April 4, 2018

Jokes on you

My recent foray into stand up comedy has been fun and interesting so far.

I’m definitely at the rookie stage with only two open mics and two small after-dinner gigs under my belt, plus one workshop with a handful of local comics.

Each time I take the mic, however, is a growth opportunity and I’m eager to push forward. They say preparation is key to being confident and confidence is gold.

I did try a couple public-speaking engagements over the years. It was my bull-headed way of getting over stage fright. Unfortunately, when I tried speaking earnestly I got all choked up. Maybe more preparation would have helped those situations, but it’s a little harder for me to pull off smart and articulate than goof around with wise cracks.

So the script got flipped, so to speak. Instead of public speaking helping get ready for stand up, I’m doing it the other way around.

On March 24, I had a blast trying out a routine with Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli in attendance. It was an Anglican Church fundraiser at the Rorab Shrine Club, and Fedeli, the former North Bay mayor and briefly the interim Progressive Conservative party leader, was the auctioneer.

So much potential material there for a novice comic (who covered city hall for much of "Mayor Vic's" tenure) it was like Christmas morning.

Topping it off, I invited a secret weapon to the festivities, my mom, and told a couple stories about them meeting nine years ago. She warned me afterward to stop telling that LOFT golf story although the piece about unknowingly sending the then-mayor for a grocery errand before my birthday barbecue is still OK.

Naturally, I also poked a little fun at him being trapped on a rollercoaster ride with the ‘self-destruct’ party. All in good fun, though. “What does PC stand for these days? Premature Candidacy?” Drum tap.

Even tried a couple religious jokes and didn’t get crucified by the sea of grey and bald before me. A couple stern looks. Maybe I should have left a tray of pot cookies out for desert.

Many thanks to my friend and former colleague Dawn Clarke for the opportunity. A brave lass, Dawn is, because my very first dinner gig was for her Taking Off Pounds Sensibly group (TOPS, not Weight Watchers) last December. My cherry-popping bit fell flat that night. Some of the same people were at the Anglican fundraiser and they were kind enough to say I’ve improved.

Still got work to do on cleaning up the act for non-bar situations. Couple too many F-bombs. I really did mean to say Frigg’n instead. Not sure about the downtown shoplifting dildo punchline either.

After writing news stories and columns in the North Bay area for most of 30 years, there’s a lot of local content and context mixed into my routines. It’s probably my strongest suit as I get my feet wet trying to make people in this region laugh.

There’s no doubt those who have lived in small towns or rural communities might relate to my humour more readily than big city folk. But my social and geographical adventures have crossed into civilization a few times. I should be able to gear up my countryside to something close to a modern urban crawl eventually.

To be honest, my first goal is just to get comfortable taking the stage and I’m willing to do the hard work necessary to get there.

So, if your organization wants a 10 to 15-minute act to add a little something to your meeting, I’m willing to drum up a tailor-made bit with a couple jokes specific to your area of interest. And I work cheap, just a sandwich and two beer will suffice.

Most of all, I’m hoping my stand up comedy experience will broaden my story-telling horizons. It will be interesting if it becomes second-nature like my writing and photography feels now.

Did you ever try stand up comedy and what do you think of it as an art form and story-telling craft?

Email [email protected] or use the contact form to make suggestions to improve the story. Comments are welcome as well. Thanks for reading.

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