Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A few things I learned as a judge for Autism Laughs

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Jay Revis hosting Autism Laughs on April 12.
On April 12 and 22 I was one of the judges for two of the preliminary rounds of Austism Laughs, a fundraiser for the Georgia Chapter of Austim Speaks. More than 50 comedians competed in the three preliminaries, and the 15 finalists go head-to-head on April 26 at Neighborhood Pub in Virginia Highlands on Thursday night. Here are Thursday night's contenders:

Finalists from April 12: Mike Haun, Steve Mills, Laura Austin, Wellington Juku, Evan Fowler

Finalists from April 15: Blake Wilson, Mr. D, Rob Haze, Remi Treuer, Greg Behrens

Finalists from April 22: Dulce Sloan, Ben Owen, Bo McMichael, Cynthia Johnson, Viet Huynh

In general, the April 26 show should provide an excellent showcase for the quality and diversity of the young performers on Atlanta's comedy scene. Here's a few things I learned as a judge:

1. Judging requires a great deal of focus and snap decisions. The 18 comics of each night had five-minute sets, and in the interim between one leaving the stage and one taking it, we'd jot down our rankings based on five categories (stage persona, joke-writing, likability, etc.). The time passed surprisingly quickly.
2. The shows were structured so at the mid-point, a non-competing "featured comic" would perform a set so the judges had a chance to go to the bathroom. The hosts and featured comics I saw were Jay Revis, Prime-Time Steve and Michael Dowe, who all did good work.
3. Two comedians amusingly mined their roles as stay-at-home dads. Finalist Bo McMichael performed nearly his entire set as a sleep-deprived, stresssed-out dad at an emotional breaking point.
4. One female comedian spoke at length about vampires, and another spoke at length about zombies. Is there a connection between women, comedy and monsters? Or were they catering their jokes to the nerd demographic?
5. Tip for competitors: Don't mess with the judges unless you have something really funny to say. I tried to be as fair and attentive as possible, but if you make the judges feel self-conscious or awkward, they won't laugh, and if they're not laughing, they probably won't vote for you.
6. Tip for young comedians: If you're tempted to make a joke about abortion, you should really resist that temptation. Unless it's the greatest joke in the world, it risks turning a significant portion of the audience against you.
7. I used to compile the Top 5 Tweets from ATL Comics This Week, and this was the first time I saw some of the most dedicated tweeters. They all proved quite entertaining in person, including Dowe, Carlos Valencia and Evan Fowler (who killed in his set).

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