The Open Mic

The trials and tribulations of first-time comedy

It was a Sunday. The Sunday. The day was here. I had brought this upon myself. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sit. I didn’t know what to do. I could back out but then what about that one poor friend who was traveling 20 km for ‘moral support’ who had already left and had 2 fights with 2 different Uber drivers? I now had to do this for him. I had discovered a new word today; ‘palpitations’. It was a discovery by experience. I roamed around the entire house with a deodorant can in one hand (the mic) and a piece of paper in the other (the ‘material’) leaving sweaty palm prints on everything that i touched. For the first time in my life I could not eat. I could not sit still long enough to be able to chew through food which suddenly seemed like it was all made of rubber.

The bravado of 2 days ago was coming back to me. I wanted to invent a time traveling machine just so I could go back and slit my own throat. Morbid, I know. Desperate, I know. I had seen the slot for an open mic at the biggest venue in town and had registered myself then. High on the success of a joke I had told to 4 drunk people at a table in a bar and fuelled by their encouragement that I was ‘hilarious’, I had registered myself. Now, those 4 drunk people had sobered up and had very wisely vanished from the face of this earth, leaving me to deal with this conundrum on my own.

Back to the now. My brain was thinking of contingency plans. I remembered Ellen Degeneres’ famous ‘Burger bit’ where all she did was eat a burger on stage. Could I pull that off? Would people at the gig know that bit? Would one burger interfere with my Keto diet? Does it count as a Keto diet if you have been doing it only for 2 and a half days?? Wisely, I decided against it, primarily because I did not want my burger garnished with rotten eggs and tomatoes. Only 2 hours left to go. Maybe if I fell down on stage funny I would get a laugh, Monty Python style?! Was a broken limb worth it? Was anything worth public humiliation? Who knows…

The material in my hand felt weak. I felt that a Santa-Banta aficionado would also scoff at my ‘observational comedy’ which had felt ‘Seinfeld-esque’ 2 days ago. It felt quite ‘Cross dresser on the Kapil show’ at the moment; best case scenario. I wildly started googling ‘how to do stand-up’. Google showed me videos of toddlers trying to stand up while over enthusiastic parents egged them on. I threw my phone away.

It was time to leave now. The venue had asked people to get there by 6 max. I left by 4. Primarily because my flatmates told me to get out. On the way, I felt immensely jealous of beggars, auto drivers, sweeper boys, men getting shouted at by their wives while trying to hold 28 shopping bags, stray dogs sniffing through garbage; basically everyone who didn’t have to go to the damn open mic. By this time I had made the massive mistake of telling my family that this was what I was doing. Calls and messages of ‘All the best’, ‘We are with you’, ‘What’s going on now?’, ‘Use this joke’ and ‘Jai Modiji’, made life all the more uncomfortable.

When I reached the venue, I realised the true extent of the open mic wave that had hit this generation. All of AIB’s youtube subscribers were packed into one room. And weirdly it seemed like everyone knew each other. They were whispering into each other’s ears, talking about me, dissing me, judging me. I knew it! I just did! Oh and we had celebrities in our midst. There was one guy whose claim to fame was a selfie with Zakir Khan. Another dude who had done over 20 open mics. Another guy who was a ‘full time comic’, which basically meant he was unemployed.

I met my moral support friend who by this time has succeeded in getting drunk. I was happy. I needed loud drunk support. As far as historic evidence goes, they were my only ‘audience’. The lights came on. My name was announced. I went on stage. I tried to find my friend who was supposed to stay in front. He had chosen that particular moment to go to the loo. Fuck it. I just said what I had to say. When the first laughter hit me, I forgot the last 8 hours. I forgot i was nervous. I forgot I had not eaten anything. I forgot to worry. I was…floating. In the middle of this floating and feeling awesome-ness, suddenly a loud buzzer sound went off right next to me. “Time up” the voice said. I stepped off stage. It was done. My drunk friend suddenly re-appeared and decided to announce to the world he knew me. I had about 12 seconds of ‘celebrity’ left and he wanted a piece of it.

I walked away from the stage through the audience. People stopped me and gave compliments. Where were all those people who were conspiring against me, I wondered! I made way to the back of the venue, sat at a table, called the waiter and ordered a Double Chicken Burger with extra cheese.

On to the next open mic. After all, I am a comedian now. :D

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Pranav Mathur

I work for other people in the day and on myself in the night. Wait… that sounds wrong.