Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tommy T's Open Mic Finals - DECIDED!

After two months of grueling (yet hilarious) competition, the whole field of competitors for Season One of the 2010 Tommy T's Open Mic Finals came down to a final foursome - Willie Mac, Joey Gonzalez, Kristen Frisk and Michael O'Connell (pictured at left, minutes before showtime).  And the whole thing was decided tonight.

I came in second.

And I couldn't be in a better mood right now.

Three and a half months ago, I got up on stage for the first time ever to try comedy.  That stage was at Tommy T's.  Tonight, I returned to that same stage and, while waiting to go on, was able to reflect on how much my life has changed since that night, and how great of a night this truly was for me.

Tonight I returned to my comedic home, showing up extra early for the interviews to be done with each of us for the videotaping of the competition - something that's being packaged to be sold as a reality show.  I met up upside with my parents, who had driven all the way from Arizona to be here for this.  Also outside was my best friend Tim, who's my official stage-lifter (and has been lugging me up stairs for over 30 years), and my brother Tam, his wife Pam, and their son Patrick, the latter three of whom I haven't seen in almost three years.  They were the first of a herd of family and friends that would start showing up as the evening went along.  Some were folks that have been showing up to root me on in the previous three rounds of this contest.  Some had not been able to attend before, and were there to see me perform for the first time (my parents included).  Old, dear friends appeared.  Former co-workers showed up.  Buddies of mine from my cigar lounge made the scene.  And my newer friends - my comedian friends - also came to watch.  People like Jason Tate and Sam Key, who had been in the competition in earlier rounds.  Like Mac McDonald and Samatha Hickey.  And Ellis Rodriguez, who would be hosting the night, just as he did the previous round, and just as he did my very first night on stage.  And - of course - three of my best comedy friends...Willie, Joey and Kristen.

My fellow comedians.

Because tonight, at the end of this journey, I feel like I can finally call myself a comedian.

Things have moved very quickly since that first night.  I went from open mics to my first booked shows, and the Tommy T's competition forced me to step beyond the standard 5-minute set much earlier than expected, and to see if I had 10...15...20 minutes in me.  I had to find out...and I did.  This contest pushed me right beyond a comfort zone that I wasn't even fully comfortable in.  I learned fast - thanks to both onstage experience and the invaluable advice of so many helpful Sacramento comics - what it truly takes to put it all up on that stage, to trust yourself, to bounce back when it doesn't quite work, to push your limits, to face your fears, and to rewrite, rewrite, REWRITE!  My comedy education was an accelerated course.  Oh, it's far from over, to be sure.  But tonight, I have this feeling that I just graduated.  At least from comedy high school. 

The four of us who went on tonight chatted online between last round and this one, and agreed that 1) we were all rooting for each other, and 2) we all just wanted to go out there and give them the best show we could.  And so, once more, we all faced the mic.  And due to the video/photography limits, we will sadly not be able to share any YouTube footage of what went down (but hopefully you'll see it on TV one day).  But by the end of things, we were all back on stage together, after the group of judges backstage once more (just like last round) had to debate much longer than they thought.  And in the end, it was the amazing Kristen Frisk who pulled out the win...and earned every once of the trophy she was handed. 

I pulled the second place spot, and was thrilled to have it.  Thrilled because I went up on that stage tonight and did somewhere between 23 and 25 strong minutes of comedy - including about 3 minutes of all-new, untested material - and didn't choke.  I didn't leave the stage feeling I'd let myself down, as I have in times past.  I was very happy with my performance, and knew right when it was over that whether it was the top spot or the last that I walked away with, I'd done my best.  And, I should add, I did this not having eaten a bite of food for 24 hours (don't ask).  And with a sore tooth.  And in the middle of it, I came to realize how far I've come in my performing as I found myself making minor adjustments on the knowing when to walk away from a bit on the strongest laugh and moving on to the next one instead of forcing the follow-up joke that would bring it down.  I realized in the middle of my set that I've actually come far enough to learn when to do that, and to trust my instincts, which are starting to mature with each new performance.

I had a great night of comedy, personally, and got to spend it on stage with some of my favorite comedy people.  And in the audience were relatives from all three sides of my family (I have a complicated family), friends from every part of my life, and even my housekeeper - all people that mean so much to me and that I couldn't have been more pleased to have there to share the night.  And perhaps the best part of all?  The six different people who came up to me and introduced themselves, telling me that they were there that night because they had read the article about me in the Bee.  And the people who made that possible - Randall Benton and Darlene Ott - showed up to watch me close out this contest, too.

This was a perfect night.

And for me, the night was not and end, but a beginning.  Stay tuned here for details of a lot of new bookings that are about to start coming my way, as discussed with me this evening.  And for news of the status on the reality show being made of the 2010 Tommy T's Open Mic Finals (with two more sets of finals still to come before year's end), and whether it gets sold, and where you'll be seeing it.  The filmmaker behind this is going to be contacting me, as he's going to be filming me for a day or two to flesh out my "story" in this show.  And also stay tuned to find out the day and time next week when me and tonight's other three finalists will be appearing on KFBK Radio here in Sacramento.  Tonight was the end of chapter one of my comedy story.  The rest of the story?  Oh, it's just gettin' good.

Thanks, Willie and Joey, you funny, funny sumbitches.  Thanks Ellis for lighting up the show for us once more.  Thanks, Lou, and the whole gang at Tommy T's for giving us this chance to do our stuff and share it with Sacramento (and perhaps the nation...).  Thanks to everyone who made it out tonight to cheer us on.

And congratulations to Kristen Frisk - she who is the whole comedy package, and the funniest, classiest lady I know.  There's a reason why I've been such a big fan since the first night I saw her on stage.  Because she's everything every comedian should aspire to, and she's my idol.  You ROCK, Frisky...and your rise is only just beginning.  Go forth and do that voodoo that you do, and make us proud.

And I am officially emotionally spent.  Good night, comedy fans.  More to come.


  1. Congrats kid! You deserve it. You're the funniest person *I* know (is there a trophy for that?).

    And I'll get my proofreading points in early with:

    "...and earned every once of the trophy she was handed..."

  2. Mike you deserve this more than anyone I know.

    Your one of the truly nicest guys (no pun intended) I know.

    And this was no "gimme" you worked your ass off writing new material day after day.

  3. Way to go Mike! Your talent for seeing the humor in everyday life has paid off. Keep it up, your public needs your levity :-)