Hearing Laughter is the Best Medicine

There is nothing more addicting to me than my girlfriend’s laugh. The many perambulations it goes through, dependent upon what I say, how I say it. It can go from a chortle, to a guffaw, to a uncontrollable bout of giggling, to holding her face in her hands and trying so desperately to suppress her laughter.

She also has what I call the ‘squeak’ laugh that’s like heroin to me. Pure, lovely heroin.

To make someone laugh is quite a talent. A skill even. It’s why most of the time, I make a complete ass of myself, say some truly dumb (and repellent) things.

Because I love nothing more than hearing someone laugh. To move someone in that way, to make someone have such a physical and mental reaction, and quite the positive one at that, can make a guy feel pretty damn good.

So on November 30, 2011, I went to the Speed of Thought Playhouse and signed up for the open mic standup comedy.

I’d spent the prior month writing jokes tirelessly. Pacing through my room, holding a water bottle and practicing jokes, running through different inflections. I killed every night in my bedroom.

See, I had loved stand-up for as long as I can remember. Could recite at least nine George Carlin specials word for word, with the inflections and the actions. Do the same with Bill Hicks. My WinAmp playlist held any MP3 I could find of Comedy Central Presents half-hour specials (and I watched CCP incessantly).

Throughout my life, I had brief notions of doing standup. Picturing myself before a sea of laughing faces. The dream never got farther than that. Because, I convinced myself that I wasn’t funny. Not a bit. And, I always thought that if I ever pursued comedy, it would be something I would have to devote myself to beyond 100 percent.

The year leading up to my first time onstage, I listened to a ton of podcasts. A lot of them with standup comedians like Bill Burr, Robert Kelly, and Jay Mohr. The Opie and Anthony Show on satellite radio had on a ton of comedians, all who talked at great length about their comedic lives (and would shit on each other to hilarious degrees). A lot of their shows were about the life of a comic, and the work and the stories about things they did onstage, their experiences.

After filling my head with their stories, I finally had it: I needed to try it. Just to see if I could do it.

Now everybody: the general rule of doing stand up is that the first time you do it, you will bomb. You will bomb horrifically, spectacularly, memorably. (Oh, bit of a vocabulary lesson: to bomb means to do bad, to kill means to do very well. I’ll try to offer more definitions as I go along.)

Gotta say, I didn’t do that bad the first time.

The second time? Oh, did I eat my balls (that means I did historically bad).

But I learned. I did OK that first time (and I cringe when I think about the material I did; very dirty, and meandering).

Over the next year and half, each and every Wednesday, I would finagle a friend, or several, to make the trek up to SOTP (I neither had a license nor had a car) to watch me tell my jokes, tell my stories. It’s an odd thing, writing or working on a joke, or something resembling a joke, and getting on stage and with a microphone repeat these jokes to strangers in the dark, and hope to all hell they laugh. The whole day, of which I had to work from 11 in the morning to 7 at night, I would run through my material any chance I got; reciting it outside while having a cigarette (and constantly getting caught looking like I was talking to myself) thinking of how to transition from one joke to another.

Now, I wasn’t much for jokes, i.e. setup, punchline, tag. My material was of a story nature. And, dirty. Not dirty for the sake of being dirty. I soon discovered after the first few times that telling dirty stories doesn’t work if it doesn’t come from a personal place. And the more of an inept buffoon I made myself seem with any sex stories I told, the more people would laugh.

I was a regular. I never felt more like a belonged to something. I really, really starting believing that this was what I was supposed to do, and that I didn’t start so many years before always hit my gut hard.

The last time I did standup was February, 2013. I was drunk, hadn’t practiced, went onstage, did one stuttering joke that got zilch, and I walked off. I sulked in the corner because I could not think of anything to say next. couldn’t think of my next joke. You probably could have asked my name right there and I would have said ‘peanut butter.’

Since that embarrassing night, every Wednesday, I’ve yearned to go back. But it’s hard, sans license and car, and when the place is about twenty minutes away. Every week I’d think about it, miss it terribly. I felt like me up on stage. Sure, I’d be a complete wreck beforehand (and, oddly, afterward), but the time with the microphone in my hand, the more I did it, the more comfortable I got, the more confident I got (and the more quickly I learned that I had to practice practice practice and work on my set every day and work hard at it, cos when I had a good set and got all ‘oh, I’m doing better, so I don’t have to work on stuff as hard this week,’ oh boy would I do shitty that week). I miss doing the work, performing in front of people and peers. Miss it a whole lot.

But the thing I miss the most was the other comics (to any that read this, I’m not listing names, cos if I forget yours, I’ll feel like a dick). And how most of us would hang out outside SOTP, and just bullshit. There was never any jealousy, no one who was doing well with their career was ever looked at with scorn. Hanging out at the bar, all of us waiting for the show to start, listening and watching each other perform, and telling each other what was good and what they should work on. Advice being flung all about. The camaraderie I felt was one I never had felt before.

Which leads us to now. My girl, that wonderful, perfect woman I’ve written about so much, has been urging me to return to SOTP. Now that I have a car, and don’t work so late on Wednesdays, I can do it again. When I wrote on Facebook that since I finally have a car, I was gonna start doing standup again, I was informed that SOTP had closed.

I cried. OK, shed a few tears.

It was a great place, that SOTP. The owner Christian, how he messaged me the day after my first time onstage and said I was funny. The bartender Rich, how he always had a drink for me before I was done with the one I had, always a nod when I got offstage. The dart board. The stack of books and the Sega Genesis. The unisex bathrooms with the big chalkboard in one in which you just had to write something (I resorted to such aphorisms as ‘The C Word is not a bad word,’ although I didn’t actually write c-word).

I know there’s other open mics out there. Prob just a simple Google search away. I’ll get back up there one day. Or maybe, I’m really not cut out for comedy. If I really were, I would’ve found a way to do it still. And if not, at least I still have my girl’s squeak laugh to keep the dream alive.

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