Chasing 300

Stand-up is a door I’ve been knocking on for a while. Sometimes it feels like it’s more a wall than a door. You know that saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different result?” I tried ways around this door. Even having someone else open it and follow directly behind them. After “trying”, I decided to go insane.

The goal is 300 sets (booked showcases and open mic nights) in 2017. When Sammy Obeid was chasing 1,001 nights of consecutive sets, he needed a minimum of three audience members (non comics, I assume) and a minimum of two minutes. What was my criteria? I just need to feel good putting the tally mark in the book. I was one stage for a hour with two other comics, but didn’t feel like I did my job so I didn’t mark that one but I did mark doing a minute set at Cobb’s Comedy in front of four network executives and 29 diverse comedians because I waited eight hours on a sidewalk. I also counted another one with one audience member (a comedian’s girlfriend) because I did 15 minutes, got laughs and shared personal things nobody should know.

Another comic is chasing 365 sets is my distance running buddy. He seems to be 20 sets ahead of me every time I’d check in. He wants to race, of course. First to 300! It’s like saying “let’s play a game. But let me have the lead.” Doing 300 sets is my journey. Hoping to find some ironic epiphany comedians call their voice. A direction. Or being proud of something.

Finding the right mics is tricky. Some nights, you can stack four sets. Some, you drive hours to do five minutes and it’s cancelled. Or there is a venue that allows 15 minute sets but the crowd can care less for comedy. I even flew six hours and drove another hour, only to get denied because the list was too full. Or worst, cancelled because nobody showed up. Or nobody tells you it’s cancelled.

When I checked in at mic #196, I finally caught up to Victor Cruz Perez. I wasn’t getting funnier. Comedians were coming up to me asking if I wanted to write or need help (their way of saying you suck!). I always ask comics that are struggling, do you want to do the joke, or do you want to hear laughs? I needed to do the joke. But would appreciate laughs. Ultimately, your job is to get laughs, but sometimes you can’t do the joke. I felt the pressure to come up with 12 new minutes every month and tried to jam jokes down the audience’s throats. I trust the process but I learned a few things;

It’s just a number. When I was chased Victor and caught up, I wanted to keep my lead. But I lost focus of what I was doing, trying to get better. I asked him how he defined “a set” and he said “as long as I make it funny. I counted a set at a Karaoke bar because I sung the song funny.” We may have a different set of criteria but I need to stay in my lane.

300 sets should be the norm. I thought doing 140 last year was a lot. Seeing the same comics at different open mic made me realize it’s a job. Not just the writing every day but going out every night. If I want to get better, I need to work twice as hard. Kobe Bryant was talking about his work ethic. He would do more workouts and practice than any player. If they just work on their game in the off season, Kobe is years ahead of the competition. So I realized 140 sets and writing most nights wasn’t enough. It’s doubling up on the writing and number of sets just to catch up.

Every set I do, I try new things. Holding the mic different, move more on stage, go faster, slower, look people in the eyes then look their friends in the eyes when I tell the punch, try to bomb and win them back. Bring energy or just talk about who I am. Challenging myself. Just wanting to be in any situation just for the experience or following a host that bombs with “I’m moving to Canada if Trump takes office” in a Trump supporting room to doing dive bars that just don’t care about you.

About that door, I learned there’s no right way to knock on it. But I’m knocking on it harder and pushing twice as hard.

Currently at #203/300.

Kevin Wong