I don’t realize it, but I’m on the road
to a donut coma.
205

The sleepiness starts to set in early. I pass out in the back of the showroom, in a
booth nobody is using, for about twenty minutes. I wake up, check the time,
realize the mic is finally starting, and scamper out into the bar. I’m handed
another beer. I take it, smiling. I hope I get to go on early.

I do: third. I take the stage and start talking about living with my girlfriend. She
brought a cat with her. The cat is toilet trained, but has had a few accidents - most
notably, peeing in a chair I’ve had since I was in high school. I talk about the
sentimental value of the chair: “I got one of my first blowjobs in that chair!”
Laughter.

I then realize I have a story I haven’t told at a mic before involving high school and
blowjobs. I tell the tale of a late night on a spring break trip to New York City with
the theater department, in the back of the bus, where I got a blowjob that I
thought was stealthy but that all of my friends heard. Apparently, when everything
was finished, my girlfriend made a sound like she was taking off scuba gear. At the
time, I was pissed at them for making fun of my girlfriend, but after the fact, I
realized that it was just another funny situation. So why not tell it on stage? It
works. I’m glad. Maybe this can become something someday.

I talk about doing dumb stuff in college, and about my grandfather’s funeral,
getting a poor response on both. They’re too long and not funny often enough yet.
They need some more time to marinate.

I feel so tired now. I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and leave the club to head
back home. I’ll never eat so much before going on stage again.
________________________________________________________________________

#212: How To Defend Your Territory
11/16/13, 12:45 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Clarke says he’ll work me in, but then forgets, so I wind up waiting longer than I’d
hoped to go on. But the room is lively tonight, so I don’t mind so much. I’m
enjoying myself. Why not let things ride out?

My name gets called. I take the stage, shake Clarke’s hand, and take the mic. A
couple dozen heads turn my way.

I begin by talking about my girlfriend moving in with me. I get some applause at
the mere mention of it, which I respond to with a “yeah, sure, okay.” I tell the
crowd I thought my masturbation days were over until I remembered that fighting
exists. They laugh. It’s just a riff, but the truth behind the statement is what gets
them. I continue by talking about her cat, who pees in the toilet and makes me feel
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like a character from a David Lynch movie. I get significant laughter at this
punchline, better than I did a few days ago. This one is definitely worth keeping
around in some regard.

I decide to try some crowd work, so I ask a guy sitting up front if he had any pets
growing up. He had a German Shepherd. I can relate; my old roommate had a
German Shepherd/Husky mix named Captain Hook. I tell the story of a time when
I took her dog on a walk and he peed on two other dogs that were bothering him
and getting tangled up in his leash. The owner of the other dogs wasn’t happy, but
I wanted to give Hook the biggest high-five after that. That’s how you defend your
territory: pissing on your enemies.

I talk about the only time I’ve ever had to break up with a girl. This joke has been
making the rounds in my act for a while now, and I think I’m finally getting a real
handle on the pacing I need to bring to make the act-out as funny as it can be. I
might also need to change a line at the end. Despite my concerns with the bit, I
feel confident doing it, and the audience responds in kind with some nice,
sustained laughs.

I talk briefly about my parents treating me like an 8-year-old who ran away from
home without planning it out all the way through, then tell an old standby: the
Jap-Slap story. However, I make the mistake of phoning in the act-out, and the bit
suffers for it. I still get laughs, but they’re not nearly as strong as I know they could
be. I’m sure part of that is due to the fact that this is an open mic, and open mic
crowds are just plain tougher than typical audiences, but I shouldn’t get lazy with
my performance, either.

I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and leave the stage. I sit around for a little
longer, finish my beer, and head home.
________________________________________________________________________

#213: Barreling Through It
11/17/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The crowd is mostly comics and people waiting to use the bathroom. The show
just let out. I know I have to do this set. It’s good to push yourself from time to
time.

I’m getting worked in early. I look through my material to see what I should try
out tonight. Three comics go up, get a few laughs, and get off. The crowd is loud
and inattentive. A table in the back of teenagers who came to watch their friend is
talking amongst themselves, and occasionally heckling the host. Thankfully, the
heckler stays silent during other people’s sets.

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I get called up. I shake the host’s hand, take the mic out of the stand, and notice
that the low rumble of conversation in the room is overwhelming. In a
subconscious effort to make this as painless as possible, I speak faster, with a
higher pitch. I’m just trying to barrel through this one. To get up and go home.

“My girlfriend and I moved in together.” I tell an old joke from when we were longdistance that I modify on the fly to make it sound more current. The joke still
works, but the setup is too long. I’ll cut it down to size later.

I tell the joke about Sam’s cat making me feel like my life was being written by
David Lynch. I get a single laugh, then nothing else.

I decide to try some crowd work to engage a little bit. “Do you guys like drugs?”
Nobody responds. I’m incredulous “For real?” One guy in the back volunteers:

“I like weeeeeeed.” I laugh.

“I feel like that’s the only way you should say it!” I repeat him, extending the “e” in
weed to a ridiculous length. The guy and a few other people laugh. Okay, cool. I
tell them my jokes about drugs, then about being a bad friend in college, since that
one involves alcohol. The jokes don’t do particularly well, but I think of a new way
to say a line that might be funnier for next time.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and head to my car. I feel bad about barreling
through it - maybe I shouldn’t do that all the time. Maybe it’s better to try and take
control of the moment. We’ll see.
________________________________________________________________________

#214: Have Fun Up There
11/18/13, 7 PM: Potluck, The Comedy Store, West Hollywood, CA

I have an in. A comic I’ve become friendly with - another ex-Texan named Jay -
works at the Store. A few weeks ago, he told me that if I’m ever off on a Monday
night, I should come by, and he could get me up. After a few weeks of misfires, I’m
here. Jay is out front. We shake hands. He asks me what name I’ll be signing up
under, then fires off a text for someone. I’m good.

I get in line, shoot the breeze with some comics, sign up, grab some coffee, and
wait. At ten til’ 7, the list goes out. I’m going on seventh. Same spot as last time.
Cool.

I head into the Original Room and find a spot in the back to watch the show from.
It’s pretty much all comics in here tonight, save for a lone audience member at

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stage right. His name is Stav. Most of the comics don’t talk to him. I think this is a
mistake. I’ll give him some attention.

After the first six, Willie, the host, calls me to the stage. As he shakes my hand, he
says, “have fun.” I tell him I will.

I start things off with my bit about being sheltered as a kid, directing things at Stav
to begin with. He laughs when I say my parents treated me like a doll they carved
out of a bar of soap. I thank him. As I continue with the bit, a table of three gets sat
to my left. I turn to them and lament not being able to play the video games or
watch the movies that all my friends were allowed to see. They laugh at my
frustration. It’s all I want from them. We started out slow, but the crowd and the
comics are picking up on my momentum. I’m happy about it, smiling, trying to go
slowly and not get too speedy.

As I start my bit about being in youth group, I see the light come on. This means I
won’t be able to close on the sex ed bit, like I wanted to, but, hey, no big deal. This
bit should do alright as a closer. It does more than alright. I get the biggest laughs
of the night when I mention going to Six Flags on Jesus’ dime, and a long,
unexpected laugh when I detail our youth group’s fake “weekly schedule” at the
top of the bit. I see the light begin to flash, so I reset the mic in the stand and
thank the crowd. Willie shakes my hand again as I leave the stage. He says, “good
job.” I thank him.

On my way to the back of the room, I bump a couple fists and shake a couple
hands. Some other comics tell me “nice set” or “good job” or just give silent nods of
approval. I’m grinning. I watch a couple more comics, then head up to the Belly
Room to watch Kill Tony.

As I sit in the corner of the Belly Room, Jay texts me, asking how my set went. I tell
him it was good, and thank him again for helping me get on. He says it was no
problem. “Comedy club employees, people from Dallas, and dudes named Jay need
to stick together.” He’s right.

I haven’t been here in a while, and I forgot the sense of camaraderie that comes
with being at the Store. Why haven’t I been here more often? I think it’s time for a
change.
________________________________________________________________________

#215: Give It A Whirl
11/19/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

Like usual, my goal tonight is to get on stage and get out of there. This time, it’s
because my girlfriend is here, picking me up, and I don’t want her to have to sit
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through too much of this. I secure a work-in spot and get to go on third. The first
two comics perform to silence. I can already tell I made the right decision.

I get called on stage. I know I have some actual material to get to later, but I want
to start off with something new and untested. So I talk about how seeing Gravity
made me glad I didn’t follow through on my childhood dreams. I get no laughs. No
sweat, though - this riff doesn’t deserve them.

I look up at my girlfriend and am reminded of a time when I told her about a letter
I wrote in sixth grade to the 18-year-old version of myself filled with trumped-up
wishes for my future life and lies about my past that I thought I’d forget about. She
always thought it would be funny to talk about on stage. So I give it a whirl. I rattle
off the details that come to mind - saying I wanted to be married with kids in my
twenties, and that I wanted to go to MIT, and that I had a girlfriend who didn’t
exist. The crowd cracks. There’s something here, that’s for sure. It just needs to be
dug up a little more, cleaned, and polished. I smile.

I figure now is a good time to tell some actual jokes. I talk about my girlfriend’s cat
being potty trained. The David Lynch reference works again, but I need to find
some more specific examples of things from his movies to really drive this joke
home. I talk about an argument we had when we were still long-distance involving
me going to the grocery store. I get no response from the crowd. Might be time to
scrap that one.

I close with the joke about the first time I ever really had to break up with a girl,
how the nervousness made me over-prepare and plan things out beforehand, only
to have her simply agree with me. The joke hits fine, but I need to get the wording
down better and adjust the pacing. At least it’s on the way.

I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and leave the stage, shaking the host’s hand as I
go. My girlfriend finishes her wine. We stroll out the door together.
________________________________________________________________________

#216: The Eyes Of Texas Are Upon Thee
11/22/13, 7:30 PM: Open Mic, Hollywood Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

Tyler and I are on a run. We’ve just come from the mic at Silverlake Lounge, where
Tyler got to go on 6th and I elected to sign up to go 30th. We wouldn’t have time
to hit up both these mics otherwise. We pull up in front of the Hollywood Hotel
just in time to miss the “anti-gridlock zone” tow trucks. My friend Jack, who’s
tagging along with us tonight, is excited to see some more open mic travesties after
getting a taste of things at Silverlake Lounge.

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Tyler and I check in with the host, who tells us we’ll be going up in two and three
more, respectively. Gene is an odd guy who is super nice and tries to make the mic
as positive and friendly as possible, to the point where he’ll ask all sorts of
questions to the comics as they come either to or from the stage in an effort to get
to know them better.

I am no exception. As I start towards the stage, Gene asks: “you’re one of those
Northern California guys, right?” I respond with a hearty “NOPE!” which prompts
Gene to figure out my true origins. He’s asked me this before, and I know he’ll
remember when I mention it: “Texas."

"Oh, right! Around Dallas?”

“Yep. Colleyville.”

Gene is super excited. He has a niece in Euless who goes to the high school I
graduated from. He’s going to visit his family down there for Christmas.

I’m on stage now, mic in hand. “I’m going there for Christmas too. We probably
won’t see each other, but, uh, I’ll think of you,” I say, laughing. There are six people
in the bar. Let’s see where this goes.

I start out by talking about the letter I wrote to myself in sixth grade. I switch up
the story a little bit, leaving out some details, throwing new ones in. The premise
gets some laughs. There’s clearly a lot of potential here. It’s all about what facts
need to be uncovered.

I throw in an old classic, a brief joke about my parents not totally being on board
with my decision to move to LA, then talk about my girlfriend moving in with me
and dealing with her cat. I get no response, save for a “Wow!” from Gene when I
talk about the cat knowing how to use the toilet, and a brief chuckle when I say I
feel like a David Lynch character.

I close with another new, random story about seeing a guy jogging while pushing a
dog in a stroller. I opt not to make fun of him, instead choosing to compare myself
to him. “That could be me one day,” I say to a couple of laughs. I realize I haven’t
gotten the light yet, and I feel like I’ve been on stage for more than five minutes. I
check my recorder. 4:30. Gene gives me the light, but I feel done already, so I
thank the crowd and pack up.

I watch Tyler’s set, then we watch one more and skedaddle. Jack, having just used
the bathroom, meets us in the lobby. We’re not rushing, which feels nice. We’ve
got all the time in the world.

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#217: A Nightmarish Hellscape
11/22/13, 8 PM: Open Mic, Silverlake Lounge, Los Angeles, CA

The three of us roll back into the bar to find it’s pretty much the same as when we
left it: dark, depressing, and filled with comics silently waiting to go on.

The host, Don, tells me I’ll be going on in about five more. Jack buys me a Tecate
while I bide my time. A few people are getting laughs, but this room is tough, as
always. This room has always seemed like kind of a nightmarish hellscape to me.
But it’s a nightmarish hellscape that will help toughen me up as a comic, so,
y'know, there’s that.

After getting bumped for a comedy country music act, it’s finally my turn. Don
introduces me. I shake his hand, thank him, and take the stage. I get right into the
jokes by talking about the ridiculous letter I wrote to my 18-year-old self in sixth
grade. The comics are on board with this premise, and throw me a couple laughs. I
bring up the fact that I thought I knew what I was going to do with my life just
three years after I peed my pants in public, which is true - thanks, shitty teacher
who wouldn’t let me go inside during recess - and also gets the biggest laugh of my
whole set. I don’t realize it at the time, but it’s all downhill from here.

I decide to talk about my girlfriend moving in with me, and how I have to deal
with her cat using the toilet like a human. But these are more ideas than jokes, and
it shows - the comics give me nothing. Their silence is like them screaming at me,
“YOU CAN DO BETTER.” And I can. I need to sit down and write out some of
these ideas I’ve had, really make them seem like real jokes instead of half-formed
thoughts.

I thank the crowd, tell them I’ll stick with the first joke for a bit, then leave the
stage, shaking Don’s hand as I go. Jack, Tyler and I watch a few more sets, then go
down the street to grab some tacos and micheladas. They are delicious.
________________________________________________________________________

#218: Can't We All Just Tell Cowboy Jokes?
11/23/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The comics are looking antsy today. The turnout is surprisingly high for a
Saturday. No complaints here, though - maybe I’ll actually get some laughs out of
these guys today.

I’m going on third. The two comics before me do alright, but seeing as this is
pretty much an all-comic crowd, it comes as no shock to me that the laughs are
harder to obtain.

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The comic right before me tells a bunch of Holocaust jokes that get a middling
reaction. He wraps them up by saying, “I don’t even want to talk about this. Why
can’t I just write jokes about cowboys instead of Jews dying? Can’t we all just tell
cowboy jokes?” I’m up to his challenge. I spend the rest of his set trying to think of
one.

I get called up for my time on stage, and start with this: “Hey guys, don’t you hate
it when you’re trying to shoe your mare?” Pause for laughter. “And she’s all, ‘this
isn’t a name brand!’ and you’re all 'you can talk? How did I not know about this?”
More laughter. “That’s for you, John.” He thanks me and gives me a thumbs-up.

I continue with my set as planned. First up: jokes about moving in with my
girlfriend and dealing with her cat. I’ve been telling these for a while, but tonight
I’m telling them a little looser. I find a new line when talking about her cat, but
otherwise get nothing. I need to get back into the habit of changing something
about the joke every time before I go onstage. It keeps me from getting
complacent.

I talk about the groceries argument again, and my fears from earlier this week are
confirmed: the bit doesn’t work any more. I’ll be benching it after this
performance. I’m sure I can find a way to incorporate the ideas or feelings
somewhere else in my act - just not like this.

I finish by talking about the letter I wrote to myself in sixth grade. I’m still playing
loosely with this idea, and wind up with another new idea that doesn’t get
communicated effectively enough. I can see the potential in the thought, but it’s
just not formed correctly yet. But that will come with time.

I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and leave the stage. On my way out, I tell John
that I liked some of his Holocaust jokes. Let’s face it, they weren’t all bad.
________________________________________________________________________

#219: Sustained Misunderstanding
11/28/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The bar isn’t too full today, which doesn’t surprise me. Thanksgiving is tomorrow.
A lot of comics are probably with their families, sleeping in childhood beds or on
pull-out couches, waiting to get drunk on wine and eat too much and fall asleep to
the sounds of football commentary. But I don’t get the luxury of my family this
year. I’m stuck here.

I get called up for my work-in spot. As people clap, a comic says, “bring the fuckin’
heat!” I tell him I will. I’m wrong.

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I start out by talking about living with my girlfriend. “We went from doing a longdistance relationship to living together, which is like…” I realize I don’t have an
analogy for that scenario. “I’ll have to come up with one later, guys.”

I do tell them I’m glad we’re not fighting like we did when we were apart. “We’ve
gone from having the occasional big fight to just having a sustained
misunderstanding.” A couple guys laugh in the back. Good. I came up with that
line about ten minutes before this, I’m glad it’s got something to it.

I talk about Sam’s cat, the same bit I’ve been doing for a little while with some
minor tweaks. I feel like I need to add in more about David Lynch. Next time,
perhaps.

Right here, I burp three times in rapid succession. A girl sitting at the bar makes a
face at me. “Third time’s the charm,” I tell her, before starting on a new topic:
being in a frat in college. I try hitting the same notes I did the last time I brought
this topic up - that there’s a weird, deep sadness to being in a fraternity - but my
own opinion on the matter has no examples to back it up. I’ve shot myself in the
foot by talking about it with no support. I’ll have to write this one out before I give
it a whirl again.

I burp a fourth time. I excuse myself.

Not knowing what else to talk about, I pull up my notes and see a story that may
be worth telling about a lady my girlfriend and I saw on the bus. One of those
clearly crazy, despondent people who carries their whole life around with them
everywhere they go. This lady capped off her trip on our bus with her five
overflowing bags by yelling out, as she exited, “THANK YOU! I DON’T GET CHILD
SUPPORT!” I was incredulous then, but incredulous doesn’t do jack for me here.
It’s not often that I can do a good job of trying to make a joke at someone else’s
expense, and this time is no exception.

I’ve gotten the light, so I wrap up: “I thought that would be funnier. I’m going to
finish my beer. Goodnight.” I shake the host’s hand, finish my beer, watch a couple
more sets, then go home. It’s Thanksgiving now. I’m just thankful to be on my way
back to my apartment.
________________________________________________________________________

#220: Befriending The Hat Brigade
11/29/13, 11:30 PM: Last Laugh Show, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m featuring tonight. That means I get ten minutes to prove myself to a crowd
that has been fairly hit or miss all night. They’re friendly, but if they don’t like a

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joke, they give you nothing. I’m more excited than worried. This is a challenge I
am ready to face.

The host introduces me. I take the stage to Kanye West’s “Stronger” and decide to
dance for a little bit before starting my jokes. The crowd is glad I did. A group of
three teenage-looking guys on the left clap. They’re all wearing hats. “Good thing I
won over the hat brigade.” More laughter.

I start by talking about living with my girlfriend. First, a new joke about her doing
weird, nice things for me, then a transition into talking about our long-distance
past and having to use technology to keep things exciting. These jokes start things
off on a high note. The crowd is loving it.

I keep the energy up by telling the story of the old man who threatened to Jap-Slap
me - another bit that kills - and continue from there by talking about my job as a
swimming teacher. The material here, since it involved a kid who almost drowned
(before I taught him, of course) brings the mood down a bit, though the crowd is
still laughing.

I continue on, talking about my car getting broken into right after I moved to
Hollywood, having to deal with being broke, and fending off the crazy homeless
people and douchebags who run rampant on the streets by my house. The crowd
fades a bit when I talk about my finances, but my references to King Homeless and
his seven full garbage bags wins them back over nicely.

I wrap up the Hollywood stuff with my joke about gangs and old ladies, then
continue by talking about my parents’ iffy opinion of me moving out here last year.
After a quick divergence into the bit about my freelance writing work, I cap my set
off by talking about being in youth group as a teenager and having to take sex ed at
church. My final line gets a big laugh, even though I fumble the words a little bit.
Beaming, I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and thank the host. I grab a bottle of
water from the fridge in the Yoo Hoo Room lobby, then head over to the bar.
Maybe I’ll still be able to make it on at the open mic.
________________________________________________________________________

#222: It's All Yours
11/30/13, 11:30 PM: Eleventh-Hour Comedy, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’ve got a work-in coming up at the open mic, but I’m itching to go up in front of a
real crowd too. My buddy Jake is hosting the late show in the Yoo Hoo Room, so I
check with him to see if there’s any comics who didn’t show up. He says he’s still
looking for one of them, but if he can’t find her, “the spot’s all yours.” I know the
girl in question, so I tell him I’ll run through the club real quick to see if she’s

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around. I’d hate to take someone else’s spot if they were just chilling at the bar
until their time on stage.

But she’s not here. I look everywhere and can’t find her. I tell Jake. “Alright,” he
says.“You’re up next. You get five minutes.”

I peek in the room to see what the crowd looks like. It’s just six people: two
couples up front, men resting their arms around the shoulders of their women,
and a comic with her friend in the third row. They seem nice. Jake says they’ve
been laughing, which is a good sign. I think I know exactly what to talk about with
them.

Before bringing me on, Jake does a little crowd work, asking one of the couples
how long they’ve been together. They say a year and a half. “I broke up with my
girlfriend of two days today,” Jake says. I realize something right before he
introduces me, which I talk about immediately when I get on stage: “I think I was
there before he broke up with this girl. Because we were hanging out earlier, and
he was dressed way nicer than he is now. I feel like that makes sense, to dress nice
before breaking up.” The couples chuckle. “I don’t know anything about breaking
up with girls,” I say, transitioning into my bit about the one time I really put an
effort into figuring out the right way to end things with a girl. The couples like the
joke.

I do some crowd work of my own, asking the other pair how long they’ve been
together, and how everyone met. I tell a story tangentially related to how my
girlfriend and I met, in the sense that it happened at the same frat house. This
story, however, involves dumb drunken escapades and not meeting ladies, and is
one I haven’t told on stage before. The crowd likes it, at least, so maybe I’ll find a
way to bring the story out again.

I talk about living with my girlfriend, how great it’s been to not be dating longdistance any more and use technology to stay connected. The Dating Technology
bit works very well. One of the guys slaps the table while he laughs. Five people are
cracking up. I’m feeling good.

From there, I talk about how I was in youth group as a teenager, then close with
my church-sponsored sex ed story. I end on a nice laugh, thank the tiny crowd for
being awesome, then wave goodbye and leave the stage. I thank Jake for throwing
me on as we shake hands. I look at the time. My work-in spot is coming up. I
should get back over to the bar.




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#223: Let's Talk Nuclear Disasters
12/1/13, 12:15 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I did miss my work-in spot after all, but that just means Josh is going to throw me
on in two more instead of when I was originally scheduled to go on. He’s flexible.

The comic before me says something about fish. I have nothing to say about fish
myself, but it makes me think about something I’d been talking about with my
relatives when I saw them around the time of the funeral: the Fukushima disaster
from a few years back. Apparently, there’s a shitload of irradiated water being
dumped into the ocean from the leaking reactors, and that water is starting to
spread throughout the Pacific and cause some serious environmental problems.
None of that is funny, but I come up with one thought that might be.

Josh calls me to the stage. I shake his hand and take the mic, then start by bringing
everyone up to speed on the Fukushima situation. “I know how great it is to start
with nuclear disaster,” I say to some tension-cutting laughter. Then, I hit them
with my twist: “All this finally made me realize that Godzilla was a self-fulfilling
prophecy.” Laughter. Cool. I ruin them moment seconds later by spitting out some
word vomit, but maybe I can incorporate this idea into my other joke involving
Japan.

From there, I talk about living with my girlfriend. I bring up how I use her
strengths to get lazy about my shortcomings - she’s good at buying gifts, which
means I never have to buy one again - but don’t communicate the idea well
enough, and get no response. Bummer. I talk about her potty-trained cat to
squeals of delight from a cat lover in the audience. I bring up a new detail,
involving her disciplining the cat when it poops on the floor instead of in the
toilet: “she sure loves spanking that pussy. NAILED IT!” The cat lover laughs the
loudest.

I end with the line about our fights decreasing, pausing just long enough to get a
good response from the crowd, then thank them and get off the stage. I thank Josh
for getting me on. He tells me he likes the last bit the most, and I tell him I do, too.
I watch another comic from the back of the room, then get out of the club. It’s
starting to get cold again. I zip up my jacket.
________________________________________________________________________

#224: 'Sup, Nerds
12/2/2013, 10 PM: Nerdist Open Mic, Meltdown Comics, West Hollywood, CA

I don’t get on at the Potluck at the Comedy Store, so my buddy Ken and I trek over
here to try our chances in the lottery. I get picked to go last, thirtieth of thirty. Ken
high-fives me when I return from signing up. Maybe I’ll make it on Kill Tony, too.
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About two hours later, I’m sitting in the Belly Room, watching comics alternately
bomb and do decently and get critiqued by Tony Hinchcliffe and his crew, and it
occurs to me that I’m A) probably not getting on here, and B) about to go up at
Meltdown. Like, right now about to go up. I flag down Ken. He wants to watch the
last little bit of the show, but lets me borrow his car for the trek down Sunset to
the comic shop.

I arrive to see the doors and windows barred up. Shit. Did I miss my spot? I’ll be
kicking myself if I did. I wander around the back and see a comic I’ve met a
handful of times smoking a cigarette. He says there’s still about ten names to go.
Phew. I made it. I hang out with him for a minute, then we both head back inside
for the home stretch.

The room still has people scattered within, some sitting, some standing in the
back, hidden in shadow by the free swag table. I sit down on the side of the room
and watch everyone before me. The crowd is, thankfully, supportive. I haven’t gone
up here in months, but I might get something out of this mic after all. I’d forgotten
that people always seem to enjoy themselves here, not like at other mics, where it
can be comics hating that somebody is going up before them.

Before the third-to-last guy, one of the hosts comes out to do an intro: “We’re on
our last three comics, and if you stayed this far, you might as well stick it out,
because they’re all good.” I don’t remember who he calls up next, but that little
announcement warms me. I’m good. This host has barely ever seen me perform
but he thinks I’m good. I have a reputation, and it precedes me. That feels pretty
cool.

The two before me are indeed quite good, and now it’s up to me to round the show
out. The second host introduces me. I take the stage while the crowd claps, remove
the mic from the stand, and begin with my joke about living with my girlfriend. As
soon as I mention that we’re living together, a guy somewhere in the middle of the
room cheers. “Yep, I’m as excited as that guy is.” Laughter. I continue with the
joke, business as usual, then move into talking about using technology when we
were long-distance. This one seemed perfect for this crowd before I told it, and it
still seems right up their alley coming out of my mouth. They eat it up.

I diverge a little, talking about Sam’s cat and dropping in a slightly tweaked David
Lynch reference that doesn’t feel totally right, but isn’t totally wrong either. It’s
just sort of middle-of-the road. Middle-of-the-road gets me laughs, but I know
those laughs can be louder and harder. I’ll work on it.

I get the light, and not wanting to ruin the goodwill I apparently have here, elect to
go a different direction than planned for my closer. I tell the joke about the guy I
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saw a while back wearing an Ed Hardy shirt and pushing around a stroller - “Who
let that guy have a baby?” I say, incredulous for probably the fiftieth time. The
crowd doesn’t care, if they’ve heard it before - they just laugh anyway. I finish up
by fist-pumping, thank them for being good, and get off the stage, shaking the
hosts’ hands as I do. They tell me they liked my set.

The hosts come back on, thank us for coming, and tell us to leave. I oblige. It’s late,
and besides, I have to give Ken his car back.
________________________________________________________________________

#225: What Are You Doing Here?
12/3/13, 11:30 PM: The Rell Battle Battle, The Comedy Store, West Hollywood, CA

I’d only been to this open mic once before, and I didn’t get on, but it was the event
after the open mic that hooked me: a roast battle between two comics, preselected
the week in advance. The week previous, it was a travesty, but an entertaining one.
This week sounded like it was going to be way better.

I head up to the Belly Room just as the mic is starting. One of the local “characters”
(read: homeless dudes who show up at the Store and get stage time every so often)
is on stage. He winks at me. I feel a little uncomfortable, but toss my name in the
sombrero anyway. Why wouldn’t I?

The host, Moses, takes the stage and begins drawing names. Mine is third, but my
nervous scrawl makes him mad, and he can’t read my first name. He tosses the
name to the ground. This just means I have to jockey for my spot now so I don’t
get skipped. I’m more than happy to put up a bit of a fight. If anywhere, this is the
place to fight for stage time. This is where you get noticed.

The first two comics go. I’m waiting in the wings before the next comic starts
looking down at the list that’s missing my name. He looks at me, not knowing my
name or seeing it on the table in front of him. “Jay Light,” I tell him. He repeats:
“Jay Light!” I thank him, shake his hand, and remove the mic from the stand.

I talk about living with my girlfriend, throwing in a new line about what it’s been
like to go from being long-distance to living together that kind of works. A heckler
says I’ll know she’s a keeper when she shaves my balls. I tell him I still need to wait
a few more months on that. The sparse crowd laughs.

I continue, talking about Sam’s cat and how it makes me feel like I’m in a David
Lynch movie. The premise works but the punchline falls flat. I’ve been noticing
that happen the past few times I’ve trotted this joke out. Time to take it back to
the drawing board.

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I close with the bit about using technology to help the long-distance portion of the
relationship, which works about as well as it usually does. I thank the crowd, bring
on the next comic, and go back to my seat in the back of the room.

I stay through the roast battle. This week delivers what last week did not: two
comics with good, cutting jokes, ripping on each other with finesse. It’s not quite
an art form, like some of the roasts you see on TV, but it’s damn entertaining. By
the end, the whole room is shaking with laughter, applause, and cheers. A winner
is declared and everyone is told to come back next week. Tonight, we’re done.

I descend the stairs from the back of the Belly Room to the Store’s parking lot. A
comic out there who I see at Flappers all the time looks sidelong at me. As I pass
by, he asks, “What are you doing here?”

I stop and turn to him. “Gotta get out of the cage sometime.”
________________________________________________________________________

#226: Best Laid Plans
12/4/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

From the moment the show starts, I can tell this is going to be a more brutal mic
than usual. A newbie is kicking things off, telling half-baked jokes about how he’s
getting engaged this year, masturbating - because every new comic has at least one
joke about jerkin’ it loaded in the chamber - and a trip to Disneyland that isn’t as
interesting as he thinks it is. He gets me thinking.

I am going second, I know this already, so when his time ends and my name is
called, I ready myself and take the stage. I start by looking at the new guy. “I have a
question: what did you mean by ‘getting engaged?’ Like, did you two talk it over
beforehand?” He asks me how old I am - “23, but I don’t see how that’s important.”
- then tells me that when your girlfriend is 32, she has a conversation with you
saying that you’ve got seven months to propose or the relationship is over.

“Do you have a ring yet?” He says he’s getting it in about a month and a half. I’m
incredulous. “The year’s gonna be over by then, dude! You’re gonna miss your
window!” The host and my friend Jake laugh, but everyone else is just staring at
me. The new guy stammers something, then stops talking, so I relent. I hope he
didn’t think I was trying to attack him. I was just curious.

I continue by referencing his masturbation joke and adding one of my own. It’s
one of the first jokes I ever wrote, about my mom catching me jerking off when I
was in middle school. It doesn’t really work, but I don’t really put much effort into
it. I’ve engineered a lose-lose situation. I try to save things by referencing an even

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worse masturbatory incident that she didn’t find out about. The host laughs. He’s
my biggest fan tonight.

Now that I’ve gotten my riffing out of the way, I tell the one bit I wanted to work
on tonight: the one about the letter to myself. My goal tonight is to try an
expanded, tweaked version of the joke. The first new section gets nowhere, the
second one gets a little traction but ultimately doesn’t have enough backing, and
the third works best of all (even though the host is still the only one laughing at
my bits), as it has for the past few weeks. Now, I really know what not to talk about
in the next iteration of this bit. The cream is beginning to rise to the top.

I thank the crowd, leave the stage, and go back to my seat to watch the rest of the
mic. Everyone is bombing. It stays that way the rest of the night. I go out to the
patio with a couple other comics, away from this weird, negative energy. We talk
for a bit, then disperse. It’s cold. We zip our jackets up a little more.
________________________________________________________________________

#227: Think Of The Children
12/7/13, 5:30 PM: Comedian’s Lab, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

We’ve gotten the boot from the Yoo Hoo Room - some kid is having his 18th
birthday party in there - so we do the mic in the bar, adjacent to the familyfriendly show. We’ve been told we have to perform clean today. Some of the
comics adhere to this, but some don’t, slinging swear words around willy-nilly. I’ll
try to stick to being clean. Shouldn’t be too difficult.

Jake agrees to work me in, so I watch comics until my turn. The room is dead.
Nobody is laughing at anything, really, and nobody is giving feedback, either. This
is not your traditional Lab setup, and I don’t think I like it, but we don’t have a
choice but to grin and bear it.

Jake, today’s host, calls my name. I take the stage and pull out my notes. I only
want to hit two things today: the bit about the letter I wrote to myself, shaved
down, and a reworked bit about my girlfriend reading about people who get
murdered or kidnapped and filling her head with weird ideas. I have four minutes.

I try the murder bit first, talking not about the method by which I’d kill my
girlfriend (which I did before) and instead talking about how she wouldn’t be my
victim, but my accomplice, should we ever find ourselves in a murder-type
situation. “She’s more detail-oriented than me,” I tell the crowd. “I’ll do the dirty
work. She’s afraid of bow tie pasta, I think that strangling will be a little outside of
her comfort zone.” Jake laughs, but everyone else is watching college football or
their own notes. I shouldn’t be surprised, and I don’t feel very surprised. Instead, I

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feel weirdly comfortable in the silence in a way that I haven’t felt before.
Interesting.

I move on to the Letter to Myself. This time, I only talk about how I lied to older
version of me by saying I had a girlfriend when I really didn’t. I lament the lack of
coolness in eleven-year-olds, and my own decision to lie about having a girlfriend
who wasn’t as attractive as I could have made her. I’m finding the right emotions
to dredge up when talking about this bit, and that’s helping to inform where to
take the joke from there. I like where it’s going. Maybe next time I’ll add the stuff
about getting married young back in - it seems like it might fit with the
incredulous take I have on the letter now.

I thank the still-silent crowd, leave the stage, and sit back down. I watch a few
more comics, then head to the back to change. I’ve got to clock in and train
someone new tonight. Somebody’s got to cover for me while I do shows next year.
________________________________________________________________________

#228: Fuck Recycling
12/8/13, 12:15 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I get a work-in spot and bide my time over a Newcastle in the crowded bar. The
comics before me don’t do so hot. A table of drunk girls near the front isn’t paying
attention, just waiting for guys to buy them drinks. I guess I should expect to
bomb. Whatever. The bombs don’t rattle me as much as before, at least not here.

Josh, the host, calls my name. I shake his hand and take the stage to some polite
applause. I start my set with something new, based on an ill-fated trip I took to get
some stuff recycled the other afternoon: “I hate recycling now, guys. It’s pretty
much bullshit.”

I tell the story of me saving any recyclable object for a month in the hopes of
redeeming them for sweet, sweet cash. I’m broke. This is what I have to resort to.
After walking the long distance, my arms about to fall off from the weight of my
objects, I am greeted by homeless guys who laugh in my face when they see my
dinky haul compared to theirs. These professional recyclers are leagues better than
me at this, a fact that’s only further proven than my “big haul” of less than two
dollars. In closing, “fuck recycling,” I tell the crowd. One of the drunk girls claps
and cheers.

The story has potential. I’ve left out some of the more weird details, but this trial
run lets me know it’s a story worth telling again.

I close with the joke I’d worked on earlier that day about my girlfriend thinking I’d
murder her. I toss in a new detail comparing myself to a young Jeffrey Dahmer,
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who a comic always tells me I look like, and the crowd seems to be on board in
spurts. The rest of the joke gets a similar response to the one it earned this
afternoon, but I can tell the true form of this joke is starting to shine through.

I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and leave the stage. Josh tells me he likes my last
joke a lot. I thank him, patting him on the back as I shake his hand. I drink the rest
of my beer, watch a couple more sets, then go on my way.
________________________________________________________________________

#229: I Don't Trust You
12/8/13, 7 PM: Yoo Hoo Room, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s been a weird day already, and the crowd slowly building in the showroom is
only making it weirder: an older couple sitting as far back as they can, two moms
drinking champagne after an afternoon of Christmas shopping, a family of four
here to watch their teenage son perform for the first time, my girlfriend, and an
old woman wearing a bright green feather boa on her head. She’s very talkative,
but not in a rude way - she just wants to be a part of the show. Her Eastern
European accent and general cluelessness leads me to believe this is the first time
she’s ever come to a stand-up comedy show. Good thing I get to deal with all of
this right from the get-go.

Kyle, the host, does his time to start the show, then calls me to the stage to open
things up. I shake his hand, take the mic out of the stand, then begin my set by
talking about my girlfriend moving in with me. The opening line doesn’t do so
well, but the bit I go with after - Dating Technology, a tried-and-true joke - works
great with the audience, especially the shopping moms. They must like the way I
say “tits”.

Next, I talk about my parents treating me like an 8-year-old, which doesn’t fly with
the crowd, so I talk about a brief mishap I experienced when I first moved to
Hollywood - my car getting broken into - that paints me as irresponsible, but not
as an idiot. The crowd likes that brief tangent better. From there, I go into my JapSlap bit, which, oddly enough, barely works. Perplexed, I try my bit about about
being a swimming teacher, which gets off to a slow, agonizing start, but picks up a
bit when I talk about getting pooped on.

I wrap up the swimming teacher bit, talking about how the human body is made of
60 percent water, when finally, the talkative old woman strikes: “It’s 90 percent.” I
pause, turning to her. “90 percent?” I ask. “I don’t trust your math.” The crowd
laughs. The old lady smiles. I open my mouth to continue when the shopping
moms chime in about how they’re drinking champagne, not water. “Good for you,”
I tell them. “Our bodies need more champagne.”

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I delve into a minor tangent here: “What if our bodies were made of 90 percent
champagne? We’d be very bubbly.” The crowd laughs. The old woman chimes in
again: “We would float!”

“Yes,” I say, “we would float, and when we get agitated, our heads would pop off.”
She smiles again. She’s glad to be here, I can tell. I just wish she’d stop talking.

I close with a story I haven’t ever told in front of a real audience: my short littleleague baseball career. I condense it inadvertently and tell everything out of order,
but the frustration at the heart of the bit manages to shine through, and gives the
crowd something to laugh at. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I know that this
bit isn’t just for open mics any more. It can become the real deal.

I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, then go back out into the lobby. My boss needs
me to change the marquee outside the main room, so I clock in, climb a ladder,
and spend the next fifteen minutes reflecting on my set and putting Rob
Schneider’s name in lights.
________________________________________________________________________

#230: A Real Trooper, You Guys
12/10/13, 6:30 PM: Open Mic, iO West, Los Angeles, CA

Liz and I have resorted to jogging. We don’t know any other way to make it to this
open mic on time. We pause briefly to get carded at the door, then dash inside and
find the host sitting at the front, going over the list of names. We ask if it’s too late
to sign up. He says no and gets our names. We thank him, then head back out to
the bar to order our required drink.

After we come back inside the showroom and take a seat on the balcony, the show
begins. The host explains that he’s going off a random number generator, and will
be calling three names at a time. It reminds me of how things were in New York. I
like his style.

As we watch the first dozen comics, Liz and I notice that almost all of them say
“you guys” at least once, if not twice. It gets on my nerves. I do it too, but hearing
so many other say it in succession really reminds me how amateur it seems to drop
the phrase in too often. I’ll have to rein it in on my end.

We wait for a while, watching a cavalcade of performers. I know a good chunk of
them, but some comics come out of left field as either great performers or
miserable people. One guy takes the stage already pissed off: “So you guys don’t
laugh at anything, do ya?” He continues to antagonize the crowd, expressing his
disdain that nobody likes his material. It’s not hard to see why he bombs the
hardest out of everybody who gets up that night.
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Liz gets called at around a quarter after 7, but I’m still in the mix. I wait, and wait,
and wait some more. I tell Liz I’m probably going to be headlining. By the time
7:55 rolls around, my suspicions are confirmed. At least there are still people here.
The host says we’re all troopers for sticking around, especially me, then calls my
name. I rise from my seat and take the stage, shaking the host’s hand as I go.

“Headlining! I did it! I didn’t spend all day writing jokes and listening to remixes of
‘Wrecking Ball’ for nothing.” A girl laughs. We’re starting on the right foot. I start
my first bit, the one I told last weekend about my recycling misadventures,
slimming it down and hitting the parts I thought might be important. It fares
better than it did in the bar on Saturday, but not by much - there’s still too much
random, unnecessary clutter rattling around in the joke. I’ll tighten it up for next
time.

I continue, talking about living with my girlfriend and dealing with her fears of
being murdered by me. I throw in a tweak on the Jeffrey Dahmer line that worked
last time, and it goes over even better. Cool. This one’s coming together too. Still
not perfect, no, but this isn’t the time to aim for perfect.

I close by talking about my girlfriend’s cat, and how weird I feel about it going to
the bathroom in the toilet instead of a litter box. The David Lynch references go
over well with this crowd, though I can sense the joke itself still isn’t where I want
it to be. I’ll have to dissect it a little to find places to add tags and tiny punchlines.

I thank the crowd, wave goodbye, and head back up to the balcony. Liz and I close
out at the bar, then after a failed attempt to use the bathroom, we start jogging
back to my place. We’ve got to go pretty bad.
________________________________________________________________________

#231: My Christmas From Breakfast
12/11/13, 11:30 PM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I’m going on second, thanks to my work-in spot. Aaron, tonight’s host, calls me to
the stage. Someone in the back says something about me as I get up there that I
can’t quite make out, so I ask: “Did you say something about Christmas or
breakfast?”

Neither. Dayve, the other host, restates: “I said ‘that’s my nigga from Texas’.”

I laugh at my poor hearing. “Oh, so neither Christmas nor breakfast was involved.”
Dayve offers up a revision: “That’s my nigga from Christmas!”

I go one further: “my Christmas from breakfast!” The comics in attendance laugh.
“He’s a gift, like bacon!” Silence. Damn. I thought that would be funnier.
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I only want to talk about new stuff tonight, so I tell two of the bits I worked on last
night, slowing them down to try and find juicy details that get a reaction. First up
is my recycling story, where I get some laughs, but not enough. It’s still too much
like an unfunny story instead of a truly hilarious anecdote, which I know it can
become. People like the same parts that they liked last night. There’s not enough
change, save for a new addition to the end of the bit. I should have known better
than to go in with such a small amount of change.

I go into the bit about my girlfriend thinking I might murder her, which suffers
from the same problem as the Recycling bit. It’s funny, but not nearly funny
enough, not to mention that these comics have probably heard me tell it the same
way three or four times by now with little in the way of change. I end on the best
line, thankfully, but the meat of the joke needs to see some serious adjustment
before I take it out again.

I don’t know why I was so lazy with these bits, but I won’t let it happen again.
There’s no sense in expecting different results from trying practically the same,
unpolished bit over and over again. It’s like expecting to lose weight without
changing your terrible diet.

Regardless, I thank the crowd, shake Aaron’s hand, and go back to the end of the
bar. I’ve got some reflecting to do.
________________________________________________________________________

#232: Airplane Mode
12/14/13, Midnight: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

I clock out and nab a work-in spot. My girlfriend just got here to pick me up, so I
order us a margarita with two straws. We sit down and watch the first few comics.

Gary, the club’s resident old man, goes up right before me. He does his usual set,
mumbling about his big dick and how he needs a woman to cook for him and go to
Dodgers games with him, then hobbles off the stage, waving his hat as he goes.
Clarke calls my name after.

I take the stage: “Hello, my name is Jay Light, I need a woman, thank you.” Mild
laughter. We’re all in on the joke. “Actually, though, I have a woman…” is how I
segue into my first joke of the night: the one about her being nervous about
murder. I throw in a new line tonight that gets some traction and nods of approval,
so I guess I’ll have to try it again some other time. Good to know this joke is
building up to become stronger.

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I continue on by talking about her cat, the one that freaks me out every time it
uses the toilet like a human, but I tell it the same way it’s been told for weeks now
and I get nothing new. I need to find a way to change.

Unfortunately, I got a phone call during that joke, which caused the recording
function to shut off on my phone. I have no record of how the rest of my set went.
I know I tried a reformatted version of a joke, either Letter to Myself or Recycling,
and it seemed to work better than it had before, though not by much, but that’s
pretty much it. Next time, I’ll put my phone in Airplane Mode before I start
recording.

I finish up, then thank the crowd and host before returning to my table, my lady,
and our margarita. It’s good. A little more tart than I’m used to, but good.
________________________________________________________________________

#233: Something's Different Now
12/17/13, 10 PM: Martin Harris Industry Showcase, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank,
CA

As I’m closing out my cash register, someone performing on this show comes up to
me and tells me she doesn’t want her spot any more. She hems and haws her way
through a terrible explanation involving her needing to go to an audition in the
morning, but all I hear is “I’m an actress pretending to be a comic, and this isn’t
worth my time.” But I’m a comic, and I know a good opportunity when I see one.

I tell her I’ll take her off the show, wish her luck with her audition, then check with
the manager about if I can take her spot. He says it’s cool. I thank him, clock out,
let the MC know I’m on the show now, change, and ready myself in the back of the
showroom. I’ve got five minutes.

The MC calls me to the stage. I arrive to no music - the sound guy working tonight
is new - and it kicks on right as I’m taking the mic out of the stand. “Ah, there’s the
music,” I say, to a bit of laughter. I introduce myself as the guy who sold the
audience their tickets, then start talking about my most notorious customer: the
guy who said he was going to Jap-Slap me. The bit works well, like it always does,
and I even find a new tag at the end involving all the weird noises people from the
20s apparently made.

From there, I bring up my other job as a swimming teacher, then talk about how I
have to work so many jobs because I’m broke. The crowd is on board the whole
time. They, like many others before them, really enjoys hearing about my struggle.

I talk about my girlfriend living with me, then, to close, go into the Dating
Technology bit. The first chunk of it works well, like usual, but the second part is a
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little clunkier and slower. Something’s different now, and I’m not sure what
exactly, but I can tell by the crowd’s reaction that there’s a facet to this joke that
isn’t working. Maybe it’s a fluke, but my gut tells me it isn’t. I’ll have to take a look
at the bit.

I thankfully end on a laugh, then wave goodbye to the crowd - “I’ve been Jay Light,
and you guys have been great!” - and leave the stage. I gather up my belongings
from the back, check my phone to see what time it is, then leave the club. I have to
head to the Comedy Store. They say this week’s battle is going to be a doozy.
________________________________________________________________________

#234: Don't Sweat It
12/18/13, Midnight: The Rell Battle Battle, The Comedy Store, West Hollywood, CA

After writing my name down on the last, tiny slip of paper and tossing it in the
sombrero, I sit in the back with Frank, the battle’s DJ. After watching a few of the
door guys do some time, the host comes back to the stage and pulls the last five
names. Mine is fourth. I don’t even know what I’m gonna talk about, but that
seems okay.

The comics before me do alright. This room, like always, is tough. Right before I’m
supposed to go on, I rise from my chair in the back and pace around a bit. I feel
very tense. Although I love this room and this club, I’m not totally comfortable
performing here yet. I need to get over that.

I get brought up by the comic preceding me, and take the stage trying (and failing)
to shake their hand. I shrug it off and take the mic out of the stand, beginning with
my bit about Fathom Events. I’m going slower this time than I did the last time I
performed here, being more deliberate with my words, but I still forget to toss in
one of the funniest parts of the whole joke. Luckily, I salvage it by bringing up a
tag a comic suggested for this bit a while back, and realize on stage that making
out while listening to classical music actually sounds pretty nice. The crowd likes
it.

I get the light, so I talk about my girlfriend thinking about murder all the time.
The premise is solid, and the final punchline works, but like the other times I’ve
told this joke, the middle is the weakest part. I’ll have to find some new life to
breathe into this bit. I haven’t taken the time to sit down and do that yet.

I bring on the last comic of the evening, hand off the mic to him, then return to
my seat in the back next to Frank. I lament that I forgot one of the best parts of my
first joke. He tells me not to sweat it. He thought it was a good set.

I’ll take his word for it.
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#235: On The Fly
12/18/13, 6 PM: Happy Hour Auditions, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

The auditions are in the Yoo Hoo Room, thanks to some holiday parties, so I’m
stuck running back and forth from the main desk to the Yoo Hoo lobby to make
sure the lists are updated correctly and on time. As the booker finishes up his
announcements for the day, he announces the pizza spot comic. The crowd claps.
But he’s not here. So the booker makes a split-second decision and brings me up
instead. I lift my head from the lists I’m adding to, rise from my chair, and saunter
on to the stage. I guess I get a pizza today.

I take the mic out of the stand and say something dumb - “I just love pizza,” I
think - then decide this set will be about my girlfriend. I talk about us living
together for the first time, then go into the Dating Technology bit. Just like last
night, the middle section of the joke where I describe the app we used to stay in
touch falls flatter than usual. I’m convinced: something has changed about this
joke, and I need to figure out what it is.

I talk about my girlfriend’s cat, and how seeing it use the toilet like a person freaks
me the hell out, then close out with a tried-and-true joke about missing her from
far away that I haven’t busted out since she moved to Los Angeles. Thankfully, it
still works. I get the light, so I put the mic back and thank the crowd before leaving
the stage. As I leave the room, I thank the booker for throwing me the spot. He
says it was no problem.

I go back to the ticket booth desk. The girl I’m training today seems nonplussed,
even as I apologize for getting caught up over there. I think she’s gonna work out
well here.
________________________________________________________________________

#236: The Grumble of Recognition
12/18/13, 11 PM: All Star Wednesdays, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

After clocking out, I just want to get out of here. But I have a spot to do in the
main room that I’m not about to half-ass, so I change and ask Rob, tonight’s MC, if
I can go on earlier. He says it’s cool. He’ll get me on in two.

About ten minutes later, Rob calls me to the stage. I take it, shake his hand, and
face a crowd of about twenty. They’re lively, at least. I start with Jap-Slap, which
works as per usual, and is only enhanced by the fact that our resident old man
Gary decides to pipe in with a guttural grumble when I talk about old men being
racist. I can’t contain myself, cracking up on stage and doubling over mid-act-out.
“Nothing will ever be better than that,” I tell the still-laughing crowd before
finishing the bit.
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I talk about being broke. “Anyone else broke in here?” The comics all clap. “Of
course.” I talk about getting a broken iPod stolen, and about trying to be smarter
about how I spend my money through investing in canned goods. I talk about
supplementing my income by teaching swimming lessons, and dealing with
terrified two-year-olds. The tiny crowd stays with me.

I feel like I’ve hit the halfway point, so I transition into talking about moving in
with my formerly long-distance girlfriend. I find a nice bit of wordplay when I call
her a keeper, then say I literally do have to keep her since she pays half of my rent.
One guy in the front says, “aw,” so I tell them not to worry. “We survived this long
over distance, we’re gonna be fine.”

I close with the Dating Technology bit. Just like earlier this afternoon, something
about the middle of the bit doesn’t quite ring true. It ends just fine, but that
middle is giving me too much trouble now to not warrant some close scrutiny. I
thank the crowd, leave the stage, and then get out of the club. I’ve got other things
to attend to now.
________________________________________________________________________

#237: What Else Should I Talk About?
12/28/13, 12:30 AM: Bar Open Mic, Flappers Comedy Club, Burbank, CA

It’s been ten days since my last set. A much needed sojourn to visit my parents in
Texas made me want to relax instead of work, so I opted not to get on stage at all.
But I’m back in town now and itching to get on stage. I get a work-in spot at the
open mic and have a drink while I wait my turn. I shoot the breeze in the back of
the bar with a few comics.

The show plays out as per usual - a few new guys, a few regulars, our resident old
man Gary talking about his dick, my buddy Josh talking about being a 31-year-old
virgin. This really is just an average Friday night. It seems routine at this point.
That’s not a bad thing, though. I just feel comfortable.

Clarke calls my name, so I take the stage and start by asking if anyone had a good
Christmas. Nobody bites, so I talk about mine by way of my grandparents and the
gifts they’ve given me - one from my grandma this year that wasn’t even under the
Christmas tree, one from my grandpa last year before he passed. The second joke
gets a better response than the first one, but both get some laughter. This holidayspecific material might not work year-round, but I feel like when the crowd reacts
warmly like this - even lukewarmly - there’s something worth exploring about the
bits.

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Next, I talk about a sign I saw for a Family Restaurant that advertised its Cocktails
in a bigger font than the restaurant’s name. “I think that sends the wrong
message,” I say to some chuckling in the back. I talk about how even though it
seems like fun to be drunk around kids, it’s a terrible idea, relaying a story of
getting repeatedly smacked in the face by one of my swimming students as proof.
The premise is funnier than the punchline right now, so my next task is to get the
end up to snuff with the beginning.

I don’t remember what my final story was supposed to be. “What else should I talk
about?” I ask myself into the mic. I look at the notes I wrote in my phone and find
a good one: a story from work when a guy tried to convert me to Judaism by
complimenting me. His exact words? “You look smart. Jews are smart! You’re
probably an Orthodox Jew who doesn’t know it yet.” This ridiculous line of logic
gets a laugh, but that’s as far as it goes since I haven’t written this story out or
analyzed my attempted converter much. But there’s something to this story. While
realizing this, I lose my train of thought, ramble off into nothingness, thank the
crowd, and leave the stage. I return to my now-empty drink at the end of the bar
and order a glass of water. I’ll watch a few more comics then get out of here.
What’s the harm in sticking around?
________________________________________________________________________

#238: The End
12/30/13, 7:15 PM: Open Mic, Rockpaper Coffee, Los Angeles, CA

We didn’t get up at the Store, and Meltdown is shut down until 2014, so I convince
Tyler to go across the street with me to Rockpaper, which looks like it’s still going
on. We enter and ask where the list is to find out we’re the last performers of the
night. There are three of us left in here. We order our required items and sit down.

Nobody is hosting or keeping time. This mic is on the honor system. Sitting
through those last three before my turn is agonizing, even though I like all the
comics who got stuck here late. I just want to go on, though, because a room like
this is rare, and there’s an opportunity here for me to really sit down and work
some shit out. It’s one of those no-pressure-type situations.

The comic before me brings me on as “that young man right there,” and I take the
stage, set down my phone and look at Tyler. “You were right, dude, we shouldn’t
have come.” He laughs. “Oh well. It’s fine.”

I sit down on the on-stage stool. I don’t normally do this, but I’m feeling casual. I
talk about living with my girlfriend after being long-distance, how it’s like going
from being starving to being force-fed all of your meals. “I love the sustenance, but
that tube really scrapes my esophagus. I think I’m bleeding internally.” The three
present laugh. Something there.
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I carry on by talking about the guy who tried to convert me to Judaism at work. I
talk about how his methods might have been more effective if I didn’t feel the way
I do about religion, then talk about my religious beliefs a bit. I haven’t ever done
this before on stage. It feels cathartic, almost therapeutic. It’s a topic I can’t wait to
explore more in the new year.

I finish my set, then bring Tyler on so he can headline. He does his time, gets out a
few good premises, then closes out and leaves. We walk back to my car and I drop
him off at the lot containing his car. We part ways.

On the drive back home, I mull over the facts: that was my last set of the year. I
felt comfortable talking about something I’d felt immensely weirded out by in the
past. I paid $2.50 to talk to two strangers and one of my close friends about this
topic. It felt good.

This year has been a great one. I feel like I’m getting a better foothold in the Los
Angeles comedy world, and a better grip on my voice and personality. I’ve made
friends and enemies. I’ve changed my act so much that it’s almost unrecognizable
from anything I was doing when I first moved out to L.A. I feel accomplished, but I
know I have more to do. So that’s what 2014 will be. A year of growth.

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