I don’t work here: Q&A with standup comedian Megan MacKay

Former AQ Features editor Megan MacKay is a regular at Comedy Night. (Tom Bateman/AQ)

Tell me about Comedy Night.

It started in June. A guy named Matt Caldwell put up a bunch of posters down­town being like, “I want to put together a comedy night at the Capital.” He talk­ed to [Capital Complex booking agent] Zach Atkinson about it and Zach was to­tally down. So the first night we did it we had a few established comics like Lloyd Ravn and Cory Hartlen. I performed be­cause I just happened to come across a poster and I had been writing material in my head just bopping around town. People kept coming up to us afterwards being like, “How do we get this started? How do we get involved?” Since then it’s grown to a roster of over 20 comedians that perform once a month in Wilser’s Room.

It starts at 8 p.m. and there’s a $5 sug­gested donation. We all draw straws to figure out who goes in what order. There’s no real bill, nobody’s weighted any more than anyone else really. Usually people with more experience get more time up onstage, but that’s about it.

What’s the funniest thing that has happened so far?

I’ll just tell you about the worst expe­rience I had. I was hosting – and I suck at hosting because I can’t cut my ma­terial down into smaller chunks – and I had gotten so nervous that I was fairly intoxicated about three quarters of the way through. I go up onstage, I do a joke, forget the punch line, I bomb it, and I just end up going, “All right, everybody, why don’t you join me and we’ll all die alone!” And there’s silence and a girl in the back goes, “Awwww!” I walk offstage and this guy taps me on the shoulder and goes, “Hey, can I get a Moose Light?” And I go, “I don’t work here.” It was so awful.

How similar is stand-up comedy to the opening of Seinfeld?

I would say comedy has evolved from a place where it’s less about, “Hey you know what’s weird? This.” There’s still some comics who perform like that, I mean, the one-liners will always be there. The guys who are like, “My wife’s vagina is soooooo unfriendly to me!” Like, I hate stuff like that. But there are still people who do that. The ones that really grab my attention and the ones that I find the most hilarious are the sto­rytellers – people who can really laugh at themselves and who also can draw your attention to something that is timeless. B.J. Worthy has a joke about how she keeps a package of ketchup in her wallet instead of a condom these days, which I think is so funny. And it’s timeless, right? Everyone can relate to that, not getting laid and being in love with poutine.

How do you recover when a joke bombs?

Every single time I perform I walk off­stage and I hate myself. For like, 10 min­utes, just being like, “I was the dumbest thing ever!” [From the stage] you can’t see anyone’s faces other than the front row and you can’t really hear if people are laughing. Actually, a guy named Nick Beaton came through in the summer and a couple of us got to open for him and he was hilarious. If you’re ever going to throw your own comedy show and you don’t want to pay your performers, you should definitely pay them in drinks and then have them sit in the back and be your own personal laugh track. We were howling with laughter. Afterwards we all went outside… and he was just sitting there like, so sad. He said he didn’t think it went very well and we said, “Buddy, you were amazing! How do you not even know that?” And he said it was just a part of it. The self-hatred is just a part of it. Like, oh, that’s good to know.

Catch the next Comedy Night at Wils­er’s Room on Thursday at 8 p.m.

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