This week in comedy I tried a new writing technique.
On Tuesday I hosted my last open mic night at FLEX. We had a great show in front of a very supportive audience. I tried telling a high energy story with a long wait before the payoff, and A LOT of erroneous details. I found a few laugh lines and points of exaggeration on stage, but I didn’t write any of it down. But something about the bit clicked, and I wanted to see what I could do with it.
So, on Wednesday I tried the same bit at LOL. I was more conscious about constructing the story. I played up moments when I broke away from the narrative to explore an absurd description, I played up these asides to make them laugh lines, and something magic happened. I held the whole audience for the build up and the punch hit pretty hard. What really shocked me was how well this long form story worked in front of an audience in Clayton NC, a venue not famous for its attention span or tolerance of experimental bits. I’ve never risked going that long before a punch line before. Honestly, I was pretty proud of myself. What I think made the joke work was the momentum behind the bit, my attitude about the erroneous details made them laugh lines.
On Thursday I tried to recreate that energy at the Nutt St. in Wilmington, NC. The MC called my name and I hurried on stage, but some guy had moved a chair to sit next to his friends, and put himself in the aisle the comics had to walk down to get on stage…during an open mic where everyone gets 5 minutes on stage. Idiot. So as I scooted past him, I “accidently” knocked him the head, and said “oh EXCUSE me.” So I ended up opening my set by attacking an audience member- for the first time in my life. That worked and I didn’t lose the audience. Because I was thrown off my game plan I slipped into old material just to give my brain a chance to figure out what to do next.
By the time I finally got to the long form joke I was confident I had the audience, but I was nervous about time…Halfway through I got the light and panicked. The bit is too new for me to effectively self edit on stage. I knew that if I bailed before hitting the punch line…it would be ridiculous. It was too late to turn back, so I powered through the bit but I didn’t have the right energy. I held everyone, and I got a laugh, but it was weak.
This joke is still too new to showcase, so it might be a while before I get a chance to play with it again. But I think I’m on to something. I like the high energy story telling style, and I think it fits with my other jokes. Experiment, experiment, experiment.