Tonight I rode my bike from Lakeview into Wicker Park to do an open mic in the basement of Lottie’s Pub, which is supposed to be a must-do according to splitsider.com and a few other Chicago comics I’ve spoken to. After locking up my bike I discovered that the open mic, known as Rathskellar, had been cancelled due to a Blackhawks game on TV (it’s weird to live in a city that is really into sports…). I didn’t yet know of the other Tuesday open mics that happen around Chitown, so I just went back home to hang out with my roommates (both of whom have been busy with some strange thing called a “job”).
SO, because I didn’t get to do stand-up tonight, I thought I might write about my only other Chicago stand-up experiences. The first actually occurred at Rathskellar. [CUE FLASH BACK] I was apartment-finding in Chicago last March and found I had time to hit an open mic or two. Another comic from my hometown that does a lot of stand-up in Chicago specifically recommended this mic to me. I showed up nice and early to awkwardly ask people when and where the sign up is, and then when all the strangers who were scribbling in notebooks formed a line leading to a paper on a stool, I knew to just get in line. I signed up, followed the other comics into the basement, which is where the comics can tell their jokes without bothering the kind of people who might want to watch a Blackhawks game.
Attempting to be an engaged member of the audience, I tried to balance reviewing my notes and paying attention as the comics (who I thought were quite good) each went to the small stage, did their material, and sat back down in the dimly lit bar cellar four minutes later. As this happened I thought two things:
1. Most of these comedians know each other. The host kept introducing the comics either as “my good friend” or “a very funny guy.” This was the first open mic I had ever been to outside of Springfield and it suddenly hit me I had nothing established here – no friendships, no expectations, no “cred” as a comedian. This realization shook my confidence a little bit, but I was sure I could do one of my more solid bits in the four minutes provided and walk away leaving the locals impressed. (Oh, how sure I was!)
2. I should have already gone up already, I think. I couldn’t quite tell if the host was calling up the names in any particular order, but I felt like I might have been skipped or something. Not being able to predict when I would go up also affected my nerves.
[SMASH CUT TO] All of a sudden: “Please welcome your next comedian: Todd Snodgrass!” I stood up. Todd Snodgrass? I thought. Maybe there is another Snodgrass in this room–I hope not–but maybe there is a Todd here. So I looked around while standing in a row of chairs. There was an uncomfortable silence as I anxiously scanned the back of the room. I realized they had just read my name wrong and so I headed up to the stage, my walk having the attitude of whatever would be the opposite of a confident saunter.
And I forgot my entire set–a set I had done many times! (And even if my name was mispronounced, this is my own fault entirely) My words stumbled around, tripped on each other, as my brain tried to remember what it had planned to remember. What was I going to say? I should mention this is my first set ever in Chicago, right? I could have sworn I wrote my name clearly…
My set was pretty lousy. I was nervous and I know I came off as nervous. I think when I mentioned that it was my first time performing in Chicago, my audience (which seemed to be composed of all or mostly comics) instead believed that it was my first time ever to perform. A comic later referenced me in his set as “the new guy” and asked me into his microphone, “You were nervous, right?” I left before the whole show ended, and I left embarrassed. And now that it was over, I left fired up to prove that I could do better–that I could nail an open mic set just as well here as anywhere. I mean, it’s still just people tellin’ jokes, whether it is Chicago, Springfield, or anywhere.
I remembered that when I did my second ever open mic set in Chicago this previous Sunday at a show called Three Dead Moose. I’ll make my next post about that experience, which was quite different than my first at Lottie’s (and really, it was a pretty good group of comics, except for me of course–worth checking out! And a cool venue!). This blog is long enough and I need to go to bed. But if you like, Three Dead Moose is next time. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.