Behind the CCP: My First Time

Michael Showalter hosts tonight’s special Comedy Central Presents: My First Time, which explores the early jokey jokes and stand-up starts of Showalter, Michael Ian Black, Mike Birbiglia and Bonnie McFarlane. Here, let Showalter explain it.

During the taping back in August, Showalter explained to the audience that this show wouldn’t be about comedians losing their virginity, although they would talk about losing their onstage virginity, so to speak. Coincidentally, an off-Broadway show a few blocks west of the Comedy Central tapings in fact was called My First Time and in fact did have actors reading monologues about people losing their virginity, in fact. So any confusion could be expected. Showalter apparently finished fourth in a four-person comedy contest in his youth, and recounted his highway sign joke that he thought would win it all.

Birbiglia reminisced at length about the second time he’d ever tried stand-up, leaving his Georgetown campus for a Virginia bar called Fat Tuesdays. When he arrived, he discovered they expected him to perform for a half-hour. "I was thinking, man, I only have 11 minutes of comedy, so…yeah!" Other tidbits: He had six topics written on note cards to help him remember his material. They said Teletubbies, Cookie Monster, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, The A-Team, Stick Insects, and Slash. He was so nervous he threw up on the sidewalk. Not now. Then. Looking back on it, Birbiglia told the audience, "I think to be a comedian you have to be delusional," because if people don’t like your comedy, they essentially don’t like you. Also, as I noted in my latest interview with Birbiglia, the show’s producers asked him to redo his humming onstage so it wouldn’t sound too much like Kenny G. Good times.

Michael Ian Black said he didn’t know much about stand-up comedy because all of his experience had been in sketch comedy (The State, Stella). "Mostly what I was doing was conceptual comedy," he said. "And by conceptual, I mean not funny."

Bonnie McFarlane didn’t really have any stories to share, instead deciding to go through some of her oldest jokes.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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