Being the random thoughts of Greg Tito, age 29.

Announcements for my standup comedy gigs are here at gregtito.com.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How I learned to stop worrying and love open mics.

Open mics are always fun.

That statement is completely false. Sometimes.

Confused? Me too. But that's what being a standup comic in NY is all about.

When I first started performing, I tried to go to at least one open mic a week. My standup buddy, who I will call Joni, because that's her real name, was very good about forcing me bully up. We'd go to places like the Village Lantern or the Comedy Cellar, get our names on a list and do our schtick. It was great getting stage time, with a real microphone in hand on a real stage in a real comedy club. There was also the chance to interact with others of my ilk.

But that was also the major drawback. The only people in the audience at open mics were other comics. And they are a notoriously jealous bunch. They don't laugh. At least most of the ones who were in the audience when I did my set didn't laugh. But I knew my jokes were at least a little funny, because I would do them in front of paying crowds at Caroline's or whatever and people would die. It got really frustrating. There was one especially awful night where I went last at a open mic at the Village Lantern and bombed riotously (I remember I had a whole bunch of subway jokes that should have KILLED), then met Joni at Joe's around the corner to do another open mic. I went on at midnight and bombed spectacularly again, with what I thought were my "good" jokes. All five of the dudes left in the club at that point just stared at me, blankly. They offered no support, other than their drunken, silent presence, which, frankly, didn't help me think I was very funny. Then after walking uptown fifteen blocks to the L train, only to find that it had shut down at midnight, I proceeded to shoot myself through the face. And then walk home over the Williamsburg Bridge. I got home at 2:37am, a bleeding, sobbing mess.

There was also the time issue. Open mics are a huge timesink. Even if you sign up ahead of time via email or whatever, you have no idea when you'll be able to go on. So you show up at 8, get on the list, and sometimes you're stuck there until 10 or 11 before you get your fucking 4 minutes. This can be a good thing, if the comics are good. It's possible they may even inspire a few jokes of your own. I laugh more than the average comic at other people's stuff. But more often than not, the sad morons who go up at these things are just trying to work out their personal problems, more than actually being funny. The time spent wading through amateur ventriloquists, lonely alcoholics and wannabe fratboys can be considerable. And with my serious World of Warcraft addiction, I don't have tons of time to waste.

So I stopped going. To open mics. I didn't feel like they really helped that much anyway. I decided to concentrate on doing bigger bringer shows every once in a while. This meant I was performing less, but the shows alway meant something.

Then last Monday, after my well documented bout of depression, I decided to go the Underground Lounge near Columbia, otherwise known as way too fucking far. I drank a shitload of coffee, wrote same new material about daylight savings time (HILARIOUS!) and drove up there.

I loved it. I felt like I was back in the swing again. Even my wife, Mephistopholes, she was like, "You go to one open mic and suddenly you're all happy again." I don't know if it was the fact that I was writing new material, or that I got to perform it and it wasn't awful, or that I felt like I was part of a scene, the sad comic scene. The other thing was that I wasn't nervous. In my comedy youth, I would get so frightfully nervous getting up in front of people, even open miccers, that I would shake or stutter on stage. But I memorized all my new jokes in an hour and didn't care if I got them right or not.

It was a great feeling.

I went back last night and I plan on doing more.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Coming out

The cover story for the November issue of Wired is about the New Atheism. One of the authors it profiles is Richard Dawkins, a biologist from Oxford. He not only believes there is no God, he believes that faith in such a deity, as well as passing this faith to one's forebears, is an inherently evil act. While I kind of share the article writer's view that this sentiment is just as extremist as the fundamentalist extremists (I don't believe you can fight fire with fire in this case,) Dawkins shits out one soundbite that struck a chord with me:
I think [atheists] are in the same position as the gay movement was in a few decades ago. There was a need for people to come out. The more people who came out, the more people had courage to come out. I think that's the case with atheists. They are more numerous than anybody realizes.
Dawkins does have a point. People are often scared to say they are atheists, or considering atheism, because they don't want to potentially offend believers. My wife and my father have both said to me separately that I shouldn't make jokes about religion on stage. And I've noticed that people do get uncomfortable when I mock religion, even if they theyselves don't believe in it. It's effectively taboo to talk about belief in nothing. Why is that?

Consider this my outing. Now I'm off to go wax my butt and get a facial.