Fact: there is nothing more uncomfortable than bad comedy in a small room. Even with beer. Unlike awkward sexual encounters, alcohol does nothing to nullify the horrible, squelching discomfort of a hugely unfunny person telling sex jokes to a room full of people who aren't laughing. I learned this first-hand when G and I went to an open mike comedy night at Brainwash Cafe last night.
Let me set the scene a little bit. Brainwash is a cafe/laundromat/bar that also happens to host an open mike every Thursday. It's a great concept for a bar, in my opinion: it takes the normally tedious task of doing one's laundry and throws in a bunch of fun stuff: drinks, food and laughs!
When we were there, the bar was about half full of people who came for the comedy (and $1 Pabst), and half full of people who actually came to get their clothes clean. The crowd was mainly San Francisco hipsters, gay guys with tattoos, pseudo-homeless men (more on this in a moment), me, and Gary.
It won't do to try and summarize each of the comics, because there were a lot of them, and they were all miserable. I guess there were two notable exceptions. One guy with glasses made Gary and I laugh a lot, but we were the only ones laughing... and then another guy with dreadlocks made everyone laugh. Other than those two, everyone sucked.
Before I get into the specifics of the suckiness, I have to put in a disclaimer. I really do give stand-up comics a lot of credit. It takes guts to get up in front of a room of potential hecklers/stalkers and face brutal, instant rejection for several long minutes. I mean, if people don't laugh at your joke about dating your grandma or whatever, everyone in the room knows it, and that is, in my opinion, rejection in its purest form. Plus, my friend Amanda is a budding stand-up comic and so I have a lot of empathy for comics at open-mikes. But here's the thing: sometimes, if people aren't laughing at your dating-dead-grandma jokes week after week after week, maybe the Universe is trying to send you a message. And that message just might be, "You're not funny."
I think a lot of the people who got up there last night had been ignoring some loud-and-clear messages from the Universe for quite a while. Gary and I started to notice some trends in what people talked about in their routines. Some popular themes:
1. white privilege
4. San Francisco (i.e. "Everyone here is gay!!!")
5. how much it sucks being a clown
Okay, actually, that last one was just one guy. He was hanging out by the bar before he went onstage and we could see his notes, written on a napkin. Most of it was illegible except for the word "pussy" at the bottom. I'm teling you, that really was a popular theme.
So, the bitter clown was bad, but I think the worst guy was the one who got onstage and yelled at the audience the entire time for being stupid and not getting his exquisitely crafted jokes. He ended his set by yelling, "F**k y'all."
And, perhaps the most bizarre part of the night was the creepy, dirt-encrusted old man who came up to me and asked if I was going to finish my noodles. "They're all yours," I said, and handed them over, assuming he was, you know, homeless. I mean, he was dirty, had long hair with a strange, matted, white-boy-dreadlock type tail hanging down his back, and he was eating other people's leftovers (and what if I had the measles?!), so it seemed safe to assume the man was destitute. So you can imagine my surprise when, later, G and I heard someone talking incredibly loudly on a cell phone. We turned around, and the "homeless" guy was screaming into a tiny, silver phone. What?! Since when does a man who can afford to pay monthly roaming fees go around eating other people's picked over noodles?
So that was weird. But at least I got a few cheap laughs out of the night -- and you can NOT beat $1 beer with a stick.