Laughter is the best medicine for Bethesda nightlife
Stand-up comics will perform weekly at the Hyatt
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
After seeing a women’s magazine cover touting ‘‘47 steps to A+ sex,” the Chevy Chase resident said he couldn’t help but think, ‘‘A+, B+. Who cares about grades anyway?”
Women should take some advice from men, Peacock said to the crowd’s laughter, ‘‘Take sex pass⁄fail.”
That’s Peacock on stage at night, performing his stand-up comedy routine.
By day, 43-year-old Peacock works as vice president of a financial services company, advising people on banking, trusts and investments. At home, Peacock is father to four young children — ages 2 to 11. But when the sun goes down, Peacock can sometimes be found onstage, performing his comedy at places like the D.C. Improv, the Topaz Hotel Bar and, now, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Bethesda.
Starting Saturday, the hotel will become home to the ‘‘Laugh Riot at the Hyatt,” a weekly comedy show featuring comics like Peacock.
The Bethesda line-up will include only the ‘‘cream of the crop” from the Metropolitan area’s open mic circuit, said Curt Shackelford, who is producing the show. Each week, five comics will take the stage and at the end of the show, audience members will have the chance to share their best joke and win $25.
Shackelford, a Chevy Chase resident who goes by his stage name instead of his legal name, Greg Estrada, hopes the show will inject energy into the ‘‘sleepy town” nightlife of the area. He already runs three other open mic comedy shows in the District and Virginia, but this will be his first venture into Bethesda.
In his home life, Peacock has found that comedy is accessible to his children as well.
‘‘They’re actually more familiar with my comedic life than my professional life,” he said. ‘‘My kids know all the Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, Steve Martin.... They’re more familiar with that. They don’t know what it means to refinance a mortgage.”
Peacock even hopes his children will try stand-up comedy in the future.
‘‘If each one of these kids went out of college and tried stand-up for two years, I think it would prepare them for any job they’d ever do,” he said. ‘‘You have to learn to write, you have to learn to edit, you have to constantly be self-critical and you become comfortable on stage, meaning you’re becoming comfortable communicating with people.”
Indeed, Peacock spends hours revising and practicing his material, analyzing tapes of himself and measuring his success by counting LPMs — laughs per minute.
‘‘If you’re not getting four LPMs, your setups are too long,” he said.
Sometimes, working on a routine is a challenge, Peacock said.
‘‘It’s hard to sort of revisit your material, try out new material and remember new material,” he said. ‘‘When it’s typed out, it’s five pages single-spaced.”
Yet, for all the work, Peacock does it willingly.
Quoting a famous comedian, he said stand-up comedy is the closest thing to justice.
‘‘The moment you finish something that you and the audience know was supposed to be a joke, you immediately get feedback: Was it bad? Crickets? Was it OK? Was it a groan?” Peacock said. ‘‘It’s just the pinnacle.”
Peacock has no plans to quit his day job, but hopes to mix his work with comedy in the future by providing humorous motivational talks at corporate events.
Performing comedy for corporate bigwigs could lead to future client relationships, so ‘‘it could be that my comedic work complements my day job,” he said.
Bethesda resident and stand-up comic Chris Palmer, 58, also hopes to bring comedy into his professional life.
As an Emmy award-winning wildlife filmmaker, American University professor and head of various filmmaking organizations, Palmer often gives speeches on environmental issues.
If environmentalists applied humor to issues like global warming, endangered species or the depletion of the ozone layer, he said, people might think more seriously about the environment.
‘‘Instead of talking about them in a boring way, can we talk about them in a way that elicits laughter and therefore a new understanding and a new perspective?” he said. ‘‘When people laugh, they become open to new ideas.”
Palmer admits most of his current stand-up material centers around his family and college students from his classes, but he hopes to include more environmental issues in the future.
‘‘Laughter and humor are wonderful in that you can say things with humor that you are not allowed to say without humor,” he said. ‘‘You can reveal things, you can share insight into issues through humor that are too sensitive to be talked about in just a straightforward way. It’s an incredible tool.”
But that’s not to say that ‘‘finding the funny” comes easily, Palmer said.
‘‘It’s much harder work than you think,” he said. ‘‘It actually takes me about several weeks to come up with one joke.”
Palmer has to carefully consider the setup of his jokes, the placement of his pauses and the choice of his words.
‘‘There are certain words that are funnier than other words,” he said. For example, ‘‘Cupcake is funnier than honey.”
Since beginning his life as a comic after taking a stand-up comedy class last spring, Palmer said it has been an educational, but fun, experience.
‘‘A year ago, I knew nothing about this,” he said. ‘‘It’s a whole new community I’ve gotten to learn about and I love it.”