Being a comic is an ironically isolated profession. Your job is to make crowds laugh. So most people assume that you’re just the funny person at every party, surrounded by people, doing your best impression of the popular kid from high school. But actually comedy takes hours of time writing, performing at abandoned open mics, sitting in the car driving, alienating your friends by dragging them to bringer shows, and testing material. Not to mention the hours you spend just sitting at home basking in the unique glow of self hatred. Most artists/performers/writers/people who read books oscillate rapidly between almost manic self-adoration and self-loathing. Comedy, like most arts, is basically an irrational and dangerous addiction. No one drives six hours one way for five minutes on stage, and no money, unless they’re looking for a fix. The insanity of this particular vice is another factor that makes it hard to interact with people who are not similarly afflicted.
I feel blessed (in a totally secular way) to have had an opportunity to spend three incredible days hanging out with other addicts at the Cape Fear Comedy Festival, generously hosted by The Nutt St. Comedy Club in Wilmington, NC and produced by Timmy Sherrill and Matt Ward. Twenty young comics, hailing from New York, Chicago, and… you know, other cities – gathered to perform and presumably talk about the craft.
I showed up on Thursday afternoon without a place to sleep. Because I’m a responsible adult who makes good choices. At the end of the show Thursday night, I went back to a house a lot of the Chicago comics had rented, and was generously given my own bed in Sherman Edwards’s room. Score! Let me take a moment to describe this house. It’s a beautiful colonial style, fully furnished, four bedroom (six beds, and a crib, just in case we had a baby) with a beautiful back patio, and front porch complete with rocking chairs. The only thing that would have made this better is if everyone could have stayed there. The next day we all emerged around noon, pretty bleary-eyed. Some goddess made coffee. Eventually we all regained enough consciousness to start the trek out to meet up with Matt Ward and his lovely wife, on the beach! Driving to the beach in my VW Cabrio convertible with four hot, smart, talented, female comics was almost surreal. Don’t take this the wrong way boys, but girls fucking rock! It was a little overcast and the water was chilly, but I read The Week articles aloud and we had a good time.
That night I watched ____ ______ headline a show. As a young comic, I love watching headliners perform, because I always learn something. My uninformed opinion of his performance is that, after 45 minutes, I still had no idea who ____ _____was. What is he passionate about? What’s his life like? He told jokes, most of them were funny…but there was nothing personal in his material, at all. Anyone could have told those jokes. All comedy is subjective, some people say they hate prop comics, or female comics, or comics who tell fart jokes. For me, I prefer comics who share a personal and intimate experience with the audience. But most comics have a fear on intimacy…go figure. The only thing that matters is that you tell jokes that you think are funny. I performed at 10pm, had a blast.
That night after the show all the festival comics spontaneously turned the stage into a dance club and we boogied the night away. I think the awesomeness of this entire festival can be summed up in those few hours when we all danced like no one was watching. A lot of comics stumbled back to the house, and we stayed up until the wee hours, smoking, talking comedy, politics, and relationships. The next day we repeated the beach trip, this time we found a Tiki bar on the water and the sun came out. The food was pretty… great. I had a blackened grouper sandwich with fries… because the Rapture might have happened and it would have been extra dumb to watch what you eat the day of the Rapture. That night I performed first at 8pm (in my sexy blue dress and boots, for those of you watching YouTube clips) and was able to sneak up and watch Kyle Grooms perform. What a strong entertainer. If you have a chance to see him live, you should!
At the end of the night we tried to recreate the dance party, but like most conscious reconstructions of a spontaneous act, we failed. We all made promises to stay in touch, meet up at other comedy festivals, get coffee, etc. We went back to the comedy house, some of the comics stayed up until their 3 a.m. departure time, but I couldn’t hang. I woke up the next morning (ok, afternoon for those of you who care) to an empty house. This is only my second comedy festival, but the people I met, the fun I had on stage, and the new tan lines, made the Cape Fear Comedy Festival something I hope I can be a part of every year.
On a side note, thank you to all my very patient friends who let me read this blog post to them over the phone, because nothing feels real until I say it out loud and get feedback… and I thought reading it at an open mic would be inappropriate. I’m the neediest writer in the world, that’s why I started doing stand-up.
Also, thank YOU for reading.