Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Helium, Sat. Aug. 1

I entered Helium's annual Philly's Phunniest Person contest. On my night, 15 people performed. I went going in thinking I had absolutely no chance of advancing to the semi-finals; I haven't performed stand-up for that long, and I thought the crowd was going to be more into the type of comedy I don't really like -- ethnic stereotypes, shocking language/sex jokes, etc.

But I still wanted to at least stand out for the night. I rehearsed my act a ton in the weeks ahead of time in the shower and while walking my dog. And I started to think up of other ideas to stand out. I came up with the idea of my fan club ("The Greggulation Nation") holding up signs with my "Slamdancin'" catchphrase. Then, after talked with my comic friends Dave and Aaron, we came up with an idea of a t-shirt cannon firing t-shirts with my face on it to the crowd.

That got changed a little bit; my friend Bryce made a t-shirt with the phrase "Greggulation Nation" on it. And I looked into building some sort of potato gun, but it looked way too hard for me to build, since I've never really built anything before. So that got changed into a slingshot comprised of a funnel and two bungee cords that I made with my friend Mike.

I was really nervous the day of the show and had a lot of manic energy. Being that I get like that a lot, I've learned ways to counter that when I get too up. I got to downtown really early and meditated for a while in Rittenhouse. My head became really clear and I headed to the show.

I distributed my signs and recruited Jon and Rob to join me on stage to help prompt the crowd with a few of my bits. I was really worried about time, since I have no concept of it, and if you go over the six minute time limit you would be disqualified from the contest.

I think it was actually the best I've ever performed this material. I really trimmed my set down a lot. I think the baby powder bit really worked and it got the crowd really interested. They also seemed to really buy into the catchphrase call/response part which I do second.

I also nailed something I have problems with. A few months back, I did a show my friend Luke used to run at Drexel. And I stumbled into a line where I said, "Now I'm going to tell some jokes" that got a great, unexpected response, since I had no ideas of saying it. I decided to tailor a lot of my set towards that one line -- doing almost a set of introduction until I got to that line, and then afterwards I tell a really stupid joke. (In his book, Steve Martin talks about how punchlines are simply a release of the tension created by a set-up of a joke. And he wanted to know what would happen if the release of the joke was the exact opposite of how it was usually released. It worked for him, so why not just steal that?)

But once I got to that part of the act, I realize I still had some time to kill. The 4:30 light hadn't come on yet, and I kind of froze since my bit wasn't ended yet. I started to get a "Slamdancin'" chant again since it was the first thing to came to mind, but I should have told a few other corny jokes as well.

Finally the light came on. And I set up the slingshot with Jon and Rob. I got the crowd to make some "nooooissse!" and launched a t-shirt into the crowd.

My brother (a professional comedian) came to the show. He said he loved what I did and that I actually created a bit of chaos in the crowd. I loved that he said I got that kind of response -- everyone else got the usual "if it was funny, we laughed. If it wasn't, we didn't." But I think I came off as anarchic and like I was out of control, which is awesome.

I didn't make it on to the next round, however. I was later told that I may have been disqualified because baby powder ruined at least seven drinks and one plate of nachos.


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