Stand-Up Memories: Pissing Off the Catholics

I’ve been thinking about stand-up a lot lately and how much I miss it. I don’t know if I’m regaining my sanity or re-losing it. In any case, that microphone seems to be calling my name again. And in the spirit of my possible return to the stage, I bring to you one of my many strange and bizarre stand-up memories.

The first booked show I ever did was at the old Kitty Moon up on Broadway. It was one of Dave Odd’s New Faces showcases, and it was in fact the first round of some kind of citywide stand-up contest in which the winner would receive some monetary prize. I had literally done a couple open mics at this point, but I had some pretty solid material. I remember Dan Telfer opened the night (he had already advanced to the next round of the competition), and I thought he was the shit. His delivery was so much more solid than mine, and his persona was already coming together. I can’t recall who I went up against that night. I do remember some guy told a lot of gags about pooping, which I thought was awful.

I ended up killing and advancing on to the next round. I don’t remember the jokes I told. A lot of stuff about being gay and some stuff about my father. I was told the next round would take place at a sports bar in the suburb of Berwyn, IL.

The bar was next to a set of commuter train tracks on the outskirts of Chicago in the burbs. It was in a ramshackle building that looked to be perpetually under construction. I believe windows had wood planks over them, giving it the ambiance of a crack den. The bar was oddly divided into two halves with one half containing said bar and the other serving as a home to the makeshift stage where I would be performing.

Now, fortunately I had the foresight to pack half the house with my improv friends (I was mainly doing improv at the time). And these guys were totally on my side. Unfortunately, the other half of the audience was hardcore Chicago Catholic types. Blue-collar men and women with big hair. And I was about to do a set that contained jokes about how I didn’t go to church because I was afraid images of shirtless Jesus would give me an erection.

Suffice it to say, my material tanked with the Catholics. I was overjoyed not to get my ass kicked that night. Also I came in second, which was not enough to advance to the next round.

Still, the experience was awesome. I proved to myself that I could tell jokes in an off room. And I got a good story out of it.

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