I've pretty much had people tell me my whole life that they thought I was funny.
Now when you're supposedly funny, people are also constantly saying you should do stand-up. Sure I could make a group of friends belly laugh by telling them inappropriate jokes about my sad childhood at a BBQ, but I just wasn’t sure about trying out my "material" at an open mic. Then I found a world-renowned stand up comedy workshop that promised it could make ANYONE a stand-up comedian in six weeks.
Seemed legit. I quickly signed up and paid in full to ensure that I wouldn't chicken out.
I actually started getting excited about the class. Then I got my first comedy workshop e-mail. It told me to bring a pen and paper on my first day and it gave me the address for a place called Magicopolis. My snark-o-meter was on high alert.
I checked out the website of Magicopolis. There were lots of photos of the owner, who looked like a less intriguing, scruffier Salvador Dali, with various celebrities, including Carson Daly, Ray Liotta and Kimberly from Melrose Place, which sadly did impress me. And there was a testimonial from David Bowie, "I love this place!" said the Thin White Duke.
It took all my strength not to cancel my credit card transaction at that very moment. But I forged ahead. After all, this class had launched the careers of several comedy superstars including Sherri Shepard!
The first day of my workshop finally arrived. I walked into Magicopolis and entered the small auditorium where the workshop was being held. I sat down in the front row, as other people who had also been told they were funny their whole lives, surrounded me trying to out yuk yuk each other. I hate moments when you realize you’re just as special as everyone else.
Then the comedy guru entered the room. She was like a short, Jewish, lesbian Tony Robbins. She immediately instructed us to write down facts about our life. You really got the sense that she had just 6 weeks to turn us into the next Seinfeld!
I managed to write down: Born to a teen mom and Grew up in Florida, before she yelled “PENS DOWN!” She then proceeded to show us how easy it was to find topics for our act. She grabbed my list and yelled out rapid fire “FLORIDA! HURRICANES! OLD PEOPLE! THE 2000 ELECTION! CHADS!”
I'd just like to point out that I did not take this class in November of 2000. I was no stand-up expert at this point, but I was pretty sure all the chad jokes had been made at least seven years earlier. She went on grabbing other lists and yelling out what might as well have been DATING! DIETING! AIRPLANE FOOD!
Then I was paired up with my comedy buddy, a term that literally almost sent me screaming and running out of Magicopolis like I was escaping the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. I only stayed after I was assigned an 11-year-old boy, who kind of looked like a character from The Far Side comics. He immediately instructed me to abandon Florida and focus on Teen Mom. Then he proceeded to help me work out some topics I could explore, all of which were extremely awkward to discuss with a child.
“That's a keeper!” he snorted after hearing my story about watching my mom porn-star ride a dude on a lawn chair at a party once. I guess hearing about it at 11 is less traumatizing than seeing it happen at 11.
When it was my turn to help him, he quickly cut me off saying that he didn't think he'd be returning because the class just wasn't for him. Way to make me feel like a chump, 11-year-old boy.
In the week before our next class I was supposed to come up with five jokes on my topic and meet with my new comedy buddy, Carl, who ended up never returning my calls.
“Fuck it!” I thought, “I don’t need a fucking comedy buddy!” After all, writing jokes was easy using the world-famous comedy workshop joke writing rules. Set up (Start with ‘You know what's scary/hard/weird or stupid’) Punchline! Act out!
I spent hours coming up with material, drinking Patron, as I sadly guffawed at all my jokes. I looked forward to showing all the coffee-breathed accountants and recent divorcees who had re-entered the dating world how it was done!
I showed up to the second class and prepared to kill. When I arrived I found out that our original coach had left our comedy success in the hands of a woman named Fran, a woman wearing a navy-and-white sweater adorned with gold anchors, who greeted us by saying, "You might remember me from my appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson."
I patiently bided my time as other students went up. I joined the others in my group with encouraging, forced laughter. Then it was my turn.
(These are the actual jokes from that class. Jokes that I once thought were hilaaaarious.)
It's hard growing up with a young mom, especially when you surpass her emotional maturity at the age of five. I mean, you see her mistakes coming a mile away!
Tom Selleck wannabe with a hairy chest and no job?
Please mom use a condom this time.
And don’t let him live here for free if he promises to babysit.
(Pause for laughter) I actually had written down on my "set." I should've written pause for sad faces, "Awwws" and one "Poor thing!" from Fran.
'It's OK to laugh… I think it's funny," I said in an effort to comfort my fellow students that only made me look like an even bigger asshole. I continued with my "act."
There are some good things though; I mean you do have a lot of the same interests.
“Mommy can I have a sip of your margarita?”
“Yes! Now shut the fuck up... The Muppet Show is about to start.”
Silence. WTF!?! Were these not the same people who 10 minutes ago were peeing in their pants when Juicy Couture sweatpants lady was telling jokes about how she couldn't afford to go on the Atkins diet?
The weird thing is, you grow up with no guidance and then your mom starts feeling guilty and all of a sudden decides to become a parent when you’re a teen
“Punkin'? Do you know how babies are made?”
“No, but I know that after two daiquiris you like it hard and deep.”
“That's all I have.” I said, crumpling up my hand-written set list that I erroneously thought had comedy on it.
I was depressed about bombing pretty much the whole following week. The only thing that remotely cheered me up was finally meeting my comedy buddy Carl, a depressed, overweight gay guy, with anger issues. We were a match made in comedy buddy heaven! With setups like "It's really hard when you're sexually molested as a child…" and a joke that included an act out where he threatens his homophobic Nana with anal sex, I looked forward to no longer being the class freak.
The rest of the workshop went pretty much the same, me (and now Carl) creeping everyone out, comedy coach Fran continuing to dress like she had just left a senior's singles cruise and me questioning how I ever thought I was funny to begin with.
Finally our graduation show was upon us. Everyone was excited because the show was to be held at the Improv in Hollywood. Well, everyone but me. I was really only looking forward to seeing the audiences response to Carl’s Dahmer-esque comedy bits.
I looked at the piece of paper on the wall to see where I was placed in the line-up. I was number 33 on the bill. I'm not even exaggerating for comic effect. I was third from the last to go up.
“I'm like almost the closer!' I thought in a desperate attempt to put a positive spin on it. Then I waited. Somewhere around comic number 15, I received some shocking news. Carl had been kicked out of the club after he got into a physical altercation with the manager of the Improv.
"He was banned for life!" the exasperated housewife/comic told me.
“Why didn't I think of that?” I thought.
And yet still I stayed. Standing there waiting my turn, only moving to allow huge chunks of the audience out after the person they came to see had performed. By the time it was my turn, the club was nearly empty. I quickly rushed through my jokes. My friends, who had always told me how funny I was, LOVED IT! I started reveling in the discomfort I caused the remaining audience that I didn’t know.
I did it for my friends. I did it for my first comedy buddy, The Far Side kid. And I did it for Carl.
“Thanks so much!” I said sarcastically, as I ended my set. In just 6 weeks I had become a stand-up comedian, unfortunately I was already bitter and ready to give up the biz.