(This post appeared in the 2015 Winter edition of the Van Wyck Gazette and is unedited)
My heart races as I anxiously pace the green stone steps. I’ve walked around the block twice reciting out loud the contents of my set. By any indication I have the appearance of a crazy person. Perhaps that’s exactly what I need to be. The host calls my name and I approach the stage. The light is piercing and I can’t make out the crowd. I keep telling myself to just breathe. I start speaking yet am only vaguely aware of what I say. As I stammer through my jokes, I get this intense feeling of excitement. A blue blinking light signifies my time is up and the host calls me off stage. Unaware if the crowd enjoyed it or even laughed once I knew one thing I was hooked.
These were some of the reactions I had while performing at my first open mic. The Village Lantern on Bleeker Street in New York City’s West Village is home to many a spectacle such as this. It was just over a year ago, and I was enrolled in a class at The Gotham Comedy Club. My instructor explained to us that the best way for us to jump into Stand-Up Comedy was to go to as many open mic’s as we could. The first week of class he encouraged it but by the second it was mandatory. In a place like New York City there were literally dozens to choose from every day. After that first mic everything changed. Stage time suddenly became something that I not only sought after but craved. It was the first time in my life where I was just like “yes, this is it, I’m doing this.” Without contention this was a huge moment in my life.
I grew up in Rockland County in the town of Nyack, NY. Throughout my life, I was never into the performing arts. I loved music and wanted to be in a band but never pulled that off. I always had a passion for comedy however without really realizing. I loved to make people laugh; it was easy for me and became a way to break the ice in social situations. I was pretty nerdy back then and I think I would often catch people off guard. Time and time again I have heard the phrase, “you’re way funnier than I thought.” I watched a ton of stand-up and comedies in my free time but it never dawned on me to pursue it as a career path. Anything else I had done up to then felt forced on me. This was totally my decision and I loved that.
In the past year I have certainly changed a lot as a person. That shy out spoken person I was has become much more comfortable and confident. I’ve moved out of Nyack and am now only minutes outside of the city. I’ve done upwards of 50 shows and 200 open mic’s in the past year. I’ve taken several other Stand-Up and Improv Comedy classes too. I’ve been in a play, been a background extra in television shows and even attempted to sell tickets for a comedy club outside in Times Square. When I was just starting like during the first week I watched this documentary that had a quote that always stuck with me. In the words of the acclaimed sushi chef Jiro from the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi:
Once you decide on your occupation you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That’s the secret of success and is the key to being regarded honorably.
This concept of dedication is very much present in the comedy world. It takes a lot more than just being funny to make it in stand-up comedy. When you’re beginning you have to juggle so many different tasks. To mention a few; you have to network, promote and manage yourself. That’s of course in addition to being extremely disciplined with your writing and getting on stage as much as possible. I aim to write for one hour every day but I know some comics that do much more. These are the guys that are hitting 10-15 mic’s a week and have been doing this for years.
Right now my focus is to keep improving and learning. Living in New York City is a game of survival and stand-up is no different. I’ve had a lot of positive results in my first year but am still a long ways away from where I want to be. This year has been loaded with up’s and down’s and I am excited to see what year two has in store for me.
Jeremy Cash is a NYC based comedian originally from Nyack, NY. He has performed in many clubs including Levity Live, The Stand and The Gotham Comedy Club. He hosts a bi-weekly open mic at Olive’s in Nyack and produces a monthly show at The Whiskey Kitchen in Valley Cottage, NY.)