I’m not sure if Netflix has a “shuffle” button. They didn’t the last time I used the service, but that was about a year ago, and paying for a month just for the purpose of the blog seemed like an extravagance. But imagine with me for a moment that you can, with one click, serve up a randomly selected movie from Netflix’ vast catalog. Then imagine that you watch one third of it before turning it off and writing a review of the entire Netflix service based on this abbreviated, random experience. The results would not likely be worthy of a Peabody (or even a #ghostpee-body), but this was the strategy employed by Collegian staff reporter Haleigh McGill to review the Monday night Open-Mic Comedy at Hodi’s Half Note.
Fortunately for all of us, the 45 minutes that McGill endured included the excellent Richard Kennedy, who was rightly featured in the article. The character Richard slips into on stage is not only the perfect vehicle for his great lines but also some great crowd work, and he regularly accomplishes the difficult task of making an audience laugh at something against their will. I’m glad the writer liked Richard, and he was certainly the highlight of the show up to the point McGill and her collection of friends (whom I suspect included disappointed “interviewee” Brittany Carpenter) made their exit, but I’d like to suggest for a moment that maybe Haleigh missed the point.
Erik Lindstrom said to me once that “music feels authentic, and standup actually is.” I think he’s right. The immediacy of one man and a microphone, or one woman and a womicrophone, and an audience that aren’t expecting anything specific, creates the possibility for literally anything to happen. You might hear Dan Jones recounting a drunken exploit with such confidence that he seemed determined not to learn anything from the encounter, and succeeded. You might hear French Accent mixing every type of joke imaginable together over the same two chords at such a speed that you don’t have time to decide whether or not you like them. You might hear Ryan Nowell dropping one perfect adjective after another, making you wish he’d follow you around and narrate your day, except that you wouldn’t get anything done as you’d be laughing too hard. Miles Harmony might say 25 monotone words over five minutes and leave the audience sure it was funny but unsure exactly why. And Bob Gaudet might hold the whole night together with well crafted, perfectly timed stories and an uneasy undercurrent that is difficult to define as more homicidal or suicidal.
Space and laziness prohibit me from mentioning the many other excellent comics who may or may not drop in, and may or may not be brilliant. Certainly some nights are slow to get started, and certainly some venues provide less than ideal circumstances – how Hodi’s manages to be hotter than the outside in the summer and colder than the outside in the winter, I’ll never understand. But the joy of standup – especially open mic standup – is that at any moment one comic could grab the whole room by the attention span and transform the evening. At Hodi’s for almost four years, and at several other venues across Fort Collins, this very nearly always happens, and it definitely happened in the later part of the evening that the Collegian reporter missed. Live standup is real, raw, and unpredictable, and the knife edge separates it from watching specials on Netflix. In open mic comedy… I was going to say “the view is worth the climb,” but that sounds too fortune-cookie. Maybe to contextualize for the Collegian I could say “the finished building is worth the construction,” but that’s far less likely to be true than my actual point. The laugh is worth the uncomfortable silence. And you will laugh.