The first time Spokane comedian Michael Glatzmaier stepped onstage, he walked up to the mic, looked at the audience and said “Hi, my name is Michael Glatzmaier.”
He then promptly forgot all of his material.
Not wanting to make too abrupt of an exit, he said “Thank you” before walking off stage.
He’s convinced the audience thought it was part of a strange bit, not the nerves of a new comic, and though he technically bombed, Glatzmaier realized comedy was what he was meant to do.
“ ‘I’m coming back next week,’ ” he remembered thinking.
Glatzmaier’s sets are longer now, as he’s spent the past six years finessing his “mostly improvised” style of musical comedy.
He’ll headline the Spokane Comedy Club on Sunday and is recording the show for an upcoming CD.
Although he often incorporates written material into his sets, Glatzmaier has become known for his ability to improvise comedic songs based on audience suggestions.
Before he steps onstage, Glatzmaier has someone ask the audience things like “If your life was a song title, what would that song title be?” Those answers are then written on a whiteboard.
“They try to get suggestions from the audience that are fun and clever,” Glatzmaier said. “To have a playful show, you have to have playful suggestions.”
Glatzmaier makes sure he’s out of the room when the suggestions are being collected so he doesn’t have a chance to think about the song he’ll create.
When he steps onstage, he glances at the board, chooses a word or phrase that he thinks paints the best picture or that the audience might relate to the most and instantly starts improvising a song.
The weirdest suggestion he’s seen on the board? “Twerking for Jesus.”
Each song’s genre is improvised too. Glatzmaier always plays acoustic guitar, but he’s performed everything from country to rap and once improvised a song that included yodeling.
Glatzmaier has blended music and comedy since his father started teaching him to play the guitar when he was 8.
Shortly thereafter, Glatzmaier began sitting on his porch and creating songs on the spot about the people who walked by.
“I hate listening to the same song over and over,” Glatzmaiser said. “Ever since I was a kid, I created this format where people are the ones who become my music, what they say becomes part of my show.”
In between songs, Glatzmaier will have a member of the audience help him with a semi-prepared sketch.
At one show, for example, this sketch involved Glatzmaier handing every person in the audience a packet of oatmeal so he could feel like a talk show host who gives members of the audience gifts.
“I stood onstage and I said ‘If you don’t like the show, I’d appreciate it if you gave me my oatmeal back,’ ” he said with a laugh.
For the record, Glatzmaier didn’t get any oatmeal back.
His sketch idea for this show has something to do with Valentine’s Day.
Glatzmaier records his shows because he finds he forgets the songs he’s created as soon as he steps off stage.
“People are like ‘Michael, remember when you said that?’ ” he said. “I’m like ‘No, I don’t’ because I get into this zone where I’m just playing.”
By listening back to his shows, Glatzmaier can identify bits he can expand into full songs or incorporate into his standup material.
Glatzmaier released a CD, “Michael Glatzmaier: Mostly Improvised,” in 2015 and has performed his one-man show, also called “Mostly Improvised,” everywhere from Spokane and Seattle to New York.
After this show, Glatzmaier is turning his attention back to the book he’s writing, a collection of autobiographical short stories that chronicle his experience growing up the youngest of five boys, attending special education classes in high school before transitioning to general education classes his senior year and more.
He hopes to release the book, and the CD of this show, in the fall. After the book is out, Glatzmaier wants to tour behind a new show based on stories from the book.
Even further in the future, Glatzmaier hopes to perform full time while also teaching improv workshops in high schools.
“I think improv is great for team building,” he said. “I think it’s great for high school students. When they leave high school, they don’t have that skill of working with people, and improv helps with ‘yes, and’-ing.”
He’s come a long way from the comedian who could hardly get his name out onstage, but now that he’s found his life’s work, he’s in it for the long haul.
“This is something I can never quit or give up,” he said. “To make people laugh, I want to do that again and again and again.”