Every actor should have one comedic and one dramatic monologue, chambered, for when she needs it. Every singer should have sixteen bars prepared that show his vocal range and story-telling ability for a stage musical audition. Here’s one I just learned for comedians: Always have eight minutes ready. Always have eight minutes of material, because you never know when someone will ask you to host a comedy show.
My fiancé and I arrived at the Canopy Club, got a drink, and found a table near the stage. About ten minutes after the scheduled start time, we were asked to get up so our table could be moved “to get more seats in.” I later pointed out to my future husband that we are exactly the type of people who have no problem with that situation. Unlike most white, 20- and 30-somethings in America, we don’t feel we are entitled to anything, including a permanent seat at a comedy show. (I’m press. We didn’t even pay to get in.) Most people, however, would be displeased to be asked to pick up their drinks, purses, and coats to move down for a staff that had not prepared for a show that was already starting late. I’m not complaining; I don’t care. I’m saying they can expect complaints in the future from drunk girls and their compensating bro companions.
Jessica Coburn is a local comedienne with a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. She performs at Memphis on Main for C-U Comedy’s stand-up showcase on Wednesdays; she contributes to Stumbling Through Tuesdays at Mike ‘N’ Molly’s on Tuesdays; and she sings, dances, and acts for The Celebration Company at the Station Theatre. Last Friday, she was the host of a comedy show at the Canopy Club for the “In Shambles Comedy Tour” by Collin Bullock. She is funny, sexy, and a little giggly on stage, a perfect blend of sharp feminism and girly charm. I was surprised to learn that her material was all previously used, because she has a natural delivery that feels off-the-cuff.
John McCombs was the first act of the night. He told a joke about boyfriend etiquette at Victoria’s Secret that had every straight man in the bar nodding. He then told a sad and hilarious tale of eating ice cream cake. Our hero told us he went to DQ, bought an ice cream cake, and presented the cake to the cashier. When she asked if he wanted a message on it, he told her to write “Happy Birthday Tim.” He confessed to us that, not only was it not Tim’s birthday, Tim doesn’t even exist. (He was so committed to the lie that he made the girl fix the icing when the cake appeared to say “Jim.”) He realized, at the exact moment we did, that, best-case scenario, this girl believes he is buying an ice cream cake for another man. “I might as well have had her draw a dick on it.” He went home to eat the cake alone because sometimes he likes to remind himself of how sad he is.
Nick Sierra has great timing and delivery. His crowd work is funny without being a crutch, and he knows how to make an analogy. My favorite: “Titties are the bacon of human anatomy.” He wondered how anti-abortion activists will fill their time if they ever get what they want. (What would they do with all that time and energy?) He told us about the time he got caught drawing boobs in his notebook at school. His mother’s reaction was, “Nicholas, I can’t believe you. This is women’s breasts! How would you like it if I drew penises on my wallet and showed it to everyone at work?” The five-year-old version of Nicholas figured that, based on his experience at school, his mom would probably have more friends.
Shane Copland is from Canada, and that was enough to get him on the History Channel once. He has an innocent charm that allows him to say things like “someone slipped something into my heroin.” He had amazing throwaway lines that cracked me up throughout his time on stage. The centerpiece of his set was the story of how he shattered both his heels and missed 9/11. This is a tale of drunkenness and jumping off the roof. It’s a ballad, really, about waking up to what appears to be Die Hard on a loop and wondering if valuable extremities have been cut off.
Collin Bullock is the mastermind of the “In Shambles Comedy Tour.” Like most comics, he is sad and eats terrible food. He ordered $30 of Taco Bell “food” for himself in the drive-thru, and came up with a damn good plan. He proposed a mandatory drug test for anyone buying tacos at 3 a.m. to ensure that they are, in fact, using illegal substances. If the drug test comes back negative, “there’s a counselor waiting for you at the window.” Collin told us about the time his computer went into sleep mode while he was masturbating. His screen was instantly turned into a black mirror in which he saw his own reflection. He saw his “four chins, each with three of their own chins,” and a chest that looked like “a shedding cat ran across pudding.”
At 9:05 p.m. we were near the end of our beers and conversation. That’s when a manager or random member of the Canopy staff told us to finish up and get out. Again, we were the best people that this could have happened to. We even joked about it. I don’t imagine a person with a strong sense of self-importance (who paid $10 to see an hour-and-a-half long show) taking that well. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t suspect I am.
The comedy scene in Champaign-Urbana is alive. I’m not sure when it was born, but it has been thriving for a couple of years now. It is thriving, and hearty laughs are available. The open mics and showcases are free at Clark Bar and Memphis on Main, respectively. Improv comedy is available for free or cheap at SoDo Theatre and Mike ‘N’ Molly’s, and there is a free variety show there every week. There are funny people all over this town, and some of them -some- are as hot as our host, Jessica.