My Fourth Year in Comedy
If I had monumental growth in year three, year four my voice changed, had a growth spurt, and girls began to notice me. First year I learned I wasn't very good. The only way to get better was work. Second year was the year I learned to speak and form opinions on things that bother me. My third year was growth. I was dating a girl that didn't like how I dressed but took me shopping at the Gap. If I know anything, it's be better than the Gap. Year four I learned how not to have fear and to be myself.
Emulating comedians we enjoy is natural. I used to mimic Will Clark's batting stance because I liked it. It seemed like everyone complimented his swing and he had great success. Especially in the 1989 NLCS against the Cubs. Comedy is the same way. A lot of people are doing Louis C.K. because he's hot. Here's the flip side; nobody wants to hear ten Louis C.K.s unless it's a Louis C.K. impression night. Having your own distinct voice separates you from the pack. You might not be better. But there's something else someone could relate and gravitate towards.
Something happened on this Monday night at The Ivy Room in Albany. The guest host couldn't make it and a comic asked "who wants to host tonight's open mic?" For someone that had no desire or any experience hosting, I raised my hand. I just figured I could stretch out my legs and have more stage time. When I got up and touched the mic, heard my voice echo through the room, I experienced this new feeling. Time stood still and my Spidey senses began to tingle. The room magnified itself. Every conversation, every word on the television rang like thunder. It took me back to when I was in trouble and I tried to listen in to what my parents were discussing in the other room. I did what I heard all hosts say. Then I tried to give it my spin.
I gladly took other hosting duties. The next one was Church Key open mic in San Francisco. I don't remember how I started but I got good enough Anthony, the producer, would pick me to host when Jake is running late or can't make it. Comics signing up for the open mic would assume I was hosting. This gave me the balls to start my own open mic night and booked shows for The Swingin' Door.
The ladder of comedy starts with hosting. Then featuring, then headlining. When I started, I featured before the headliner in places like Flappers, The Comedy Store, and Tommy T's. I thought I could skip hosting. But am glad I'm doing it now. Hosting changed my style of comedy. I am more loose and sloppy. I'll stammer. It's more real and in the moment. I would try to create and acknowledge things while feeling the room. There are more responsibilities; keeping the room warm, engaged, and not feel the need to check the phone or go for a smoke. It taught me it's not about me. It's about entertaining. Some nights I may do only three jokes. The rest of my time on stage is doing crowd work and figuring out the room. It taught me to think on my feet. It's much harder. You're not in the show, you are the show. When it's a good show, they come to you and say "good show".
Every year I feel like I'm getting better. This year, I finally feel like myself on stage. My advice is if you have a chance to host. Do it. Unless you're not ready to get better.