“Zoo Story” or “Fourth On, First Off”

“Zoo Story” or “Fourth On, First Off”

There’s nothing like the motivating stench of the guilt of denial to make you suddenly turn to yourself and give the head a shake. Today’s such moment had me doing the dishes and suddenly saying, “Dude, remember when you used to blog and stuff about shows or whatever? What happened to that? You used to be cool.” I doubt the last sentence has ever held any import, but suffice to say, the fact of the matter is, it’s been busy. If you’ve ever read these things, liked them, and wonder where they went, I apologize. If you thought they were a tremendous waste of time and were happy by the reprieve from my ramblings, again, I apologize. Suffice to say it’s been a weird balancing act lately.

There’s always the quest for new material and places to do it. Since taking over the room at McVeigh’s it’s been a great device to try out new stuff, see more acts hit the stage, all that fun stuff. The DRIVE-FM jokes keep me putting pen to page every week trying to jot down one thing that will make Mike Reid laugh more than the strained laugh of a DJ trying to engage someone they don’t even know who’s sitting in their car waiting for the light at Princess and Sir John A in Kingston to turn green. I don’t pick the topics, Mike does, so that craft of churning out new jokes every week is a good exercise. A message to our consumers: Quality control will be our next top priority. Though basically sketchy (in nature and most hopefully not in quality), the writing I’m doing for BOB-FM amounts to vignettes that we attempt to bring to the morning radio audience. So with that arsenal of creativity, you’d think that writing for the “Stand-Up Showdown” would be a piece of Angel Food. Bah.

The Stand-Up Showdown is the fantastic and precocious brainchild of Craig Brown who puts on this show on a regular basis at Comedy Bar. The premise is this. Eight comics are sent three ideas for jokes and have to write and perform new material on those topics. All eight comics perform two minutes of material on the first topic, after which judgement is meted out from Mark Forward, resident critic, whose delivery of verdict is so emotionally debilitating and blood-letting it makes Simon Cowell look like he’s passing out participation ribbons. From eight comics, come four that survive. These remaining souls perform three minutes of new material on the second topic. After another round of judicious savagery, two souls remain. These poor creatures perform a new four minutes on the last topic and a victor is announced. To him go the spoils, and the fanciful “Stand-Up Showdown” cowboy hat. It is recommended that participants in the showdown come and watch it first to see it all throw down. From this you can make effective notes on how to deal with it. I did just that. What I took away from it was, “Start writing as soon as you get the topics”, and “Make the jokes short, fast, and funny”. I took those notes.

As I stood up in front of the lights and delivered my two brand new smelly minutes on “The Zoo”, I realized that as much as I wrote down those two tenets to live by, I had not followed them in the least. My set was rambling, got some laughs, but was eviscerated in the judgement and was sent off to the back of the room searching for a pint of Mill Street Tankhouse. But that’s the way it goes. Sometimes you win, sometimes you play like me. The funniest thing about the night (and you can hit the ejector seat button on my two minutes of zoo material to get them off that list) was the looks of sympathetic apology from both Craig and Mark after the show. A shrug of the shoulder an empathetic “Sorry, man” is delivered like your best friend apologizing after a drunken night where he misinterpreted your statement about his girlfriend being hot and then hauling off and slugging you with an empty 50 bottle. But that’s the first rule of the engagement. No hurt feelings. It’s all part of the game. I left the room confidence slightly distressed and saddened having not made the cut to the upper half of the group. Would I do it again?

Next week, if schedules allowed. I’m coming back larger next time and I’m bringing my zoo jokes with me.

  • Martha

    Todd, I have indeed missed your blogs! Glad you’re back.

    BTW, I’m doing the next Showdown…pray for me.

    June 13, 2009 at 11:54 am
  • Todd Graham

    Nicely put, Ol’ Bean!

    June 13, 2009 at 12:20 pm
  • Martha – do it good. TVA – who actually won? I couldn’t go and was at Jo-Anna Downey’s one-woman show instead.

    June 13, 2009 at 6:02 pm