Bad Funny vs. Funny: What’s the Difference?

In the early nineties I drove from New Jersey to Los Angeles by myself in order to pursue a career in stand-up comedy and screenwriting. I performed my stand-up routine about a hundred times, wrote two screenplays, and produced a well-received short film called “Spytown”. During that time, I also pursued a career in the family business: private investigations. Turns out, I found myself making a lot more money catching bad guys than making people laugh. So now, fast forward more than two decades, I’m the CEO of a successful private investigation firm and still have the bug for being an entertainer. In addition to developing a few writing projects while running my company, I’m also in the Los Angeles comedy scene performing the occasional stand-up spot. As a wannabe comedian, I’ve gotten some chuckles and encouragement from several comedians to stick with it so I can keep working my material. In entertainment, that’s code for “You’re not ready kid, but keep trying.” Personally, as a world-famous private eye, I’ve been a public speaker for more than a decade. I’ve given countless lectures to investigators, cops, lawyers, prosecutors, and even Congress. After so many times of repeating the same material, I just don’t know if my heart can be into material that I repeat day in and day out.

Nonetheless, I have been a huge fan of a number of performers in the Venice Beach comedy scene and am a patron of their performances. In addition, I’ve shown up to perform my routine here and there. Again, a few chuckles, but mainly encouragement to keep working the material and advice to not quit my day job. One night, I was at my local watering hole in Venice Beach and just about to head home. I decided to walk past the neighboring bar and saw that there was an open mic night going on. I decided to head in for a drink and possibly get up on stage, work out my material and hopefully get a few chuckles. I sat at the bar, ordered a beer, watched the show, and put my name on the list. When my name was called, I came to the stage and grabbed the microphone. Remember, by this time I drank several beers and set aside no time to prepare for this. As I grasped the mic, I sweated a bit and began to belt out one of the routines I had memorized. After the first sentence of the routine, my brain went blank and I stood there with nothing to say. Quickly, I recalled another routine I’d written and belted out the first line of that one. Then, the same thing happened. I hit a stopping point and could not recall the next line. This happened two more times. My set lasted maybe three minutes but it felt like an eternity. As it happened, the crowd and bar staff were very encouraging and cheered me through and even gave me a sort of ovation as I stepped off the stage. I went home knowing I had blundered, but had a great time.

This morning, a couple weeks after that open mic, I was at the same bar for brunch with a friend. On our way out, a beautiful young blonde dressed as a server ran up to me, hugged me, and said, “Are you Rob?! You were so funny the other night!” Before I could blurt out a response, she continued, “Like bad funny! We were laughing so hard because you looked like a deer in the headlights. You must have had a few drinks!” I am an exhibitionist who does not get embarrassed. That is why I was absolutely tickled by her words and also relishing in my infamy. However, I thought this to be good fodder for a blog post. The reason is that I found two observations from this interaction worth noting. First, if you want to impress people with something you’ve prepared, don’t consume alcohol beforehand. Second, Rob Holmes is funny even when he’s not trying. Both are true. Both are words to live by.

Now, I’m going to finish my coffee.