One Less Open Mic For Me
Notes about bombing on stage
If you’ve never been here before, here are a couple of my pieces to get you started:
Bounty Hunter — a guy I met who hunts people down for money
Witch — how I don’t regret swapping out my therapist for a crazy lady
I Took Ayahuasca to Solve a Health Problem — exactly what it sounds like
Anyway, below is a live audio recording along with the written piece from one of the shows where I opened for David Sedaris.
In future posts, I’ll try recording the audio version without a live audience and see if it’s still fun to listen to.
In other news, I’m wrapping up a book proposal and trying to up my Substack subscriber count from the current 2.5k to something more like 5k which will help increase the odds of getting the publisher to buy the proposal for a higher premium.
If you’re good at Substack marketing or have any ideas on how to pull this off, reach out.
Or if you have people that would like my writing, forward this to them and tell them to subscribe 🙃
And now, onto a new essay.
One Less Open Mic For Me
In an effort to practice one of my pieces, my boyfriend, Ben, and I have arrived at In Melody, a coffee shop in High Pines, Florida, for a Halloween-themed open mic.
I live in Miami.
And I hate that.
I’m a mountains, forest, cold-air kind of person.
I am stuck in Miami because my boyfriend has decided to enroll in an ophthalmology residency here, solely to ruin our life.
The coffee shop is large, like a Panera.
We order our lattes at the counter from a happy barista named Addie. Whiskers and cat ears — I’m convinced she dresses like this even when it’s not Halloween.
“Open Mic night is always a fun time,” she says to me.
“Oh, yeah!” I say back, “Just signed up.”
“Oh, you…did?” she says, surprised. “Usually, the performers are a bit younger.”
I ignore her. I’m just happy to be here.
In my neighborhood of South Beach, people aren’t consumers of literature, but rather photography: snapping Instagram pics of themselves sitting in Lamborghinis that they’ve rented.
The only place I’d ever be driving a rented Lamborghini is off of one of Florida’s unfortunately non-existent cliffs.
The other night I tried reading an essay at a standup mic in a dive bar near our home and was boo-ed out like a blue-haired genderqueer girl named Harmony at a Trump rally.
Or someplace even worse.
One less open mic for me.
Ben and I look around the room.
On the right side is a coffee shop — an assortment of college students and Gen Zs playing Fortnite.
And the left side is Open Mic Night. A stage surrounded by couches and chairs.
Mothers and their 6-year-old sons. Fathers and their 11-year-old daughters. Families who have promised their kids that tonight is the night they’ll each have their Justin-Beiber-found-playing-guitar-at-local-coffee-shop big break.
And all in Halloween costumes.
“You cannot go up there,” Ben says. “You cannot read that piece in front of these kids.”
“Oh, I’m going up there,” I say back. “We drove an hour. If I don’t have the guts to read this in front of 20 families, how am I supposed to read this in front of DAVID SEDARIS.”
Ben begs me to read something else.
“Absolutely not. This is the piece that needs practice. These people will love it. It’s not South Beach. It’s suburbia. They read things there.”
“Ugggh,” Ben says, as we sit.
“Here youuuu go,” Addie says, handing us our drinks. “Good luck,” she bounces off back to the bar and I imagine playfully licks her paw”
“Welcome to Open Mic Night. I’m your host Donny Z,” says a 19-year-old in a referee outfit with too much pep in his voice, like someone who spends every Saturday at a cheer camp.
A 10-year-old girl dressed as Taylor Swift with her stomach and shoulder fully exposed heckles him, “Let’s get this show on the road, buddy!”.
He laughs, “Hahah! You hold your horses there, Angela, you’ll be up here in no time!”
“I better be!” she says, before turning to her mother who high-fives the little whore.
The first performer goes up.
A 14-year-old dressed as some kind of doctor zombie. He plays guitar and sings Ed Sheeran.
The crowd applauds, and then MC introduces Angela.
“We all know and love her — every time she’s here it’s like a Miley Cyrus concert — please welcome Angela Roni!”
Angela walks up and sings Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift.
It’s sexual and uncomfortable, but the crowd doesn’t mind.
“Well, that’s not exactly appropriate...” I whisper to Ben.
“That’s different from what you’re about to do.”
I roll my eyes. Ben clearly doesn’t believe in me.
Angela wraps up, and the crowd applauds.
“Um,” Angela says, “So like. If anyone wants an autograph, you can speak to the old lady on the couch right there. Baiiiii.”
Her mom cackles, and so does everyone else.
And now it’s my turn.
“So,” I say, on stage, “I’m reading a piece I wrote about a trip I just took to India — I hope you all like it.”
Everyone smiles — they’re all on my side.
Even Taylor Swift.
Perhaps I’ve found myself an open mic?
“So, last week I was in India for my best friend’s wedding,” I say, “which was weird, because years ago, I had tried sleeping with her — by tried I mean failed, and to be clear, it’s not because the equipment didn’t work but because she opted out, almost as if she could smell that I would end up gay.”
The crowd goes silent.
A father’s smile fades.
An angel loses its wings.
I look over at Ben, who shakes his head.
I then talk about political relations between India and Pakistan, and as I do so, I realize that if you’re not listening well enough, I just sound racist.
I should stop now, maybe improvise something stupid about, I don’t know, “Things I wish I knew when I was 10 years old,” but instead, I proceed toward my death, moving painfully through each paragraph as if crawling naked across shards of glass.
My gut tightens, and my hands shake.
I look up to see that I’ve lost the entire crowd.
Even the other half of the room has stopped playing Fortnite, almost as if they don’t want to miss bearing witness to one of the worst moments of a stranger’s life.
The essay moves to the streets of Delhi, where I recap how we saw a wild monkey with enormous testicles, and I look up to see Taylor Swift’s mother looking at her the same way my own mother looked at me when she found out that my dad had let me watch South Park.
As if I’d been sullied.
As we reach minute 4 of the essay, where I talk about India’s problem with the homeless trans gypsy population that has been forced into sex work, I see, out of the corner of my eye, the MC tells his sound guy to cut me off.
My mic goes cold.
The crowd is mortified.
“Give it up for Alex Kruger, everyone!,” which triggers a slow, scared clap, as if these parents had blisters on their palms and were being told to give it up for Hitler.
I retreat to the spot next to Ben.
“You glad you did that?” he says.
“Shut up,” I snap back. “Let’s go”.
“Oh, you sure you don’t wanna stay? Maybe go up and finish the piece?”
I pack our things as fast as I can while Donny speaks.
“Now, I cannot stress this enough that this event is FAMILY FRIENDLY,” he says to the back of my head as Taylor Swift looks over with a lifted brow as if to say, “You’re in trouble…”
Ben and I scurry out, and as we pass by Barista Addie, who hides her eyes, ashamed that her coworkers might think that she knows me, we cross the back of the room and I see an 8-year-old dressed as Robin begin to scooter himself onto the stage because, of course, his leg is in a cast, and now I’d like to die.
“I hated how you kept saying ‘boyfriend’,” Ben whispers as we walk out, “that was so clearly me. I was so embarrassed.”
“This is NOT about you,” I say back.
And, as we step outside and breathe in thick hot air, I accept that I will no longer be invited back to perform at In Melody.
One less open mic for me.
Yay for humiliation!
Okay …..questions for you guys (please answer in the comments):
For the next piece, if I try doing just audio in my apartment, is going to suck to not have a laugh track? Should I try and pay someone to add an AI-Laughtrack haha? Literally imagining me reading to a bunch of stuffed animals.
Have y’all ever bombed on stage? I love these stories. Please share.
I asked a comment in the intro about Substack subscriber growth. Should I like…make a referral program for my current subscribers? Will anyone actually care lol? Maybe I’ll like, write a piece about the person who refers the most people? Honestly it feels not worth it though. I feel like the max referalls one person would generate for me would be like 15, and the time to write a piece would be like 6-8 hours, which, on a $/minute (ergo $/subscriber) basis, is not worth it. If y’all have any other ideas for what I could offer referrers in a way that’s more sustainable…lmk!
Palestine or Israel? I’m kidding. Please don’t answer this. Save it for someplace toxic like Twitter or TikTok or your interpersonal relationships, of which, this forum is not
Tis all, you little cuties.