Throughout the years I’ve maintained this blog, I’ve touched often on the differences between hosting and doing spots. A graph of my “career” would look like an X; at the start, I only did spots, and it would take some time before I had the nerve to try hosting. Flash forward to the present when, nine times out of ten, I’m spending my stage time as host.

The biggest reason for that is quitting the grind years ago. Even before I burned out and needed a break just before covid debuted (don’t ever accuse me of having bad timing), I had already stopped hunting. Between my own club, Maffia and Standup Star, four nights out of seven were booked. I didn’t have the time… well, I would’ve made the time except I didn’t have the will, either, to chase more than the occasional gig now and then at other clubs.

Just getting back into the standup scene at all was a different grind all on its own. Looking back, it’s hard to understand yet easy to remember the anxiety I’d feel as I left my apartment to spend a few hours in a comedy club. Those tenuous first baby steps were almost exclusively hosting gigs, which set the tone for the next few years, leading to present day. My social media activity is pretty much posting this blog every Monday and a selfie on my story here and there. I think I can count on one hand the number of clubs I’ve performed at since 2020.

When I host, I’m a cheerleader. There’s only one mode I can be in when I host. When I do a spot, I can be any way I like. Angry or upbeat or low energy or whatever, the sky is the limit! Or so I’ve said many times in the past. And it was true in the past, but a side effect of it being so comparatively rare to just do a spot now is that there are really only two ways it can go. Either I take it very seriously and I end up having the same energy I do as host (and also material), or I just dick around and get a poor reaction.

I experienced both in the last few weeks, starting with the latter. I’d been booked at Big Ben Comedy Club by a host who claimed, “It’ll be a special Halloween show, we’ll all dress up and roast each other!” I love Halloween, but I knew what was going to happen, that no one, including the host, would dress up. I was almost right; one rookie wore a Spider-Man shirt. I would not be denied, though, and went on stage wearing a suit and Venetian mask. I even roasted the host.

Naturally, it went over like a lead balloon. I’d recycled the outfit from another Halloween show years earlier and it worked great then, but only because everyone else dressed up. Wearing a mask cut me off from the crowd, starting me with a handicap, one that I might have been overcome if I hadn’t made everyone hate me by first insulting the host and then telling the crowd, “If America had a cock you would suck it.”

At least I didn’t mind bombing. I liked my roast joke and glad I followed through with wearing a costume instead of just doing a proper gig. I couldn’t help reflecting on the fact, however, that the rookie before me had spent five minutes talking about nothing other than shitting, yet he got an applause break and I got zero laughs. Still, I take a perverse sort of pride knowing that, though it be next to impossible to bomb there, I manage to do so on a fairly regular basis.

A few nights ago I had two gigs and I can’t remember the last time that happened. First at Maffia, then at Laugh House. I was doing spots, I took them seriously, but I also took risks, in both clubs trying out jokes I’d thought of just before going on stage. I love being on stage, of course, but there’s little thrill in getting a good reaction to a joke you’ve said a hundred times or more already. I don’t want to take risks when I host, because if I bomb I not only set a bad tone for the comics, the crowd has to see me again and again. Doing a spot, if a joke doesn’t work I can save the set with material that does work, and if I fail at that also, doesn’t matter, there’s a host and other comics to save the night.

Fortunately for me, not only did both these spots go well, the risks paid off too. You’re only as good as your last gig, as they say. I can congratulate myself knowing that, when it matters, I can do well.