Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cleaning Up



On the Green Room Radio blog I wrote an article on the importance of relationships in comedy. If you'd like, you can read it right here.

In the article, I make the point that there are certain relationships in comedy that are extremely important. Up to this point in my comedy career I really haven't followed my own advice, but that's about to change

I started out in a different time, and I didn't live in a place known for it's comedy roots ...

I remember sitting in the parking lot of what was then Jeff Valdez's Comedy Corner in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I was in my 1989 Chevy Astro Van on a Sunday afternoon, in the fall of 1991. The Comedy Corner was a 50 minute drive from where I lived in Florence, Colorado.

I had found out every Sunday at 6:00p the Comedy Corner had a workshop for people who wanted to do standup comedy. It had taken me several weeks to get up the courage to go, and I had gotten there at around 4:15 PM. I knew that "getting up the courage" would not be enough for me to be able to just drive up, get out of the van and walk straight in.

As it turned out, that Sunday they had cancelled the workshop, so I sat in the van until 7:00 PM, when they officially opened the doors to the club for the regular Sunday night show. I meandered in about 7:30 PM and asked about the workshop. I was told it had been cancelled, but there would be another one next week.

I drove home disappointed and relieved, which ironically is a combination of feelings I would experience many more time over the course of my comedy career. The next Sunday I went again, early; the same as the week before and began my journey into standup comedy.

There were not any open mics in Colorado Spring, just the Comedy Corner. So I spent nearly 2 years doing guest sets there and at the 3 clubs in Denver before I started doing opening work. You'll notice I said "guest sets". That's because I worked nearly exclusively at comedy clubs. It was rare for me to do a show that was not in a comedy club. I hadn't done an open mic outside a comedy club until I had been working for years. I also rarely did an open mic at a club.

I didn't get to many open mics back then because I was able to work and I worked a lot. In the first couple years I worked nearly 40 weeks a year when I was doing opening work. It was ALL comedy clubs. Back then a week at a comedy club was 7 to 8 shows. When I wanted to work on material I just added a bit to the middle of my set and I drilled in on that one for the entire comedy week.

So a rough idea went into the act the first show of the week. By the end of the week that rough idea came out a finely polished piece of comedy. I didn't need to go to open mics ... or so I thought.

It wasn't that I felt I was too good for them. It was mostly a matter of logistics. When I came off the road I was a minimum of 50 miles from the closest comedy club and 100 from the rest. Even though these were the same places I drove to every week when I was an open mic'er; they were too far away. Back then I needed the stage time and that was my way getting it. I didn't really feel the need to find stage time when I was home because I was working so much. More importantly, back then there were visitations with my children and there was NO WAY I was going to miss time with them.

What that left me with was very little experience with the open mics. That puts me at a real disadvantage now. If I am going to make the kind of wholesale changes I'd like to in my act; I am going to have to get used to them and learn how to work in them.

I've already taken my first steps. Last Friday I did the open mic at Mason City Limits and (with the exception of my closer) did nothing but new materials in a different style. Two days ago, I did an open mic in Rock Island, Illinois.

Not only is the stage time important; it's also extremely important for me to get to know the local comedians. I'm hoping to make some friends and become a real part a comedy community.

The truth is, I feel like I'm starting over. It's exciting and nerve-wracking. Just like the first time I did it ...



Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created GreenRoomRadio.net a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is Vilmos.com.
Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/vilmosthecomic or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.


1 comment:

Richard C. Lambert said...

In the article, I make the point that there are certain relationships in comedy that are extremely important. Up to this point in my comedy career I really haven't followed my own advice, but that's about to change learn more