by: Pat House ’03
In 1999, I was a freshman at O’Hara and I was obsessed with all things comedy – particularly stand-up. I was a huge Monty Python fan, I had every line of Wayne’s World 1 & 2 memorized (still do!) and I loved everything about Saturday Night Live, but nothing grabbed me the way stand-up comedy did. Just one person with a microphone – I loved it.
At some point during freshman year, the same notebook I used for English class inadvertently became my first comedy notebook. Any ridiculous thought, idea or observation I had was jotted down in that blue notebook. At the time, I had no idea what I planned to do with these random, scribbled notes, but for the next four years, I had that notebook with me everyday in high school.
After O’Hara, I went to Temple University, where I saw my first live stand-up shows. If a comedian was performing on campus, I was there. One night, after one of the shows, I introduced myself to one of the comics (who also happened to be from the Philly area), and said I wanted to try an open-mic. We talked comedy for a while, but most importantly, he told me where to go to try things out for myself. The following Wednesday, I took that infamous notebook to the Laff House on South Street.
I waited in line in the cold with a bunch of other aspiring comics, put my name on the list and was picked to go on fourth – and that was it. I was hooked. All it took was four minutes alone on stage for the addiction to begin. Getting that first big laugh in a comedy club is something I can’t even describe. It was a rush I never felt before. A rush I never even knew existed. For the next few years, I was getting on stage anywhere from five to ten times a week. Comedy clubs, bars, coffee shops – you name it; I couldn’t get on stage enough.
While it’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made, there have been plenty of rough nights along the way. When someone first starts out, for every good show, there are four bad ones and it’s easy to get discouraged. Most people are terrified of public speaking in the first place, so imagine being on stage in front of a room full of strangers. You’re supposed to make them laugh, but it’s just not happening. Your cheeks turn red, you start to sweat. The crowd can sense you’re nervous and you forget what you’re about to say next. The room gets awkward and everyone can feel it. It’s embarrassing, and not only that – a rough set can linger on your mind for days. The only remedy? Get on stage again! I’ve always been taught that you learn a lot from mistakes, and that has been exceptionally true in stand-up.
Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to make stand-up a career. In 2013, I recorded my first album right here in Philly (at Helium) and since then I’ve been busier than ever performing in comedy clubs, theaters and casinos all over the country.
I still have that notebook that I wrote my first jokes in, and it’s still in pretty good condition. Every time I flip through it, I’m reminded of being 14, sitting in O’Hara, wondering what I was going to do with those random, scribbled notes.
Pat House ’03 is headlining Helium Comedy Club on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Other comics on the show include Peggy O’Leary, Christian Alsis, Sergio Santana and Jake Mattera, who are all also O’Hara grads.
Pat can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @BohemianPatsody on Twitter and Instagram.