Lori then recounts how Chris Rock prepared to host the Oscars in 2005 by hitting all of the New York clubs in the same night. He would start at Stand Up NY, where Lori was working, then head to Comic Strip, Caroline’s and Gotham before ending at Comedy Cellar.

“He was sculpting his set,” says Lori, who got off work in time to catch his last act. “By the time he got down to the Cellar, the bit that wasn’t working in the beginning of the night was finding its legs. It was incredible to watch.”

With our graduation show looming, I decide to squeeze in one more open-mic, but the only place hosting one near me is a hookah bar, and it’s Halloween. I should have known this wasn’t a good idea; it even sounds like a bad joke, but I was flush from killing it at The Wooden Match. When my husband and I arrive at 8:50 p.m., the place is practically empty, save for a few college-age students sprawled on the overstuffed couches and plush cushions.

The night opens with Cowboy Bill strumming “Beast of Burden” on his guitar. As grizzled as he looks, he’s no Keith Richards — the perfect act to follow.

But things don’t go as planned. When I take the mic, my jokes about turning 40, shopping for a bra and attending parent-teacher conferences go over like a hookah at a baby shower. The kids can’t be bothered to make eye contact, but Cowboy Bill is an instant fan, smiling and nodding beneath the wide brim of his white hat.

“You have quite a feisty lady there,” he tells my husband when we leave.

Maybe this was why I’m now nervous for my graduation show. Visions of disinterested hipsters and smiling cowboys are messing with my mojo.

“Where’s Pat?” Jim asks, scanning the group for Pat Lombardi, a psychic pet medium from Hoboken, N.J., who’s MIA for the graduation show. Caty Babb, a sultry actress and singer who goes by the stage name Kayla Stilar, delivers the news. “She’s not coming,” she says. “She got bit by a dog.”