Last Stand

July 30, 2012

Humor

A couple years ago, there was a new theater in a neighboring town who decided to have a big gala opening.  They called a theater here, asked if they knew any stand-up comics, and then got passed along to me.  At first I said no, I didn’t really do that anymore, I’d quit several years earlier; they persisted; I caved.  I’d do a one-hour show, with an opening comic, and a band playing before us.

Why the hesitation?

I hadn’t performed in years.  Years.  Also, the venue was in a pretty conservative town, but close enough that a number of people I knew bought tickets.  On one hand: Great!  About 25-30 allies in the audience.  On the other hand: What if I was bad?  Think about that – none of them had ever seen me perform and if I bombed, well, instead of the guy who used to do this cool, interesting thing… it’d be like, oh, that’s why he quit.

I was nervous. My wife was so nervous that, on instructions to “take lots of pictures,” took two photos; one is me checking the mic. You’ll have to trust me that that’s me.

Finally, at that time there where no comedy nights running in town for some bizarre reason.  This meant I had nowhere to practice; nowhere to get my timing back, or to try out new material. So all I had for “getting back in shape”, was I would go out to the garage and talk to myself.  That’s it.  That’s bad.

The band’s first song was Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” a personal favorite.  It was a good omen.  Then came the opening comic, and he was the perfect opening act – just good enough to keep people in the mood for comedy, just bad enough to make me look good, and for the audience to know they wanted something different.  Perfect.

Then me.

Here’s the second, taken about 12 seconds later. She’s actually a really great photographer. I call this one “Don’t step here. You’ll go through the stage like it’s a gallows.”

The stage still had the band equipment on it, and the lighting wasn’t great.  Also the stage wasn’t done, so there were some actual physical holes in it I had to watch out for (“I need you all to know that there’s no magic in this show.  Just comedy.  If I suddenly vanish, it’s not a trick.  I have fallen through the stage and need medical attention.”).

I hurried a little at the beginning, until I got the first big laugh.  Then I relaxed.

In the end?  It would be the best show I ever had.  Perfect?  God no.  Of course not, but who knows, maybe it was because of the time off – I was excited to be there, I was having fun; it wasn’t just a job.

I stuck with the philosophy of “do the show you want, not the show you think the audience wants.”  The latter path leads to always aiming for the lowest common denominator, and I wanted to enjoy it.  Instead I kept on the humor, but went ahead with the things I wanted to go into as well, like media fear-mongering.  Here’s some of it:

The more I relaxed, the better it went.  There’s a long section I would always do on religions, not mocking them, but just looking at how they look from the inside vs. the outside.  I knew this was a pretty conservative crowd, and I think this threw me a little, so some of the wording didn’t come out how I liked, but it still went pretty well.  Here’s about half of it:

Perhaps the biggest relief was how well the new material went.  I was a different person than before, and instead of defining myself against the audience, I saw the commonalities, and that made a huge difference.

Sadly, the battery ran out in the camera and it lost the last 8-10 minutes of the show.  But when it was over I was elated.  It reminded me of all the things I loved about comedy, without the awful parts.  I’m working on a live show that would be sort of a hybrid of stand-up and story-telling, but if this was to be my last stand-up show?  I couldn’t have asked for a better coda.

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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88 Comments on “Last Stand”

  1. Sandy Sue Says:

    Good stuff, B-man. Thanks so much for sharing your “other life.”

    Reply

  2. Life With The Top Down Says:

    Thanks for sharing! Nothing like a good laugh to get this Monday rolling. i really enjoyed both clips, very funny indeed.

    Reply

  3. 1pointperspective Says:

    I clicked the play button with a small degree of trepidation. Having read your blog religiously for some time now, I had my own version of your voice in my head, and wasn’t sure I felt like hearing your actual voice. As it turns out, the one in my head wasn’t vastly different from the one on the screen, so my fears were unfounded.

    I have a brother in law who is a failed stand-up comic. He travelled all over the place trying to get his big break and never did. I never actually got to see him live, but I saw a couple of videos of him and they shed some light on why he never found stardom – he wasn’t particularly funny. I think he had a bunch of worthless friends as a teenager and beyond, who told him he was funny, or maybe he just had one friend who told him he was kind of funny.

    Unlike my brother in law, who also has a new vocation, you had an actual act and it was funny. I’m not going to recommend that you “follow that dream” because free advice is seldom worth the price you pay for it. I’m glad you’re writing and I’m glad the camcorder didn’t run out of juice any sooner.

    Reply

  4. wildramp Says:

    I learned, when I had to be an expert witness for a jury trial, and was so nervous that a cold sore popped out, that if I ACTED confident, they would believe me….it only took about 20 seconds on the stand to get into that frame of mind, and it went well….sounds like you learned the same thing.

    Reply

  5. Ape No. 1 Says:

    Sweet! Thanks for letting us peek behind the curtain B-Man.

    Reply

  6. She's a Maineiac Says:

    This was awesome. Thank you so much for sharing videos with us. You know I’ve been wanting to see this for awhile now. You are the man, man! Seriously. It takes an incredibly brave person to get up there in front of an audience. I am always amazed at the amount of material a stand-up has to memorize. I would get lost halfway through a joke.

    I loved the storm center jokes, I’ve often made fun of the same thing here. “Holy crap! Snow is coming! Batten down the hatches! Sacrifice your small pets!”

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      You always forget one or two things – usually, though, it’s because you’re rolling with the energy of the audience.

      And yes, I just wish the weather reporters would yell, “Oh no! The storm is here!” and then the “danger” music from Star Trek would play and the cameramen would shake the cameras while the reporters hurl themselves about, like the studio’s being knocked around.

      Reply

  7. Michelle Gillies Says:

    Great fun! Thanks for starting my morning with a smile and a laugh.
    Maybe not practicing was the key all along. 😉

    Reply

  8. Elyse Says:

    What a treat for a ho-hum Monday morning. Thanks!

    Reply

  9. Go Jules Go Says:

    Standing O for the Stand-up! I don’t know WHEN I’ll stop laughing at some of those lines, but probably never. (“IT’S A MERCY KILLING!”) I’m so watching these again when I get home.

    I wasn’t thinking about the fact that you seemed to be having fun as lending to the overall appeal, but it so does. You rule, B!

    And? Hello! Curve ball! You’re working on The B Man One Man Show?! That shiz better make its way to NYC.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I submitted a story to The Moth, this story-telling show out of NYC (they have a great podcast & a show on NPR), that was doing a show in Portland, here. They said they like my pitch, but not for the Portland show – that they’d let me know if/when they wanted me for one of the NY shows. Oh, okay. I’ll just hop a plane, get a hotel in NY, do my story for free, then fly home. Easy peasy.

      Reply

      • Go Jules Go Says:

        How cool is that! Just pinky swear on John Stamos’s hair that if you ever get a gig offer in NYC and turn it down, you never tell me, capisce*?

        I will start researching bed bug-free hotels. Or you can sleep in the craft room. Your choice.

        *Yes, Everyone. That was three “Full House” references in one sentence. You are welcome.

        Reply

  10. Soma Mukherjee Says:

    You were fab…..loved your voice
    it is hard to make people laugh and stand up is not an easy job at all..
    what a brilliant work..if you have more videos pls do post them sometime..
    the thing abut 11’o’clock news had me in splits..hilarious
    the second video on religion was brilliant…

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Thanks – there’s a section on the more eastern-centered religions, but those don’t always go over as big here in the west. I had a bit about Krishna and the warrior Arjuna that I always liked… and I don’t think one other person ever laughed at. Except me, of course.

      Reply

  11. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    This was so cool! I only wish we could have seen the whole thing. 🙂
    I’ve said it before…I give comics some major kudos cuz that can’t be easy. But you were great. Especially the bit about the news…and the jews…”oh you can hack it off, just don’t draw on it.” 😀

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      The religion stuff is always tricky – the version in the clip about Jerusalem is a little off from how I like it, but I always hope that it works because I’m laughing about religions, not at them. At least that’s the hope.

      Reply

  12. Eagle-Eyed Editor Says:

    “Tonight at 11….Stand-up comic falls through theater stage and requires medical attention!” Seriously, yikes. They should at least put an air mattress (or a trampoline) underneath the holes so that you could bounce back up and onto the stage again.

    I enjoyed the videos. More, please? (I refuse to beg.)

    Reply

  13. speaker7 Says:

    Loved the circumcision joke. That takes guts, b-dawg. Can I call you b-dawg? I can’t believe you didn’t use the drums to do that ba-bum bum after every joke. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself, and this is why my stand-up is god awful.

    Reply

  14. pegoleg Says:

    Hysterical! That can’t be your last stand-up gig, just your last SO FAR. With that kind of talent there are sure to be more in the future?

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, possibly the last “pure” stand-up show. I like being able to slow down and not be funny for a bit. Actually plum some depths.

      Reply

      • skippingstones Says:

        When you mentioned your show with comedy and stories, I immediately thought of John Leguizamo (though I have no idea how to spell his name, so that’s probably wrong). He has the ability to bring you to tears with his stories, and somehow you end up laughing in the midst of it all, so hard you can’t catch your breath. Then when I saw your clips, they backed up that image – you seemed very relaxed, just conversational. And funny. I’d pay to see your show!

        Reply

  15. Fish Out of Water Says:

    It can be a really fine line between poking fun and offending, especially when some folks can’t really take a joke. You did well with the religious humor. That is a gift. Your stuff was really funny! Mucho applause from me. I’m sure you were dying to know, right?

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Thanks. It’s a tough line, and there are always people who will get offended before they even hear what you’ve said. I remember someone getting in my face about a bit on “I Heart Jesus” bumper stickers (saying how that’s not a huge statement, since there’s really no one on earth who dislikes the guy. It’s like an “I heart moms” sticker), and I had to ask if he actually heard what I said. He hadn’t. He just heard me say “jesus” and then laughter. That was enough for him to want to pick a fight. Very Christian of him, yeah?

      Reply

  16. GingerSnaap Says:

    The breaking news today was, I kid you not,”Today at 5- WILL southern Ohio survive this drought?”.

    Great. Now I have to tune in at 5 to see if we will, in fact, survive this drought. Right after I get home from the pool, finish watering my lawn and drinking my over priced bottled water.

    Thanks for the laugh!

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Perfect! Amazing. Because, of course, what they’re really promo’ing is “Will S. Ohio have to make a few sacrifices to get through the drought?” but who’s going to pay attention.

      I don’t know – unless you tune in and they just say “No. We will not survive. Prepare for agonizing death. Do not attempt to flee.”

      Reply

  17. k8edid Says:

    I loved it…please do more – much, much more (in between writing that novel and, well, everything else you do).

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I’d love to do more video content here. Time, time, time… well, I’m sure things will calm down after the baby is born…

      Reply

      • k8edid Says:

        That’s exactly what I was thinking…

        Reply

      • k8edid Says:

        Oh, and I apologize for the tasteless title of this post for such a lovely submission. I’ve had an incredible number of hits – always happens when you mention “explosive diarrhea”.

        Reply

        • k8edid Says:

          Gack – I haven’t even had any good drugs yet and I am posting comments on the wrong posts – I’m hoping a little propofol will help me get some much needed rest and I can get my poop in a group.

          Reply

        • The Byronic Man Says:

          No worries – more than made up for with the perfect title for the story.

          The people doing the google search for “Lust AND explosive diarrhea” were probably pretty disappointed.

          Reply

  18. Tez Says:

    It takes a lot to make me laugh – my sense of humour got mucked up about half way through a PhD on the gender politics of humour – but you cracked it open with these clips. I agree with previous comments about showing more.
    When you do the hybrid of stand-up and story-telling live show, please, please have stand-by batteries so we don’t miss anything. Pwetty please – I don’t mind begging 🙂

    Reply

  19. angeliquejamail Says:

    Those clips were hilarious. Props, B-Man. If you take a show on the road and come to Texas, please do let us know.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I’ve never been to Texas, can you believe that? Maybe it’s about time.

      Reply

      • angeliquejamail Says:

        Oh, definitely. You’d return from your trip with all kinds of material. Come to Houston. It’s a wonderful city, rife with complex contradictions. But don’t show up between June and August, unless you’ve already experienced and been nonplussed by a Gulf Coast summer, because then a person’s only impressions might be of the heat and humidity, and then anytime that person spoke of Houston in the future, they wouldn’t have anything interesting to say. 😉

        Reply

  20. shermangerherd Says:

    These are the times that try men’s souls: “Sadly, the battery ran out in the camera and it lost the last 8-10 minutes of the show.” Ah, the modern life.

    Reply

  21. tomwisk Says:

    Props for getting on a scary horse. Stand-up is a job only a few can do and a very small percentage of them do it real well. Keep it in your back pocket. Someday the itch will need to be scratched, as all second jobs do, watch the tape and go out and kill them.

    Reply

  22. mistyslaws Says:

    Good stuff there, B-man. You even have that “totally relaxed holding my hand on the mike stand” thing going on that all the great comedians employ. I would never guess that you were not a total pro! (Or even that you were nervous to be coming back to it).

    Reply

  23. on thehomefrontandbeyond Says:

    you are just excellent – I thought I would be impatient watching these and I actually wanted more – and I can’t find east either

    Reply

  24. Alison Armstrong Says:

    Hmmm, it’s got me wondering… what would your blog be like if it was voice recorded rather than typed? Is my mind pausing in the same places that your voice would? … Maybe you could set up a soundcloud.com account to test some of your ideas on us? That way we could give you more feedback than if you’re practicing by yourself in the garage. (Sorry, just the teacher in me coming out!)

    Reply

  25. skippingstones Says:

    Great job, Mr. Byronic! I laughed my ass off…oh, nope, I found it. Damn, you’ll have to post some more, because I could use the exercise. And plus, I really want to see more.

    I admire the guts it takes to do that job. You looked very natural, and you made it look easy. I imagine stand up comedy is neither of those things, so you did good!

    Reply

  26. Angie Z. Says:

    Magnificent! I loved the religion jokes especially — it was then that you were very reminiscent of a 1996 Jon Stewart HBO stand up show that was my all-time favorite stand up routine. I carried that stupid thing around on VHS tape for three years until my roommate taped Wheel of Fortune over it. Do you think I can ever find it again anywhere but 8 minute clips on YouTube? Nope. But I digress.

    My point is, well done.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Are you talking about the “Jon Stewart: Unleavened” show? Great show. You can get the audio recording online, if that’s sufficient.

      Reply

      • Angie Z. Says:

        YES! I didn’t even remember the name of it until about two years ago. It was almost 10 years ago that I “lost” it. I don’t want to brag but I’ve been madly in love with him since his MTV Show when he was a blip on the radar screen of most people. Okay, yeah, I’m bragging. And then that show cemented my love affair with him.

        Every year for about five birthdays in a row, I’d tell my husband that the only thing I wanted was that stand up show on DVD. And every year he’d scour the internet and find nada. Finally, finally I found the small 8 minute clips on YouTube. *Sigh.* Not the same.

        I’m glad to hear there’s an audio recording available now! You mean, like on iTunes or something?

        Reply

        • The Byronic Man Says:

          I loved his early talk shows. I have this great memory of stumbling in to my apartment, full of booze, depression and existential despair, and turned on my horrible little TV, and Jon Stewart was filling in some middle of the night talk show, and he was interviewing John Doe, from X. It was two of my favorite people in the world. And things were better, suddenly.

          I can’t remember where I found the recording. Maybe iTunes? Maybe (ahem) Limewire… I’m not sure.

          Reply

    • Go Jules Go Says:

      Amen to that, Ang! That’s exactly who I think B’s celeb kindred spirit is (as stated here, LOL: http://gojulesgo.com/2012/03/13/if-i-were-a-celebrity-i-would-be/comment-page-1/#comment-2939).

      I would also like to point out, B, that I was butting in, er, responding to, this comment when you posted the Patton Oswald clip on my blog just now (which is who YOU said your celeb kindred spirit was in the above comment link). Weirddd. Of course I had to stop what I was doing to watch it because I love that bit.

      Reply

  27. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson Says:

    Byro: I admire you for getting up and having up this much material!

    Regarding the questions you asked via email, the religion stuff is definitely touchy. Hard to pinpoint why. You were definitely an “equal opportunity offender,” but there is definitely something different about pitting two Christians against each other and having them quibble over terminology vs. asking Jews to consider they have it all wrong. That would not go over big with some people I know.

    Also, it isn’t accurate that a Jewish person cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Holocaust survivors are buried since their tattoos were not made by choice. And even Jews who elect to tattoo or pierce can be buried in a Reform cemetery. They just can’t be buried in a Conservative or Orthodox cemetery — but the irony that you can “cut it off, you just can’t write on it” is a funny line!

    You look really hot up there!

    Did I say hot?

    I meant relaxed! 😉

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I actually knew that about the rule regarding burial, but when I would explain on stage it was insta-death for the momentum so I finally starting “creatively abridging.” I had the only act that required footnotes.

      And that’s EXACTLY what bothers me about the wording in the second clip – the full routine goes in to more depth on the “thesis” (so to speak), and more breadth on dogmas, but even that part in particular is really supposed to emphasize outside vs. inside and how quickly we say “Sheesh, why don’t they just ______?” on other religions, while being unable to with our own. A couple missing sentences and one mis-worded one and I feel like this one sounds too much like, “Why don’t the Jews just chill out?”. Next time…

      Reply

  28. earthriderjudyberman Says:

    Hysterical … and more on target about the news biz than you know. I had a newspaper editor who, when a storm was approaching, would yell the equivalent of “It’s C-O-M-I-N-G” and wanted to double-truck (2 pages side-by-side) the story – even though the editor knew that the storm was not going to be as huge as first thought.

    The jokes about religion also were very funny. So the everyday person’s question actually would be “Now, WHY did he quit?”

    Reply

  29. Tez Says:

    It’s no good . . . I have to say it . . can’t help it . . . the truth will out . . . here it comes . . . your blog posts, comments from others and your replies to the comments are just the best on the interwebby thingy! There, I feel so much better now I’ve admitted to being a sucky-up fan 🙂

    Reply

  30. Valentine Logar Says:

    Thanks for pulling the curtain back and allowing us to meet / see / hear the Great and Powerful Wizard! Very good stuff! I giggled, wished your battery hadn’t died. You know that had that been a something else (not saying what) the battery would not have died at an important function!

    Reply

  31. Cakes and Shakes... Says:

    You rock. Such a brave profession (well, either that or pleasantly insane 🙂 Seriously, kudos. I imagine were I put on the spot, I could put something together, but to prepare and rehearse under such circumstances? I hope you celebrated after!

    Reply

  32. Blogdramedy Says:

    You really are all that and a bag of chips. Extra salty with added crunch. 🙂

    Reply

  33. Laura Says:

    These are great, and you really seem relaxed and comfortable with the material. It also shows how different local news is in different areas. I live in LA, and while we do get the kind of scary news teasers you talk about sometimes, they’re less common than really hype-y ones about new diets or cosmetic surgery techniques.

    Reply

  34. 8teen39 Says:

    Couldn’t get the clips to work on my pc at home so will have to try at work. Hope the act is more or less pg friendly! I was a drama major all through high school and college but hated getting up on stage so quit. I can not imagine getting back up there again. Kudos and lots of applause to you!

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I THINK so… I don’t recall any profanity or scandalous topics… circumcision comes up…

      Well, if there’s horror and offense because I’m forgetting something, I apologize.

      Reply

  35. Hippie Cahier Says:

    It’d be interesting to know the differences between stand up and storytelling from your perspective. A comparison/contrast, if you will. In 500 words or more or less, single-spaced, Times New Roman.

    “Shalom, Mon” still has me giggling. I don’t know why.

    Reply

  36. JM Randolph Says:

    You’re hilarious. I love “Oh, you can hack it off, just don’t draw on it.” And being the only Muslim with a compass. Funny stuff!

    Reply

  37. susielindau Says:

    We had such sketchy internet while back in Wisconsin, I could only watch the video spool.
    I thought both were hilarious! You nailed it! I used to go to comedy clubs back in the day.
    You are so brave to be able to get up there and let it rip. I’ve always been outgoing, but extreme stage fright kept me from performing. After doing a couple of videos for my blog, I think I am overcoming it a little.-still not ready for prime time though…
    Where will you be performing your new show?

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. A Comedian’s Survival | Go Jules Go - January 10, 2013

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