This was an out-of-my-comfort-zone outing, but I wanted to support my colleague and friend, Matt Morain, whom I happen to think is a very, very intelligent-funny person.
Aversion to stand-up comedy
It was out of my comfort zone, because I have a serious aversion to stand-up comedy, and especially stand-up comedy contests, for a few reasons:
- I get irrationally uncomfortable when someone is up on stage and not doing well. (I know it has nothing to do with me, but I get uncomfortable anyway. That would be the irrational part. FWIW, I am an ESFJ.)
- There has almost always been some kind of humor at the expense of gay people in the stand-up shows I've attended, and I just don't like having to decide if it's offensive or not. (FWIW, I know that gay people aren't the only people who are the brunt of jokes, as I would posit that most humor is at the expense of some characteristic or group of people.)
- I hate when comics directly address people in the audience—sort of bringing them into the joke.
- I hate, hate, hate having to pick the winner (of any contest, really) by audience applause. If that's going to be the way it's done, you need to have some kind of app that measures decibels as opposed to human beings making the call by ear.
Tonight's cast of characters (Hover over pics to see names.)
Logistical things that worked for me
- Voting. I couldn't have been more pleased that the voting procedure was with ballots as opposed to applause. And I loved that the ballots allowed room to make notes about each performer as you heard them.
Two other things I liked about this voting method: 1) It appealed to my sensibility as a "black and white" thinker (see ESFJ reference above), because they articulated the voting rules, which were clear and concise: "Rank the performers 1 (the best) to 11. No partial points. No ties. Anything marked other than from 1 to 11 will cause your ballot to be thrown out." and 2) It allayed my stand-up comedy aversion #4 (as stated above).
- Reasonably priced bourbon and sodas. The house bourbon wasn't swill, and at $5.50 a piece, I wasn't gouged. Of course, if you spread the $4 service charge [see first item below under: Logistical things that didn't work for me] I paid on my ticket over the price of the drinks, they were really $7.50 each, which would be gouging.
- Good pace. In this preliminary round, each comic had a 4.5- to 6-minute time limit. This not only kept the evening moving, it was a godsend when the person was sinking into an abyss up there.
Logistical things that didn't work for me
- Service charge for buying my ticket at the door. Those of you who know me well know that I consider myself "financially savvy." (Those of you who don't know me well probably just consider me cheap.) Anyway, I specifically canceled my online order when I went from "the cart" to "checkout," when I found out there was a $4.00 service charge for my ticket. Instead, I took a chance that they wouldn't be sold out when I got there to save 4 bucks, and I even called at 6:00 (it started at 7) to make sure there were still tickets available at the door. So, imagine my irritation then when I got to the door and there was a sign hanging up to this effect:
As of April 16, 2016 (or some such date in the recent past) all tickets are processed through the VT (or some such acronym that apparently means something to the comedy club insiders) ticketing system, so a service charge is added to all tickets whether purchased online or in person. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Sorry for the inconvenience? Really? Don't you mean, "Sorry for ripping you off?" Do you see anything about a service charge on this stub?
If I were as litigious an individual as we are a country, I'd fight this in court. Okay, </rant>.
- A required two-item minimum. Over the course of the evening, you had to purchase at least two items—presumably food or drink. I'm unhappy about this only on principle, because in practice, telling me I have to drink at least 2 drinks in a two-hour period is like telling an undisciplined child sitting behind me on a plane that he has to kick the back of my seat at least twice during the 2-hour flight.
Anyway, two issues with this one: 1) I didn't find this out until after I bought my ticket and saw it on the door entering into the seating area (see item above about being "financially savvy"), and 2) How is this enforceable? At what point will they throw you out if you haven't ordered two items? And will they make you un-see what you've already seen up to that point?
- The microphone wire was problematic. Almost every performer up there struggled with the wire when taking the microphone out of the stand to hold it. It kept getting stuck up at the very top where it connects into the microphone.
- Unprepared for accessibility. While the 7th or 8th comic was performing, a person who worked at the club leaned over me and whispered, "As soon as this guy's done, we're going to ask you to move up there (pointing to a chair one seat up and to the left of where I was currently sitting). Not now, but right after this guy." So that happened. And when the next guy starts on his routine, the worker leans over me again, and whispers, We're going to need you to move a little more up and to the left, because we need to move this table behind you a little, too. Our next contestant is in a wheelchair, and we're going to push him by here to get to the stage."
A couple of questions, 1) "You didn't know that your ninth contestant of the evening needed accessibility accommodations in order to consider them before you arranged the tables for the evening? 2) There's really no permanent accessibility accommodations for the stage?
Observations about the performances
- Topics that didn't do well:
- Any kind of jokes or humor alluding to rape. With the national conversation that's currently going on about rape culture in this country, is this really a surprise to any up-and-coming comic? Pay attention people.
- Using the r-word. At least two performers used this word, and it didn't seem to faze a good portion of the audience. If you don't know why this is offensive, please educate yourself.
- Race and ethnicity. Even if you're dating someone of a different race or ethnicity, you have to be very, very good to pull off this topic without people spending a lot of time during your routine wondering, "Was that racist?"
- Sexual orientation, and now gender identity. This again, in my opinion, is a topic that potentially elicits a lot of "noise" in the listeners' heads, for some of the same reasons as the race and ethnicity topic. It can also be more complicated when it's not obvious whether the comic is a constituent in the group about which s/he jokes, which probably shouldn't but definitely can, make a difference as to whether something is funny to one person or another.
- Testosterone-infused sexual conquest and super-sized manbits. Two performers in general, and one in particular, suffered at the hand of this topic. The one made me realize how risky it is to have your entire routine based on one topic, as you can get surprisingly deep into a hole in 4.5 - 6 minutes. #TWSS
- Self-deprecation. This is almost always a winning approach. It's also, I believe, why Matt's routine was so good.
- Referring to, or pointing out, audience members. Only a couple of performers did this, and in their defense, it wasn't unequivocally clear as to whom they were abusing.
- Taking advantage of your gender. There was only one female comic tonight, and apparently talking about vaginas in general, and noises that vaginas make in particular, works if you're a woman.
- By now, it must be more than obvious why I have an aversion to stand-up comedy. With that said, however, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.
- Matt came in first place and, to me, these are the qualities that catapulted him to the top: intelligent, respectful humor; flawless delivery; and a likable, confident, and commanding stage presence.
I look forward to seeing how Matt does in the semi-finals round, which begins on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. Learn more about it.