Recap of shows from my recent trip out west

Didn't get a chance to recap my recent trip out west yet. Here goes:

Victoria, BC
Started out in Victoria, BC. Great show at a place called Heckler's. A bit worrisome at first since ya walk in and it's a sports bar filled with people eating and big screens on all over the place. But at 9pm the lights go down, the TVs go off, and the place morphs nicely into a venue.

Of course it's a terrible name for a place but I will say they have the best pre-show announcement I've ever heard to get people to shut up and turn off cellphones. It's a pre-recorded bit that explains that even though the name is Heckler's that doesn't mean you should yell shit out. And then it explains what the rest of the crowd will think if ya do (via an act out by a good voiceover guy). The whole thing lays out, in a fun way, that you're a dick if you say anything or let your phone ring. Effective.

Crowd was probably 200-300 strong and they were into it right out of the gate. I opened by riffing on something the MC said and the Hamburger Challenge on the menu (one of those 2 lb. burger "you get a free meal if you agree to have a heart attack" deals). There was a Big Buck Hunter Pro game right next to stage so I moved my bit about that to the front of my set. Always fun when you can take an established bit and make it seem like something that just came to you.

I wound up doing 37 minutes total and it felt great. So nice to be able to do that much time in front a big crowd (in NYC, I rarely get spots longer than 15 mins). A big crowd is a different animal. It starts to feel like a single organism instead of individuals. And the long set means you can actually get a fleshed out identity across (tougher to do that in quick sets). I felt like a real performer that night which is a feeling I don't get in NYC very often.

In NYC, crowd reactions often make it feel like you're trying to take a dog on a walk when he doesn't want to go anywhere. Sure, you can get somewhere if you yank the leash hard enough. But it's a struggle. You can't use pauses and timing the way you can in other places. You need to keep slapping 'em in the face.

This was different. It was a crowd of hundreds who were out to have a good time and excited to be there. I have one joke about my mom being paralyzed in the final years of her life. It can be iffy due to the subject matter, but it got the biggest reaction it's ever gotten that night. I had to wait 10 seconds before I could even go on to the next bit. I just kept saying a single word from the punch ("never") over and over while waiting for the laughs to die down.

Anyway, nights like that make all the heavy lifting and shitty shows in NYC seem worth it.

Vancouver, BC
My next two shows were in Vancouver. Smaller gigs with shorter sets, but still fun. At first one, the comics stood in a paneled box at the front of the room. My opener: "I know you guys like hockey, but I didn't expect to be performing in a penalty box." The next night I followed a gal comic and a dude in the front row yelled out at her "show us your tits." I guess some things transcend borders.

It's interesting to perform in Canada because you have to start thinking about cultural references they may not get. Things I now know: They don't have Luna Bars. They don't know the game Fuck, Marry, Kill. They don't know what an Uncle Tom is. It's not Native Americans, it's First Nations.

And I said 6'8" in one bit and then I'm like, wait, how many centimeters is that? Some guy yells out 203. I continued on but said 203 meters instead. Then I realized that'd be one huge dude. At that point, I just segued into talking about how dumb I feel as an American sometimes.

After that, I took the bus to Seattle. First show there was a benefit show where the charity group forgot to promote it so there were just seven folks in the crowd. One thing about NYC "training": I am SO comfortable performing in front of a group of seven people. A depressing skill to have, in a way, but also nice to not be someone pushing jokes hard to folks who are like "Why is this guy pretending that what's happening isn't actually happening?"

I began with something like: "Comedy is best when the audience is unified as a group on a positive wavelength. You guys definitely feel unified...but it feels more like the unity of a group of people who have been taken hostage. It's a unity that says, 'We're going to get through this together.'" At least it was real.

Next show was a mic. Always surprises me when I do mics in other cities and there are actual audience members there. I went up last but got to do about 20 minutes and talked about some of the other comics who had performed that night (always a fun thing to do at mics since they attract, um, a fringe element).

Then went into material. At mics in NYC, I try new stuff. But there I kept to jokes that work already. It was all new to them and I wanted to make a good impression since there were a bunch of decent comics there too. One good thing about a mic is you get to meet a bunch of comics in that place. Not always doable at regular shows.

Then I did a weekend of guest sets at the Seattle Comedy Underground, four shows in all. The good about that: Shows were packed, esp on Saturday night. The not so good: I was doing quick 5 min sets, all clean, and as the first comic onstage (no host). Still fun but felt rushed. That's a great club though.

And now I've been back in NYC for a bit. Great to be back but it sure is nice to tell jokes elsewhere every once in a while.


Chesley Calloway said...

Excellent! Glad to hear the trip went smoothly. Makes me wanna get out of the city and do some shows that aren't in the back rooms of bars...

Abbi Crutchfield said...

That's a fantastic re-cap. I know there are more dignified ways to handle "show us your teedly-ta-tas," but I daydreamed that lady took her shirt off to reveal a double-mastectomy with "f*** you" written across her chest.

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