Stand-up comedy is big risk, big reward. The risk is stepping on stage with the light pouring down as you stare into a sea of darkness, your only life preserver being the reward of raucous laughter. Most comedians say that reward can make them feel high for days.

Stand-up comedy is big risk, big reward.

The risk is stepping on stage with the light pouring down as you stare into a sea of darkness, your only life preserver being the reward of raucous laughter. Most comedians say that reward can make them feel high for days.

But when a joke fails, the room is filled with an uncomfortable silence that can throw off an entire act.

Fortunately, failed jokes aren't common in the late rounds of The Funny Bone Talent Search competition, showcasing the finest local stand-up amateurs. What you will find are well-rehearsed acts with side-splitting (and often dirty) punch lines.

The Easton comedy club hosts two competitions each year for amateurs to match comedic wits with their peers. The winner leaves with a cash prize, but the biggest compensation is the confidence of knowing they've got what it takes.

"There are several guys who started out doing open-mic here in Columbus that are now touring the road," said Rick Tempesta, The Funny Bone's house emcee and Talent Search director.

The opening rounds in October had comics performing their best material. Topics ranged from weight loss to sexual inadequacy to alcoholism; comedic styles from self-deprecating to deadpan.

The semifinal round continues at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, and only the best will move on to the Nov. 24 finals.

Audience praise is a factor in determining winners, but ultimately they're decided by the club. The weakest acts are quickly weeded out, leaving a lineup that packs the house and fills the room with laughs.

"That's one of the nice things about Columbus ... people like comedy here, they support comedy here," Tempesta said. "If it's good they'll laugh. If it's not, they're not going to."

Opening rounds were emceed by previous Talent Search champions Chris Coen, Justin Camp and Sumukh Torgalkar, who know all too well the importance of the competition.

"Just making it into the competition is a huge confidence boost," Camp said.

The talent competition isn't the only chance for budding comedians to get some time on stage. Local jokers try their hand at stand-up every Tuesday, often with mixed results.

"What's kind of interesting or fun about open-mic is that you get to see the whole gamut," Tempesta said. "You get to see people who really have some potential and you get to see some people who are just absolutely god-awful. But, if they've got the cajones to get up there and give it a shot, we give it a shot."