Really, it seemed like about 8-9 of the 12 comics had sets that were strong enough to advance. (Strong comics like Myq Kaplan and Doogie Horner had very good sets yet also failed to make it to the next round.) Judging any art — and esp comedy — is a crapshoot, ya know? Oh well. But congrats to everyone who did make it to the next round. I think they were all deserving.
I'm still no contest vet but one thing I like about 'em is it really forces you to distill your material. I'm constantly grinding away on new material normally so it's a good stop-and-review process. A tight 5 minute set means ya hone and polish your shortest, tightest jokes and try to build a flow from 'em. Kinda like what building a late-night set must be like.
I toss out any bits that have long setups. Even there's a big payoff, it feels like you're wasting time. Also, I've got some touchy jokes that work better once I've established who I am onstage. At a contest, ya don't have much time to do that so I stay away from those bits and go for the surefire stuff. Also gone is weirder stuff that might work well at some alt room in Williamsburg but not in front of a bunch of tourists at the Hard Rock Café in Boston (where the Fest was).
What I don't like about contests (other than the inherent ridiculousness of judging art): Ya can get screwed easily if there's a certain type of crowd or if there's a bad MC and ya go first, etc. Lots of variables that are out of control.
Also, they come with a bit of an "America's Got Talent" vibe. With 12 people doing quick sets, standing out almost seems more important than delivering well-written jokes. If you're JAWGTJ (Just Another White Guy Telling Jokes), that can make it esp tough. A great comic like John Mulaney could totally lose to a beatboxing grandma in one of these things, ya know? But hey, that's part of the game.
On a side note, spent the weekend up in Boston doing other shows and I think the scene there is really cool. Feels like a real community up there. All the comics are in on this tourney pool (March Madness style) for the contest — run by Tom Dustin, great comedian aka The Mayor of Boston Comedy — and they all show up at each show to see and support each other.
One big reason for the vibe: Rick Jenkins at The Comedy Studio. It's a great hub for developing comics and Rick really has built a special thing there. Every weekend the Studio is sold out yet he still puts on lineups that nurture young comics and encourage experimentation. And he's able to do it because he doesn't charge a big cover/drink min. That small, cool, sustainable approach can really impact an entire comedy scene. Nothing like it anywhere in NYC.
Also weird in Boston: There are no midsize rooms (from what I gather). There are a bunch of 80 seat venues. And then there's a big leap to 1200 seat theaters. But nothing in between. That seems like a strange vacuum.
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 8/31/2009