Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Chat Room Comedy For Chronically Ill Teens
Well I didn't have to think twice. I jumped in. I have a chronic illness myself but I'm lucky that the only symptom is having to swallow a lot of pills every day. As long as I make sure I suffer that symptom I don't suffer any others. I suggested Michael O'connell to "open" for me. He too has a chronic illness, muscular dystrophy, which has him operating out of a wheelchair. And Michael and I have put in some time on the road together so I know we have a good rapport. I thought we made a good bill for this particular venue.
I was not sure at all how this would go. Everything a comic does is based on that back and forth with the audience. Trying so hard to get the laughter going and then sneaking under it and bumping it just right to keep it up, keep it up, as long as you can keep it afloat. How would I do this without seeing or hearing my audience! Luckily Michael would be up first so I could watch him succeed or flounder and adjust accordingly.
I logged in about 10 minutes early and right away started getting many hellos from the kids, excited to have me there. I joked around with them and with Danielle for awhile. I told them I'd just seen a competition where you could end up opening for Pauly Shore in Vegas. I said "I wonder what the winner gets!" I got a string of "LOL"s and "Ha ha"s. Ah, so there would be feedback. Cool.
Michael logged in and Danielle blocked the kids from posting, just long enough to do an intro and get Michael started. She posted some rules, asking the kids not to have conversations as the "Show" went on and not to heckle. I was really looking forward to the heckling. Shooting down chronically ill children over the internet, what could be better.
Michael cracked 'em up with tales of the old days of chat rooms, him being an internet veteran and all. Then he mentioned the wheelchair and it turned out several of them were using chairs as well or had in the past. They were really digging his jokes. He was having a bit of trouble, he told me later, with the words he typed showing up in slow motion, but from my end he seemed to be delivering.
He closed with his un-PC, making fun of the disabled joke which was great because I was planning to open with mine, explaining that being friends with Michael let me get away with such. Then I accused him of being a prop comic, using a wheelchair that he found at a thrift store to give him an edge.
I was using a combination of copy and pasting from a prepared script and typing on the fly to keep me in the moment. It reminded me of playing a video game, trying to cut up my lines and put just enough words, then just the right amount of time and just the right amount of words again to mimic the timing of my stage delivery. It was SO much fun and amazingly the string of "LOL"s were quite satisfying. I did my prepared sets, threw some new stuff out there, flubbed a new joke by not sending the punchline. Jokes work better with the punch line.
I talked about my uclerative colitis and my unfortunate familarity with colonoscopies. Several of them mentioned their unfortunate ability to relate and I told them how cool it was to have photos of my colon to hand out at shows after autographing them "Wish You Were Here."
I rode the line a bit, pushing what was acceptable, but I knew I could count on Danielle to reign me in if I got close to going over and she did just that. I joke that marijuana's reported paranoia symptoms may have to do with the fact that we arrest people for it. Thinking that symptom might go away if we knock that off. I then say, "Hell, masturbation makes you paranoid if you live with your parents." That sex and drugs joke is the one that got me a note from the boss lady. Nothing too bad.
I really loved doing it, and I am very surprised to say I like the format a-lot. Hire me for your next chat! It's gonna be my new genre. Keith Lowell Jensen, Chat Room Comic. Thanks Danielle and Michael and most of all thanks to the great kids for their "LOL"s. They mean the world to me.