Playing the hits
Monday was one of those rough nights that either grinds you down and makes you quit, or inspires you to dig deeper and get your shit together. I went up to two open mikes in Michigan, both of which were pretty sparsely attended - not an unusual thing on a weeknight, but I was running on fumes and in a bad mindset from being tired. I don't think either set went too bad, but little things became amplified - I went a minute over my time at Joey's in Livonia, a stupid rookie mistake. I was in the middle of a new bit and didn't have a good "bailout point" figured out yet, so I blathered on, eating into someone else's time, for the benefit of the other comics and an audience of maybe six. Embarrassing.
I'm at an odd place in my evolution right now. I have some tried and true A-game material that works more often than not. I have what I consider to be a "signature bit," a chunk of about 8-9 minutes of material that comprises a good bit of my feature-length set. The problem is, I'm still not working as a feature much, so most of my stage time comes from MC'ing or open mic nights. 5-8 minute sets are the norm at these places, and long bits don't generally work as well, since you're expected to get up, get done, keep it tight and leave room for the other 14 people who want stage time.
As a result, I seem to devote most of my open mic sets to newer bits, trying to work out where in my "real set" they could go, or if they work at all. My best material gets left out, neglected except for practicing my set at home. My worry is that I'll get sloppy or rusty with that stuff, so that when I do get the opportunity to stretch out and do a feature set, suddenly my tried-and-true bits aren't the highlight of the show, as they should be.
If I get to the point that I'm featuring a lot, this problem will solve itself. Right now, it seems like the height of luxury to have 30-40 minutes on stage on a regular basis, to hone that feature set, deliver the strongest stuff I've written to date, and work new material into that context. I'm sure once I get there, I'll have some other weird issue that I overthink and worry about... but hopefully I'll have the sense to enjoy that larger window of stage time I'll have earned.
Tons of shows in the next week and a half, some new rooms, hopefully some guest sets that will lead to new opportunities. Feeling pretty fortunate right now, and enjoying the hell out of the ride... just gotta make sure I get more sleep on show days so I have the focus to keep an eye on the damn clock.
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Where I write about the stuff I do when I'm out doing the stuff I do.