Stand-up comedy . . . epic fail


Jake Holstege and Mac Strobel

The coin flipped in mid-air. The loser of the coin toss had to go first. The two of us knew our comedy routines were not the greatest, so we had wanted to go second to see what the first person brought to the table. Soph. Mac Strobel and Soph. Jake Holstege decided to go against each other in a stand up comedy routine to see who was funnier. We had a week to prepare and then perform in front of an audience, who would later decide the winner of the two.

Before the presentation a few of the audience members had opinions of how we would do.  Sr. Lexi Manning explained how she thought that both of us would fail. Jr. Sam Beetham did not have an opinion either way, he was just there to watch the show. Most audience members had very low expectations of our upcoming comedy routines.

Jake’s Preparations: Stand up comedy may look hard, but as I tried to write something funny to talk about in front of the audience, I realized it was going to be a much harder task than I had thought. Strobel and I are usually pretty funny, but when we were practicing our first acts in front of each other, we were not funny at all.

First, I thought about how I could joke around about being the least favorite kid in the family and tell stories of a funny childhood moments.  I worked through that act a few times before realizing it was a dead end, so I decided to move on.

Wanting to stick with making jokes about my failures, I decided to write about my most embarrassing moments.  All the stories were funny, but I could not make a crowd laugh because my punch lines were terrible.  It was the day before my act, and I switched the subject one last time.  I wrote about my inappropriate church routines, and went over them with my parents.  I got a chuckle here and there, but nothing promising.  I went back to the drawing board to try to make my punch lines funnier.

Professional comedians have certain procedures they go through in order to make their jokes funny.  In my head I made a mental checklist of those procedures and tried to incorporate them into my piece. I did my best to make my piece better, but going into the next day confidence was very low for three reasons.  The first reason was that I felt like my routine would not be quite as funny as Strobel’s would be.  The second reason I had low confidence was because I was told all week that my preparation would be a failure.  Finally, the third reason why I was nervous was because I had a hard time putting those procedures into my Jokes.

  Mac’s Preparations: As I began my research for stand up comedy I saw that even experienced comedians can take weeks to write jokes, and with only 5 days, I was worried. While watching bits of famous comedians, my first realization was that none of them actually told jokes, instead, they told stories. I instantly began thinking through my life for a funny story, one funny moment or prank, or something I had done or endured that others could laugh at.

  My first thought was to make fun of my hair, which is constantly at the receiving end of jokes or other jeers, because of its red color.   But after some thinking, this didn’t seem as enticing, because it is  hard to craft into an actual story.   Small jokes wouldn’t fill the time.

  My next thought was to make a story about Christmas because it wouldn’t be too hard to get stories from my family of funny things that happened to me around the holiday season. As the writing process began, I was beginning to feel confident. With help from my parents, I had already written four  stories that I found funny. However, I was wrong. The stories were funny, but in all of these comedian’s stories there is a moment, one moment, that they’ve created to make people laugh, their punchline. None of my stories had this, they were just silly stories. So I worked hard on just two of these stories to craft a punchline into them.

  By this point, I was one day away from the day we would give our stand up comedy, and even after the ninth proof of my routine, I still wasn’t confident. When reading a joke on a piece of paper, it doesn’t seem funny. It’s all about the delivery, expression, and pauses. These were things I didn’t have down.  On the day of the comedy, I woke up late and since I was in a rush, I left my notecard, or in other words, my lifeline while on stage.  I wasn’t looking forward to my routine when I walked into class.

     Mac on Stage: I took the mic first and had a hard time getting started; I knew the intro even without my notecards but it was tough. Just standing in front of a group of people is nerve wracking. I just looked awkwardly at them and didn’t feel comfortable. Once I finally started, I thought that it would just click. It didn’t. those two minutes standing up there felt like hours. My first joke began slowly, a funny story about a Christmas nativity scene and how repositioning the animals and characters in the manger made for a “fun time.”

  This was the joke I had been confident in and when I ended it with a strong punchline I got one strong laugh from my 7 listeners. Jr. Caroline Sisson said, “The first joke was actually really funny. It’s pretty hard to make me laugh, but [Mac] got me with that one.”

  It was all downhill from there, my second joke was lost. I began it but forgot the key build up and ended up just rushing through the end just to get off of stage. Sr. Lexi Manning said, “On his second joke he started building it up but just kind of stopped and I was super confused.” I don’t think the crowd even knew what I had said for the second joke and with Holstege up next I wasn’t confident; he’s a pretty funny dude and just looking at him makes me laugh.  

Jake On Stage:  The audience had a slight smile on their face after Strobel was done with his routine. I stood up and hoped to do at least as well as Strobel had done.  I had a chance of winning if I could get just one good laugh from the audience.

  Although I did not have to go first, I was still extremely anxious and slightly scared when my time came.  It was finally my turn and I had just realized I did not remember too much of what Strobel had said.  His words went in one ear and out the other. I had payed more attention to what I would have to say than to his jokes.

  I had a small amount of confidence due to him only getting one laugh. I stood up and went in front of the crowd, my breath became shallow.  I started out with a joke about playing myself in Tic Tac Toe.  I paused for a second but no laughter came.  My self-confidence took a plunge.  So, I went onto my main “joke” of the routine. “During church it was hard for me to stand up… This was due to my lack of athleticism.  About two days ago I sprained my ankle… on an imaginary line.”  I waited, and waited, but no laughter came. I was so embarrassed. I finished with a few small “jokes” that received no laughs and when I was done I quickly go out from in front of the crowd.

  I walked off the stage and got one pity laugh. It was hard to admit, but Strobel beat me by the thrilling score of one to zero.  After the routine I was curious about what others thought.  Jr. Takoda Denhof was an audience member.  “It was really, actually a pathetic performance.”  I thought he summed up my time on stage very well.

 Doing stand up comedy will not be a career choice for either of us in the future. Although we are both usually funny, we lack the ability to make a great punchline. With a total of one laugh in all, this was a failure. So if you’re looking for instructions on stand up comedy go somewhere else because the only funny thing about us is how bad we are at it.