punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Comedy tonight

Last night, ninjacooter and I went to The Riot Act and had a pretty good time.

First, let me tell you about where she lives; a place in DC called Columbia Heights. This is a colorful neighborhood, and I don't mean that all McLean like, "you have a fertile imagination," instead of saying, "you're a liar," I mean her neighborhood is not afraid of being what it is. Lot of people who live paycheck to paycheck.

One guy, I assume he was drunk, stumbled around the street and then just laid there. At first, I thought he was hit by a bus, because he was a body in the middle of the street, but ninjacooter suspected it was a local being a dick. And sure enough, whenever he thought he had made his point, he got up and crossed the street. He did this more than once.

Ragged locals hung out near the front of the liquor store on the corner, drinking out of bags. There was a "Chinese Food Chicken Pizza" shop across the street. The bus stop was both a place to wait for the bus and hang out and shoot the shit. I mean, it was urban, but while I felt out of place, I didn't exactly feel threatened. There was a large Hispanic presence (mercados and the like), which is always a good sign in my head of strong local cuisine. But a lot of that is going away, and I could tell even in the few hours I was there. Columbia Heights is changing all along 14th street. Slums and being torn down or converted to botiques. Large buildings are being erected with modern (for now) architecture. The memory I have of the area (1986-ish) was run down, dirty, and a little dangerous. Now, it's like watching rats looking at a wave of exterminators setting up traps. Soon, Columbia Heights will be another strip mall of yuppie consumerism, and poor people will have to find another place to go.

Also, yesterday, the AQI probably was terrible because it was VERY hard to breathe in the city. I drained my inhaler (which was low anyway). On top of that, I was impressed that the 52/53/54 line on 14th street ran every five minutes... BUT... they don't run on the schedule (as in, one comes by every 10-20 minutes, and often they are full and pass right by you because they can't fit anyone else on). Because of this, a bus passed by us late at night, and two passed by is this morning. So I'll reinstate that Metro sucks. Coincidentally, there was a standup comic that night who was a Metro Bus driver, and it's apparent that being a bus driver for Metro also sucks.

So, ninjacooter stopped off at the bus stop, and to save money, we hoofed it to her house about 4 blocks away. It was damn hot and dreary, soul-sucking humid. By the time we got to her house, I was really blue in the lips. But I recovered quickly, we got back on the 14th Street bus and went the other way to the Riot Act in DC. Well, first, I had some food at Fresh Fields (honeydew and palm hearts), and then we went down to the Riot Act.

The Riot Act is a small white building with a glass front and a railing that separates the cafe sidewalk portion from the rest of the sidewalk. There's a jazz club upstairs, and the comedy club is downstairs. The downstairs is dark and cozy, with wobbly tables, stackable chairs, and a small platform with three halogen bulbs that act as a stage and spotlight. The whole place is the size of the lower floor of my house. There's a bar that serves basic drinks, but it's not fancy at all. The whole thing has a feel like someone did this setup in their basement.

The owner, John (I think), came to our table as soon as ninjacooter and I sat down. He introduced himself, and explained his club a little. It's a recent thing; he bought out this part of the jazz club because he used to be one of the franchise owners of the DC Improv, but felt it had gone too professional. He said he wanted to have a venue where local comics could try out in a friendly atmosphere. He apologized that the kitchen wasn't open, but there was a Thai place right next door we could order from. ninjacooter got a Coke, I stayed with nothing.

The comics were good. The Emcee was funny, and I'd say more than half of the acts were professional level or better. Some comedians were roll-on-the-floor funny. Steve Gallagher was one of them. There were a few comics who were rough, usually with timing and delivery.

There was one guy, some guy from Sudan, who worked on a cruise ship for a while. He was terrible. Such comedic potential in a bit, and not only was his delivery bad, but his jokes were so overdone. White men can't dance. Okay. Drunk people can't dance, too. Okay. Drunk white people... really can't dance. I wish he had went elsewhere with that. His bit started with "I wondered why white people kept falling overboard?" That was the funniest thing he said. His theory was based on that white drunk people on a rocking boat were to blame, and... he delivered it like that in about three extra sentences. There was another act where the guy delivered his lines with such insincerity, it was just not received well by the audience.

And so far, I have come up with this theory on comedic performances: any successful act must excel in at least two of three aspects: material, timing, and delivery. Material is the core text of the joke, timing is when you say certain things, and delivery is how you say them. If you are weak in two or more of those things, you won't be funny.

I took some notes for when I am on stage.

  1. Bring your own bottle of water or Mountain Dew. Some guys brought cups, and one guy spilled his.
  2. Don't wear anything shiny. One guy had chromed dog tags that shot points of blindness around the room.
  3. Make eye contact with the audience, and not just one girl you think is pretty.
  4. The stage is hot and humid. Prepare appropriately with a rag or lots of antiperspirant.
  5. Don't mumble or speak too fast. There were some acts that I only heard half of because the guy mumbled.
  6. Have an end or wrap up for your act. Half the comedians just stopped abruptly, sad thank you, and left. At least end with, "That's my time, I think you for listening..."

Yeah, we're going back a few times. I'll let you know when we perform.

Anyhoo, after two buses passed us because they were full or late, we took a cab back home. We were exhausted; ninjacooter was going to do a reading for me, but we ended up going to sleep. I had an inflatable mattress, but it sagged all night.

I got to meet the BGW! But he was doing cybersex with some homo in Texas or something, and refused to speak to me! ;) I also got to meet his Persian Puss. So now I can say that BGW does actually exist, and I have finally met djkangal's brother.

The morning commute was okay. Columbia Heights to Metro was about 30 minutes, even though it was only six blocks. If I thought I could have made the trip without sweating and stinking at work, I would have done so. I could have done that trip in 10; it's downhill, too.

Definitely doing this again! Soon!
Tags: club, columbia heights, comedy, dc, open mic, riot act, standup
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