I have been back at them. It's so hard to stand on a stage in a room as silent as a tomb in-front of 3 or 4 audience members who are wondering the same thing you are; why are we here? The microphone is almost unnecessary. The room is dark and the lights seem brighter than when a crowd fills it. All you have is a notebook of ideas and the balls to say it out loud. In the back of the room, sitting, staring watching and judging are other comics. Comics outnumber audience 10 to 1. You will never know how long five minuets really is until your up there. It's brutal. It's darwinian in it's ability to reduce the many to the few. This is the first step in the process of becoming something more than the sum of your experiences. This is what every comic ever went through on the way to packing out a theater.
Once upon a tine, I was watching Louie C.K. perform at the Melrose Improv. It was Saturday night. The place was packed. Already a stand-up star in his own right, this was about a month before his hyped show on HBO came out. These were fans. About 20 minuets in, he got the light. You could tell from the expression on his face he was confused, but ever the pro, he wrapped up and got off stage. Chris Rocked was introduced. Chris Rock! The place goes crazy with adulation and energy. The first words out of his mouth were, "Lower your expectations."
It turned out, it was to be his biggest laugh for the next 20 minuets.
When I try out new stuff, I have to wait in line at an open mic and once I get on stage, I open my notebook. This was his open Mic. Instead of a handful of people on stage he got a packed saturday night audience. Instead of a little black book, he opened his black berry. Instead of being the next guy, he was Chris Rock. He bombed. Utterly and completely by any standard comics have, he died. It was a awesome thing to behold for a comic. It was like watching Jesus being handed a jug of water and a fish and all he could do with it was hand back a jug full of water and a single fish. The power in this was not how bad he did. The power in this is seeing how hard the job it is at taking an idea and making it funny. You think of Chris Rock and you think of him strutting across the stage with a thousand watt smile dropping punch line on top of punch line to an adoring crowd. Those killer lines have to have an origin. This night, we got to see just how hard a job it is to take ideas and craft them into an act. There are no short cuts. There are no easy paths. It is night after night of sacraficing your self esteem for that one good line. That's how it's been done for ever.