If money talks, crickets are chirping in Open-Mic Land. Yet few Montreal open-micers expect cash for grinding it out in a sea of crossed arms, VLTs, Habs’ games and barely literate hecklers.
Pay? Not even on my radar until Paul Ash introduced me as MC for the Kickash Show at Andrew’s Pub last week. On my way to the stage – okay, the wall with the floor thing in front of it – I thought I heard him say something about ‘And this week’s winner … as MC … gets paid ….’Count me as one of them.
Before I took the mic I grabbed Paul’s hand and pulled him close. ‘I get paid for this?!’ He smiled and nodded. Even though I’m content to do stand-up for the laughs, let’s face it, getting paid goes a long way to validate the work.
I have no idea what other independent rooms in Montreal do in terms of paying MCs, closers, etc., so please don’t draw the conclusion that they don’t pay. I’m just happy they are there. (BTW, I’m not going to cover all the rooms here, but I will say that the people who run these rooms, weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, whatever, get my full respect and admiration – money or no money.) Many thanks to them all.
I despised Andrew’s Pub for comedy my first few times there. Football fields stretched out on either side of me while performing, yet I could reach out in front and grab a drink from the bar, there was no stage, and dumb-dumb hecklers (there are, actually, other kinds) let fly from darkened corners of the pub. It just seemed to be no match for the warmth of Burritoville.
Yet here’s the deal: Fill a room, any room, and if people decide to connect, the room disappears. A bit like Bruce Cockburn’s assessment of sex as ‘the suddenly compact universe of skin and breath and hair’, when comedy works, well, let’s just say … nah, let’s not. Let’s just say Fuck the Bruce Cockburn analogy, that was lame.
Working different rooms is helpful. Like going on the road without going on the road (says the comic who has never been on the road). In Montreal, since August, I’ve worked in at least a dozen different rooms. Some of the ones I considered awful have become comfortable now.
So then, Kickash kicked ass the other night, and here I am gushing about a place I bitched and moaned about not so long ago. And it’s my pleasure. I’m learning, more and more, to shut up and listen and let some time pass before passing judgement on what appears to be clear at first glance. Now watch me hate it again the next time. And so be it, but at least now I can overlook my visceral reaction to a room and a crowd, and appreciate the work and commitment of those like Paul Ash, Stevie and Morgan, and get on with it.
Bam, there it is.
And I got paid.
John St. Godard