Last night was Thursday, so I went to four open mics.
My night begins at The Tonic Room, in Lincoln Park. It’s an early mic, so it starts at about 8. There wasn’t much of an audience, just three dudes who needed a place to drink—the concert they wanted to go to next door had been sold out and they couldn’t get in. My bit about running a marathon
“How come all the people on the side of the road keep saying I’m a hero? I’m actually kind of an asshole”
doesn’t fly, and after about five minutes of little to no laughter, I leave the stage. As I’m leaving the venue I hear the next comedian, the very funny Drew Frees, is getting come-solid laughter out of the people, and so I leave jealous.
I catch the Halsted bus to Chicago St., and hit the Edge Comedy Club. It’s packed, with over 50 people signed up for the open mic. Thankfully I had texted the host about an hour ago, so he put me at number 4. I do my bit about young earth creationists:
“I’m pretty sure humans and dinosaurs never lived together. I’ll give you my first piece of evidence: there are still humans. I’m not sure we would have won that one.”
It does okay, enough to energize me. I take some notes about areas to tighten up (“too aggressive,” I write, “speak slower and more confidently”).
I watch one or two other comics go up. Elgin native Kathyrn Shear has a very funny joke about bumper stickers:
“I saw one the other day that said, ‘Choose life. Your mom did.’ Which is ironic, because my mom committed suicide. After two abortions.”
Then I catch a ride with some people up to Tropico, a late night dive bar in Wrigleyville. By now it’s about 10:30. Tropico has a notoriously under-attended and ramshackle open mic on Thursday nights, but it’s a fun “fuck around” room, as we call it. Plus they always have free dinner for comics. (Last night it was homemade pulled pork and potato salad.) I eat a couple sandwiches, drink a two-dollar PBR, and tell some jokes about fucking.
“Wouldn’t it suck to be the one Thai masseuse who didn’t jerk her customers off? Like, ‘I went to community college to get accredited in homeopathic medicine, you think I’m just gonna pull your pud? What’s that, twenty bucks? SPIT!’”
It does reasonably okay, but I’m not proud of myself. My jokes are stupid, and I know it, but sometimes you gotta get down a dirty. At about 11:30, we all pack into the car and drive a short distance to the Irving Park spot O’Donovan’s for their late night mic. It’s called Traffic Jam, and the gimmick is that they have a stop light on stage. It starts at green. If the host thinks you’re doing poorly, he bumps it down to yellow. If he thinks you’re really bad, you go to red and you get the fuck off the stage. I stay at green the whole time, but there’s no one in the audience aside from like 6 other comics, so the complete silence of the room doesn’t really count against me and my bit about abortion.
“Life is not precious. There are 9 billion people in the world. Just to put that into perspective, McDonald’s has only served 3 billion cheeseburgers. Your baby is one third as precious as a McDonald’s cheeseburger. And only half as delicious.”
Fellow comics never laugh at anything, but they will all pat you on the back and tell you about how good a job you did afterwards.
After O’Donovan’s , we all head to Chicago Joe’s down the street, where the very popular RIOT Comedy Showcase is being held. I’ve never been asked to perform there, but my friends have, and it’s a source of constant jealousy. Ah well, gotta keep working. Anyway, we all have a few more drinks, tell each other stupid jokes and try to gain a sense of community we’ve all lacked our whole lives. Then, when last call is declared at 2, we all stumble out. Some people head over to a 4-a.m. bar and keep drinking. I catch a ride home and pass the fuck out. Tomorrow I’ll be at Pressure Comedy Café for my weekly showcase, then to Rockit in Wrigleyville for their open mic. On Saturday, a “March Madness Up-And-Comers” comedy competition at The Edge, which I will go on to lose. On Sunday, Schubas. Four more open mics on Monday. Two on Tuesday. Four more on Wednesday. Rinse and repeat.
I was at a stand-up comedy open mic in the south side of Chicago recently, and the host said something that I’ll always remember when I think of this crazy life I lead. He said, and I quote:
“We got a bunch of ‘comedians’ [does air quotes] in the house tonight. Sheeeet, you guys aren’t nothing. You ain’t gonna be real comedians until you pay taxes on this shit.”
My name is Collin A. Bullock, and I am a marginally employed 26-year-old who lives in the windy city and does stand-up comedy for little money and even less respect. I work very hard to try and make rooms full of strangers laugh. I write jokes all day on buses and in coffee shops, and I rehearse them in front of a mirror for hours. Every morning I send out e-mails to bookers and other comics and anyone else who might possibly give me stage time. I spend hours editing videos and maintaining a presence on social networking sites. I might not be funny yet, but goddamn it I am serious about the business of telling strangers about my dick. I take this thing more seriously than you probably take the job they actually pay you to do.
I have been asked to write a comedy column for this fine publication (which, I must admit, was named for a line in one of my comedy routines).