It takes an extraordinary set of balls — metaphorically speaking — to even try stand-up. Not because public speaking is scary (though it is). To get on stage and make strangers chuckle, you must first believe you can bring the funny. And you might be wrong.
"Delusion is necessary to do this," comic Marc Maron told his fellows during the keynote address at the 2011 Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal — the art form's most prestigious showcase. "Some of you aren't that great.... Some of you will be heralded as geniuses and become huge. Of course, all of you think that one describes you, hence the delusion necessary to push on."
There's no question that more and more St. Louisans are giving standup a shot. Over the last few years, the number of aspirants signing up for Tuesday night open-mic slots at the FunnyBone in Westport Plaza has doubled, says emcee Sean O'Brien. These days, about 50 hopefuls show up for only twelve available openings.
Luckily for them, at least a dozen other comedy events have sprouted up around St. Louis in the last couple years, according to Ben Flug, founder of production company No Name Comix.
"There's a show going on almost every night of the week," reports Flug. "We have guys regularly doing three or four open mics in one night. That used to be unheard of in this town."
So we at RFT wondered: What would happen if we pitted sixteen of these scrappy, awkward open-mic'ers against each other in a March Madness-style tournament?
Over the last two weeks, we did just that.
In the first round, our blog readers voted on which comics had the funniest tweets answering the question, "You know what's funny about St. Louis?" In the second round, the public narrowed the field down to four based on which contestant had the funniest audio clip answering the question, "You know what's mind-blowing about me?"
On April Fool's Day, you're invited to Brennan's (4659 Maryland Avenue, 314-361-9444) in the Central West End to see the "final four" in action and help crown a champion. Are these guys delusional or destined for standup stardom? Whether you laugh at them or with them, come help us decide.
What is your favorite flower? Roses smell good. Green roses are cool. Yellow roses have always had a special place in my heart.
Who are your favorite painters? Paul Guaguin, Vincent Van Gogh. I grew up on Boris Vallejo.
Who are your heroes in real life? George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Louis CK and Chuck Norris.
What is it you most dislike?Bullies.
What is your motto? Ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long.
Biggest defect: Social anxiety.
What historical figures do you most despise? Apart from the usuals like Hitler, Christopher Columbus.
What natural gift would you most like to possess? Fifty-inch vertical jump.
How would you like to die? I would like to die by taking a shit-ton of drugs and fighting progressively larger animals.
What is your motto? Don't panic.
What is your favorite occupation? German occupation of France. Now that's a textbook occupation.
What historical figures do you most despise? The first guy to masturbate and decide that it was a sin, because if he made that decision after he finished, then he's the biggest douche in history.
What is your favorite bird? No. 1 the titmouse; No. 2 the assbadger.
Who is your favorite hero of fiction? Shane from Apathy and Other Small Victories by Paul Neilan.
What event in military history do you most admire? Hannibal's crossing of the Alps, and the fact that he pulled it off without Google Maps or an iPhone.
The quality you most like in a woman? Sweet, voluptuous credit scores. What can I say? I get more pragmatic as I age.
What is your principal defect? I'm told I possess a few neurotic tendencies. Someone recently said that I look thinner. I told them it was probably throat cancer.
Who are your heroes in real life? As an angry liberal, I would say about 90 percent of my Occupy Wall Street friends. It takes a lot of courage to speak out against something you barely understand.
What's your motto? I had an application parse out the most used word in my Facebook status updates. My top word was "Ugh."
How would you like to die? However it happens, I would like my dead (un-cremated) body shot out of a cannon. Bury me where I land (even if you have to dig up a street).