It's not a secret that I got dumped/devastated. Moving on has been quite the process. So when my comedian pal Gregory asked me to accompany him to Fire Station 1 in Silver Spring for an evening of open-mic stand-up comedy -- wherein regular folks like you or I write a few jokes and step up to the microphone for five minutes each -- I steadied my breathing, dried my tears, put on a dress and drove the long way up Georgia Avenue.
And it was here, in this neon-lit and bright red sports bar, that I was introduced to the absolutely incredible world of D.C. open-mic stand-up comedy and its No. 1 denizens, the folks of District Comedy. I now feel compelled to share it with all of you.
Fire Station 1 is a two-story bar with a performance space on the second floor. Gregory led me upstairs and introduced me to District Comedy co-founder Brad Ryan and regular show host Pat Coffey, who were kind enough to sit down with me and answer all my probing questions.
At the base level, here's what you need to know: The organization District Comedy is run by Brad, Pat, co-founder Ralph Cooper and other regular show host Haywood Turnipseed Jr. They have three regular weekly open-mic shows:
Monday: Smokin' Hot Comedy at Fire Station 1, 8131 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring
|Fire Station 1|
Wait list: Generally none.
Tuesday: Laugh 'Til You're Blue at the Blue Banana, 3632 Georgia Ave. NW
|Ralph Cooper at Blue Banana|
|The crowd at Blue Banana|
(Photos courtesy of Pat Coffey)
Wait list: Sign up two weeks before the night you'd like to perform.
Thursday: Awesome Thursdays at R.F.D., 810 7th St. NW
|Haywood Turnipseed Jr. at R.F.D.|
|Pat Coffey at R.F.D.|
|Brad Ryan at R.F.D.|
By far the biggest show District Comedy hosts, and the one that feels the most like a real comedy club.
Wait list: Sign up two months before the night you'd like to perform.
It's a free admission to any of these shows, and all you have to do to be a performer is email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, word on the street (aka, what Brad told me) is that they're working to get more venues in Virginia and elsewhere. In addition to the regular nights, District Comedy also plays host to special showcases of top D.C. comics for a small fee.
Be forewarned: If you venture out to an open-mic stand-up comedy show, you're not going to be watching Dave Chappelle's one-hour stand-up feature.
Nay, open-mic comedy is kind of like karaoke singing's hotter cousin. The people involved are definitely still amateurs, as with karaoke singers -- just this time, they write their own material instead of scanning song books to belt out someone else's work. Just like with karaoke, there are some absolutely amazing stand-outs and some who are just so painfully awkward on stage that, as an audience member, you hope that a spot light explodes and glass shards rain down like shrapnel in their eyes just so that the moment can be blissfully over. (Five minutes is a loooooong time sometimes.)
And yet, that's part of District Comedy's beauty. The one word these guys stressed to me over and over and over again was "supportive." At the beginning of each show, they playfully invite the audience to "shut the fuck up" so that each budding comic can have his or her moment unperturbed. Cheers punctuate each performer's journey to and from the stage. Audience members make a good-faith effort to laugh at each punchline, no matter how much of a fool's errand that may turn out to be.
Bottom line: Everyone genuinely wants the comics to do well.
"It's like New York without the bullshit," Haywood said to me.
WHY YOU SHOULD WRITE JOKES AND SIGN UP
After I spoke with Pat and Brad and got a chance to listen to a few comedians and the subsequent roar of the encouraging crowd, I must admit I was pretty impressed with the whole thing... and itching to try it myself.
Why not? I'm funny. Check here or here or here or here for evidence. So I went home and wrote a joke, then ran it past my friend Greg. Just as everyone is in the District Comedy scene, he was immediately supportive, tweaked my words a little bit, and told me to go for it.
A week later, I performed at Fire Station 1:
Then last night, I did it again at the Blue Banana. Unfortunately, the video malfunctioned and I do not have a record of that outing. Wah wah.
I will tell you all, they are not kidding when they say they are supportive. Everyone cheers! Honestly, I feel like I'm on top of the world.
And even more than that... if you watch my set, you'll clearly understand that I'm still hurting. A whole, whole lot. The stuff I'm making fun of is stuff I'm extremely sensitive about. But when you're at an open-mic comedy night, the comedians are ALL making fun of stuff they're individually extremely sensitive about. It's like one big primal venting session followed by a group hug from humor's loving arms. Getting on that stage, making fun of yourself and being accepted for it all afterward is a feeling like no other. Catharsis.
So, if you've ever thought you were funny or had an inkling that you'd like to get on stage, write a joke and sign up. Trust me on this! And if you don't think you're funny, you should still go out to support your local comedians.***
This world could use a little more humor, and it's 100 percent worth it!
*** LADIES, LISTEN UP: YOU ALWAYS SAY YOU WANT A GUY WITH A SENSE OF HUMOR, RIGHT? THEN GET YOUR FUCKING ASSES TO A DISTRICT COMEDY OPEN-MIC NIGHT. THE PENIS BOAT HAS PULLED INTO PORT, ITS CARGO CONSISTS OF HILARIOUS SINGLE MEN!