The D.A.C (Differently-Abled Comedian)

  1. Cole’s Open Mic (2338 N. Broadway)

It’s Wednesday, and for Chicago standup comedy, that means it’s time for Cole’s Open Mic.  Cole’s is the most popular open-mic in the city; the reasons for this are many, and plainly obvious.  The bar’s layout is perfect, with an open bar area ideal for drunken socializing cut off from the back performance space by a shallow walkway, which does a good job of limiting the noise pollution.  The beer specials ensure that the crowd, which is often quite large, will before the mic starts be more than suitably tipsy.  Beyond that, what most sets Cole’s open mic apart from other open mic’s in the city is its exemplary opening act, Foz the Hook.

Foz, who frequently refers to himself as “Your old pal Foz” is a tunesmith, piano player and raconteur who frequently launches into carousing renditions of crowd favorites like “Drunk Astronauts,” and between songs regales his audience with wistful observations of life, most of which are forgotten nearly immediately.  After Foz brings his set to a close, the open mc host, Adrienne Brandyburg takes the mic and warms up the audience with a few minutes of her own comedy, which does a good job of bringing the room together and getting them ready to laugh.  Each week, Adrienne also offers free to drinks non-comedian audience members, ensuring that the crowd will be mostly passive and friendly.

I have been going to Cole’s Open Mic for seven years, and thus I have the privilege of getting “bumped” up near the top of the list upon request, but this is a privilege offered to few.  “Bumping” is a thing that most Chicago open mics participate in, wherein those whose comedy has been frequently seen and are known to be talented are given preference; therefore they receive a better spot on the list.  I remember, when I was first starting out in the open mic scene, I felt “bumping” was a horrid injustice, and one that I would never support or participate in.  After a few years of effort in open-mic comedy, childish principles like this are easily discarded.

For new comics going to Cole’s Open Mic, I would recommend showing up between 2-3 hours prior to its 9:30 start time, for if you find yourself late on the list I’m not sure how attentive an audience you’ll have.  I usually show up around nine, allowing me to gage the mood of the room and predict how large an audience I’m likely to receive.  Showing up early, especially when you are just starting out, is vitally important for the open mic comic.  The time you spend getting to know the other comedians, and the friendships you are able to build with other people in the scene, can be an enormous help in your journey to become a standup comedian.  It is very important to know your audience, what they are looking for, and what they will laugh at.

If I am soon to perform in front of a large or medium sized group of people who’ve never seen me before, as I was this night at Cole’s, it is important for me to get them comfortable with my “accent.”  The “accent” I refer to is the sound of my voice, as it was altered by the traumatic brain injury I suffered a little over a decade hence.  Because of my “accent,” it is important that in my first bit I either address my speech directly, or quickly disabuse my audience of the notion that I am to be pitied in any way.  In this instance I used the latter technique, opening by saying that “despite my voice, which might lead you to believe that I am somehow mentally handicapped, I crush pussy on the regular.”  The shock of this vulgarity, and the brazen nature of my self confidence, normally, as it did in this case, causes the audience to react with raucous laughter.

After this strong start, and in a way that references my personal malady, I can flow through the rest of my set easily enough.  I then did this by saying that though I “crush pussy” regularly, there is only one for me, as I am in a committed relationship with a woman that I am in love with.  I then slid from this description of love and wonderful commitment into some details of our relationship, namely, that my girlfriend does not shave or trim her pubic hair.  I described how it is a favorite habit of mine to give my girlfriend a “noogie on her bush,” though she finds this particularly annoying.  I described that when she tells me to stop, I tell her I will, and then I just go back to it.  I explained that I do this until she finally responds with fury, yelling in my best imitation of an extremely annoyed and perturbed woman, “Stop it!

After these two bits, as is often my habit at Cole’s Open Mic, I launch into some fairly standard crowd work, gently ribbing the audience and laughing along with the assembled crowd.  Being a differently-abled comedian, this is normally one of the more interesting things for me to do on stage.  For most comics, crowd work normally concerns handling crowds of people who disrupt the flow of ideas, adding their own egos into the comedian’s stage time.  These people are typically called hecklers, and I can say that my condition, and the sound my voice makes due to my condition, has meant that I’ve very rarely had to deal with hecklers.  Hecklers usual     intention is to gain the support of the crowd at large, and if it seems as though the heckler is picking on a disabled comedian, the crowd is liable to turn on them.  Conversely, because my tone of voice may seem pitiable to a large portion of the audience, I instead must use my interaction with the crowd to make them more comfortable with me.

After my set, I customarily hang out for a little while, but as the back performance area becomes choked with comics waiting to go up, I tend to take my leave not long after performing.  Cole’s on Wednesday night displays the always-beating heart of the Chicago standup comedy scene, and as I am a (fairly) beloved veteran of the room, it is where I can take the most chances.  It is there that I can explore the possibilities open to me, being a disabled standup comedian and a standup in general.

The D.A.C (Differently-Abled Comedian)

Poem: Fear

New year’s day of atonement, preceding many months

horrible hysterical history, presided over a shameful nocturne

disguised a blistering buffer zone, truth is high-pitched

whining decibels aplenty, neigh time is mine for sure, spitting seeds

into the earth, warm watered, expansion whispering “no”

directionless teeth shatter and rake, sparking a fire

down below the vision line, the nation’s tummy

churning singe scar flesh, we will eat each other

becoming demented sickness, what have we done?

 

But the stars shine through the air

we can breathe, hope is not beyond salvaging

until all hearts are cold, passionless pivot points

we fight to the dawn, bloody knuckles afire

free for all, pillage the past, wring of it passion droplets

burning through the doorway, making steel like ice

melting under heat guns, smell the smoke

coughing freedom, remember today tomorrow

is yesterday again, and maybe we will dance.

Poem: Fear

Poem: Gin

I’m winning whether or not I know it, because

in the end I will have won, which is what we provide to all of us

the sense of victory, like deal-makers and carpet-layers

of the apocalypse, they will be remembered

by the forgotten, the agents of doom

planted in the ground, the artists unknowing will sweep

rendering all efforts fruitless, for only feelings alike thrive

as flowers at dawn, facts are like dust

in history books, specks might come

to be the seat of power, cementing expressions is necessary

facial stasis, for this fear of the heartless

craftsman is the highest ideal, for it is love

cowering from the threat of losing you, it is not weakness

O society, you darken the created day

with the sky falling, powerlessness provides a tonic

or mixing with liquor, pity and privacy

will be written down, remembrances of the past

as it really was, foggy.

Poem: Gin

Poem: Ceiling Sketches

On our side we are always leaving

no matter what, we know the facts

that you don’t, and they tell us the truth

of what we would prefer to believe anyway, the fact is that

we are, and we know it

as a horse knows a gallop, we know to leave

indentations where we tread.

 

But we understand, don’t make a mistake, you can’t

know we have your best interests at heart, for we do

though in a roundabout way, wish you success

in all your endeavors, after you’ve eaten

all the shit mustered, prideful joy abounds

for surmounting such a crest, which we believe you could

jump high enough, barely for you can’t quite see it, the avalanche.

 

Waiting around the corner

raise a standard strategy, teaching savage

trickery creates competition, basics for expounding

whatever way one will, forget the rules

like smoke in wind, still go to church

eating vegetable desserts, it seems pointless

tipping a doom bowl over.

 

View an error, wishing you could correct come, large step

over the error after another and you’re nearly there, already

anticipating a victory, but each and every

time you are closer, and a gradual constant

accompanying no victory yet, though a shining sky

would signify a change, our blood runs black

tormented sludge, but it will never be exhausted, our will.

Poem: Ceiling Sketches

Poem: Lessons

A death-croaking prophet, and other terms I borrow

of Sexus, by Henry Miller, recreate the sentiments on Plato’s cave wall

with reckless abandon, disappear the frozen night

as it chatters, the mouth of the past pulls us down

bloody curtains, life stained satirically causeless

monster gods, holy heavens of horror

blinding the innocent vision quest, until I see

nothing at all, is inside the slide, undignified.

 

Capital L logic is the only course, is a curse uttered wordless

windswept sweeping plains, chugging like a festival

express train, drunken reveries abound

all day through the night, picture shaping landscapes

under florescent clouds, shining from behind

through the moist meat, all of all gloried

terms of definition, most plain at end

which comes to us all, before no sculpture of consequence.

 

Joy is just a portal, on the other side is fog

risking all of it, for there is no finish for fury

filling sacks of invention, mystery is timeless

limitless progress, rolling up a hill only to fall

victim of the sanctified, this is why we breathe

smoke of factories warring, building to fiery death of all

we have created in the mine, cures for impotence

rendered pointless, Sisyphan love is happiness, truly.

 

Argue, fuss and fight your way to the truth

that pain is a doorway, certainly evinced everyday

in different ways, on a pianola roll rotating

paranoia dots ever on, twinkling constellation stars

in a foreign language, barroom brawl music

portending troubling times, sounding cheerily ominous

for a moment remembered, ever on in dreams

good and bad, defeats are steps just the same.

Poem: Lessons

Poem: Struggle

Make me an offer I can’t refuse and I’ll take it

up the ass, whatever you want, kaleidoscope possibilities

fracturing inscrutably, like abstract pointillism

which is just dots, searching for each one’s other

exit route, in the blood of blades or the bottle of pills

that would be fun in moderation, goofy like a loony

tune playing a ukelele, drinking whiskey from the bottle

until down to the flag, until I am empty of everything

but consciousness pervades, telling me that I’m dead

already inside, missing the harm of joy

burn like lye in the vein, but just a side step

out the window, resting in a coffin finally.

 

Slapping in the face, me with an ice cold shivering

hand of a god, scraping the air with frost

collecting in a vat, the lies of the world

they told me in school, though they still lie

still breathing, flowing life in and out

of stories that are touching, not enough can be

true, but their inspiration informs of the coming

in a blizzard of genius, we know we can never relent

the pursuit of joy, whether or not ever it comes

treasure chest inbound, on the other side

look into the mirror, be proud of yourself.

Poem: Struggle

Poem: Dilemma

It’s a symptom, not the arbiter

of the end times, we sing songs and scream

from chaos into whatever comes next, it’s a transfer like birth

glowing in gloried pain, it acts as a swamp draining

big shots believing nothing now, posting ideas they can’t see

the ground as it comes, an accelerated future

explosion through the wall, into and through your eyes

you will see weeping, idiots who don’t understand

looking into a mirror, horrified by the face

they make without knowing that we are all puppets.

 

I want to escape, but my prison is within

jeering and cackling, horrid and joyous

at once when we join the fray, blood in our teeth

tasting of silvery vengeance, count the walls around

on four sides, boxing you in, a sad world

where you find yourself king.

Poem: Dilemma