After work today I went with an old friend from Hong Kong (and now a co-worker) to a comedy night in Santa Clara. Even getting there was the stuff of hilarity; there are identical Hilton Garden Inns up and down Palo Alto, and instead of being picked up outside the one I stayed in, we had a fifteen minute argument on the phone about whether I was standing in the entrance or not.
The comedy was in a sports bar called Woodham’s, where they played Slayer’s Angel Of Death before the standup started (you know, because nothing says "giggles" like a song about Joseph Mengele, amirite?), and the sole barmaid was a tattooed Valkyrie serving an addled man drinks while the less-than-confident host stumbled through his material. I went outside, hungry, and found a grocery store that smelt of feet and sold Lion bars. It was like every other comedy night I’ve ever been to, but on a Monday, with more comedians than audience.
I can’t go back. Not to Woodham’s, that is, but to comedy in general. As I sat at the bar, noticing gaps in performances (you don’t say "um", you don’t say "like", you always use the rule of three unless there’s a reason not to) and people needlessly extending perfect one-liners (if you have a line like "a prostate examination is a real bummer" you’ve said all you need to, really), I felt something unhealthy rise up inside me, of all my sense of how to write a joke, of the right way to deliver it, of gaps in what people said, …
Or perhaps it was indigestion from eating the Lion bar too fast.
There was good material, in between the dross. The nice thing about unpolished, slightly inept Monday night material is that the good stuff shines out. But then the bad stuff… well, it’s bad There was a man who either perfectly satirised all stereotypes of a curmudgeonly drunken uncle who’s mistaken offensiveness for humour (of the legit article – who can say any more?) a boast about a 5.25" penis, a set of jokes about Samsung phones that had neither setup nor punchline, insofar as I could discern, and beyond that it all gets very vague. Either the material wasn’t memorable, or two pints of Blue Moon beer on an empty stomach were … well, you make your choices in life. I couldn’t do better, even if I could criticise.
My friend drove me home after her set. I argued with the internet for a while, then went to bed.