Tonight, a middle-aged homophobic man, an old, embittered woman, and a 19-year-old UW student have at least one thing in common: They all want to be heard. The medium they have chosen isn’t Facebook or a psychiatrist, but rather the stage.
Tonight is their chance to say something meaningful, if only for a few minutes. Tonight is their opportunity to make someone feel. It’s open-mic night, and the stage is set.
Whether it’s the Comedy Underground in Pioneer Square or Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland, open mics draw hopefuls young and old from all walks of life. Regulars include professional stand-up comedians, amateurs, angry people, and old ladies with cats. This sort of diversity proves that anybody can try stand-up comedy — and I believe everyone should.
From my experience, it’s one of the most cathartic adventures out there. You are free to be as serious or as frivolous as you want, and the range of topics is unlimited. In just six months of doing stand-up comedy, I’ve heard topics including, but not limited to, dolphin rape, racist Georgians, Motel 6 bed sheets, and pedophilic gym teachers. Though broader topics such as relationships and everyday life are more commonplace, virtually nothing is off-limits.
While this creative license keeps many coming back, for some it is perhaps the very reason to stay away in the first place. Many taboo topics, such as racial profiling, abortion, and politics, make people feel uncomfortable. In fact, I am one of those people. A joke about a more sensitive topic usually isn’t funny, because the comedian isn’t saying anything novel or salient; he or she might just choose the easy route and be unnecessarily profane. But when a comedian does deliver, the taboo almost disappears, and even a more conservative audience can appreciate it.
Stand-up comedy is a unique creative outlet because it serves not only as a form of self-expression but also as an exercise of one of life’s most important skills: public speaking. Whether you’re president of the ASUW or a regular at Alcoholics Anonymous, everyone has had to speak in front of people at some point. Stand-up is a great way to practice a skill that will be invaluable throughout your professional and personal lives. Besides, if you can confidently talk to a group of people expecting to be entertained, all other situations should feel much easier.
Finally, it’s important to note that, when compared to other hobbies, stand-up is simple and inexpensive. Musicians need instruments and painters need supplies, but to do comedy, one just needs a microphone. This makes it all the more accessible.
Granted, joke writing is not an easy endeavor, and I am definitely not experienced enough to discuss the approach. All I know for sure is that — like any other creative pursuit — this one takes time and dedication. If you can make the sacrifice, you can do stand-up comedy.
Clubs in the Seattle area have open-mic nights every week, so take your pick. Try something new.
Reach opinion columnist Alex Avakiantz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @avakiantz
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