“So, tell me about your standup.”
It was the summer of 2010 and I had just been ratted out. All of the blood drained from my body and I started to sweat. To be fair, I’m always sweating. But this time, I was sweating due to fear because my dad just found out about my new hobby — doing stand up comedy at open mic nights.
“Someone said they saw you last night at the comedy club. Tell me about it.”
With his arms crossed over one another, my dad leaned forward on his desk and delivered his signature glare, eagerly waiting for his son’s answer.
“Oh, I….yeah, I..um…yeah, I do stand up comedy at the Funny Bone,” I said.
“Tim,” my dad said in a monotone voice. “I know that. How long have you been doing it and why didn’t you tell me about it?”
By that time, I had gone to nearly a dozen open mic nights for the last two or three months. I was green, my comedy was blue and the last people I wanted to find out about my jokes were my parents. For years, they lectured me about keeping my language clean and they also hounded me for years about flossing; two areas I still ignore today.
It’s okay, I use mouthwash sometimes.
“Okay, well, your mother and I are adults, Tim. We can handle hearing curse words.”
Also my dad: “Hey, you don’t have to curse to be funny.”
Now, I realize what I recounted sounds like a third act scene from Full House, where Danny Tanner sits on Stephanie’s bed and says that he doesn’t mind hearing the F-bomb in her stand up routine. But my dad calling me on my secret hobby was the day I began telling people I was a stand up comic.
Well, technically I was an open mic comic, which is essentially just a karaoke singer who tells bad jokes. But telling people I was a stand-up comic was easier and a lot less embarrassing.
I got the idea to do stand up after hearing a co-worker tell me one of his God-awful jokes at work. You might think that’s rude to say, but you might also be an idiot, because everybody sucks when they start out in stand up or in anything, for that matter. He was bad. Respect him for putting himself out there. But whatever he said was so bad that it inspired me enough to believe that if he was allowed on stage, then I could get up there, too.
However, I was lazy and a coward. So, instead of getting right to work on coming up with a solid five-minute set for the next open mic night, I procrastinated and kept pushing off my goal date.
A co-worker gave me the idea to do stand up. But my cousin Stephanie and her friends convinced me to get up on stage.
I didn’t plan on doing stand up the night I went to the comedy club. My only plan that day was helping move Stephanie back home after graduating from Mizzou. After I drove from St. Louis to Columbia, I crammed as much of her stuff into the two-door truck without breaking anything.
It was just a thought that rolled around in my head. My only real plan was cramming as much crap into my truck and her car without breaking anything.
“I’m not making two trips,” I said to myself while pretending I didn’t hear the sound of wood cracking.
When we finished, she took me to lunch with her friends as a way of thanking me for the help. As she and her friends talked, I crammed my face with french fries and a burger as I thought I could sit this conversation out.
“So, what’s new with you, Tim?” they asked.
My instincts told me to say, “Nothing,” and continue feeding, which is my knee-jerk reaction to all conversations. But Stephanie was family and she did let me add cheese to my burger for 50 cents, so I decided to open up after I swallowed a baseball-sized mash of ground beef and potato.
“Uh, nothing really,” I said. “I’m thinking about doing stand up comedy.”
“Stand up? Oh my God, how cool,” one of Stephanie’s friends said. “When will you perform?”
“Uhhhh, I guess tonight after I move Stephanie back home if there’s time.”
“What will your jokes be?”
“I have no idea. I guess I’ll put that together on the way home.”
For two hours, I recorded, listened, deleted, re-recorded, listened, deleted and re-recorded until each one of my four, minute-long bits onto my flip phone.
I recorded each joke as I drove a truck full of furniture from Columbia to St. Louis, Missouri. To make it more challenging, I couldn’t see out of my passenger-side mirror, so when I changed lanes, I did so by faith and a 19-year-old’s common sense.
“Well, it’s been five seconds since I passed that car, so I guess it’s okay to merge over into the right lane now,” I’d say. Then I’d clench my entire body in preparation for the consequences of my misjudgment. I’d only relax when my entrance into the lane was met with silence and not the sound of screeching tires followed by an explosion.
No one died — to my knowledge — and that was the least of my worries. I was more concerned about whether or not I’d die on stage that night in my first ever stand up set at the Funny Bone comedy club.