Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My First Time

I have been really blessed this last month - I was able to perform on five good shows in a row including  Zanies and two nights of hosting for the FIRST TIME at The Improv, which is one of the largest comedy clubs in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Preliminary Work

A lot of comics have asked me how I got the hosting gig. Honestly I don't fully know. There are a lot of more talented and experienced comics that have tried to get stage time there. But... There are a few things that I know helped.

I sat in the audience at a few shows before submitting for their showcase. Then I had a good set at a showcase they had. I showed up on time, smiled and was nice to the other comics and wait-staff. I gave the manager a thank you card. Then I sent a follow up email asking for feedback on my set.

I didn't get the feedback, instead I got a call asking me to host. This then got rescheduled a month later and I was offered two nights instead of one. My cat definitely judged me for the "happy dance" I performed in the living room.

At the audition showcase each comic had to introduce the following one, to show their hosting skills. I came up with a memory queue for the comic's name I was introducing so I didn't go up with a piece of paper and introduced them with the warmth of a friend speaking to another friend but with the excitement of introducing them to a Dave Chappelle or Amy Schumer. It's kinda like smiling when you are on the phone. It apparently helped and they seemed to like me.

No one appreciates sitting in an audience of a show where the host says "this guy is really funny" and then pronounces their name wrong and forgets to shake their hand, acting like they don't really care who that person is. That's just awkward.

Ask the other person what they would like you to say before the comic goes up. It sounds like common sense but just the other night, I was at a show where the host made up credits for the feature act. He did this because "no one in the audience cares or remembers anyways". They do, I went up to that comedian after and was asking him about the experience of being on Last Comic Standing, which he hadn't been on. And he said then people get mad at him comic for "lying" when it was the host's fault for the fabrication. This also diminishes any real credits the feature or headliner have actually done and are really proud of. Don't ever do that.

The first night hosting

I got there early and stayed in the green room so the sound guy didn't have to worry about trying to find me on a "smoke break" (I don't smoke). Management also said I could sit in the audience with my friends beforehand (I didn't). Even going over through your set in the green room bathroom can make the managers think you've gone missing.

We went over the order and the shows to plug at the end. Even doing that I STILL went out too early when they were announcing the headliner, feature and THEN host.

I couldn't really understand the words backstage, all I heard was a name and then a beat and applause, so I went out there as they were announcing the headliner Rich Aronovitch, then I had to stand out there as they announced Jim Flannigan and THEN me. The sound guy said in the eight years he'd been working there no one had done that before...so I guess they will remember me?

It was a little awkward but I made it work as best I could trying to "lead the applause" and then talked about being so excited to be there that I "came out super early AND shaved my legs for the evening" after that, my set went well and then the audience REALLY loved Jim and Rich. (As they should, they both had great sets with good transitions, effective timing and use of crowd work) I learned so much just from being around them. I feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful experience working with two other fantastic performers, a really welcoming and caring staff in the club and an engaged audience that eased my nerves by mostly enjoying my set. I can't wait to start doing this more!

Contributing Writer: Melissa Richelle
Melissa is a writer, stand-up comedian, actress, and producer and member of the online sketch group Foul But Funny. You can catch her performing all around the Chicago-land area.