Hello, internet. My name is J.D. Renaud. I am a stand up comedian living in Winnipeg. There are a lot of other things wrong with me, too, but we will get to that later.
My first time doing stand up was at a contest held by a (re: the only) comedy club in Winnipeg. If you're curious as to how that went, I'll tell you. I bombed. Fantastically so. It was magnificent, I tell you. I never knew what audible silence sounded like before that night, but now I have the sound committed to memory. It was the same weird kind of quiet you hear in horror movies right before something jumps out of nowhere and decapitates a sorority girl. Once you can hear the sound of several hundred arms folding in contempt, it stays with you forever.
After this incident I became convinced, like many young comics do, that the entire crowd was, in fact, wrong. I stewed in my own crapulence for a while, convinced that the world was not ready for my brilliance. My art would forever be unappreciated in a world where small minded comedy club audiences failed to grasp the nuances of my masturbation jokes. I let that feeling simmer for a few weeks, and maintained my stance that the world did not deserve me or my comedy.
This would be a pretty s***ty story if it ended here, wouldn't it? Interestingly, for most people who do try their hands at stand up, I've found that the story often does end here.
Luckily for me, I soon caught wind of the local open mic scene in ye olde Winnipeg, and made the shocking discovery that I, in fact, sucked. Go figure! That cold bit of reality turned my passive aggressive self aggrandizement into a full fledged neurosis. The decision was quickly made to kick my own ass with comedy. Close to two years later, and damn if my boot and anus have never been closer.
I can't speak for how stand up communities at the open mic level work in other cities, because mostly all I know is what I've seen in Winnipeg. However, from what I'm told, save for the very select markets where opportunities to make money are more prevalent, they run about the same everywhere you go. You might have a weekly room that you trust to try out new stuff, and a few shows might sprout up here and there to keep you busy. If you're lucky, you might end up getting put on the bill of a booked, non-open mic show. These shows, as low on the radar as they may seem to most people, are all you wish for in those first few months. It is all you know you're able to get. "Oh please, mister MC. Please validate my existence and give me three to five minutes to yell at those strangers."
And if you're good, you'll get it. And if you're good there, they will invite you back. And again. And again. Then they will give you five to seven minutes. Then ten. Then before you know it, you're f***ing doomed.
Because stand up comedy, above all other things, is an addiction. A social addiction masquerading as an artistic medium, but an addiction all the same. Nothing ever satiates it. You are compelled to go up there, no matter what the size of the room, no matter what mood you may be in, no matter what other obligations in your life you should actually be attending to instead. For those in it for the long haul, the hump can never be re-filled fast enough. It is the only performance art that hinges on the consistent enduring connection between one person, their ideas, and a room full of drunks. In those early months and years, it is the masochistic perversion to make others laugh.
And if you're good, it stays that way.
I'll be writing about comedy, the world of stand up, and the uncomfortably candid details of the lives of those in it for ShowbizMonkeys.com.
J.D. Renaud is a writer, comedian, producer, and visual artist originally from Oakville, Ontario. You can follow his weird thoughts on Twitter at @jdrenaud.
Now I want to hear these masturbation jokes.