"Have you ever felt horny before, only to realize that you just had to poop?" - A novice comic from this event who actually said this.
It must be really difficult to start out as a stand-up comic. Writing jokes that have the potential to resonate with different audiences is one matter, and delivering them effectively is another. Fortunately, there are plenty of open mic nights out there for people with different levels of experience to toss out whatever they've got and see if any of it lands.
To their credit, everyone involved in this endeavor was clearly aware of just how poorly the average set was going to go. Local comedian Bo Johnson (pictured above) made his affable hosting debut by trying out some material of his own, setting the audience's expectations as to what was to come, and forbidding the audience from heckling anyone. Comics walked up on stage with large notebooks in hand, and many of them left their eyes affixed on their pages throughout the majority of their sets. One guy's entire set consisted of flailing about on the ground while belting out the world's most strident Yoda impression.
As someone with absolutely no experience in stand-up comedy (and some interest in giving it a go for fun), watching this provided many great examples of the kind of things that *don't* work. One of the comics triggered audible groans in the audience after going on a rant about how "almost all Evanescence fans are fat girls," underscoring the fact that mean-spirited attacks on undeserving targets don't do anyone any good. Any anecdotes or joke setups that went on for too long quickly lost the audience, and when the comics noticed this and began to try to rush to the punchline, the pacing problems compounded. Oh, and long pauses kill momentum. A particularly nervous comic stopped telling jokes to talk at length about how he wish he had his glass of water with him... man, that was rough.
To be clear, nobody involved in this night was expected to bring their "A" game. Everyone was trying something new and they were in an environment that was ready to embrace their efforts in spite of any failures. Even when I wasn't laughing, seeing this process in motion was fascinating.