For as long as the performer has existed, boorish audiences around the globe have conspired to usurp their moment of glory. It began in ancient Greece, and it continues today in Philadelphia, one of the most savage and insipid places on Earth. Our only hope to unburden the theatric realm of this scourge? Douse these cretins in nature’s most powerful disinfectant: light.
We present to you, Profiles in Heckling with Chris Cotton:
Lets set the scene… A young, in shape and handsome Chris Cotton (only eight months into stand-up comedy) finds out about an audition for Def Comedy Jam at the Laff House. At the time, I was getting a lot of shows, and people were whispering about me. So, I figured I was ready to audition for Def Jam. I went to the Laff House and asked if I could audition. Very respectfully, one of the owners (Mrs. Mona, R.I.P.) told me I wasn’t ready. What she didn’t know was that I had already fed into my own hype at that point, so her response wasn’t so much of an answer as it was a request.
I soon found out that it was a open audition. So, I went back to the Laff House and disrespectfully demanded to audition. They didn’t argue with me. They just warned me that I wasn’t ready and signed me up.
The night of the audition was crazy; I invited a few family members and my girlfriend (who’s now my wife). The place was packed. TuRae Gordon was hosting the show and he was killing. Comedians I had seen on TV went on stage and, while some were also killing it, others were just ok.
This was my first audition, so I didn’t know how to actually prepare for it. What you’re suppose to do is figure out the 5-8 minutes of jokes you’re going to tell and keep practicing them as much possible. I chose a different strategy: I wrote all new jokes a week prior, said them on stage a few times, and assumed I was ready.
I took the stage and instantly started bombing- hard. What made the bomb hurt even more is when I looked at the pain on my families face; I’m pretty sure my girlfriend was crying. After a solid three minutes of failure (that felt like 45 minutes), I stuttered over a punchline and then paused for one second. The crowd was dead silent. Then, from the back of the room, came one single solitary “Boo.”
It felt like a sniper had shot me.
This was not my first time getting booed. I was booed before in college by a few hundred people and, even though I knew half of them, I felt nothing. But since my family and girlfriend were there, that sniper boo went straight through my heart. I didn’t know what do, so I started angrily saying “Who said it, don’t be scared, speak up.” Then I got off stage.
Once I was done, I hid in the back corner of the comedy club. When the show was about to end, I was told by a waiter that my girlfriend was looking for me. I told the waiter to tell her to leave. “I’ll call her later,” I said. My girlfriend made the waiter tell her where I was hiding. She found me, gave me a hug and told me she’ll call me when she got home.
I went to bed at approximately 11 pm that night. I didn’t get out of bed until about 7 pm the next day. The only reason I got up was because an older comic named Sean Clay called me. Sean told me to be a man and go back to the Laff House that night and take my teasing like a pro. He also emphasized the fact that, if I didn’t go back right away, I would never forgive myself.
I went back that same night and was teased relentlessly. But I also got some stage time and did great. Needless to say, after that, I never looked back.
Check out Chris Cotton’s latest comedy short below and be sure to follow him on Twitter (@Cotton215).