Amanda and Steve met me at the Hickory Tavern. She wanted us all to meet at the Olde Hickory Taproom – a different place, we both realized too late. But the Hickory Tavern was closer to the venue we were doing this mic at, so they came to meet me there. We were informed pretty soon that the kitchen was closed temporarily, which was a weird way of putting it. Pretty soon it became apparent there was something horribly wrong going on in the kitchen. Nobody’s food was coming out quick at all. A line of angry customers, like a mob, formed at the counter waiting for to-go orders. Did most of the kitchen staff walk off the job? Was it like an old Stephen King story where a normal appliance came to life and started killing everyone?
We never found out. There was no food around really so we just went to the show at Fyreside Taproom – another place with a sort of similar name to Hickory Tavern and Olde Hickory Taproom. I saw another similarly-named bar when I was leaving. This fucking town isn’t big on the creativity. Another comic got confused too. I got pretzels at the venue which I ate out of a paper bowl while navigating the giant crowd and listening to comedy. Never say I shy away from fine dining when I go on the road.
The place was completely packed, wall to wall, nowhere to sit at all really. This whole huge fucking crowd was out for the open mic, maybe thinking it was some sort of pro, polished show? No idea. There was also a sign on the door saying the whole bar was closing the next day and moving to a new location. Maybe that was something to do with it. There was something funny about that, doing what we did tonight as the venue was preparing to shut down forever.
The sets were mostly pretty muted – the comedy was fine but the crowd was sort of just staring at us like we were zoo exhibits and sort of passively taking it in. Just another thing to do. Could’ve easily been watching commercials or a fish tank or something. They were fine; I’m glad they stayed, even if their comedy tastes were different from mine. The first 20-minute spot of the night was an older guy than me, this country sort of comic – he did very well. I thought it was funny that he had this very typical Southern classic dude sort of vibe, some jokes that you might expect that hit well with this crowd, mixed in with COVID-conscious stuff about masks and how the pandemic wasn’t over. Good to have variety. Good to not stereotype.
I did terribly. I liked how I delivered my material, and just to be clear it was an open mic and I was just trying new shit out. The crowd did not like it. I mostly got silence and bewildered stares. I was doing a lot of weird material with no buffer or softening the blow like I’d do in a feature set in a room like this. I share this because the bomb stories are relatable. I like the failure stories. Comedy isn’t all pretty. I just like getting out there and doing it, and sometimes it goes this way. I’d be suspicious of anyone who told you I was wrong about that.
Amanda went up immediately after me and did not mince any words. Pitch-black comedy, and glorious for it. No filter. I thought she was fucking brilliant. Some crowd members walked but she just leaned into it the same way I’d leaned into my awkward silence for my set. There’s all kinds of comedy and there’s room for all of it. Steve and I liked it and I hope she keeps doing it more after her hiatus. Book her if you can.
I valued the bomb. I’m not writing this to puff myself up, shit on the crowd or make fun of the mic or host. It was just me doing a set that failed to connect in any meaningful way beyond some scattered chuckles. That’s how it goes. I feel like unless you’re at some huge inflated level, the sets will vary and a lot of them will be very tough to break through. And it’s interesting to me. You learn things when the set does not go well. And you’re reminded that you’re just part of a huge world of people just doing art out there. I had fun for what it was.
When I was leaving, I had to piss but couldn’t find a gas station or anything open. I was right outside of Hickory on 321 going west. There was one gas station that was closed and another that didn’t have a bathroom. The McDonalds across the street was functionally closed except for drive-thru. Whole stretch of road with open establishments but no bathrooms. Just amazing to me really. Same thing with the earlier issue with the restaurant kitchen.
None of this was the fault of the workers – it’s just how dilapidated society is. We made a society that runs on ruthless moneymaking. A cold thing, brutal and harsh. Nothing matters but that and it’s a train running away from you if you miss it. They had to fire everyone during the pandemic and now it’s all just sort of held together with rubber bands. No space for basic needs anymore. Shame. Got to look out for your communities. It’s really quite sad how some things are these days. The individualism is suffocating and awful. It should be better. There should be some other way. I don’t know what it is.
But anyway, mostly it was about the comedy. I’m trying to book more shows. Maybe I’ll do it eventually. It was good to have another out of town adventure that didn’t go catastrophically.