Standing Up to the Sick Lure of Stand Up

“You can’t just go out there and put it in their ass.”

Joey Diaz giving stand up advice to Eddie Bravo
Jason P. Reed makes his comedy debut.,

Among the handful of public engagements I had in Acadiana this October, the four-ish minutes I spent on stage for open mic night at the Jefferson Street Pub were the most intense. The thing is, I had never done stand up before. And . . . well, I won’t say it was a hostile audience, but I’m sure everyone who witnessed my debut would agree that it didn’t go well.

It went as expected. But it did not go well.

It’s like that scene in the first Matrix movie, when Neo attempts to jump between the two skyscrapers. Everyone falls the first time . . . but still, you secretly hold out hope.

That was me, expecting to bomb but secretly hoping something magical might happen. And, you know what? I won’t necessarily call it magic, but something pretty cool did happen. The thing that happened was it felt totally natural. Standing on that high stage, I felt at home with the mic in my hand, squinting out at the stone faced audience through the bright lights. I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.

Though I pretty sure the audience had a different opinion on that. They did not laugh. And that was at least half my fault.

But still, it felt great!

Having learned something about the process of learning new skills over the past couple years, my expectations for this first attempt were modest. Like most things, learning a new skill is a process. You don’t just start out good. You have to practice.

In fact, my main goals for the first time had to do with the mechanics of the art form: managing my nerves, holding the microphone, not looking stiff, remembering my words.

On that front, I did quite well. I was nervous, for sure, but the breathing exercises I did before I went up kept my heart rate in check (thank you meditation! thank you Wim How!), and as a result, I was able to (mostly) find my words on stage. Just that–just getting up and not freezing–qualifies as a success in my book.

Of course, I had hoped for more. I just couldn’t help myself . . . I had dreams of going up there and just totally crushing it! But the audience did not find my jokes funny. Either that, or they felt a social pressure to stay stone-faced. Who knew that gender fluid people could be so rigid? (get it? fluid . . . rigid).

It seemed that pretty much the only audience for stand up night at the Jefferson Street Pub was the people signed up for open mic. Basically, people sat at tables in the audience while they waited for their turn. It almost had the vibe of trivia night at your local bar, but with the cast of a YouTube commercial for “climate justice” instead of the local patrons.

To say it wasn’t my crowd is like saying masochism is an acquired taste.

Anyway, I had brought along my old friend and confidant–really, the only person in the world I could trust in such a vulnerable situation–the one and only Toby Frey. Like the rest of us, Toby is a flawed individual. But he has a special gift. Toby has a special ability to read people and honestly judge the merit of just about any art form.

Shortly after we arrived at the bar and started nursing our drinks, Toby offered the first note of caution. “Your trans jokes aint gonna fly here bubba,” he said. He had to whisper this from the corner of his mouth, hemmed in as we were by hefty dude in a Pinocchio costume on one side and the so-called headliner for the night–a beefcake with skinny jeans and a moustache I would later observe singing along to Blink 182–on the other.

I could start a separate blog just to catalog the countless times I found myself in hot water because I failed to heed Toby’s advice. And if I did, the latest edition would be from Thursday, 27 October, the year of our lard-ass, 2022. If only I had gone with my football joke about how a bunch of monks like the New Orleans Saints could never beat the Vikings without God on their side, things might have gone differently.

But I didn’t, and so it went badly.

The squat queer person with the shaved head and the piercings who served as the organiser and MC for the event warned all us comedy hopefuls before the show: you can’t say the N word. It might’ve been my imagination, but I felt like her gaze lingered on me for a second. But maybe that’s just because I was the only one without a student-ID in the building.

So what I said when I first got up there was:

“I had a joke about Niagara Falls and a certain river in Africa . . . but I was told I can’t use the N word.”

Crickets.

I had been pretty damn proud of myself for coming up with that in the ten minutes before I went on, but the room didn’t reflect the high opinion I had of myself. Nevertheless, I wasn’t worried, because that was just a throwaway joke.

I launched into my routine.

“Hi. I’m Jason. My pronouns are he, him, and his. My adjectives are bald, clever, neurotic, and cool as fuck. Though I did have an ex girlfriend who refused to use my preferred adjectives. That bothered me for a while, until I remembered that she identifies as a bitch.”

I heard the sound of an electric car motoring down Jefferson street.

Undeterred, I segued into my material about how universal truths always rhyme. Bro’s before Ho’s. He Who Smelt it Dealt it. And my favourite, Silence is Violence. You know it’s true because it rhymes.

Well, the audience didn’t like that either. So I hit ’em with my bit about this new made up form of transportation you see at airports these days. It’s not a bus, and it’s not a train . . . it’s a tram. Even before I got to the line about how the tram’s not fooling anyone–about how it will never be a train, no matter how hard it tries–I got the hook.

My time was not, technically, up . . . but my time was up. The fleshy person in the monk’s haircut was no longer feeling generous. It was time for me to go.

About three minutes later me and Toby were in the car getting the fuck out of there. It was a fifteen minute ride back to where we were staying. We could have used that time to re-hash my performance, but neither of us could stop laughing.

Joke’s on you, mother fuckers!

Published by New Bayou Books

JR Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is simple: to great writers out of the shadows to carry on the Louisiana literary tradition.

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