Editors Note: This piece was originally published on WitOut, a blog run by a group of comedians that covers the burgeoning and lively comedy scene in Philadelphia. You can follow WitOut on their website, on Facebook and Twitter
Dear Philadelphia Comedy,
All of it. Every open mic that lasted for two weeks in a bar I’d never want to step foot in unless they let me talk at half-listening strangers. Every fire hall gig in the middle of nowhere booked by a gravelly disembodied voice on the phone with a promise of pay I wasn’t sure I’d really receive. Every awkward improv scene where I wasn’t sure what to do so I just got louder, repeated what I’d already been saying, and tried to be a bigger, sillier, goofier fool. Every line of every sketch where I’ve agonized over details that don’t even matter, like the full first and last name of a character whose name is never even said.
All of it. Every time a new joke does well at an open mic and gives promise of a new few minutes added onto the act. Every set in front of a crowd that just “gets it” and lets me go where I want to go and follows me there with no judgement, just acceptance…and of course, laughter. Every improv scene where I’m still not sure what to do but it just clicks into place and makes sense and flows together and builds (and I still become a bigger, sillier, goofier fool). That time when the crowd laughed just because we wrote that my character’s name was “Meredith.”
Six years ago I stepped onto a stage at an open mic for the first time with a page full of jokes about dicks and how college was more like an episode of I Love the ’80s (“do you guys remember this thing from our childhood?”) than any wild and crazy party time portrayal of college from any TV show or movie. Six years later and I’m still getting on stages, still talking about dumb stuff, and still loving every single minute of it.
I love the laughter. I love the struggle. I love the people. I’ve met some of the best friends I’ll ever make doing this. People I have every single thing in the world in common with. People I have absolutely nothing in common with besides the fact that we do this. But just that one single thing means that I could talk to them for hours. There’s nothing I feel more comfortable talking about or gushing over or heatedly debating than comedy.
This city put that in me. Running around to multiple mics in one night with a group of friends. Staying late after a show to do karaoke and drink until the law says we have to leave. Packing as many people as we can into a park on Memorial Day for a picnic. Giving each other awards that only matter because we say they do.
Doing comedy is certainly difficult, but it is definitely worth it. Getting to say whatever you want to say and making people laugh is the absolute best feeling in the world. It is freeing. It is powerful. But it would be nothing without the people I’ve met along the way. When I say this letter is to “Philadelphia Comedy” that means that it is to you. Have we talked a few times at open mics about nothing? Then this is to you. Did you think I was a dick before you met me because when I first started I was too shy to talk to people? Then I’m sorry, and this is to you. Are you someone that knows me well enough that you’re going to make fun of me mercilessly after reading this? Then this is definitely to you.
I have to be leaving you soon. But you will never leave me.
The writer, Aaron Hertzog, is now based in L.A. While here in Philly, he was the host of ‘Hey Everybody!’ at Philly Improv Theater, was a member of PHIT House Team Hey Rube and a founding member of The Holding Court Podcast.