Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s trophy

This glorious trophy was up for grabs at Metro's Comedy Night.

NOTE:  It’s almost 4pm, and my head is still spinning and murky from last night. “Last night” did not end until about 6am this morning, to be exact.  Bear with me.

A couple of months ago when I first told a few close friends that I was going to start doing comedy open mics, they immediately suggested “You HAVE to go up there in heels, pantyhose and a skirt!”  Deep down, I agree that this is not only the way it must be, but the way I want it to be.   It’s part of my identity –  it would be playing small to exclude it from my attempts at comedy. I decided against dressing up for my first several open mic sets, and I’m glad I did; the comedy stage is a very harsh environment and introducing the variable of cross dressing  would make things harder than necessary.

Last night, Metro (one of my favorite clubs in town, a place that I regularly go dressed up), hosted an open mic night.  I signed up for a slot. I showed up in style: black dress shirt, black tie, black skirt, black pantyhose, black heels.  It’s my favorite look.  I was nervous about doing stand up to begin with – and the thought of hitting the stage in heels ratcheted the nerves up a few degrees.  I also realized that  a) eventually, I WILL be integrating this into my stand up, and b) there is no better place to try it out than Metro.  Tonight was not just an open mic event – it was a comedy contest.  11 comics would compete for a $75 cash prize and the awesome trophy you see here.  I did not care at ALL about the money – I just wanted the trophy.  BAD.  The audience would vote on their favorite comic at the end of the show. It’s one thing to try for laughs – it’s another to try and out-funny 10 other comics. This amped up my nerves slightly.

Someone got a hold of my camera and took a few photos of the after party.

I got dressed and hurried out the door.  As I walked down the sidewalk, I got into stride in the heels, and started enjoying the experience of being out, dressed up.I walked into the club, said HI to some friends, got a beer, and went to the bathroom. As I was washing my hands, I looked over my outfit in the mirror and found a certain satisfaction in what I was wearing.  I genuinely like dressing up like this.  I feel like I am at my best – in terms of looks, and energy – when I rock the heels and hosiery.

We had an audience of about 80 people, which felt good.  My friend Vinny was the MC and gave me a gracious intro. As I took the stage, my nerves calmed and I took control. My first joke was about my outfit. It got a few laughs, but wasn’t the killer opening I had hoped for. My second joke landed very well – relief.  There was one corner of the room that had been horribly noisy and distracting the whole night. The MC had struggled to get them to shut up. When I was up there, I did a few things that quieted the room. I’m still trying to deconstruct and understand it.  There were parts of my set where I got the whole room quieted down to almost silent, but not in the bored sense…  A bored room of 80 people is not quiet, it is teeming with chatter.  Maybe they were all silently plotting my demise.  Some of my jokes landed well, some didn’t.  8 minutes went by surprisingly fast.  Topics included boob jobs for my daughters, Antique Road Show, masturbating dogs, and Columbine High School (too soon?).  Hitting the stage dressed up  was definitely the right move.

The winner of the evening was a guy who had never done an open mic before.  His “routine” was frenetic volley of jokes and self-impersonations about his own masturbation habits:  The hackiest hack material in comedy Hackville. He brought about a dozen friends with him, who all cheered as he embarrassed himself on stage.  I’m not going to lie: I wanted that awesome trophy!  Vinny and I talked to him later on in the night, saying, “yeah dude, that was funny”  and “You really should come to an open mic night again…. like, next Tues at The Complex”.  I think subconsciously, I wanted to see him humbled upon the aptly named Comedy Roadkill stage at The Complex.  The audience at The Complex is typically 25 comics, 3 of their friends and 1 bartender.  It’s a harsh room:  Hack jokes are greeted with bored silence.  A lot of good jokes are, too.  The silence will humble him.

Imitating yourself masturbating on stage doth not good comedy make.

…but then again… maybe jokes about Columbine High School don’t either.

Okay, enough about me being butt hurt about not winning the glorious trophy. The winner of the night only beat me by 6 votes. It feels good to know that at least SOME people in the audience were connecting with what I was saying.

I ran into a couple of friends at Metro that night, Eddie, Afton and Paula. I invited them over to my place for drinks; they brought a few friends, who brought a few friends, and soon I had a house full of people, most of whom were gay.  Gay guys are like boy scouts camping: they leave your bathroom cleaner than it was when they found it. Awesome!  The night was a gregarious blur of smoking weed, drinking wine, and relatively interesting, informed conversations about wine, Louis C.K., and photography.  By the time everyone left, daylight had returned.

I do enjoy nights like these. I’m grateful for a lifestyle that allows such things.


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Paul Duane

Paul Duane is a photographer, writer, and talk show host based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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