Notes On The Comedy Underground

By Paul Oddo
August 22nd, 2014 | New York City, NY
Edited by Al Bahmani

Open mics are like slaughterhouses. We all want the meat, but few of us have the guts to get down on that killing floor to witness the carnage and appreciate the process. Beautiful jokes are prime cuts of expertly carved funny meat. What ends up on your plate is the end result of a long gruesome undertaking, which is the practice required to hone the skill to make it look so easy. When people see Louis CK, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman or Russell Peters perform they buy the ticket, enjoy the show and go home with those memories. They don’t see the failure that went into reaching that polished level. There is a lot of effort involved in making it look effortless, many levels to get there, and open mics are one of the most important.

To many people open mics are not seen as important. They can be excruciatingly awkward at times. Other times open mics downright offensive and even frightening. During our mic people have asked me questions;

“Is it always this misogynistic?”

“Is this mic supposed to be this offensive?”

“Do people make jokes about race a lot?”

“Do comics do a lot of homophobic material like that?”

“Why do you let people say things like that?”

My answer is always the same,

“It’s an open mic”.

Comics, particularly standup comics are not always the easiest people to get to know or get along with. We are the weird guy at the office. We are the quiet girl at the party. We are the person who “thinks too much”. We should “smile more”. We should “take things seriously sometimes. You know, not everything is a god damned joke! Spoiler Alert: it is! Yes, we are still doing that “comedy thing”. We’ve got problems. We are fucking cool. But you don’t know it yet. And we’re not shitty enough to say that to you.

So when you get a bunch of us together there can be a strange energy. Combine that with the fact that most of us are broke, or recovering addicts, or just cheapskates and it’s, well, it’s not great for bar business. Which at the end of the day is what it is.

Tonight is the last Friday that the “Friday Night Hot Chicks Open Mic” will happen in the Hot Chicks Room at UCB East. Myself and Sarah Tollemache started it with Nate Dern about two years ago. Sarah and I will still be hosting a mic at UCB East a couple of Thursday afternoons out of the month in the main showroom, and I’ll be sure to announce details about that when I have more info.

I just wanted to take a moment to say how much I’ve enjoyed the Friday Night Hot Chicks Mic. I know that it has become an important weekly event for a lot of comics in the city too. It has been great meeting so many hilarious comedians, as well as people just giving it a try and also total freak shows. It was all super fun. I can’t wait to see everyone on the Thursdays when we host the new mic, and in the many other dark rooms along our mutual paths to whatever end we all find.

The UCB has been very hospitable and welcoming to our show for a long time. They aren’t kicking us out, they just need to shuffle things around to see what’s best for the business. The powers that be at the Upright Citizens Brigade love comedy and comedians. It’s who they are too. Any other major comedy venue in NYC would’ve chosen Friday night bar business over an open mic a long, long time ago. So please don’t be upset with them. There really isn’t even anything to be upset about. Open mics are whack-a-moles. One goes down and another pops up.

Here’s the one thing people keep telling me, “I hate to see the Friday Mic end because it’s got a good, positive energy. You guys are fair with the drawing. Everyone felt welcome and it had a personal touch.” That makes me feel good and bad.

For one, I’m happy that we’ve been able to cultivate that atmosphere. It’s honestly what we wanted our mic to be. I try to make jokes when I host, but I try not to do it at the expense of comics or their feelings*. I bring people up and I bring people down with a handshake and a proper introduction and thank you. I try to pronounce their names right. I never wanted to sit back and rattle off names in hopes of saving time. The uncomfortable, unwelcoming vibe that gives off isn’t worth the trade to me. We also made a very transparent effort to not “stack” the mic or do favors for “Names”. There were a few rare exceptions, but generally speaking we gave the same treatment to somebody going up for their first time as we did to comedians with half hour specials on Comedy Central, which earned us a few huffs and puffs from some butthurt individuals, but that’s the way it goes. You’re either fair or not. You’ve got to have a code of some kind. We wanted to put on the mic that we wished existed. I think we got pretty close.

The reason this makes me feel bad is that what we do seems so rare. If you like how we did it, do it. We don’t have a patent on being nice and fair with people. Start a mic and do what we did. You can use our exact formula. I promise we won’t be mad. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Said some smart dead fucker**.

Tonight we are going to do things a little differently. We will likely shorten the set times to try and get up as many comics as we can, and more importantly, we are going to try and get as many people who have NEVER BEEN PICKED UP as possible.

We will set out two buckets. One will be for people who have never gone up and one is for the rest of yall. Hopefully this will be a fun thing and no douche bags will ruin it. I have a short list of names from last week which I’ll be sure to put in the “Never Been Up” bucket.

Once again, and I’ll probably say some of this shit tomorrow too, but it has truly been a pleasure.

Paul Oddo

Winner of The 2012 Boston Comedy Festival Paul Oddo is regular in New York’s alternative scene. Nominated Best Local Comedian by The Houston Press in 2006, Paul Oddo is comedian that even the most jaded local comedians love to hear. He is proud to call Houston his first comedy training ground.

Editor’s Notes
*Unless they truly fucked with Paul or the room.
**Kahlil Gibran

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