Yup, I do stand-up comedy now. I never thought I’d go that route. After my stand-up at the age of four at a family gathering was met with subpar responses (I have the VHS tape to prove it), I got out of the joke-telling game. Really, I’m not cut out for it. I’m super sensitive, care way too much what people think, and mumble when I get nervous. But, suddenly in my thirties, the slightest hint of not giving a shit has crept up on me…
I enrolled in an all female stand up class called “Pretty, Funny, Woman.” The weird part is the teacher never verified my looks prior to my acceptance in the class. I was having one of those “it’s important to push yourself” days. Why? I’m not really sure. Career-wise, it seems that the most successful comedy writers are also stand-ups, or improvers, or telling jokes for a dollar on the boardwalk (fine, that last one not so much). So, I coughed up my weekly paycheck – to be fair I wasn’t working at the time so it was my weekly unemployment – and joined the class.
Here’s what I do like. Jokes. Writing them, thinking about them… I walk around with comedic lenses on, trying to find the absurdity in every situation. Which, being super judgy, is real fun for me. And I get it. Last week we had to write a joke in the style of a “bait and switch.” This means that you take the audience down one road and at the very end, say something that is completely unexpected. For example… I decided to go gluten free because I’m really trying to lose… friends. (Full disclose: I have tried gluten free but like most diets, I got over it).
What I’m not so into? Performing. Part of our weekly homework is to attend an open mic and get up on stage. An open mic is when comics –and I use that term lightly – go to a local comedy club, or bar, or someone’s basement… really anywhere with a microphone, and sign up to perform. Then, you have a certain amount to time up on stage. I’ve gone to three now.
The first experience was somewhat horrifying. Not because I had performance-anxiety, but because the guys who did perform told the most pervy, rapey jokes, ones that even D. Trump wouldn’t find funny. “You know when you’re fisting your girlfriend….” No. We don’t. And let’s be honest, neither do you. The second open mic I attended was in a small convenience-type store that was so hot, it was almost unbearable. I found getting up that time less frightening because there were only six people in the room. I wasn’t really performing but rather having a conversation over the mic with anyone who would engage with me. The most recent open mic I went to was actually… not bad. Let me rephrase. The other performers weren’t bad. Which made my experience so much worse, because the pressure to be decent was on. From what I’ve been told, most open mics are usually terrible. Everyone is there to work out their own material, and laughs are hard to come by. But there were actually some relatively funny performers. And musicians got involved too. An old Asian man named Tang played some sort of electric piano/guitar combo; he wasn’t good, but damn was he adorable. I got up on stage and couldn’t control my nerves. I was shaking the entire time. I tried out a joke that required me to do a few accents and let me tell you, I’m never making the cast of SNL. My impersonations sounded like no one ever. The dialect was indiscernible.
Our class has a final performance in early November at a real comedy club. I’ve been freaking out about it since the day I signed up for the class. We just sent in our headshots for the flyer to be created (see, knew those photos would come in handy) so this shit just got real. I could push myself… over a bridge, for going out there and “pushing myself.” Or maybe, I’ll somehow nail an Italian accent in the next three weeks. Face-palm.