Monday, June 05, 2006

Start Crankin' 'Em Out, Maestro!

A few years ago I heard a comedian named Brian Regan. I heard his audio material first. Then I saw him in a few videos. Then I decided that I wanted to write my own stand-up routine, just as a hobby.

A few months after that, I saw a sign-up sheet getting passed around at church. I decided that would be my first time to do comedy (stand-up at church? this is a testament to Brian's clean comedy inspiration). I didn't ever actually get the sign-up sheet. I forgot about it, and the next week I asked the coordinator of the show if there were any slots open. He said he thought all the time was already taken for the show. A mixture of dissapointment and relief rushed through me.

On the night of the show, I got there 15 minutes late, and sat in the front right side of the auditorium, which is in the Clark Law Building. I missed Bytheway's performance, which was my major purpose for attending. Shucks. I watched the show, and near the end they said, we have two more acts. First we'll have break dancing from Man A and Man B, then for a the grand finale we'll have a special treat from Chris Johnson doing stand-up comedy. (insert record player needle-scratch noise) "Do what now??"

The MC calmly came near and sat in front of me. I leaned forward and said to the back of his head, "Sorry dude, but I was under the impression that I wasn't going to do any comedy. I know this is lame of me to say, but I'm not prepared and I'd prefer not to go. I've never even done stand-up before." He quietly expressed surprise and then agreed that my concerns were valid. He whispered that he would announce after the dancers that he'd take care of it. Again I felt anxiety melt away, replaced by dissapointment.

Then I decided that I could be funny for 60 seconds. Thoughts rushed into my head. I knew lots of comedy. I could use Brian Regan's routine. I'd never done it on stage, but it was funny material. Could I really do it? Would it be funny? Would people boo me for being a hack?

I leaned forward and with a hushed voice said, "On second thought, you announced me--I'll work something out. I'll go." He nodded, ok.

I took swimming lessons as a child. My mom drove my sister Kathy and I down to Lion's Park Pool across town to receive instruction from a lifeguard. That was fun and exilarating most of the time. I remember that jumping off the diving board was a big deal for me. I was ok with jumping off the lower height, but the "high dive" as I we called it was intimidating. I remember climbing up the ladder, the tingling of the muscles, the desire to climb back down, and seeing the pool property from a whole new perspective.

That's how I felt as I walked up the steps onto the stage--the microphone standing solitary, and I was supposed to make people laugh.

I am aware that some people might be upset that I used Brian Regan's material to do stand-up. I support comedians trying out the jokes that work before they start composing their own. I would liken it to music composers playing classic musical works before going to compose their own. It's all part of a large study that leads to mastery. That is my theory, anyway. Although I've improved since my start, I have yet to achieve mastery of comedy performance.

Brian Regan's material is a classic. I am thinking about him today because on Saturday I bought tickets to see him live. I've been considering driving to L.A. to see him live for a while. Now I won't have to; he's coming to Salt Lake in December. I'll be sitting on the first row of the balcony--studying him. I also want to ask him if he meant "get the ladder" or "get the latter" in his donut-lady bit.


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