By Max Radwin, Daily Fine Arts Editor
Published February 28, 2013
“Open mic consists of people that are professional comedians, people that have never done comedy in their lives and everything in between,” he said.
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“(An open mic is) not really about the laughs. It’s about, ‘let me get in front of an audience that is paying for me to be here and work some things out — work this bit out.’ But then you have the guys that are all about the open mic: ‘I’m competing against this guy; I’m funnier than that guy.’ ”
Rabb used his stage time very matter-of-factly. He would say a joke, step back from the moment to evaluate the room and then run back to his notebook to transcribe his results, once even saying, “Never doing that joke again.” Near the end of his five minutes, seeing the red light flashing that his time was almost up, Rabb thought of one more thing and said quickly, “I don’t really have a joke for this, but here’s an idea I think is interesting … ”
A community of comics
Yet despite the almost didactic atmosphere the comedy club creates for its open mic nights, there don’t seem to be a lot of University students present on Wednesdays.
“I have no idea,” Feeny said. “Last year we had quite a few coming in. This year there’s not that many. Next year maybe there will be some.”
LSA senior Jake Fromm, one of the few University students to make regular Wednesday appearances, pointed out that the meetings for student organization LOL ROFL Comedy Club also happen to fall on Wednesday, so student comedians have to choose which venue is best for them. Fromm (who is a former Daily photographer) is active in both, but noted the value of the Comedy Showcase.
“There’s something really valuable about a real room with a mic and a light and a crowd that’s paid to see you,” he said. “I prefer to go up and do the real thing instead of workshopping.”
Fromm only started doing standup last May, but it’s a passion that he plans to pursue far into the future. He hopes to get a job teaching English in Asia when he graduates and would like to pursue comedy in New York at some point.
“I don’t know what the comedy scene is like in Nepal, but there’s probably not going to be any open mics there,” he said.
Fromm’s name was near the bottom of the standby list the first week that I went to see him, but he was hopeful and prepared nonetheless. Before the show, he sat at a table by himself, writing in a small notebook and working out jokes in his head.
“It’s just bullet points and concepts. Sometimes I’ll have the rhythm in my head and so I’ll write down exactly how the joke is going to go,” he said. “But (usually I’m) just writing down points that I want to hit. Onstage you figure out what works and what doesn’t work and even if you haven’t written down the exact words, you probably could.”
The show was running too long that week, so Fromm never got his chance to perform. But he stuck around anyway, laughing and talking in the back with the rest of the comedians. “There’s a comradery,” he told me. “A community of comics … the guys that go up a lot — they all know each other.”
Convenience and accessibility
Like many of the comics in this small community, Fromm is just trying to climb the ladder. Successful open mics lead to emceeing, emceeing leads to featuring, featuring could get the attention of a booking agent and a booking agent just might lead to headlining — a shot at stardom.
Comedians at every phase of the process grace Feeny’s stage throughout the year, with the end of the week devoted to the more-established performers: the headliners.
In the last few years, the Showcase has seen comedians with national appeal, like Aziz Ansari, Mas Jabroni and Doug Benson. Joe Rogan, in Detroit announcing a Saturday Ultimate Fighting Championship fight, asked Feeny if he could drop by the Friday before to do a show.