I had a weird set last night. Room was dead. Other comics made "thrown to the lions" references. It was late in the evening when Rob Cantrell got up and did an awesome set. He can be funny but last night he wasn't. Just deep and truthful and mushroomy. Bill Hicks meets Terence Mckenna style. And just when you feared he'd go off the deep end, he talked about how it must be awesome to be a bird because if you don't like where you're at, you can just fly somewhere else, and then does an impression of a bird. Totally ridiculous and awesome.
He inspired me to break from my set. It turned out rather lame. Well, lame in that it wasn't funny. I just talked. Wanted to see where it would lead me. It was a good exercise but not funny enough. I started out alright but then I got a bit too philosophical about Americans being scared and people telling you not to do stuff because they're just jealous that they can't do it, etc. When I tried to weave in some jokes again, it was too late. They saw me as a serious guy and that's not the path to laughter. The vibe I was bringing was interesting, but it wasn't funny.
Now I wonder what would've happened if I had gone out and just did my intended set. Would've gotten more laughs but is that always better? At that point, in that room, with that crowd, it just seemed like it would be phony to stick to material. Still, I feel bad about delivering a lackluster set. These people paid money to be there after all.
I think there are two solutions: 1) Get better at weaving punch lines into the ranting. Mix the jabs in with the uppercuts. 2) Fuck 'em and bring your A game and make it work. If your frame is stronger — and the material is there — they'll come around.
Sandpaper Suit is NYC standup comic Matt Ruby's (now defunct) comedy blog. Keep in touch: Sign up for Matt's weekly Rubesletter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jabs and uppercuts
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