Before I started this lil ole blog about three months ago, I was solely doing stand up comedy; most frequently at my weekly show called Case of the Mondays (COTMons for short). I was a young Buck in the comedy game:
I was only about nine months in when I decided I need to start a show, so I could cut my comedy teefs in an exciting yet demanding environment of an English pub in Midtown East. Yes, #TeamBlaria
sometimes oftentimes, in the early years of your career, you have to do guerrilla comedy shows in bars, hotels, apartment rec rooms, etc. because Comedy Central isn’t interested in you just because you’re Octavia’s daughter (my mom’s name or name of a Calvin Klein fragrance? You decide). Anyway, over the next three years and two months, cutting my teeth is exactly what I did. I learned how to host, how to riff, and how to wolf down a buffalo wing in five seconds because a comic wrapped up his/her set a minute early. And now, three years and two months later, I’m ending COTMons tonight. Cue the swelling orchestra music found in Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing aka I’m gonna be poignant for the next few hundred words and then maybe quote something in Latin Beyoncé that will truly capture the emotion of ending this journey.
I think I speak for every comic when I say that stand up is incredibly difficult, especially in New York. Simply put, people don’t give a fuck about you unless you’re a famous comedian and even then, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. I saw Chris Rock get heckled because a guy didn’t like that a new joke that Chris was working on isn’t perfect yet. Mind you, this was a free show that Chris surprise dropped in on and still the heckler felt entitled to expect a HBO special level performance. That situation perfectly exemplifies how empty New Yorkers’ pockets of fucks to give is: “I don’t give a fuck that this is once-in-a-lifetime experience to see, for a free, a legend work. Just be amazing while I sip on this shitty ass Tecate beer and do nothing noteworthy ever.” Let’s be real, noteworthy people don’t fuck with Tecate. The point is, knowing that being as great as Chris Rock still won’t give you immunity against the hecklers of the world, while disappointing, also can give a comic a “well, I might as well go balls to the wall then.” So, I suppose, COTMons was my balls to the walls that is comedy.
A weekly bar show at an English pub where people come to unwind after a long day’s work only to be surprised an Afro’d Black woman telling jokes into a wireless microphone, while standing in a booth is certainly a ballsy move. On paper, that is not a situation that should work. At all. But it did. Sure, there were weeks where the bar was rowdy and people didn’t want to pay attention all the time. There were also weeks where there was a teeny tiny audience and the show felt more like VH-1 Storytellers: “The inspiration behind this catcalling joke is a guy said to me, ‘A yo ma.’” But more often than not, those tiny audiences were some of the best ones. They were comedy fans, even if they didn’t know it yet. But to be honest, nothing topped when the show was standing-room only and people like Hannibal Buress or Damien Lemon came in there and just knocked it out of the park. In those moments, I loved the show. Like Brick Tamlan loved lamp, I loved COTMons. I loved COTMons so much that after a good show, I’d personify COTMons in my head and think this:
In all seriousness, COTMons is where I learned to be a comic. I mean, I’m still learning. I’ve only been doing stand up for four years (my four year anniversary is on July 1st), but there are plenty of basic things about stand up that I learned. 1) How to cope after having a bad set. Normally (and when I write “normally” I mean just one time), after a bad show, I’d drink one and a half Mike’s Hard Lemonade because if I’m going to be sad I’m going either going to do it in an “Oh, Lawd!” Behind the Music Mary J. Blige sort of way or in a twee Zooey Deschanel way and getting tipsy off Mike’s Hard is so a Zooey D thing to do, 2) Talking shop. It’s no secret that comics love talking about comedy, which is about as interesting to normies (that’s what I call you regular folk) as when my dad wants to talk about Dr. Oz and colons. Dad, don’t waste my daytime minutes to discuss prune juice. Anyway, hanging out after COTMons is over to just talk about the minutiae of stand up is some of the most fun I’ve had doing stand up. And sometimes talking shop would turn into friendship and other times, it didn’t. Whatever the case may be, and 3) That I love stand up. Sure, most comics loved stand up before they ever got into it. But only once you do it day in and day out, mostly for free, do you really discover how much you love or don’t love the craft. How exciting it is when a new joke works. How great you feel after getting a heckler to shut up. How even though you may have hard the worst set of your life, you’re like, “Fuck it. I have a show tomorrow and I’ll redeem myself then.” The ability to keep going is because of COTMons. And is why I’ve decided to end the show.
I could keep going with COTMons, knowing I have a guaranteed spot on Monday nights to be funny. But I (mostly) like the uncertainty of going out and asking for spots on shows, networking, and getting better on shows without having that security blanket of, “This is my show. People at the bar will more or less be supportive.” Simply put, I was getting complacent. The stakes were gone from COTMons. The waitstaff there thinks I’m funny and so do the regulars. So where is the challenge? I have to go find it again and the only way to do it by letting go of the one room that always, ALWAYS, supported me. Scary? Sure. But way less scary than not growing as a comedian because I still have the training wheels on.
So I want to give special thanks to the entire Manchester Pub staff for helping me develop as a comic these past three years and to every single comic who has performed on the show and also every audience member who supported the show. If you’re around tonight and want to stop by for the last show, please do. It’s at Manchester Pub (920 2nd Avenue, near E. 49th Street). Showtime is 7:30p. Y’all, don’t get sad because even though I’m saying goodbye to Case of the Mondays, like Beyoncé:
Because we all know that liking Popeyes Chicken is the ultimate proof that you haven’t changed as a person. Thanks, B!