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Last Comic Standing Preview: Warming Up the Crowdby Dale Sherman & Mike DeGeorge -- 06/10/2003
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Last Comic Standing premieres tonight on NBC. But before we get to discussing the show, let’s discuss a little bit about ourselves and comedy.
Dale Sherman: 1983 was the first time I ever tried to do stand-up comedy. Oh, I had wanted to since I was a little kid and stayed up late with my dad watching Laugh-In, Red Skelton, the occasional Bob Hope special, and even Johnny Carson at times. Half the time I didn’t even know what the people were laughing about, but the thought of being in front of an audience and having them enjoy and laugh at what you were saying just had an appeal to me that I never could shake from my head. I still haven’t, in fact.
In 1983 I was 19 years old and was still a freshman in college when I saw a flyer about a talent-show the university was soon to have. They were looking for talent (hey, aren’t we all . . . sorry), and I thought it would be my opportunity to take a crack at my dream. I pulled together some material that had been burning in my back of my mind – including a rather long, existential, physical bit dealing with the Mario Brother who fights against the Gorilla in Donkey Kong (well, it was 1983, after all) – and tried out. Fortunately I was slotted into the show.
I was nervous that night, as I think anyone would be. It was my first time performing comedy in front of anyone and I had no idea if I would be accepted or not. Plus, my bit was roughly ten minutes long, so if I flopped early, I was going to be dead. The rehearsal was of no help, as everyone there was worried about their own bits in the show and had not interest in listening to my act, so I had no clue if that would be the same reaction that night in front of a paying audience or not. I rehashed the material in my head backstage, while some of the dancers and singers went on, trying to figure out if my material was funny or if I was just fooling myself. The emcee, a comedian who also worked as a mime in his act, was supportive, trying to get me to relax and not worry about it, but even so it was hard to know what I would be hit with when I went out on stage.
As it turned out, things went well at first. Most of the material was working and the Donkey Kong bit was going over smoothly (somewhere I have a tape of the event where you can hear someone in the audience laughing and saying, “hey that game really is like that!”). Then it happened. Someone in the audience threw something at me. It was just a paper-wad, but it bounced on to the stage near my feet and rolled away from me. It was enough to make me stop for a second, as everyone’s attention automatically switched to that of the paper-wad in the limelight.
Without thinking, I said, “No, no. Don’t do that,” as if I was lecturing a small child. The place exploded with laughter and I was able to finish the act without any further interruptions from the heckler. I can’t say I “killed,” or was a rousing success, but I recall at least getting through the act without feeling like I had royally screwed up.
I came off the stage and was complimented by the others there about handling the situation well. Meanwhile, the emcee got up on stage and immediately tore into the person who had thrown it. “It’s not easy to get up in front of a crowd and try to entertain people,” I recall him saying. “If you think you’re such hot stuff, get your own act and do this.”
There were a few others attempts at stand-up over the years, but it was the only time I ever ran into that type of problem. As for the emcee, I appreciate his coming to my defense afterwards, although I have to admit that I never did thank him for that. I wasn’t sure if I should have or not.
Mike DeGeorge: My story isn’t nearly as good as Dale’s, and I have never been on stage for stand-up or anything else, for that matter. In short, I’m too much of a coward to stand in front of a crowd and try to make them laugh. As George Carlin says, I’m not a professional comedian, I’m the type of comedian you deal with at work ALL DAY LONG.
Like Dale, though, I’ve been a fan of comedy for as long as I remember. I would sneak listens to my brother’s forbidden Richard Pryor albums when my parents were gone. I would watch Caroline’s Comedy Hour every night on A&E. Hell, the first Compact Disc I ever bought was Weird Al Yankovic’s Alapalooza. It’s pretty safe to say I’ve seen and heard my share of comedy.
More recently, through some of my other friends, I began making friends with some of the comics around the area. We would go to shows whenever they headlined at the local clubs, but mostly we would all meet up at a bar every Sunday to watch football games and shoot the bull all day. It’s here where I learned a little bit about life as a comic. What I didn’t have the guts to do myself, I could at least hear about and live vicariously through my friends.
So while I don’t have the first-person perspective that Dale has, I like to think between my life-long love of comedy and my friendship with some local comedians, I have a pretty good background from which to draw.1 2 Next-->
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