It may be too early to call it a curse, but both times I've attempted to publicize a stand-up appearance via blog or (ugh) MySpace, the result is a huge disaster.
Last time I tried it was when I was playing the Comedy Store Main Room, a show that if I am remembering this correctly, lasted about fifty hours and featured something like two thousand comics. The facts may dispute those figures but my feelings say they are true. I managed to get four people to come, but only sold three pre-sales, and the lineup preference is based on the amount of support (audience) you bring, so I went dead last, after severe comedy fatigue and a run of bad comics drove away every audience member save the four people I brought, and two other girls who were either extraordinarily polite to stay, or possibly mannequins. Based on the amount of laughter they provided I could go either way. By this time I could have cared less; I was exhausted by the wait, and performing to an audience I could have invited to my apartment and sold drinks to myself.
This time, I was back in my comfort zone--the Comedy Store Belly Room, where I have enjoyed two very solid shows, both of which I have posted here. The consistency of Belly Room comics is hit-or-miss, which is understandable. I booked the room without an audition myself. The first show I did had a streak of weak acts near the end, some very memorably bad. The second was consistently funny throughout, and even the obligatory screw-loose comic had a bizarre worldview that followed its own hilarious logic. I wish I could remember the exact wording of his joke where he speculates about how a chair feels about being sat on by a person with a stinky ass: "'I hope this guy doesn't sit on me too long.' ...I think that's what a chair would think." Or his bit about what it would be like if scientists never invented ice cubes.
Anyway, this Belly Room show... the crowd was small, which was not promising. The room energy was low.
I was feeling a little under the weather myself, and feared I might not be in top form. Even though I had second choice for what slot I wanted, I chose the second slot, even though the prime 3rd and 5th slots were still available. In retrospect, this was a mistake.
It didn't help that the MC and first comic had advanced degrees in Bringing Down the Room. The MC was the sort of female comic that gives female comics a bad name. Her routine was not so much about jokes as it was a bitter rant about how she is old and unattractive and can no longer get laid: A litany of online dating failure, rejection, and repeated interactions with the crowd in which she pleads for single men to sleep with her.
After seven minutes of uncomfortable silence and forced pity chuckles, the first comic took the stage and really upped the ante. Word of warning: when an inexperienced comic brings a guitar, pay close attention: You are about to see something truly awful.
This comic, also female, covered much of the same ground. While she was also desperate and undateable, she also threw in crazy, broke and unemployable. And she had a guitar, which she strummed aimlessly while shouting sample lyrics to songs she had "written." When her music called for an instrumental she would actually sing the guitar--"da da da"--while strumming, since it didn't seem like she could actually play, you know, music.
Much of her song was about how her ex-boyfriend would be sorry when she was famous. Personally, I think he'll be okay. But her gloating song lords her future success over him: "HA HA HA HA HA HA" she shouted in the most grating monotone you can imagine.
The song sent mixed messages, though, since it eventually went back to describing how she is broke and desperate with no prospects or marketable skills, and ended with her screaming, "I'M HOMELESS!!" It was a special kind of terrible that will join the ranks of the bad comic horror stories.
So after seven minutes of a bitter, depressing MC and eight minutes of a crazy, depressing, sort of scary comic, and a couple more minutes of the bitter depressing MC introducing me... I'm on!
Now, I don't want to be a jerk and blame the room, and I'll admit that on a better day I might have been able to pull it off with a little more flair, but... it was kind of a cold room.
I veered dangerously close to actually slamming the other comics with an early joke: "You may not have realized we're inaugurating a new performance genre tonight: Stand-up tragedy." Without commenting on them personally, I felt their subject matter was fair game. That joke didn't do well, but I think I can forgive the crowd for being uncomfortable with it.
I wouldn't say I bombed. I got laughs--I dare say the first of the night--even a couple of big laughs, but I was definitely off a bit. A lot of stuff did not play as well as it usually does. A few jokes that are normally very solid got silence. I spent a lot of time reacting to the crowd and playing off their response, which I don't normally have to do, so that was good experience (if not a good experience). I moved the half-Asian stuff up earlier and did less of the random one-liners, which didn't seem to work as well, but given the crowd, who knows. Any dark jokes with depressing undertones tended to fail--my guess would be that it veered too close to home after the genuinely dark lives of the openers.
And that's what it's like to be a comic. But I've learned something important: Never advertise a show on this blog again.