My head is buzzing right now – I can’t believe how good I feel. Tonight I crossed a major milestone, one I never thought I would cross. Tonight I performed five minutes of standup comedy for a 50+ people, an audience who doesn’t know me and wasn’t obligated to laugh out of sympathy. Tonight I took my first steps.
And yet I made them laugh. In comedy terminology, I killed. I’m gonna say it again, and savor it this time. I…. killed!
Of course, lots of people killed. There were probably 20 comics, and some of them were just so creative and profound and edgy and original it blew my mind. And while I didn’t necessarily think I was any of those things, I must have done something right, because I got huge laughs.
Seriously, my whole life up until this point I would have never had the courage to go on stage. I would have sat there and idealized each of the best routines, placing them so far out of the realm of what I was capable of that I would have talked myself right out of ever even trying it. And I would have gone home and wondered how it would have been if it had been me.
But tonight wasn’t like those other nights. Tonight I gave myself a real shot. I showed up, and I put my name on the list. And I stayed there until they called my name. I didn’t leave, and I didn’t back out, even though I couldn’t even imagine going up there. Even though I was terrified.
When they called my name, I went cold. I walked up the stairs to the stage and was immediately blinded by the stage lights. I looked out, and though I couldn’t really see them, I knew there was a full room of people waiting to see if I could make them laugh.
Blinded By The Light
So I started talking. And in that moment, under the gun, I did. I won them over with a story that was relatable and embarrassing. I didn’t rely on pre-rehearsed lines, allowing myself to just be myself and riff and see what happened. And plenty of little lines failed. But more lines worked. And when I walked off the stage, I got big applause. After the show some of the other comics introduced themselves to me, and had nice things to say about my set.
What did they say? “You were funny.” Not, “you were insightful, edgy, unique, or mind-blowing.” Which is the standard I would have set for myself, until tonight. Tonight I realized that the only standard that matters is that you’re funny. That’s enough to shoot for. And if you have a natural chemistry with your audience, and enough of your lines have hit by the time you’re done, then what they’ll remember is that they enjoyed your set.
Wow. Wow. I can’t believe how good this feels. I did something new, and scary, and amazing. And I did it simply by not talking myself out of it. Like Woody Allen says, “90% of life is just showing up.” It’s so simple, but man, that is good advice.