Mike Stand is up and at 'em at 11:30am. Ah, the life of a comic.
He takes his time getting his day started—he's in no rush. He chows down on a bowl of Froot Loops (Mike never really wanted to grow up, and this cereal helps him keep in touch with his inner child), while sitting on his futon watching the last couple of Saturday morning cartoons in his South Park pajamas.
Once 12:30pm rolls around, he has finally rubbed the last of the sleep from his eyes and is ready to hit the ground crawling.
He starts by working on his set. A stand-up comedian strives to put together hours worth of usable material—a feat that can sometimes take years to accomplish—and they will often mix and match "bits" to form different sets. Depending on where they're performing, a set can be anywhere from eight minutes (a pretty standard time allotted at an open mic night) to two hours (congrats on your Comedy Central special, btw). But for most working comics, it's usually in the 15-minute to half-hour range. Mike has just recently taken the big step from eight-minute, unpaid open mic gigs to barely-paying ones of the 15-minute variety. Clearly on his way to super-stardom.
He scribbles a few possible jokes on a piece of notebook paper:
"My computer is so old, the word 'fire' keeps coming up on the spellcheck."
"A recent study showed that the average man thinks about sex 206 times a day. Not me though. I'm different. A little more sophisticated, I guess. I actually only think about sex two or three times a day. But for seven hours at a time."
"What do Toronto and my girlfriend have in common? They both got about six inches last night."
Mike does not, of course, have an actual girlfriend. But acting as if he does have one makes him feel slightly better about himself. Which is a nice break from reality.
At 2:30, Mike has to leave for a part-time catering job. He's working a bar mitzvah from 3 to 9. Gotta pay the bills somehow.
He knows a few other people working the bar mitzvah—some from prior catering gigs, and others whom he recognizes from the stand-up circuit. One gal, Nellie Knockknock, he’s seen around town, mostly at open mics, but once or twice at some quasi-reputable clubs. After she drops off a couple drinks at the head table (red wine for the parents, a kiddy cocktail for the man of the hour), Mike arrests her attention.
"Mike. You still performing?"
"Here and there, yeah. Mostly focusing on the acting these days. Taking an improv class, attending workshops, you know."
"Gotcha. Well, I'm doing a set at the Giggle Shack at 11 tonight, if you want to come check it out. I won't even press charges if you steal any of my material."
"Ha, appreciate it. I might swing by."
Mike goes about the rest of his catering gig with an unexpected spring in his step. This girl could be his next conquest. Not to mention the source of a host of new material.
The catering gig runs a bit long, and Mike has to book it to get home, change (into his standard uniform of a ratty-looking band t-shirt, ripped blue jeans, and a backwards baseball cap), and get over to the Giggle Hut before 11.
He doesn't find out the set order until he gets there—turns out he's going fourth, right after Ronnie Cackle, the prop comic and ventriloquist. Great. Mike hates having to follow talking puppets. Talk about pressure.
Yeah...looks like a tough act to follow.
Just before Ronnie wraps up his set, Mike scans the audience to see if Nellie showed. Doesn't look like it. Although the lights are pretty bright…maybe she's in there somewhere….
Mike is intro'd by the evening’s host and makes his slow, leisurely way up on stage, to scattered, barely audible applause. There are maybe 30 people in the audience, tops. Still, a big step up from performing at open mics, where it was typical to be playing to a crowd of 4-5.
Mike's set goes fairly well—he gets a few laughs in spots he hadn't anticipated, but falls flat in places where he usually kills. After his 15 minutes are up, he descends from the stage, looks around one last time for any sign of Nellie, gives up, and heads to the bar outside the stage area to pick up his $60 payday from the club owner.
He's still hoping there will be an agent in the audience one of these days—someone who will spot him for the genius talent that he is and start setting him up with serious paying gigs, but it hasn't happened just yet. Until that day arrives, it’s hustle, hustle, hustle.