One of the items that I always had on my bucket list was to perform in a stand-up comedy routine. Enough of my friends and family thought I was funny to them, but I knew that being funny in front of one person who I already knew was a whole different ball game than being funny in front of a crowd of strangers. My fear of failure in doing a stand-up routine was enough of a reason for me to never actually attempt this feat. Plus I always equated doing stand-up with all the of great comedians of my time such as Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Steven Wright, etc. How can I possibly do what they do, so I thought? I never personally knew anyone who did stand-up, so doing stand-up was simply a dream of mine that I knew would most likely remain on my bucket list until the day I died.
Several months ago, one of my friends in my running club, Darin Magras, started to post on Facebook that he was going to test out his comedy skills at local comedy clubs that had open mics. For those who are unfamiliar with an open mic, a comedy club will often have an open mic an hour or two before the professional comedians come on to do their acts. Anyone coming from off the street with their own comedy material and enough guts can go up and test their comedy skills during an open mic. As I saw Darin continue to post about the open mics he was doing, I began to get interested in seeing him perform. He then invited me to one of his shows. Unfortunately, I had to cancel due to another commitment. One beautiful weekend morning, I ran several miles along the Promenade near where I live. When I run alone, I often have an internal dialogue with myself about whatever crosses my mind at the moment. For whatever reason, my mind thought about what Darin had been doing with his comedy and I thought to myself, “Hey, what if I came up with a bunch of my own jokes? Since Darin has been doing it, why can’t I do it too?” As I continued my run, I came up with several original jokes that I could potentially use in a routine. Incidentally, when I am running, many red blood cells go to my brain and I become an absolute genius. It is during my runs when I come up with my best ideas and running has often been my brainstorming sessions.
When I got home, I typed up all the jokes that I came up with during my run. Later that day, I told Darin that I just wrote some jokes and I’d like to take a crack at stand-up myself. He was now my comedy role model and I said to myself, “If he could do it, I can do it too!” Darin was thrilled that he now had a new protege who wanted to do what he does. And I was thrilled that that this dormant item on my bucket list was finally awakening.
However, the list of jokes that I had in my notes appeared a little too flimsy for me. If I told them in the most comedic way possible with all the appropriate hesitations, gestures and facial expressions, then MAYBE I could stretch it out to a 3-minute routine. This is not enough for a full-fledged routine where many comedians spend a good 7-8 minutes engaging the audience. It would take me another week where I was inspired enough to add more jokes. And of all places, these new jokes popped into my head while at my job. My actual performance turned out to be somewhere between 5-6 minutes long.
It was now April 2 and a Saturday morning, a big day for me since I was to perform that evening. I made sure I stayed in bed an extra hour or two that morning to get my necessary “catch-up sleep” so my body and brain would be well-rested for the big event. I was so afraid that I would fail miserably that I only told two people about my performance, my brother Aaron and my good friend Mark Vogt. I knew that no matter how much I sucked at comedy, I would get their support. The day before, April 1, I made a very ballsy move by posting on my Facebook wall, “I will be performing stand-up comedy at the Looney Bin on Staten Island this Saturday at 6:00pm” I was hoping that everyone would think that this was just an April Fool’s joke. Some actually believed it and some thought it was just a joke.
In the afternoon, I met my brother Aaron. We went to the park where our daughters played together while I rehearsed my routine with him. I wanted to time my routine with all the hesitations and pauses to see how long it will actually be. While rehearsing, a little Jewish boy inserts himself between us and becomes my “audience”. After saying a few f-bombs during my routine, I decide to stop speaking and I shoo him away. Boy, I wonder what he told his parents after that.
The night of the show, I meet Darin and his wife Katie. They introduced me to the other comedians who were slated for the open mic. A big part of what motivated me to do this was that Darin told me that since this an open mic, comedians were there to test out their new jokes and if need be, many of them could consult their notes in the middle of their act. My gameplan was to read from my notes almost verbatim, but while still “performing” my jokes to make them funny. I learned that stand-up comedy is not just about having good material, but in its execution. And sometimes the execution is everything.
There were 8-10 comedians who were slated to go up and perform that night. I believe that I was number seven. One of them was a 10-year-old boy. When I first saw him, I got nervous and said to myself, “How am I going to do my act while saying profanities in front of him?”. I soon found out that this boy had a filthy mouth himself and his mom, one of the other comediennes, was a part of the open mic.
Once the show began and as the acts began then ended, for some reason I was antsy to come up with a few last-minute jokes. I had two random clown noses with me that my brother had given me and I decided to add them to my act. Additionally, I added a last-minute joke about a mob guy waiting for me since I owed him money and another joke making fun of the fact that I had to hold onto my notes to do my act. Finally I go on. As strange as i may seem, I felt very comfortable doing my act. Being well-rested and having my notes in front of me made all the difference.
After I was done and the rest of the comedians finished their acts, I was on a super-high knowing that I had done something that was on my bucket list for many years. Before I performed that night, Darin had told me that doing stand-up can become very addictive and he was right. I almost want to do it again, but with new jokes of course.
I would like to thank Darin for being my comedy role-model and for encouraging me to try it out and making me feel at ease (“Don’t worry Josh, everyone is supportive of each other there”). And to MC Patrick, Joe Rombi, Michelle Conrad, and all the other supportive comedians who rooted for me that night no matter how much I may have actually sucked. And to my bucket list, I say “Fuck you, you’re MY bitch now!”.
Below is video footage of the glorious disaster that you can call my “comedy act”.
WARNING: You may be wasting a good 5-6 minutes of your life by watching this video. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.