Local comedian brings back popular open mic show

Bill Burfoot

“Performance Anxiety” gives comic hopefuls a chance to showcase their material.

Do you make your friends laugh so hard that they tell you that you should be doing comedy for a living? Do you enjoy getting laughs and can handle the odd silence after telling a joke you thought was funny, but nobody else does?   Do you like to be the center of attention?  Then you may be perfect for the new Performance Anxiety open mic night at Times Changed High and Lonesome club on Main Street.

Nelson Mayer is a local comedian who has been promoting comedy shows in Winnipeg since 2012, and started Performance Anxiety about four years ago with the vision of giving anyone, no matter if they’ve been on stage for years, or never stepped foot on a stage, a chance to perform.

“I let everyone on my stage, I want a karaoke vibe and because of that sometimes the quality of the show suffers, but that’s part of the fun,” says Mayer.  “Other people who run rooms are a little more selective and you have to earn your time by being funny.  I don’t think they are wrong, I just think they are different.  I’ve had people who develop on my stage and then go perform on those other stages.  It’s part of why I want to do this.”

In addition to Performance Anxiety, Mayer has also ran a monthly showcase in Grand Forks called the Canadian Comedy Invasion, a bi-weekly shows for about a year called Shut up and Laugh comedy showcase, the dark and dirty comedy show Insubordiate twice a year and started the Rez Dogs comedy show which featured Don Burnstick and other indigenous comedians.

Anyone hoping to get into stand-up comedy has to pay their dues and that usually includes spending countless hours on stage at a local open mic.  If you’ve never heard the term, it’s exactly what it sounds like. There’s a microphone on a stage, and just about anyone is invited to perform.

For a lot of people, getting on stage to speak in front of people is a paralyzing fear.  For Mayer, instead of starting slow, he decided his first time on stage would be at one of the holy grails of comedy.

“My first time on stage was June 13, 2010 at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.  I signed up to do a 3 minute open mic set.  I got on stage did about 90 seconds and then looked to see if the light was on yet.  I wanted off that stage,” says Mayer.  “But I told one joke that got some laughs, and I was hooked after that.”

Since that night in Los Angeles, Mayer has continued to hone his craft and has turned it into a career as a full-time comic, travelling all over Canada and the U.S.  It all started with that first time on stage, and Mayer says the best advice he could give someone who is thinking of trying their hands at comedy is to just keep it simple at first.

“Start with your stories, those things that make all your friends laugh will probably make strangers laugh and they will be easier to remember. Don’t get caught up in anyone else’s drama and just get on stage as often and at as many places as possible.”

If you’re looking for a place to test out your comedy chops, Performance Anxiety starts Sept 5th at Times Changed High and Lonesome club on Main street.  It runs every Tuesday night from 7-10pm.


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