DC in DC

Every time I hit a comedy club in New York, there’s one thing all the fellow comics always tell me and i.e., the NY Stand Up scene is nothing like the rest of the United States. At first, I wasn’t completely sure what that meant, but a bus ride to Washington DC brought everything into perspective.

In NY if you want to perform at a mic, you simply show up before the show starts and put your name in a bucket. The host goes up, picks the chits, announces the order and you perform to beautiful empty walls in rustic basements. It’s marvellous. Trust me it is, the silence I’ve received at clubs has saved me hours on meditation and brought me closer to self-actualisation.

So, my ignorance made me think that it would just be natural for Washington to have the same comedy codes. Turns out, I’m a douche with incorrect pre-conceived notions and zero foresight. Something my parents would term as ‘not surprising at all’.

This is what happens: I reach the city, look up mics online and land at this place called the Bier Baron. My first reaction is of disbelief because I see a packed room of 60-70 people waiting for the open mic to start. In my head, I’ve already performed, destroyed and become the new famous DC in town. So, I go up to the producer who very sweetly tells me that it’s a pre-registered show, and last minute walk-ins are not entertained, so I can give my expectations a glorious death. Humility, Season 1 Episode 1: Every place is not The Hive. Since I’m there, I just watch the show and the conditioning differences between DC and NY comics are starkly evident. These nights are a display of how empty rooms teach you to work full rooms with grace.

I go back home and try to register for any show I can get in that week, but luck isn’t a dear friend, although optimism is. So, the next day I reach a place called The Big Hunt and make my way to its basement. Climbing down I remember thinking to myself that nobody is going to land up at an underground club on a weekday. Hmm…remember that short-sighted douche part? Still true. The venue is packed beyond capacity with almost no space to breathe. I somehow make my way to the comics’ table and try to speak to the producer. He’s sweeter and tells me he doesn’t have time to talk. That brings us to Humility, Season 1 Episode 2: Go out the door you just came from.

Disappointed I head back and on my way, I get a mail about a 3 minute slot available at a mic the next day. I’m thrilled. Fast forward 24 hours. I whip out my tripod, practise my bit and reach this venue called the Chinese Disco. I confirm my spot and go to the back to stretch and do some air boxing (it’s super lame but fun). My turn is getting closer, tension is building and right before I’m programmed to go up on stage, the host announces that the producer has decided to end the show because a party is scheduled to start there in five minutes. Humility Season 1 Finale: Shove that tripod up your alley.

So, yes I’m back in New York from a pseudo tour where I didn’t get to go on stage. I guess the art teaches you what you need and not what you want, even if that is something as basic as appreciating stage time. However, I’ve learnt my lesson and have already mailed producers for shows six months in advance. Until then I’m going to be in rustic basements happy to be reunited with my good old friend, silence.

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