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Comedy, Live Performance

Stand-Up at Riot Act Comedy

Our appearance at Riot Act Comedy Theater in Penn Quarter, DC, August 23, 2011. A few of my thoughts after the jump.

  • First and foremost, one cannot overstate the hugeness of the room at Riot Act. I didn’t realize this would be in the main theater, which seats a spreadout 300. If they crammed everyone together as the DC Improv does (and needs to do), they could probably fit twice as many folks in the room, depending on fire code.
  • Besides the spread seating, the ceiling are also much higher than the Improv, although not as high as say, Arlington Cinema Drafthouse. Why does this matter? Because laughter is a collective sound, and like any other, resonates more in tighter spaces. The larger room has some deadening (or dispersing) effect on sound, which probably makes the comedian work a little harder or have to more closely read the room, which has a higher likelihood of forming “pockets”. I remember seeing Andy Kindler at the Drafthouse make a comment about “you people are too comfortable for comedy” since we were all lounging in these new chairs the club had installed. OR:
  • It means the recording is a slightly diluted version of the real-life experience, sound-wise. My camera was at the back of the room and to one side. There are parts of the set where I remember laughs to my left that more or less don’t show up on the recording, which was being taken to my right. All this is to say, after watching the recording, I was a bit underwhelmed with the audience reaction, compared with what I heard while on stage. OK, enough about that.
  • Riot Act runs a good open mic. The best one I’ve been to, easily. It felt roughly the same as the showcases I did at the Improv. When you show up and check in, they hand you a card with a number on it which is your slot. It’s always nice to know when you’re going. You can relax and enjoy yourself that much more, as opposed to the open mic at RFD for example when you have no idea when you’ll get up and neither do the hosts. I have no problem saying I hated that. Also, on that card, you write your intro for the MC, who was in this case, Jeff Maurer, a good local comic I’ve seen and talked to a few times. At RFD, my intro was “Yo, where is ….”
  • When Jeff introduced me, he misread the ManontheStreetDC.com that I listed, so I corrected him to start, but halfway through I realized I didn’t know exactly what to say about this blog yet, so that threw me off. I had an up-and-comer joke, since they stack the newbies at the front of the order, but skipped it. Figured most people wouldn’t get a reference to Moe Berg anyway.
  • I was surprised how many people came up to me afterwards to tell me they liked my set. Not as I was walking by them. They actually made the move to come over to say something. I’ve never really had that before. Maybe because my style of material and delivery are a little different. More topical, more sarcastic, more deadpan, more moments where I stop a bit to make an observation. At least in my mind, compared to what I saw.
  • As with every one of my shows, I always try to have something that I’ve never said before, that I wrote that day. This goes back to my previous job, where I toured the country speaking at conferences and events. I would never prepare an opening, I would always leave that to what I observed, as an out-of-towner, in the 30 minutes leading up to my speaking slot. Surprisingly, I would be one of the only speakers, if not the only, that would do this at the event. (I guess not everyone’s taken improv classes). Part of what is or can be great about comedy are the moments when things stop or breakdown and you have to make something out of nothing. The opening bit was written about an hour before the show and the second bit, about blackberries, was written in my head walking to the stage the last time I did a set. Actually everything is new, aside from the hurricanes bit, which works for about a month every year.
  • After the set, I was talking to a friend who was considering trying comedy and I mentioned my comfort with commenting on bits after they work or don’t work, and another comedian said “you should never do that.” remember kids, not all advice is good advice. I disagree 100% with that. Johnny Carson (partially) made a career out of knowing how to bomb. You know who doesn’t know how to bomb? People who don’t actually have a sense of humor.
  • I won’t be posting many stand-up videos, because, it means you’ve seen my act and I need to write new material or at least touch up existing stuff with new surprises.
  • Which means my next set, Fri, Sept 9th at the DC Improv, will need to be a brand-new 8-10 minutes.
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About manonthestreetdc

Reporting on events in the nation's capital

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