First time caller, long time listener

Venue: Stand Up NY
Date: 12/18/06
Length: 9 minutes
Crowd: 50 people
Listen to this performance

"I won't tell that joke because there's black people in the audience," says the comedian onstage.

A hush falls over the room. I hadn't even been paying attention. I was checking over my notes for my upcoming set. But now the guy onstage was taking all the air out of the room and everyone could sense it.

"Ha, at least the white chick with all the black people digs me," he says and points at a table near the stage. "Is that your boyfriend?" "Yeah." "You're dating a black guy, eh? That's cool."

Grumbling. It's funny how the energy of a room is actually palpable. You feel the tension. It settles down like a thick fog.

One of the black women at the table starts mouthing off to the guy onstage: "Move on." He offers her the mic and says, "You think you can do better?" "I'm not the comedian."

Grrrrreat. Just the kind of act you wanna follow. He tries to get the room back but it's too late. He does a couple more jokes, admits that "nothing I'm gonna say will be funny now," and then, to the relief of the audience, leaves the stage. We were flirting with Michael Richards territory there for a bit.

How'd I get here? Well, I'm taking a stand up class now at Manhattan Comedy School and I've done open mics before. That's how I got this gig. I was offered a slot after I performed at the open mic at Stand Up NY. But this is the first time people have ever paid to see me tell jokes.

Stand Up NY is a small place on the Upper West Side. There's about 100 people in the audience. Lots of college kids. One table of old folks. Seems like lots of friends of the comics (it was a "bringer" show for some of the comics meaning they had to bring people in order to get on the bill).

Thankfully, my set goes really well. People laugh. The room comes back to life.

I single out one guy at the old folks table who has a white beard and ask the crowd to give it up for Kenny Rogers. I'm realizing that people really dig it when you call the room and point out something like that. There's an improv vibe to it and it helps tear down the fourth wall. You become more relatable.

My bit about the religious right and gays, which killed at an open mic downtown, doesn't go that well. Maybe too edgy for this crowd? Or maybe I butchered the premise a bit by going it through it too superficially. Gotta watch that.

After I'm done, I get some props from the host and the MC. Good validation. But I knew I done good already. One thing I really like about comedy is there's an obvious, objective measurement of success: laughter. It's the nice thing about stand up: You always know exactly where you stand.

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