By Moreen Littrell from Women Writers, Women’s Books:
“It just wasn’t funny,” said Sheila, a fellow stand-up comic, when I asked her what she thought of the set I’d performed two days earlier in the Main Room at The World Famous Comedy Store.
It was Friday afternoon and we were sitting on the red velvet couch at Insomnia Café on Melrose, just two green comedians preparing to riff. I had just taken a drag of latte foam when she uttered those Christopher Hitchens-esque words. I hadn’t even secured an outlet yet or hoisted my lowriders. I thought she was kidding, just deadpanning too long.
But she said “no” she was serious, and that there was no time limit on deadpanning anyway. Wednesday’s set was only my third ever. It was the same set I debuted with two months earlier, and while I wouldn’t say I killed it, I didn’t not kill it. As the smoke from the former model’s sorry-not-sorry “truth” bomb wafted, the windows to her soul were still goring into mine.
I lowered my catatonic gaze to my wad of index cards. I had been so excited to try out my new material on her and riff like Wanda and Ellen. Scrawled with a black Sharpie to emulate Kidnapped (a free font), were my top contenders for my next set: Gyno Legal Fund, Pizza Puke, and Facebook Whore. But, if Sheila didn’t think Wednesday’s set was funny (Bedframe, Distress Calls, Prescriptive Facemask), she certainly wasn’t going to think Facebook Whore was. My croissant went down hard. For the next hour, Sheila found nothing of mine funny.
“Really? Not even Twitter Ho?”
“No – ”
And I found nothing of hers funny.
“Kale has been overused. Try iceberg.”
“No – ”
“Then butterhead –”
“No – ”
“Then hydroponic butterhead.”
“No – ”
She didn’t want lettuces. Apparently, kale is not a lettuce but a cabbage and she thought cabbage was funnier (even though everyone pretty much thinks it’s a lettuce). Whatever. Where was the ‘Yes, and…?’ We were at a stalemate.
I cried all weekend. I thought of giving up stand-up. It was supposed to have been my salvation, my ride-or-die, pot of gold, North Star, soft spot to land, my candle in the wind. But every time I considered watching the tape of my performance (that I’d collected on Saturday in what felt like a “drive of shame”), I saw Sheila’s dewy face. Was she born with it?
. . . .
On Monday, I had a meeting with one of the top comedy management/production companies in the industry – the ones responsible for Dane Cook. I only got the meeting because I had invited seven top comedy agents to my stand-up debut. I knew they wouldn’t come but I thought that I’d get the jump on getting on their radar. One of them — the drunk one eating pizza at a sports bar — responded. He welcomed me to send him a tape of my debut, which I did. He then forwarded it to their A&R who then asked to meet with me.
I anticipated it was just going to be a general meeting where they would just say, “Sheila says you’re not ready, but when Sheila says you are, here’s what we do.” So as I sat there in a conference room as ‘talent,’ thinking that the meeting for a nobody was going longer than expected, the A&R executive pushed over a contract offering to produce my debut comedy album. He told me, “I think you are funny and I think America will think you are funny.”
Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books