Young Adam Ray had a dream of an SNL cast member and saw that most everyone on the show came by way of standup, so he'd sporadically do sets in Seattle, then later at his frat house and on Vargus Mason's shows. He always had a good time, got some laughs and, thanks to his theater background, never felt intimidated onstage. He kept this up for a while, while also putting his energies into improv classes at UCB and acting. But then he realized he needed to pick a path and that to get good, he had to dive in and start grinding.
"The only way to really do this is to get into the hustle. Sure there's books and classes, but it's mostly learning on the fly. But I'm in favor of sharing my experiences because I had guys like Bret Ernst who took the time to give me a lot of wisdom because he didn't have a lot of people there to show him the ropes."
So in 2007, Adam threw himself into standup. And the work paid off, abut a year after knuckling down, Bobby Lee happened to see him in a show in the Belly Room and immediately recommended him to Tommy [Morris, the Talent Coordinator] for a showcase. Of course, that's not the usual Store timetable and Tommy had his own plan in mind for Adam. So Tommy encouraged him to start coming around to potluck and eventually gave Adam a job answering phones at the Store. About 18 months later, Adam got his first showcase, but not under the most ideal circumstances. He was hosting the show and wore a backwards baseball cap - something Mitzi hates.
While he waited for his next chance to showcase, he got passed at the Improv and Laugh Factory and did time on the road with Bobby Lee. "During that time, I really grew up," Adam says, "Getting passed at The Comedy Store started out as almost a validation thing, an external stamp of approval but then it became something like, 'Man, I really want to do more than 4 minutes up there.' And I started to feel more comfortable in the OR, learning how to adjust in the room - whether it be crowdwork, turning up or down the energy level or whatever it took to make a connection with the crowd." He began to get comfortable enough that he felt he could be on the OR show and not just be the weakest link, "and then I really wanted it for the opportunity to get better, to work out in that room that's so hard and so great."
Adam especially watched how much the late spots helped everyone grow - learning to give 4 people as much as you'd give 40 or 400, so that even if you didn't get a single laugh, you could walk off stage and feel good about the work you did. "Practice like you play" is a motto he learned in sports and an attitude he brings to comedy, and brought to all the workout sets he did while he waited for his next chance to showcase. Guys like Chris D'Elia, Bryan Callen, Bret Ernst and Bobby Lee saw that ethic and put in their votes of confidence to Tommy.
Then one weekend, Tommy just asked him, "So, what's your availability this week?" Adam assumed he meant for a Belly Room spot and told him Friday would be great and Tommy replied, "No, I mean during the week." Adam still didn't get it and couldn't quite believe what he was being asked. "I didn't want to ask, 'Am I getting passed?' in case he said 'No, what're you crazy?'" But finally Tommy laid it out and Adam put in his avails for his first set. Surprisingly (based on the other horror stories I've been told) his first set went really smoothly and now Adam's got his 15 minutes to work out in the best, hardest room in comedy.