Even with Halloween days away, any first-time comedian will tell you the most frightening thing you can do is to get onstage and try to make people laugh.
The first joke I did didnt have a punch line for two minutes – that was really stupid, says David Hunter, who began stand-up this year. I was building it up – I dont like rapid-fire jokes much. It was hard, but I knew when it started I was going to get a laugh. After the punch line, I honesty felt like I blacked out – I was so nervous.
For those who may be considering stand-up, consider this: Theres a significant difference between professional comedy and being the class clown, the friend with lightening-speed quips, or the guest with the affable dinner stories.
Thats where The Bomb Shelter steps in – its an open mic night with training wheels.
With a non-heckling tradition, beginner comedians will perform Saturday in front of a small audience that is supportive, or at the least, silent, if a joke bombs. Hunter and comedian Erica Anderson-Senter will host the sold-out event at the B-Side venue in One Lucky Guitar on Lafayette Street. The intimate venue seats nearly 50 people.
Organized by the creative marketing partnership Pye, Brown, co-founder Alex Brown says the event happens throughout the year as a part of their creative offerings. Saturday marks the third event. They also coordinate Quarantine poetry readings.
I dont think Im really that funny, says Anderson-Senter, who performed at the first Bomb Shelter. I can make some pretty funny quips on Twitter every now and then, but they keep asking me to be a part of (Bomb Shelter) so I have to succumb to it.
The best part of Bomb Shelter is that it is a very nurturing environment.
Mona Del Priore will be one of the comedians performing at the Bomb Shelter for the first time. Starting stand-up in January, the 21-year-old is slowly growing into her own style.
She has had previous experience at local comedy shows for a similar event known as Jirk Comedy.
One of the reasons I didnt do comedy for a long time was because there wasnt an environment like this. Theres an open mic night at coffee shops, but I would be the only one doing comedy, she says.
I dont feel comfortable onstage in front of people who arent there to hear comedy. This audience is open to hearing you; I say it is top notch, she adds.
Del Priore calls herself an introverted child and says that joining a social church group as a teenager eventually led to her profanity-laced material on the ridiculous things she experiences in her everyday life and finding her path as an adult, which includes leaving college to pursue a career in entertainment.
Im not really scared. My first show was like a dream – my friends wanted to support me, but I wanted to do it alone, she says. Theres nerves, but nerves are good. It keeps you on your toes.
Hunter, who will be performing for the second time since his debut at The Bomb Shelter, says he doesnt plan to pursue comedy as a profession, but he enjoys its outspoken nature.
A lot of his material has been inspired by his personal life as a young, gay man. He says that process of opening up to an audience can be uncomfortable, yet liberating.
The point is to be funny, and you cant be funny and noncontroversial, I guess. Its scary, but theres a bit of freedom from keeping a part of me a secret, he says. I get to be incredibly personal and force people to live in my world for 10 minutes, or so. It definitely can be a form of payback.
Del Priore, who would like to pursue a career as a comedy writer, says that stand-up shows like The Bomb Shelter are a steppingstone for her. Although she jokes about her parents disappointment in her decision to leave school, she feels like she is on the right track.
Where Im at right now is where Im supposed to be, she says. Im just taking it (rental) lease by lease.
Hunter says forging past the anxiety and fear is worth it when you find out there is some real merit behind the compliment, You should do stand-up.
It was probably the best night of my life, just learning what its about, he says. I can understand why people do this for years with relative failure; when you get a laugh, its incredibly satisfying, and I can imagine after awhile it can be kind of addictive.