Our new series, “A Comic’s Life” focuses on life on the road, performing stand-up. Dan Perlman is a young writer and comic, who has been performing comedy full time for two years. He performs nightly in New York City, and tours around the country at festivals, clubs and colleges. Dan is writing a series of articles for “A Comic’s Life”, which chronicles some of his thoughts and stories about being a young comedian just getting started in his career. This week, he writes about his first comedy festival.
“Dear you,” the form email began, “Congratulations on being selected for the 2014 Memphis Comedy Festival!” The January notice gave me a month to finalize (start making) plans. I’d never done a comedy festival, outside of the Brooklyn Comedy Fest last summer. I applied because Memphis seemed intriguing. I’d never been to the South, much less done stand-up there. I’d done stand-up every night since finishing college in June 2012 and I hadn’t left the Tristate area in that time. So, Tennessee would be a longer trip than Brooklyn; I Google-mapped that to confirm. Once confirmed, I booked the plans: one night in Memphis.
“Seth? You need to fill out your intro card,” the organizer said to me an hour before the show.
“Oh, I’m not Seth,” I said. She apologized – “Oh, I’m so sorry,” and went to find Seth. See, Seth had to fill out his card so the host would know how to introduce him. Neither the organizer nor I remembered that I hadn’t filled out that card either.
I didn’t give that moment a second thought until an hour later, when the host was bringing me onstage.
“This guy has a very professional name,” the host said, taking a beat. “Dan Perlman!”
It was an odd intro, one that made me laugh, as I realized that I didn’t provide any credits. Generally in that situation, the host will say, “Very funny guy,” “Plays clubs and colleges,” something generic like that – or, the other option, say that the guy’s name sounds like he’d be a good attorney or dentist.
I didn’t mind the intro at all. If anything, that mix-up made me more comfortable, giving something dumb to riff on as I started, so I could segue into material instead of just immediately launching into my set. The organizer apologized afterwards, while I said it was no issue. It’s interesting how a small, spontaneous moment like that is something I’ll remember way more vividly than the set itself.
Most important, Seth’s intro was a thing of beauty.
Saturday, February 8, at 12pm, eight hours earlier, I arrived in Memphis. Just to ensure I wouldn’t be lost ten minutes before the show, I took a taxi from the airport directly to the theater.
I knew a couple other comics who were in town, but I wanted to spend the day solo. Wandering around the city, I pulled out my phone and made a dumb video. I had enough fun with this thing that I think I’m going to make one short in every city I visit. I texted this “Quick Tour of Memphis,” to six friends; only three responded.
I’d been accepted for the 2013 Fest, where I sent one 47-second bit I used to do as my submission video. It was probably for the best that I couldn’t attend in 2013, as I wouldn’t have had much of value to say after that sure-fire 47 seconds of material.
Following the fun intro, the rest of the 10-minute set went well. Piecing the set together was a positive experience for me, thinking about what material would work in a different region. I enjoyed watching the other comics, which included some talented Chicago-based comedians that I’d met during college at Northwestern, where I started in stand-up.
After the shows, the festival folks invited the performers to chill at this Memphis blues club. I hung out at this spot late, ‘til it was time to head directly to the airport and sleep until I boarded the 7am Sunday flight back to New York.
“How was your weekend?” I asked a comic at a mic on Sunday night.
“Fine, same shit,” he said. “Yours?”
Dan Perlman is a stand-up comedian from New York. He co-founded, writes, and stars in the web series, Moderately Funny. You can find more info at danperlmancomedy.com.