Tonight, it was time for Round 3, the last of the semifinal rounds. The list of comics was down to just six - myself, Kristen Frisk, Joey Gonzalez, Sam Key, Willie Mac and Jake Ward. Tonight we each had to do 10-minute sets before yet another near-capacity crowd, and, more importantly, before a panel of judges who would decide which of us moved on to the final round, and which of us went home.
The first thing that made this evening even more special was that the host for the night was comedian Ellis Rodriguez, back in town from L.A. for a few weeks. Aside from the fact that Ellis is one of the funniest comics to ever come out of Sac, he was also hosting the Open Mic Night on January 5th of this year when I got on stage for the very first time. He was the guy who introduced me then. And now, on April 5th, he'd be doing so again, giving me pause to look back and reflect on all the amazing things that have happened in the past three months as I went from "I should try comedy" to becoming an actual working comedian.
I was also psyched because, once again, a lot my people showed up to see the show and cheer me on, as they have throughout this journey. As ever, there were a few folks I knew were going to be showing up, but then a number of surprise appearances, too. Friends (older and newer) and family started filling up my reserved tables, and this just put me in a fantastic mood.
As did hanging out and chatting with my fellow finalists before the show started. We all know each other, not only from the Finals, but from other open mics and different shows around we've either worked together or just hung out together at. They're all great people, and all very, very funny people. We knew that not all of us would be moving on by the night's end, but that really didn't matter there in that pre-show time. We all just got to relax, joke around, and wait for the fun to start. And wish each other luck. And mean it...I swear!
Finally it came time to draw the names for the performance order. Lou (the manager there at Tommy T's who runs all the open mic stuff) brought out the bucket, and as we all circled 'round in the back of the room, host Ellis drew the names. The order ended up Kristen, me, Willie, Joey, Jake, then Sam. Which meant that somehow Kristen had now drawn first spot in all three rounds (!). But that was okay this time - Ellis would be going on first to do a set and warm the crowd up, so that wouldn't be all on her shoulders. And so, the lights dimmed, Ellis got up and took the mic, and the show began.
And what a show it was.
Couldn't have been prouder of this group of comics, man. And couldn't have been happier for the assembled audience, because they got treated to a hell of a show. Everyone brought their best stuff, and they played it to win. There was loads and loads of laughs as each of us took our turn in the spotlight. I got to hear people's familiar material - that I've heard multiple times on different stages around town - take on a whole new life and magically ignite the crowd. Pride, again, is the word for what I was feeling. Seeing favorite comedians of mine prove on stage what I've known since first seeing each of them made my heart swell. I felt lucky to be a part of such a group. I felt honored.
After we had all finished, and the judges went backstage for their deliberations and to compare the score sheets, we got treated to a guest comedy set by Sacramento comic (and one of my favorite Sacramento comics) Carlos Rodriguez, doing his usual job of winning the crowd (and with no cocaine, honestly...it's just the way he talks, I swear...). Between his guesting and Ellis's bits between comics, it was just a damned fine night of comedy. I almost hated to have to get to the voting part. Almost...
That time did come, and Lou asked us all to return to the stage, where we all shook hands and exchanged hugs one last time before the news. With results in hand, Lou explained that it was the prerogative of the panel of judges to either add or subtract a finalist from the originally-planned "Final Three". It ended up being an addition. Apparently, the judging was so close, in the end they decided the only fair way to work it was to turn the "Final Three" into a "Final Four". Which they did. And that foursome ended up being Joey, Willie, Kristen and me. We will now be moving on the the Final, where - after we each do our best 20-minute sets - one of us will be crowned Open Mic Champion.
It appears the date of that final night is going to be Wednesday, April 21st, but I don't want to make that an official announcement until it's confirmed and put on the Tommy T's calendar (and it should be in the next day or so), so stay tuned here for news on that. It's not only going to be a big night, but it's also going to be filmed for a documentary. We're all going to have to come in for on-camera interviews before that night. As I get more details on this, I'll be letting you know. Sounds pretty exciting.
Kristen Frisk and me
So, I've made it out of Round 3, and I'm going to the show. And it feels good...particularly for someone who's been doing this for a total of three months, you know? The old "just happy to be here" cliche really does apply in my case. I'm learning as I go and still have a lot to figure out, but I'm really grateful to have made it as far as I have as fast as I have. But mostly what I'm grateful for is the people I've met along the way - the comics that I've shared the stage with, hung out with outside of clubs after shows, watched on stage or gotten advice from. Since I've begun all this, many people I know have been surprised to find out that there's actually a big, thriving comedy scene in Sacramento. Well, there is, and it's filled with hilarious, remarkable, friendly and captivating personalities, and the best part of this comic odyssey of mine has been to make their acquaintance, and become part of this little world that I'm trying to share with the rest of Sacramento.
My congratulations to everyone who's been in the Open Mic Finals along the way, because you all got there for a reason, and deserved the recognition. And congratulations to Kristen, to Joey, and to Willie, for making it all the way to the mountaintop...no small feat considering the competition you've had every step of the way. Well done, my friends. And I know no matter what happens in the big Final, we're all going to have one hell of a good time being there.
Party at Willie's after. I'm bringing the Guinness.