Friday, October 28, 2011

A Puppet and a Fist: Open Mic Night

The only difference between people in Greyhound bus stations and people going up at comedy open mics is, the people at open mics want to be discovered. Often times they are just as crazy but they still want to be seen. I'm not going to lie. A bad open mic can be just as enjoyable for everything that goes wrong with at it as an open mic where everyone kills. Standing in back and burning karma by talking shit about what you're witnessing with a few other people can be a lot of fun. I know. I'm a bad person.

Rooster T. Feathers is a club I love. It also runs one of the last truly open Mic nights in a comedy club anywhere. There was a time when most clubs had an open Mic night. Most have stopped, a few do a partial open mic with a few pros in the line up to keep it good and some do one once a month. Roosters keeps the tradition alive by doing one once a week. Its also a pure open mic in the sense that if you sign up you go up. If you bring people you get more time but it remains a pretty democratic system. This means someone without a clue can get on stage for five minutes and try to hold the attention of the crowd. It also means someone with undiagnosed mental illness can get on stage, too. I said crowd but in most cases we are dealing with twenty or so people scattered at the various tables and chairs. Most are friends of one of the performers going on that night. A few are people who wandered in out of curiosity.

On the night I am closing the show, I am in the back burning Karma with Bay Area local legends, Larry "bubbles" Brown and Jimmy Gunn. It is the usual open mic with plenty of poorly constructed jokes on masturbation, pot, porn and rape. I don't know what it is about white guys and jokes about rape, but there are plenty of both of those. Here and there, in random moments, a few jokes pop out of the mouths of the mostly confused people on stage. One after the other they all go up and get a crack at the ten people who make up the "crowd."

Three people are sitting up front at a table. One of them, a woman in her late 40's, heckles the comics. She continues to comment or awkwardly compliment the comics. This wouldn't be all that unusual accept she is suppose to go up too. Quick hint to anyone thinking of trying stand-up comedy out. When you go to your first open mic, don't sit directly upfront and "talk" to the other performers on stage. She isn't being funny or cute, just very annoying. The manager goes over to her and asks her to stop. She does. For a while and starts up again. She is reminded again that this isn't a conversation and once again she stops and then starts up again. The comics, God love them, are all new. Awkward, nervous, attempting to be edgy and coming off creepy; all but a few are pretty grim and none are helped by the heckler. The fact that she is going up and that she is so completely clueless is hilarious.

The night progresses and eventually we are down to the remaining two or three comics. I've lost track. A man in a suit goes up. his timing is impeccable but his jokes are awful. What becomes rapidly hysterical to me is that after each punch line fails to get a laugh he simply says "Thank You" in a forceful baritone. It becomes one of those things that is so ridiculous and you know its not actually funny but you can't help it. He tells a vaudeville type one liner. Thud. "Thank You." All this and the lady up front still hasn't gone up.

Finally, we're down to the woman who won't shut up. Before she is introduced she comes to the back where she has left a plastic pumpkin and some other items. She puts on a Dracula cape. A Dracula Cape! When she is introduced she walks on stage with a swagger ordinarily reserved for people going to the electric chair with crazy smiles. And, wearing a cape. She puts her hand above her eyes because the lights are bright and promptly tells us "I'm so high right now and that's no joke." Awesome! Larry, jimmy and I are all watching in awe. She tells us that she has a surprise. Its hidden under her cape. She pulls it aside to reveal one of those puppets that has its arms wrapped around her. WoW! Just when I thought this couldn't get any stranger, it does! She introduces her puppet as her wife. "we got busy the other night." She explains. Larry, Jimmy and I are observing this with guilty grins. In front of us, sitting at the side of the bar, a man turns around with a business card in his hands. "This is her card." If you believe what the card says, the woman on stage is a massage therapist. "She specializes in prostate massage." All I can say is, Google it. It makes sense, in a weird way, when you look at whats happening on stage. She keeps asking if there are any couples in the audience. Then she asks when was the last time " got busy?" I'm not sure if anyone ever gave her the answer she was looking for but she begins to give what she calls a deep organ massage to the puppet. At this point, Larry leans in between Jimmy and I and says "It's a Lemur, I believe." This makes me laugh so hard. At about the same time she starts to thrust her fist into the butt of the puppet making loud noises in what I'm guessing is her idea of what you would hear when they get busy. Wearing a cape and fisting a puppet does make you stand out at a show. I will give her that.

Then, its my turn. I walk on stage and all I can say is, I've seen some shows but wow. Its great to be here on mental health night. And thats about how it goes for the fifteen minutes I'm up there. Comedy. Its bold and beautiful, wonderful and scary. Those are the good nights, folks. On the bad nights its stunning for all the wrong reasons. I have seen a lot of shows. I've done comedy for twenty years. Until this night though, I hadn't seen anyone fist a puppet on stage.