Comedian Andrew Slater has some simple tips for anyone who feels brave enough to take part in his Open Mic Comedy Night at the Crystal Lounge.
YouTube, YouTube, YouTube.
"Go on YouTube if you're not acquainted with stand-up comedy then that's a great place to start. You can go with the classics, Carlin, Chris Rock, Seinfeld. There are tons of comedians, past and present, who are doing great things," he says.
"But the best advice is just for people to be themselves. If you explore the subjects that you know, it tends to ring more true."
He adds the "difficult" stuff, like the number of beats to a joke, is perfected through practice.
"You can work on it. Watch other comics with set-up and punch lines, tags, the structure of the jokes. Basically, you want to write a solid five minutes of material that gives you confidence," Slater says.
"The first time is usually the worst time for most people because you have nothing to compare it to unless they routinely do public speaking.
"But there's nothing like getting up in front of a room and conquering your fear and getting some laughs. It's like a drug."
Slater has been running the monthly Open Mic night for the last six months and a pattern about Whistler's rib ticklers and side splitters is beginning to emerge.
The next Open Mic Night is this coming Monday, May 5. Musician James Gray opens.
But for Slater, the best outcome is seeing a new talent killing it on stage.
"And the last show we put on, one comic — Ira Pettle — took a song, stripped the lyrics out and played over the PA and did his own interpretation. It was hilarious," Slater says.
Slater had been out in Whistler from Toronto for a year when he went to see the Crystal Lounge's bar manager Jono Young in 2013.
"I'd been doing a lot of open mic shows in Toronto on and off for three or four years and I had really hoped there would be some kind of community out here that would be interested," he says.
Whistler's LB Productions had put on a workshop for standup, which culminated in a competition at the Cinnamon Bear Lounge last fall (Anita Burleson, musical director at LB Productions, says they just did the one series but are open to holding more).
Slater says: "I saw that, indeed, there were some really, really funny comics in town."
And he did what any comedy master does these days to get the show on the road — he started a Facebook group.
"It grew over time. What it ushered in was having a bunch of comics who were obviously people who were into comedy and I was able to chat with them and get the first show organized."
For anyone wanting to check it out, it's called Whistler Open Mic'ers.
"We should have a statement that this is not about mice," Slater says.
Young says it was a no-brainer to get on board and the positive response means they want to stay on board.
"We at the Crystal have been supporting new and local up-and-coming musicians for years now and one day we thought to ourselves... COMEDIANS!" he says.
"The comedians have been outstanding and seem very grateful that there is a stage for them to do their stuff. They have been getting great support from the patrons and we are seeing many returning guests each month for a night of laughs."
So what stops people from giving it a try?
"The biggest single thing seems to be a fear of public speaking," Slater says. "Every single show I will call out to the audience to see if anyone is interested. It is absolutely the place to give it a try."
Do people sometimes just take a deep breath and go for it?
"One person we put up in the middle of show, because they seemed brazen enough and were asking for it. That was cool," he says.
"And then (musician) Jon Shrier at one of the shows took the plunge because he thought he could do it. I am hoping that more people will try it just by osmosis. It's the whole reason why it's an open mic show, it's the best way of doing things. It lets comics polish their act and it is a forum for people who want to try stand-up comedy. It's really a low-pressure situation."
Having the confidence to tell a joke to a room full of people has its practical applications, too.
"I've been a best man twice now and if I hadn't done stand-up, it would have been much harder... it made it much easier," Slater says.
One of the stand-ups appearing on Monday is Jimmy Mitchell, who has become a regular performer at Open Mic.
"I had wanted to do comedy for as long as I can remember — it took me 20 years to work up the courage. I wrote material down for around three years then one day I decided to either grow a pair and perform it or stop writing down all this material," he recalls.
"Most people don't understand how much work goes into a performance. Every one minute I perform on stage represents about 10 hours of work spent writing refining and rehearsing the performance.
"It's no different to a musician who spends years perfecting their craft before they ever get near stage to play a three-minute song."