When you are a stand up comedian for more than a decade, open mics can sometimes be a thing of the past. Microsoft Word is telling me to put a “-“ in-between “stand” and “up”, but I’m not going to do that.
For some, it’s because they believe they are too good for open mics. For others, your new material comes from longer sets sprinkled in to try out instead of open mics. Sometimes it’s just because they’re lazy. But it is an important step for younger comics.
Unfortunately, sometimes the worst of humanity also shows up to open mics. It’s part of the deal, sadly. On 4/20/2022, I had to follow a literal Nazi. I know people claim that word is thrown around a lot and mislabeled. No, a Nazi. He didn’t have the uniform or anything, so do I say nationalist? He wasn’t white, so can’t say white nationalist, right? Can I just say asshole bigot? Ok. Nazi is less to type though.
This occurred at Skyline, my home club. It holds a special place in my heart. To me, stand up comedy is a privilege, not a right. Obviously, everyone has the right to do it and if you want to do it, I strongly encourage you to. But for some people, it gives them an excuse to tell truly hateful jokes. That’s not what the stage is for. Keep it to yourself, you other idiot friends or the bigoted Facebook groups you definitely belong to.
I am almost 11 years into comedy. I started at Skyline*. At the time, there was a competing club in Appleton, Wisconsin. That is too small of an area for competing comedy clubs. When I started, the competing club had an open mic and Skyline didn’t. You couldn’t work both clubs, so Skyline was looking for hosts.
My stand up career started very differently. Most go to open mics and eventually get on showcases, shows and then clubs. I started at the club. The owner at the time, Cliff, reached out to me and asked me to perform. That isn’t a thing that usually happens. I had dabbled in stand up in college, but mostly did improv comedy. So my first few sets were all guest sets at a legit comedy club. I sucked of course. But, after six or seven months of guest sets, I got to host a weekend. I was awful and a bad host that Thursday night. But an amazing comedian named Mike Stanley helped me out. Hundreds have continued to do the same during my time. I will be forever grateful.
I went off on a tangent, my apologies. The reason this hits me so personally is because I love the club. I became super close with Cliff and still consider him to be a good friend. There is new ownership now, but nothing will stop by love for the place. That is why when this dude took the stage, I was pissed.
It was honestly a solid open mic. There was another comedian who used the r-word. It was in the context of a joke, and not a terrible one. For me though, no one needs to use that word anymore. It’s offensive and just hack now. As a comedian, I am very pro-First Amendment. I want people to be able to say what they want. But here’s the issue. People also forget that you can say whatever you want, but you aren’t free from consequences. Example: Chris Rock and Will Smith at the Oscars. Again, I am pro-joke, so I am on the side of Chris Rock. It was a dumb joke, but at the end of the day, it was just a bald joke. To me, using the r-word is 10 steps above that. I thought I had seen the worst of the night. Another comic and I were annoyed about it, I ranted about it to my wife over text and was ready to move on.
I was assigned to close out the show. Sometimes that is a downer after 19 comedians have already been up. The Milwaukee Bucks were also playing a playoff game. But as it turns out, I was meant to be there and close that show.
So basically what happens, is that if people don’t show up, others can fill in. Out of the 20 comics, I believe like 7-8 didn’t show or couldn’t be there. I was told that this guy came up to the host and asked if he could fill in. They said yes. There was no way they could have seen it coming. I mean, he did have on an “Arrest Fauci” shirt, but you can’t restrict someone because of a shirt. I’m just saying the red flags were there. The host said yes to be nice, and he had no idea. It’s not his fault or the fault of Skyline. They have very specific guidelines that hateful content or conduct will get you banned.
Honestly a lot of what happened was a blur. He went up there with his stupid shirt and immediately started with terrible material. He then decided to do a wrestling-type hype speech for Hitler. He was listing all the good things he had done and then the punch line was welcoming Hitler on stage. After this, things took a turn on stage and in the crowd. I knew right away what was happening and a few others did too.
He then spiraled into just hateful speech. He talked about different races not being good, and that Hitler was portrayed in a bad light. You could tell people thought it was a bit at first, but then got uncomfortable. By the end, he was rambling and kept getting the light until he got off stage. My only complaint is that only myself and one other comic started yelling at him during his set.
I get it, people were in shock. You don’t know what to do. You’re not supposed to yell at another comic during his set. But this wasn’t comedy. This was a jackass bigot trying to portray that being hateful is funny. There were no real jokes by the end. If the funniest thing about you is your dumb t-shirt, you aren’t funny and don’t belong on stage.
At that moment, I was fuming. And to be honest, when I saw the douche, I wanted him to go up before me. I wanted to make fun of the dumb shirt. I had no idea it would be worse than that. When I was finally introduced, all of the anger, rage and stress from the past two years all came out. It’s so annoying bragging about yourself, but I went to a different place during my set and was suddenly “on” and in the moment. You don’t fuck with my favorite stage like that.
I went after him immediately. I talked about his dumb shirt and Fauci. You don’t have to like him or some of the decisions he made or appearances. But you don’t wear a shirt wanting him arrested. The dude was just trying to protect people, and has been working with Presidents since Reagan. He was also a very important figure in bringing education about AIDs to the country, and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from W. in 2008 for his AIDS relief program. That is who should be arrested? On what charges you dumb-dumb. I’m soooooo sorry you had to wear a mask in Walgreen while a million people died. Science is always evolving, and cherry picking and blaming a dude who was just trying his best is a weird place for your anger and issues. Use that money for a therapist instead of dumb shirts. Congrats, you got the attention you wanted for the shirt. I hope it shrinks in the wash and too tight to wear. It’ll still fit over your head though, because it’s clearly full of nothing but air.
I was angry, but controlled. Honestly the first part I wish I could remember or taped. I’ve never been good at taping myself, and probably could have gone viral. Stupidity gets me every time. I talked about the situation and how messed up it was. I made a brilliant reference to Schindler’s List. I wish I had the words. I was fully in “the moment”. It’s a weird experience where you know you are killing, and every word is making sense, but you don’t remember what you said or the order. Again, I am dumb for not recording it. It’s why you’ve never heard of me if you were sent this or a random person who doesn’t know me. Thanks for reading!
I knew he was angry. I loved it. At one point, I heard him say “what the fuck” as I took a pause from destroying him. Again, I am puking in my mouth bragging about myself, but I was happy. I was using references from other sets. I then did newer material that went well. It was a great ending.
Of course, the coward left during my set. They all do. These types of people who do nothing but breed hate never stick around when called out. They don’t admit fault or try to be better. They tuck their tail between their legs and leave. And you can hate doxxing all you want, but his name was Josh Treven. I only say this in the hopes that if he shows up your mic or show, you can know what’s coming. I might delete the name later, I’m not sure. But if anything happens to me after writing this, you have a suspect I guess.
But then something amazing happened. Lately, I have felt disconnected from the Fox Valley/Wisconsin comedy scene. The last few open mics I went to, almost no one came up to me. No one said hi, or wanted to meet me. It was weird for me because as a young comic coming up, if a veteran comic was anywhere, I wanted to say hi and at least introduce myself. It wasn’t happening. No one really asks me to do their show or friend me anymore. I know I didn’t perform much during the pandemic or do a lot of open mics. I don’t get to come watch as many shows anymore either because life. It’s been weird because I have run and produced shows for almost a decade. I helped run Laugh Box, a Thursday night showcase for years and always put everyone up, especially new comics to give them time. I know in this business, no one owes you anything and you are forgotten quickly. But, it’s still not a great feeling. At times, you want the kindness and help you gave so many others returned, but it doesn’t always happen.
After my set, it was a 180. Tons of people came up to me to say hi or talk. They wanted to chat about what happened, the jokes I made and the craziness of the asshole’s set. A woman came up and asked if she could send me jokes for me to read. People were smiling as I left and clearly smoking pot outside. It was 4/20, I mean the joke writes itself. I felt seen and heard again.
All I felt was rage on my way home and that night. The Bucks losing didn’t help. I raged a bit on social media but then deleted it. I wanted to vent and lash out, but didn’t. Sleep and time helps with perspective. I went from angry to angry with happiness behind it. I had a moment I needed for myself on stage. I know more comics now. Several comics posted it was the best open mic ever. And besides two people, they are absolutely right.
I’m still beyond angry that person exists and did that on stage. But I’m also glad I got to let out built up rage. The stage is my escape, it always has been. It’s what I am the best at. I’m a good writer and performer. The fact that I was made to be good at the two things that pay the worst is baffling and unlucky. But that awful comic was what I needed. I wanted to rant. I wanted to let out anger, but channeled through jokes and laughter. I did so well I stumbled through an entire sentence of a bit I’m working on and still hit the punchline to laughs.
It really was the best open mic ever. Nothing bonds comedians and people more than shitting on someone else.
I wanted to end the article there because what an ending, right? But during the mic, one of the comics brought fake money with their face on it. At one point, I looked down and saw the fake money all over the floor. It was the funniest thing to me for some reason, and will be burned in my brain forever. Staring at a floor of fake money and yelling at a Nazi during an open mic. Not many people can say they’ve done that. Also, I know if fellow comic Mike Merryfield reads this, he will be angry I called it a “mic” instead of an “open mic”.
On a side note, it appears a local news channel was there last night. They did a nice and positive story about a local comic named Erik Scribner who is in a wheelchair. Check it out HERE. See, it was the best open mic ever, and a positive story came from it. I think they left before my set though. What a shame, we could have become famous together.
*technically I started in college but sucked so quit. I consider my true start at Skyline. Also, if you’re reading this Skyline, how about giving this old timer a feature weekend soon 😃.