Stand-Up Sunday #2

I had a lot of good moments to choose from this week, and I think I’m hyper-aware of them because of how hard the depression hit this week. Kyra Soltanovich called me a problem solver. I had to pull Cheri off the floor as she seduced me because a server was behind her with a tray of drinks. Dave had an amazing set on the Friday 7:30 show. I hope I never forget that set. Josh was hilarious, I loved my weekend headliner, I got to know my intern and some of my coworkers better.

But here’s what stands out from this week: Scott Myer is a very new comedian but he’s older — even older than Dave. He’s been divorced twice and he moved to California to take care of his mom who had cancer, and he started doing stand-up. He’s been coming around to auditions for the past few months, as regularly as he can manage.

He’s VERY new. So, he doesn’t have a ton of structure. Okay, he has no structure. He mostly rambles and stumbles upon punchlines completely by accident, most of the time. He’s charming as fuck, is what I’m saying.

At the auditions on Wednesday, he mentioned that he was just offered a job that would make him $100,000 a year and he turned it down because it would mean he’d have to be at work instead of coming to auditions on those days.  Dave and I immediately both started shouting at him to take the job, we’re open other days, for a 100k, we’ll move the auditions to Friday, etc.

It resulted in a very funny moment, for a couple of reasons. 1) Dave and I were responding entirely to the money, not to a dislike of Scott. We both like him a lot. 2) Dave and my reactions were spontaneous, in the moment, and genuine, so it ended up being funny rather than mean. 3) Scott had a point that he was trying to get to, but no rhythm or structure, so we didn’t disrupt a moment he was trying to build. 4) Scott, unlike most comics, innately understands that stand-up is a conversation. He wasn’t offended. He wanted to make his point, but he wasn’t butthurt at being interrupted. He responded to us but didn’t let us derail him.

He came back for the Thursday auditions, but by then, I’d realized that he might be hurt that Dave and I so vehemently insisted that he take the job. So I talked to him for a moment in the bar before the show started. I don’t know if he really was okay or if he was hurt by our reaction and kind of relaxed as soon as I apologized, but he basically said that he has been questioning everything in his life for a while and that performing at Flappers is his only source of true joy and he isn’t ready to give it up. He’d rather be poor and happy.

And him saying that took me back to four years ago, when I wandered into Flappers, looking for a glimpse into another world — a world in which people actively pursue their dreams and express themselves freely. I was there for one night and I was addicted and I had to go back again and again to get my fix. I had saved up money and was taking a year off to write. When that year was up and I ran out of money, I started using my credit card because I could not go back to the shitty world of “should” that I had just come from. I knew that I should have gone out and got a job and stayed out of debt, but I didn’t. It was more important to me to be at the only place that had given me a moment’s rest from my grief since my mom died.

I thought, we all came for the same reason, not just to Flappers, but to comedy. Comedy, aside from all of the terrible aspects of it as a business, at its core, is a place that people mentally and physically go to, knowing that they’re going to be able to speak and be told the truth.

It’s been four years for me, and about a hundred for Dave (He’s old. You get it.), and at a certain point, we forget that we came to comedy in pursuit of truth because there is so much bullshit surrounding the business. It’s very sweet to think you’d rather be poor and happy but years of being overworked and undervalued kills that initial impulse. Because the thing that attracted you to comedy in the first place is such a small part of it. It’s like the light on the anglerfish. Truth draws you in and corruption and exploitation eat you alive.

That sounds negative, and it can, honestly, weigh on me to the point where I lose sight of why I wanted to be in this environment in the first place. Still, I often say that I’m glad that I found Flappers instead of any other comedy club, and I find it difficult to articulate, even to myself, why. I think that we do make a distinct effort to treat people as well and as fairly as we can, although I am also always pointing out that we need to do more.  But I think the thing that really saves us is that we are built on trying to create an environment in which newcomers feel safe and welcome to perform.

Although there are people who would point out that us doing so is not entirely altruistic, and I certainly agree with that, new talent is the lifeblood of any artistic community. New comedians remind me that comedy is exciting and fun. I forget that, I really do. I think that any time you take an artform and turn it into a business, you run the risk of removing its soul, and for me at least, watching new people figure it out, watching people who have been doing it for a while get better, watching people who know what they’re doing and should never be doing anything else — all of that is what reminds me of how much I love comedy and how much it has done for me.