Last night, I attended a stand-up comedy open mic. If you’re unfamiliar, that is where you are guaranteed four minutes of stage time so long as you’re able to write you name down on a sheet of paper. It doesn’t matter if you’re a seasoned pro with jokes on jokes to spare, or someone who has always wanted to go up and nervously has a few things jotted down. Just want to get up and yell horrible things about people you don’t like? As long as you can write your name, an open mic will not only have you but tell you that you’re just the same as everyone else.
So, at best, they are something of a mixed bag.
This was the very first open mic at a place called The Bit Theater. The previous owner was a suburban comedy club called The Comedy Shrine, and here is my brief history there: I helped book stand-up when they first moved to the space in 2011, was let go seven weeks later, ran a few failed showcases there, started running a show there with my best friend Katie, then we moved that show to another room after a really horrible incident, then I was banned from there for a year and a half, then I came back and did a show for them once in a while. You can call my history with the Shrine a real Avril Lavigne, because it is complicated, y’all.
Anyways, the Bit has wrangled two of my favorite people to run the mic for them. Hosting is Tom Filline, a man who is as principled and kind as his mustache is ridiculous and glorious. Running sound and playing music is the glorious J.R. Castro, a man who has music coursing through his veins, but is also a wonderful comedian in his own right. The two of them know how to run a good mic; how to keep the energy moving and keep people to their time. That last part is so important, because you don’t want people running super long when there are a lot of comics on the list.
How many comics were on the list last night? Something like 40.
Normally, hearing about a list that long feels more like a threat than a good time. But last night, it made my heart smile. The suburban comedy scene rose up as one and decided to show Tom, J.R. and The Bit that they were loved and respected. We showed that we were grateful for the effort they put in. That, at least for one night, we had their back. And we would happily drink their cheap Miller Lite, which they got specifically for the mic. I’ve been a suburban comedian for over 15 years, and there were two things about last night that absolutely had me grinning about last night.
The first was how healthy the suburban comedy scene seems to be right now. A year and change past COVID shutdowns, it was wonderful to see this mix of seasoned comedians and people who haven’t been in it super-long. Some of these newer comics are starting their own mics and shows. Some of the veterans on the scene are continuing to thrive. Fancy Boy Jack Baker will record his album next month at Batavia’s Comedy Vault, a new club which has the absolutely marvelous practice of treating comedians properly and with respect. Suburban comedy is alive and well, and I expect it will only grow and evolve as 2023 goes on.
The second is much more selfish, because I was so happy how I still felt like I belonged.
I’ve got onstage less and less since COVID, and for reasons everyone understands- my second son was born in 2020. I’m trying to be a good and attentive husband. I run my own weekly showcase. I work 12-hour shifts three days a week. However, I’m also very emotionally needy. You know those people who aren’t on reality shows to make friends? I’m the opposite- I’m basically only doing comedy to make friends. And, because I am not onstage as much as I have been, I sometimes wonder if I will still belong.
From the moment I stepped in the Bit, every one of my peers was wonderful and friendly and supportive. Friends who I’ve known for over a decade and I joked like it was old times and we saw each other every day. Newer comedians welcomed me into their laughs and conversations. When a comic was onstage, the audience (which was a lot of comics) was passionate and wanting to laugh. Usually, comedians do not make the best audiences. Last night was not the case. Last night, I belonged.
To Tom and J.R., thank you for sacrificing your Mondays to give the community such a wonderful treat. To all the comedians I got to talk with last night, thank you for making an older chubby dude still feel like part of the cool kid table. It means the world to me.