Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Making it Up as I Go Along.

While reading on the toilet, I came across an interesting passage in Uncle John’s Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader about comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld:

When Seinfeld went on stage for his first ever stand-up performance, he was paralyzed by stage fright and forgot his entire routine. He ran off the stage in a panic, mumbling a few lines to the crowd: “The Beach. Driving. Shopping. Parents.”

People love these anecdotes. It’s like the story of Michael Jordan getting cut from his first basketball tryout. We like to think we aren’t so different then the people we idolize.

Of course it’s flawed logic. My very first stand-up show went much better then Seinfeld’s, but it only takes a few minutes on Wikipedia to see that our careers have taken a far different trajectory since show number one.

It was only natural after this train of thought that my mind shifted to my very first show. (I made it off the toilet at some point.) When people ask me how long I’ve been doing comedy, I always say since last April, when I did a show at Mottley’s Comedy Club in Boston. That was not however the first time I ever did stand-up comedy, but it’s when I stated to pursue comedy in earnest. Before Mottley’s, comedy was a transient bedfellow; since then it has consumed my life.

My actual first attempt at stand-up comedy came years earlier in 2005, at a tiny coffeehouse open mic in Plymouth, Massachusetts. It was at the Kiskadee Café. The Kiskadee mic was dominated by slam poets and singer-songwriters, and right in the middle of them was a pudgy, bearded 19-year old telling jokes about masturbating.

Even though it was five years ago, I remember it almost exactly, and I do believe I could very accurately recall my entire set. So what the hell, I don’t actually do any of these jokes anymore (and most certainly never will again.) Why not share with you all a transcript of my very first show? Does that sound like something you might like?

(I envision only Harry and K-Fox actually saying “Yeah!” out loud while reading this.)

So if you will, join me on a journey back to the summer of 2005 and…

Gregory’s First Show.

MC: Oh wow, that was great Hubert, really meaningful stuff. Thank you for sharing that about your father.

(I’m making this up of course, but you get the idea. Pretentious poets always write poetry about their father not loving them.)

MC: Well, we have a treat for you guy’s. Let’s hear it for Greg Quinn, who is going to do some comedy for us.

[Tepid Applause]

Gregory: Hey Everybody, Hello, Thank You. Hello. So it’s 2005. It’s like, the future! And technology has gone crazy! I was in a public bathroom recently and I went to use the paper towel dispenser, and I couldn’t even figure it out how to use it! It was completely motorized! Since when do you need an engineer’s degree to wash your hands? I went to get some paper towels, and there was that Terminator Eye looking right at me. And I couldn’t get it to recognize I was there, so I had to like, Karate-chop the air in front of the Eye trying to get paper out. What is the point of this? Was anybody injuring themselves with the old pull-down method? Did someone try to push for a paper towel and pull a muscle?

(I was totally jazzed when I wrote this joke. This is what made me think I could be a comedian. I did it this one time and no one laughed, and I’ve never done it again.)

Gregory: I actually like public bathrooms. There’s no pressure. We’ve all been there. You’re at home using the toilet and you go to flush and the most horrifying thing in the world happens, the water starts to rise. And it’s like Indiana Jones and there’s a giant boulder rolling down for you. (Big laugh, go figure.) But if you’re using a public bathroom and this happens, you just look at the toilet, shrug your shoulders and hit the road.

Gregory: Anything is better then hotel bathrooms. I hate hotel bathrooms. Because every one I’ve ever been in is the same. We all know the time-tested bathroom setup: toilet, next to that the sink, behind the sink the mirror. And it’s lovely. But every hotel bathroom I’ve ever been in abandons this set-up, and they put the mirror right behind the toilet, so every time I use the bathroom, I’m treated to front-row seats to my own disgusting, flaccid penis taking a leak. It’s awful

(Also a laugh. I changed this one up a bit and actually still do it from time to time, though not in a while. So there it is, 3 minutes into my very first set and every joke is quite literally toilet humor.)

Gregory: So the poets were good, huh? (I knew how to fish for applause right from the get-go.) I don’t know though. It always sounds like they’re just making up as they go along, doesn’t it?

(Here it is, my first ever riff. I thought of this while I listened to the poets, and decided right there I would make up a poem on stage, and I figured it would be just as good as anyone elses.)

Gregory: I could just do one right here and it would sound just as good! Just shout out a word, any word. (I’ll never forget - someone said trombone.) Ok, Trombone. (This poem won’t be close to the one I actually said, but you’ll get the idea.)

Gregory: Oh, trombones
Your sound, so sweet
Yet so hard to hear
Because I never knew
What it was like
To hear my father play one
Oh trombones
Why did he drink so much?

(Epic Disaster! Not a soul laughed, and honest-to-goodness, a woman with short brown hair stood up and said: “you know, that’s not funny, some people take this very seriously,” and then walked out. I was frozen.)

Gregory: Ok, so this is a nice place here, huh? You got bagels and coffee. Can I get steak-tips here? Does anyone order steak-tips here? (Bombing.) Um... So, I have a gay walk. I do. I mean I like women and everything, but I walk like a full-on homosexual. It doesn’t matter what I’m saying before I walk, I walk like I’m gay. “Yeah, the big football game! Let’s do this, let’s kick ass!” [Walk away overtly gay-like.]

(Big laugh. I DO have a gay walk. Time for the closer.)

Gregory: So I was watching a documentary about Pandas (I was a master of transitions) and I found out that the reason they are going extinct is that they prefer eating to having sex. They would rather eat then get it on. (I never saw such a documentary.) And I thought, how weird? Who would rather eat then have sex? And then it hit me. I would rather eat then have sex. Because if I’m horny, I can masturbate. But there is no equivalent for food. I can’t stare at a box of cookies and jiggle my stomach around. I can’t watch Emeril and stroke my tounge!

Gregory: Thank you everybody.

And that was it. Now, this is clearly not verbatim what I said, but I’m positive these were the jokes and this was the order. I tried my best to fill in the rest.

I would find out a short time later that Jim Gaffigan had an almost identical bit to my last one, only funny. But I swear on my life, I didn’t know that when I did this joke.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did, or failing that, half as much as I did. I’m starting to think it would be a blast to do this exact set over again and some pointless open mic.

Anyway, I would do comedy maybe a dozen times over the next 4 years before going for real last year. Not bad for a first show if I can say so. What do you think, Seinfeld?


  1. I ALWAYS laugh and think of you when faced with a karate paper towel dispenser. A person just doesn't forget that. Also, I appreciate a nicely executed, completely irrelevant segue. I just cracked up at what followed it: "Because if I’m horny, I can masturbate. But there is no equivalent for food. I can’t stare at a box of cookies and jiggle my stomach around." haha Great job. Keep up the good work :)

  2. Thanks, Katherine! And I've noticed you've started to update your blog again ever since I yelled at you. Much appreciated! You should definitely come to NYC and go to that BabyCakes Place. I can do some reconnaissance and check it out for you if you like.

  3. suck it k-fox.
    well done mr. quinn.