February 13th 2009 was the first time I got to do a show at the TakeOut Comedy Club Hong Kong.
After attending the workshop in January and doing only 3 open mic sessions owner and founder Jami Gong asked me if I wanted to do a few minutes on a show I came to watch.
I wasn’t really prepared for this, but somehow insanity won out over reason and I did it.
It wasn’t great and I wasn’t really comfortable on stage, but it wasn’t all bad either. And most importantly, I did it!
Since then 2 years have passed, with ups and downs, but clearly more ups. It’s been a wild ride so far, and I’m ready for more.

So after my first experience in front of an actual audience I went on to improve. Improve my material, to make it tighter and funnier. Improve my delivery, in order to be able to say things funnier. And improve my confidence, so I wouldn’t need to change my pants after every show.
And certainly there’s more than just that.

In addition to helping me become a better comedian all this helped me off stage too.
Going on stage to make 100 strangers laugh makes giving a presentation in front of 10 or 20 colleagues at work feel like a walk in the park.

A week after my spontaneous debut I had my official debut, with my name appearing on the blackboard outside the club for the first time. It went quite similar to my first time, but I felt a bit better up on stage, after having successfully survived my first attempt without being stoned to death by a bored audience.

My 6th show was quite a disaster. Stage-right there was a group of drunk guys out on a bachelor party. As the audience was quite small this group actually made up for more than 50 percent of the crowd. And they took me apart.
I was simply too inexperienced to handle them, but I didn’t let it discourage me or even ruin my evening. Stuff like this can happen to anybody, and I figured it’s better to be burned early on than later.

From there on I kept steadily improving. I kept going to open mic sessions and kept doing shows. Through getting on stage and feedback from Jami and the other comedians I could tackle what was necessary to improve as a comedian.

A few weeks before competing in my first comedy festival I was invited to perform in a show for a charity organization. That night marked my first bigger show, with around 80 people in attendance.
Never before, and never afterwards, have I felt as nervous as when the previous comedian came down and Jami went up for some more crowd work. I felt like I had to take the biggest dump in the world.
But once he was done and I got on stage everything was cool and I had a kick-ass set.
I like to think that this night was psychologically important for me before the competition, because I knew I could do my thing in front of a big crowd.
And so it came that in the preliminary round I managed to tie for first place, which meant that I moved on to compete in the finals and that I got to open for the very funny Kerri Louise.
I did not manage to get into the top 3 of the finals, but I had a great set and an awesome time, and that’s what’s important.

The following month, November 2009, I opened for Paul Ogata, one of the funniest and most energetic comedians I’ve ever seen. Again, I had a great time.

Sadly after that came a time where life wasn’t really going my way and that also affected my performance. I lacked energy and just didn’t deliver as good as I should have.
After a while I figured that’s just the way it sometimes goes and tried to hold on to my usually positive attitude.
If life piles shit on you, get a shovel.
So I did what I had to do to get back into the game, and although it took some time I managed to find the energy to get back to where I was before.

And again I started to work on improving, with the 2010 competition still a couple of months away I set myself the goal of making it back to the finals.
During that time I also started rewriting a lot of my material. Reading it over and over in order to eliminate weak spots and improve my set.

July 2010 we went back to Germany to visit the family for a while, and what fun we had.
In preparation of our big holiday I contacted a couple of comedy clubs in order to try doing stand-up in German for the first time. So I ended up taking my wife to Berlin for 2 days where I participated in an open mic session at the Scheinbar. I had a good time and met some nice and very funny people there, but my set was far from what I had gotten used to back in HK.
Still, I consider it a worthwhile experience.

By the time the festival arrived I felt ready to kick some serious ass, and managed to tie for 3rd place during the preliminary. Sadly, due to the high number of contestants not all 3rd places could advance to the finals, and I was one of the unlucky victims by not scoring enough points.
Still, I had a lot of fun and again met a lot of cool people.

I kept it going strong after the competition and during our Christmas vacation I joined a couple of friends from TakeOut Comedy in a spontaneously set up show at Nigi Nigi on Boracay Island, Philippines. There for the first time my son got to see daddy live on stage.

The new year came and with it a series of wicked sets. I started 2011 with what I can probably call some of my best sets so far.
On the last show in January we had a full house, a great crowd and I had a blast on stage. It was outright insane.
Also I started to get the crowd involved a bit, something I still need to work on in order to further improve my set.

The first week of February saw my streak of great sets come to an end with a set that wasn’t bad, but nowhere near the level of the 3 sets I had started the year with.

Now I am getting ready to rise to the level of January to properly celebrate my 2nd anniversary of going on stage to make people laugh. That’s gonna happen tomorrow, and I actually can’t wait for it!

Doing stand-up comedy is a crazy experience. Aside from the warm feeling of knowing you’ve just given people 8 minutes of laughs there are all those great off-stage moments that add to the whole thing.
We get to hang out with the pros Jami flies in, which is great as they are all willing to share from their own experience and also plain fun to hang out with.
People like Ted Alexandro, Butch Bradley or Tom Cotter, among many others, all people who have performed on Comedy Central, Letterman, Leno or have a voice part in dog porn, they all come down to HK not only to do their shows, but they actively contribute and are always willing to give advice.

And finally there are those things that happen and just make you feel good about what you’re doing. Thus far I can name 3 moments that stand out to me, as they all came to me totally unexpected, but all managed to give me this warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing that I’m doing the right thing.
Here we go, in chronological order:

  1. When I was still quite new to stand-up a member of the audience asked me if I’d take a photo with him.
  2. During competition time in 2010 a member of the audience (I guess on preliminary night) recognized and approached me while I was carrying around my son at the first Red Bull Flugtag HK.
  3. After a show a member of the audience came up to me to tell me that he came to see the show because he had seen my name on the line-up.

These are things I was just never expecting to happen. And this isn’t why I’m doing this. Still, it does make you feel good when people tell you they think you’re funny.

So, coming to an end I would like to thank Jami Gong, owner and founder of TakeOut Comedy, the whole gang of comedians that share the stage with me (more or less) every weekend, all the pros that come down and dish out valuable advice, the guys at Scheinbar in Berlin and of course all the people that come to see our shows!
It’s been a great time so far, and I am looking forward to more!

Thank you!
Dennis Wronka

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