I just got done listening to three of my stand-up sets. When I'm on stage, I constantly ad-lib new punchlines, so I have to record all my sets and listen to them later.
Today, I listened to three really fun sets of mine- two of which were recorded at "Crapshoot," a half-stand-up/ half-improv comedy show hosted & produced by Austin comedians Roxy Castillo and Jon Mendoza.
WHAT CRAPSHOOT IS
Crapshoot happens Fridays, 10pm, at the Institution Theater. Comedians do ten-minute sets. The first five minutes they perform their own prepared material. Then for the second half of their set, the host (Roxy or Jon) calls out suggestions for topics that the audience members submitted before the show.
They usually have 10 or so comedians. It's great to see each comedian's personality shine as they navigate through the un-known. They don't have their material, so it's all personality.
WHY IT'S GREAT TO START OFF WITH PREPARED MATERIAL
At Crapshoot, comedians tend to do fairly okay with their material. Out of all the sets I've watched and performed there, I have never seen the crowd go ape for the prepared part of the show. The crowds are polite. They enjoy the jokes. But the prepared material never kills.
The crowd is waiting for the live experience, the live, risky, experience you only get when nobody in the room has a clue what is going to come out of the comedian's mouth next! As soon as the comedians switch into improv mode, the crowd lights up!
However, it's great to have that prepared material at the beginning of each comedian's set because it gives the comedian a little warm-up. They get in their comfort zone. Plus, it gives them five minutes to establish confidence with the audience. The audience sees what the comedian is all about. They see that the comedian is funny, so when it's improv time, they trust the comedian's instincts.
IT'S FUN TO GO BACK AND LISTEN TO MY SETS
Sometimes, when I listen to my recorded sets, it is a grueling process: I force myself to listen to hour-long sets of material I have done a million times- just to hear one new, usable, off-the-cuff punchline! I'm like "Arrgh! I need to perfect this joke fast, get it on a CD, so I don't have to hear it ever again!"
I love listening to the Crapshoot sets because I have never heard me do that material before! Half the time, I forget I told that weird story about losing my innocence or that inappropriate touchin' time at the club! When I play these sets back it's like I'm listening to a crowd inappropriately laugh at a sick man's therapy sessions. It's great! I'm genuinely interested!
CRAPSHOOT GENERATES CONVERSATIONAL MATERIAL
I love Crapshoot because it's a great way to generate honest, natural, conversational, material. The comedians don't have time to over-think, over-analyze, over-tinker an idea.
A lot of people are funny at parties, because the natural conversation sets them up to say something funny. Well, imagine if those party people paid an admission to set you up to do awesome jokes? That's Crapshoot. Thanks for the set up! Here's your prize!
I get a prize too: A lot of the bits I have done at Crapshoot are going in my act. With the way I write, it would have taken me a lot longer to generate some of the bits I spontaneously performed at Crapshoot. With a few edits I can hone a Crapshoot bit into a completed bit in no time! Thanks Crapshoot! Thanks for speeding up that process!
NOTE: some of the things I say at Crapshoot stay at Crapshoot. Just like in my act, some of the things I improvise just aren't funny. That's okay, though. The crowd knows the show is improvised. Not everything is going to pan out!
CRAPSHOOT IS RISKY
There's a lot of risk! At a regular show, when a jokes bombs, you move to the next joke. At this show, there is no next joke! If a topic goes south, you can ask the host for a new topic, end your set, or plow through the topic until something does work- or not. Maybe you end your set on an awkward moment. It is completely possible to eat a mega turd on the Crapshoot stage- and that's okay. Actually, watching somebody bomb every now and then is pretty funny too.
During the last show I saw there, the power went out during Kath Barbadoro's set. Sure, Kath could have given up and gracefully ended her set. Nobody would have blamed her. We could have stopped the show. The crowd would have understood. The crowd could have left. The comedians would have understood. Instead, the crowd illuminated Kath with the light from their smartphones and she trucked on! It was great! Very funny lady!
Do yourself a favor. If you are in Austin, go check out Crapshoot. Also, make sure to check out the hosts, Roxy Castillo and Jon Mendoza. I am running out of room in this entry, otherwise, I'd write more about how funny each of them are. If I knew you'd read another nine paragraphs, I'd tell you how funny each of the comedians were too. Just go check out Crapshoot, Fridays at 10pm at the Institution Theater. See for yourself.
Bye! I'm Jake!