Monday, July 30, 2018
Stand Up Comedy Is Hard - Which Is Exactly Why I Am Doing It.
The idea of doing a set at a comedy club was scary. Even an open mic night just seemed way out of my comfort zone and the little voice in my head warned me of how embarrassing it would be to bomb. Who was I to attempt comedy?
I have acted and taken improv classes. I have delivered over 750 professional speeches and hosted nearly 400 episodes of a podcast. But stand up? No Way. While I use humor in my presentations, I am not funny.
Stand Up comedy is clearly the most unforgiving use of the spoken word. The chances of a joke not landing are close to 10 to 1 according to many comics. As a chickenshit I did not like those odds.
In my teens and 20s I loved going to see comedy shows. I secretly wished I had the skills (and the bravery) to get up there, but I simply did not have the confidence. Wishing and dreaming does not lead to actions.
That all changed in March of 2018 in New York City. I have a friend who is a popular speaker on the topic of humor in the workplace. He is also a comic. While I was in the city he invited me along to open mic night, which at the time of the invitation I assumed was to watch him work on new material.
His intention was not for me to be in the audience, but instead to get on stage. I froze at the thought.
"No Way" came out of my mouth so fast it was crazy.
But then I remembered the mantra I have tried to live by for the last two years: "Make age 50 to 75 the best years of my life", and I agreed to try.
Before my trip I prepared a five minute set, but it was more of humor from my business speeches than comedy club style jokes. None-the-less, I did it and some people laughed. It was not horrible, and I felt good for pushing myself and getting up on stage.
Yet doing something once is often not enough, especially if you think there is something more to the experience. I have become an advocate for trying new things, and it is now part of what I teach my clients. Thus I have to live my own talk. I do not like everything I venture into (surfing was not really my cup of tea, but I did it recently), and if it is not "right" there is no reason to keep going. Yet when there is something to be learned from the experience, I owe it to myself to get past the fear of the unknown.
Since my initial attempt at comedy I have been to 14 additional open mic nights. I go to clubs and bars with comedy nights both in my home city of Austin, and I discover open mics while I am traveling for business (It beats sitting in my hotel room watching Netflix). I have developed three different five minute "sets" and am working to fine tune my timing, comedy writing, observation skills, and confidence in the art of humor.
Do not misunderstand me, I am not good at comedy. Yet. This is a long haul process.
It is very hard. Learning to do stand up is among the most difficult tasks I have ever undertaken, which is exactly why I am doing it with such intention. I spent too much of my life listening to that little voice that told me all the reasons I should not do things.
If you feel you have held yourself back, get out of that routine and try new things. When you are willing to try new things and are open to failure (and maybe failing big-time) that is where you will find the most amazing growth. I know I am new to comedy and have yet to find my voice, but I keep going to open mic nights every week. I am working to discover things about humor and about myself. All of this is already having a positive impact in other areas of my life. I am learning a lot from NOT being good. Too often I have stayed close to things I do well. And the chances of flopping are always present when you do an open mic night, so to keep showing up I am living with the unknown each time. In all I do there is more confidence. Clearly if I can jump into this arena and do it when I am raw and unproven, then what I am great at should seem easy. Find reasons to say yes to things that are outside your comfort zone. Your efforts will force learning to happen. For you this may not be comedy. It might be jumping out of a plane or learning to paint. The key is doing something new.
My overall goal is to do 100 open mic nights. This could take over two years, as my family commitments do not allow me to go out to bars and clubs 3 or 4 nights a week. I am not even sure I am interested in doing a featured show, but I guess as I get better that opportunity could present itself (and while even scarier, I will say yes when the time comes).
Go do what is hard. If you are younger than me, don't wait until you are 50 years old to realize you have let fear stop you from taking the chances that could lead to a fulfilling life.
Have A Great Day.