It’s easier than you might think to get involved in the local comedy community in Ottawa. Comedy clubs such as Yuk Yuk’s and Absolute Comedy host open-mic nights which allow rookie comedians to try out their stuff and see if they have what it takes. In addition, Absolute Comedy hosts a Pro/Am night, where amateur comedians can sign-up and serve as the opening acts for a headliner or professional. After a recent edition of the Pro/Am, Glue sat down with a few of the amateurs to hear some of their experiences and to get an idea of what it takes to get involved in comedy.
Name: Marc-Anthony Sinagoga
From: Richmond Hill, Ontario
Inspirations: Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Adam Sandler and Chris Rock.
How you got interested in comedy: My friend realized I was starting to take comedy seriously, and told me about a program at Humber College that teaches comedy writing and performance. So I booked an audition that summer, auditioned and got in right away. And there they let you dip your feet in everything, and once I gave the stand-up a try, I realized that’s it. That’s what I want to do.
What went through your mind your first time up: It was a nightmare. I was sweating like crazy; I was hot, then I was cold, then hot again. I went up and just started talking. I don’t remember much once I got up there, but apparently I ended up doing pretty well.
Worst experience so far: I got my first corporate gig at the company where my dad worked, which required me to be up for 45 minutes to an hour. There’s like 200 people there, and when I first walked in the president of the company was up telling jokes, and everyone was killing themselves. While he was up, I was at another part of the room getting my stage ready, and during this time I had just started up my own little company called FunnyMan Inc. So what does this guy do? As I’m down on my knees, pulling the mic cord out, he starts yelling out, “So the company hired some bum who calls himself the funniest guy around. So give it up for the funniest guy in the world.” So that was probably the worst introduction of all time, and I still hadn’t really clued into what was going on, until some guy whispered to me, “Hey idiot, you’re performing right now.” For the first 15 minutes I got absolutely nothing, then all the drunks started heckling me and from there I tanked. It was a full week of entertainment put on by the company for the employees, and they sent the comment cards they had filled out at the end of the week to my dad. Every single one of them voted the comedy portion the worst part of the week.
Advice for those starting out: If you want to do it, do it. Don’t listen to your parents, friends, aunts or anyone else telling you you can’t do it and that there’s no money in it. My parents wanted me to become a doctor, and my Nona is still trying to get me to do construction, but this is what I want to do.
Name: Greg Houston
From: Ottawa, Ontario
Inspirations: Jon Dore, Conan O’Brien and Chris Locke.
How you got interested in comedy: I went to a house party and met a guy there who’s on the Pro/Am comic scene. He told me I should check out some of the shows sometime, so I did and after taking in a few I decided I’d give it a shot.
What went through your mind first time up: It was all nerves. I got up there and it was like I was just reading, everything sounded scripted. I told one joke and the rest were pretty much just random ideas I had.
Worst experience to date: It was my third time performing and I bombed hard. I’ve bombed since, but this was the first real bomb. I had no family or friends in the crowd so I knew nobody, and just nothing was going my way. Everything I said got no reaction from the crowd, and to top that off I even got crap from the manager because my set went well over the allotted time, which throws everything else off too. But it was this show that really made me start to take comedy seriously.
Advice for those starting out: Do any show you can get your hands on, whether it’s amateur nights or independent shows, because it helps you get involved in the local comedy scene. Also, it just gets you more stage time. You have to be open to all feedback as well, not just the good.
Name: Colin O’Brien
From: Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Inspirations: Brian Regan, Demetri Martin and Johnny Carson.
How you got interested in comedy: I was obsessed with comedy since I was a little kid. My parents made the stupid mistake of giving me a basement bedroom, so ever night when they would go to bed, I would sneak up and watch the comedians’ sets on the Tonight Show.
What went through your mind your first time up: Well my initial plan was to go up and not tell anyone, and if I bombed, I would bomb anonymously. But then I found out my parents were going to be in town at the time I would be performing, and I felt I had to invite them. And since my parents were going, I pretty much had to invite my wife too. So at this point I decided what the hell, I’ll invite everyone. So this at least gave me a boost in confidence. But the only problem was that my first joke was absolutely filthy, and happened to involve my mother, who was now going to be there. So the day before the show I pulled my mother aside and said, “My set is going to be fine, except for the first joke. Bring a pair of earmuffs, look at the floor, just don’t listen to the first joke.” Well I ended up telling the joke and everyone laughed except my mother, who was completely purple. But after that I eased in and everything went smoothly, and it was then that I decided to become a relatively clean comic.
Worst experience to date: This one guy asked me if I wanted to do a show at a Senior Olympics fundraiser. So I got to the place, and it turned out to be at a nursing home. When I go inside I see a guy playing guitar with a big semi-circle of wheelchairs around him, each one with a bag of fluid strapped to it. It turns out they had people singing and playing guitar for three hours straight before the comedy started, which explains why half the people in wheelchairs were asleep with their head hanging off to the side. And not only were we in the geriatric unit, but everyone had their families there too. So I was speaking to a bunch of 90-year-olds who were drooling on themselves, while a bunch three-year-olds played tag around my feet.
Advice for those starting out: Do as many open-mic nights as you can. Everyone always sees the big stars on TV and get discouraged thinking they could never do it. But everyone at some point tells bad jokes, you just need to have the balls to get back up there and try it again. It’s just like starting a new job; no one is good at it right away.