Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Comedy is a Hard Cold Thing

My sister, Carey Callahan, does stand up comedy. I like her blog a lot too, but fair warning, if you go there right now you're just going to read more about our dead dog. I try to go to her shows whenever I can because, you know, I'm a good supportive sister. But also because I just like open mics so much, and Carey when she's on a roll is just so good. Of course, I'm like her perfectly designed fan, because we have the same mental structures built up in our heads, we think the same way. But no, she's really cerebral and emotional and good. Sometimes she's awful. But even when she's awful, she's going somewhere with it. Last night I went to the Bela Dubby Monday night open mic, which those two shadowy characters above host, and then afterwards we all went to the Corner Pub open mic down the street.

Comedy open mics are really weird amazing things. Essentially, if it's a good one, you're voluntarily listening to crazy people rant. Of course there are punchlines, but that's just part of the structure. Some people put their thoughts in poetry structures, others put them in novels or plays. But the tricky part about comedy is that you are targeting the most absurd parts of the universe. Poets try to conjure beauty, novelists try to conjure - I don't know, the human experience whatever, but comics are actively seeking out the parts that make no sense. When you really get trapped in a comedy k-hole, the entire whole of creation descends upon you, and you are stuck in this uncomfortable dark wreck of reality where all you can do, all that's left to do, is to laugh because Yes, That Shit is Fucked Up. Maybe the best comparison to a comedy show is ripping away a thousand scabs. It hurts and feels really good at the same time. The best comics that I love watching are essentially just very smart sensitive people getting up there and flaying themselves for you. There's blood and violence.

 If you go to a more professional show, an actual line up, then the masochism is polished and the edges are worn soft, and it's Art. At open mics though, the floors are covered in blood. People are bombing, people are ranting and raving, they are standing before you with all their guts and veins showing. Sometimes it's the worst. Other times it's transcendental. Most of the time it's a mix of both, and if you are tapped into the emotion, if you're paying attention to what's really going on, it leaves you feeling worn out and drained, like an orgasm.

 As an audience member, you are part of this predatory cycle, you are the enemy and the enabler at the same time. It's a powerful position to be in, it makes you feel ashamed and proud and stupid and smart. Last night, I was really thinking about how comedy takes the basic interaction of artist and audience, and makes it visceral, draws it out cartoon style. As a writer, I'm having the same exchange with my readers. But I can't see you. I don't have to look at your faces while you're reading me, or watch your reaction when it's all over. Even without that face to face, I'm crazy addicted to people reading me, so I can only imagine the addiction that comes over someone performing on a stage like that. It must be overwhelming and harsh, and the highs must be fantastic. I know how very intelligent and observant and kind some of these guys are, and sometimes I actually feel guilty watching them blow themselves to pieces just to make me laugh. But then, I remember my role in food chain. I consume them, and produce laughter, which they can consume, which allows them to grow more. It's a fucking cycle of life. It's emotional photosynthesis.

 Every Monday night at Bela Dubby 8:30pm, and Corner Pub around 10:30pm there are open mics, which are free and no promises. Tonight is a Cash Mob at Chucklefck, 8pm the Grog Shop. Every Tuesday, they do this at the Grog. Next week is Neal Brennan, who's going to be great. The week after is James Fritz from Chicago, who I'm a huge fan of. And the week after is Last Call Cleveland, and another really great comic from Chicago Kenny DeForest is on that bill, so I'll be at all of these. Last night Kenny did both open mics despite just getting off a ten hour bus trip from New York, and looking like he was going to fall down with exhaustion. That's how fucking crazy these people are. I just hope to god I never fall in love with a stand up comic. It's hard, they can be beautiful.


  1. this is some good writing worthy of real publication, like esquire or some shit yo.

  2. I've always considered myself beautiful, but I appreciate you having the courage to say it.

  3. I thoroughly enjoy stand up scared to death of being "the chosen one". You know there are those nasty stand ups that will pick a poor stranger in the crowd. I make sure that I always sit very far from from the stand ups completely out of site. If I need to pee I make sure I hold it in.

  4. Oh shit I spend too much time on websites I mean sight

  5. That goes right along with my stand ups rule, which is never sleep with one.

  6. Interesting post, I think you nailed the experience... I love "you are the enemy and the enabler'... so true!!

    Great writing!

  7. I also enjoy comedy open mics. They deal with the hard facts of life in a good way, which makes us accept it better and makes us laugh through the hardships in life. As they say, laughter is always the best medicine.


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