Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Staycation idea: Comedy clubs, open mikes

The best comedians I’ve seen live are Jerry Seinfeld, who is as polished as an adored sports car, and Ellen DeGeneres, who is so nice that she actually takes requests from the audience. But I saw them at huge venues, which aren’t the best settings for comedy.

So I think I’ve had more fun during trips to smaller comedy clubs. Some of the performers I remember by name, as in the well-known comedienne Kathleen Madigan. But others are just a blur of faces who delivered one-liners and entertained the crowd for a night. Some are great, some aren’t so great, but they are always interesting. And it’s a fun change of pace from a night at the movies or a nightclub. If you don’t know where or if there’s a comedy club in your area, you can find a list of clubs at www.chucklemonkey.com.

Open-mike nights are also fun, and less expensive, at comedy clubs. Open-mike is often during the middle of the week and serves as an audition for a spot in the weekend lineup of comics that warm up the stage for a headliner. It’s fun to watch, but if you’re talented, and brave, you can get up on stage for a few minutes. Many comedy clubs also offer comedy workshops that give people lessons in performing stand-up comedy, so maybe your staycation could be the first step toward getting discovered.

Or you can just watch. That’s much more relaxing.

Open-mike nights aren’t just at comedy clubs. Other bars and clubs open up the microphone to wannabe singers, storytellers and poets. You’ll see some people with real talent who you’re surprised haven’t been discovered. You’ll also see some people of the character Phoebe on Friends who clumsily strummed a guitar while singing “Smelly Cat.” Either way, very entertaining.

You can find an open-mike night near you at www.openmikes.org. A list of poetry slams, a competition where authors read their works and judges vote for their favorite, is at www.poetryslam.com.

*** "The Great American Staycation: How to Make a Vacation at Home Fun for the Whole Family (and Your Wallet!)" is now available. You can find it in stores or online.

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