Thinking of Changing the Album Name to “Matt Gubser- Not That Great Live.”
Last Wednesday was “The Recording II: Drunk and Apathetic.” It was a much more typical open mic crowd in the respect that most people were:
A. Just there to see some friend fumble through five minutes of “comedy” for the first time.
B. Drunk and obnoxious.
C. Not actually there because they had better things to do.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen an open mic crowd that bad. Open mic crowds are generally bad because comedy open mics are hard to sit through. You get a mix of decent comedians trying out new material that may not work yet, terrible comedians who can’t get stage-time anywhere else, and drunk people who have been told they should be comedians because they can make their friends laugh by quoting movie lines in conversations. There’s a reason there’s no cover charge.
I think there were literally three people paying attention and maybe 15-20 talking at the bar. I went in to re-record a few bits that hadn’t come out so well the first time around. I wanted to use the same equipment in order to get consistent sound, but there was so much background noise that it was completely unusable. So I ended up waiting until everyone had left and then recording what I needed to. 40 minutes of new recording for what will be a 40ish minute CD. My inner perfectionist is clawing his way to the surface.
The first half of the original recording on the 14th turned out great, in spite of my flubbing a line or two that need to be replaced. Despite not having been religious for many years, I do occasionally still manage to speak in tongues, and that came through a few times. There are a few minutes in the middle when I was doing some brand-new election-related material (literally a week after the election) that didn’t go so well and it sapped some of the earlier momentum. The album finishes strong, but it doesn’t end as well as it started because of that lag in the middle.
I did probably 5-6 new jokes during the recording that I hadn’t ever told before. Amazingly, all but one of them worked. The one that I’m taking out got a few laughs, but didn’t fit. It was in the middle of a bit I call “Gay Grocery Shopping” that relies on building up tension until the very end, and the little joke I added into the middle of it interferes with that. All in all though, the original recording went well.
I find myself struggling with the editing. This is my first album. If I improve as a comedian, like I’m supposed to, this will be my worst album (new album title: “First the Worst?”). It’s not going to win a Grammy. It’s not going to get me a sitcom. At the same time, this is going to be the first exposure that most people have to my comedy. I expect that more people will hear this than have ever seen me live. I need to make a good impression, and with that in mind, I want this thing to be as good as possible. We shall see if my editing skills are up to the task.
Last week I recorded my first comedy album. I’ve been talking about doing it for at least a year, but had never quite put it together. One of the problems being a young comic, career-wise, is that it’s still fairly rare for me to do longer than 30 minutes on stage. There just aren’t that many opportunities to work on an hour-long set in front of a live audience. But I decided to do it anyway.
At the beginning of the month, I got in touch with Big Chuckllz, the comic who now hosts the Wednesday open mic at Pepperbelly’s, and Victor Escobedo, another comic friend (and former host of the same room) who had previously offered his services and recording equipment.
When I started doing comedy, Pepper Belly’s Comedy Club in Fairfield, CA was the only comedy club nearby. My first year of comedy consisted almost entirely of doing the open mic there every Wednesday. Pepper Belly’s main room is large. The club was formerly a movie theater, and at full capacity, it holds around 300 people. The open mic is done at the bar, which even with 30 people still feels very full.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to fill the big room, especially on short notice, so decided to record in the bar. When most people think of stand-up specials, they think of sold-out theaters of thousands of people who are there specifically to see their favorite comic. That’s a level very few comics ever reach, and for now at least, I’m satisfied with the low-fi experience of 40 strangers packed into a bar. And given the role that that room has played in my development as a comedian, it felt like the appropriate venue
There’s an intimacy and immediacy there that wouldn’t be present in a bigger theater. You can hear individual audience member’s reactions. Drunken hecklers have to be dealt with. I had fun, the crowd had fun, and I think it comes through.
And there is a certain freedom from expectation when there are only a dozen people in the room who even know who you are. There’s an honesty in the reactions of people who didn’t walk into the show already convinced I was hilarious. And as a bonus for me, I wasn’t surrounded by people who knew all of my jokes.
As of right now, I’ve done the editing on 3 of the 10 tracks. It’s turning out well, though I wish someone, at some point in my life, would have pointed out that I smack my lips roughly every 45 seconds. And going forward, I should probably try to avoid sniffing directly into the microphone . I should probably get famous before rumors of drug problems start swirling around. Fortunately most of the sound hiccups are pretty easy to clean up.
I’m extremely critical of myself as a comedian, and I like the way it’s turning out. I still have a long way to go as a performer, but I can write a joke with anybody. I think the album is going to be good.