I performed at Carolines on Broadway last Monday. This marked the fourth time I made a trip to the Big Apple for comedy. The first trip was last August when I did a bringer show (a show that requires a performer to bring a certain number of people in exchange for stage time) at Gotham Comedy Club in Manhattan.
My first trip to Gotham was a great experience for me. I was only six months into my stand up "career" when I made this venture and there was a lot of excitement in being at that club on that stage. It did not matter that it was a six o'clock Saturday show that required I find four friends in NYC in order to perform or even that it was a low turnout of forty people in a club that holds over three hundred. The rush of performing on a famous stage like Gotham and passing pictures of every performer that ever performed there (including Steve Martin) on my way to the bathroom made this trip more than worthwhile.
Since this initial trip, I went back to perform in New York three times at venues such as New York Comedy Club, Stand Up New York and Carolines on Broadway. Being the home club of guys like Louis C.K., Bill Burr and many great guys before them, performing at Carolines was a huge landmark for me.
I first perormed at Carolines this past April and it was a crazy time for me. I was getting married in less than three weeks and because of that overbooked myself in March and April. I knew I would not be performing much in May and June (wedding, honeymoon, life, etc.) so I took every show I could leading up to that. This culminated in a trip to New York and performing at Carolines.
Though a great experience, I did not have the set I wanted to have. I was burnt out and tired. I had been performing a lot, worked a fulltime job, helped my wife with wedding planning and was forty-five pounds heavier than I am right now. This and the pressure I put on myself made my Carolines debut tight and tense. It wasn't a bomb but it was mediocre at best. Instead of going four for four with two homeruns... I went two for three with a strike out. Though it wasn't my best, the booker invited me to come back and I did so less than a week ago.
This time I went into Carolines in fighting shape and incredibly sharp (getting a weekend at Magooby's where I did five shows in three days certainly helped the crispness of this performance). My set was supposed to be six minutes and it ended up being ten minutes of constant laughs and a really solid performance.
Like my set at the Mencia show last month, I drew on the learning experiences of the past eighteen months and used them to put on a good show. The reason my set was long was because I never got the light (the mark tells you if you have anywhere from one to five minutes left in your set). There was a time when this would have rattled me. I would have been constantly looking for the light and not focused on the task at hand: having a good set.
In watching the video back, this is the most comfortable and engaging I have been on stage to date. I did a good job selling every joke and worked each side of the room filled with over two hundred people. The critique I give myself is with my closer. Because my set was longer than it was originally supposed to be, I closed on a joke that I typically would not have closed on. The joke did not bomb by any stretch of the imagination. In sports terms it was a bunt single after a stream of homeruns and line drive doubles.
After my previous set at Carolines, I was met with indifference by the other comedians. This time I was met with fist bumps, high fives and handshakes. I'm a guy that is hard on himself about a lot in life. I judge myself harsher than anyone does with comedy... but this time I crushed it at Carolines. To have a great set on that stage meant a lot and is a feeling I won't forget.
The highlight of the night for me was meeting Bill Burr. After my set, I walked out of the showroom to go to the bathroom and hang out at the bar. The first person I saw at the empty bar was Bill. He could not have been a nicer or cooler guy. We made small talk about comedy and a radio show we both did in Baltimore (Slavy Seconds). The thing I'll take away from this meeting is Burr's love of comedy. The man just finished taping his sixth appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman and he had an endless list of possibilities of things he could do to celebrate. He's in New York. There are a million bars or restaraunts he could go to. Hell, he could go back to the hotel and hang out with his girlfriend. Instead, he went to a comedy club to "hang out and eat some tomatoes." I hope this is the place I decide to hang out after Letterman when I'm two decades into the game.
Towards the end of the show, Judah Friedlander (30 Rock, American Splendor) stopped by to do a set. It was fun seeing a bigger name comedian coming by a room to work on his new material. It's a friendly reminder that in comedy we eventually end up at the same level. Despite money or television success, whenever a comedian starts that new set or new joke, he ends up at this comedic version of ground zero. I didn't get a chance to talk to Judah as much as I did Bill, but it was fun to watch his set. He is a really funny guy.
In the end, I got as much as I could have gotten out of this trip to New York. I got to meet a great comic and one I look up to in Bill Burr. I got to hang out with my wife and my great friends Will Carey and Ben Rosen. I had a great set and a great video of it on a stage that probably means more to me personally than any other one in comedy. Did I mention that I got invited to come back in October? As far as comedy Mondays go... this past one was a good one.