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A friend of mine and I recently went to an open mic comedy show in Jerusalem. I’m going to be honest: My expectations were pretty low.
Well, for one, I don’t find Jerusalem to be a particularly funny and entertaining city. It’s a city filled with lots of division. It’s city with huge amounts of traffic, smoking, and litter. It’s a city with wall-to-wall synagogues, people walking into each other, and noise pollution.
But funny? Entertaining?
Not the city’s specialties.
So I would be skeptical if I were going to a professional comedy show in Jerusalem. All the more so an open mic where un-polished, starry-eyed young folk will hit the stage, untested, trying to kill it with the crowd, and hoping someone out there is watching who will talk to them after the show, and give them the break that will change their lives forever.
But I thought it was more likely some not-extremely-talented but enthusiastic folk would hit the stage and eke out a few jokes here and there, with a couple of disjointed laughs from the crowd. And I would sit there stoic, wondering when the show would end and I could move on with my night.
Well, this is how it went, and what I took away from the experience:
A Late Night
First off, the show was mid-week and was scheduled to start at 9PM. I hate to admit it, but I’m just not the teenager I used to be. A show starting at nine means not getting home until God know’s when, and then and only then winding down until I can finally fall asleep.
But as I said in a previous post, if you want to get anywhere in life, you need to say “yes” to trying new things. I’ve repeatedly complained about the lack of things to do in Jerusalem. And even when there are things to do, they’re often too expensive to sustainably do regularly.
But here we were. I love comedy, and there’s a comedy show happening in my backyard. For free! Granted, it was an open mic in Jerusalem. I’ve gone to see some of the greatest who’ve ever lived. George Carlin, Louis CK, Stephen Wright. And I’ve been to Atlantic City for some fantastic live shows. What’re the odds a bunch of random folk winging it at a hole-in-the-wall in Jerusalem will really capture my heart, and have me falling off my seat laughing?
The odds were not in their favor, but it’s impossible to know until you get off your ass and try things out.
But, as happens to me so many times in my adult life, I made the erroneous assumption that if they’re starting really late in the middle of the week that they’d at least start close to on time.
It was 9:45 when the first person was called up to the microphone! Not a great way to start the event, but what can you do? It’s Israel. Not a lot of respect for time in this wacky place.
But I watched with a very open mind. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to laugh really, really bad.
And sadly, I didn’t that much.
It’s not that I didn’t have a good time. I certainly did. And I have zero regrets for going.
It’s just that the routines weren’t all that good. I laughed a few times, to be sure. But I’m used to something more polished. In a sense, I’m spoiled.
It’s like theater. I’ve seen Les Miserables on Broadway three times. If I heard that it was being performed in some backyard theater in Ohio, I just wouldn’t go. They could all be extremely talented actors and singers, but my standards are likely just a bit too high. And it’ll ruin the performance for me.
If I do it the other way around, everything will be fine. I’ll go in with no expectations. I’ll go in not knowing the plot or the songs. And I’ll smile and be happy, blissfully ignorant that there’s something better out there.
And here I was, painfully aware that on YouTube or Netflix, just a click away, was some comedy I could watch that was a lot higher quality.
Following a Dream
And it’s not that the jokes weren’t good, or the concepts people were speaking about weren’t amusing or entertaining. It’s that the performers lacked experience. It’s the subtlest things that’ll take a comedian from good to great. Timing. Knowing when to pause. Brilliant crowd work. Controlling the microphone just right. And so much more.
I truly hope they keep getting up there and doing what they do. I hope they follow their dreams to the end. I hope they never stop trying to make all of us laugh.
And I hope they all get there, and at one point in history, I’ll get to say, “Wow, I was there when they were just starting out at a hole in the wall in Jerusalem. I was bored… but look at them now!”
Balls of Steel
But in all of this, my biggest takeaway is how impressed I am that they even get up there in the first place.
Most of us have trouble standing in front of a crowd. It doesn’t matter if it’s one minute or an hour, we still get nervous. We get jittery. We might even feel a little ill.
Standing up in front of a crowd and trying to make them laugh is beyond challenging. Few have tried, even fewer succeeded. Yet these young folk have a dream. They want to stand in front of thousands of people, each one laughing harder than the next. And they know there is only one road to get there. Before you can thrive in front of the many, you have to bomb countless times in front of the few.
So who were all these people that night?
People will balls of steel. People who fought hard against the urge to just be silent observers. People who are willing to do what the rest of us are way too afraid to do.
All to make other people laugh.
And yes, I’m a little bit jealous.Before you can thrive in front of the many, you have to bomb countless times in front of the few. Click To Tweet