I now pronounce myself a comedian: first time stand-up
Because you can be whoever you wanna be.
I don’t know how many gigs you have to run before you’re officially a comedian but I’ve done two, so feel free to heckle me and chuck me on a Netflix special.
So far I haven’t died of red face, which I think means so far so good. Obviously I’m not walking off the stage doing victorious heel clicks having made the crowd laugh themselves to Timbuktu but they’ve been chuckling enough to make me feel good about myself.
The first gig was in Sydney a couple weeks ago at What She Said Comedy, an awesome little room for female newbies that runs weekly in Chippendale. I could not have asked for a better audience to debut my buffoonery. There were 80 or so people in the dark downstairs room of The Chippo Hotel. All eager for a mental tickle. About 10 of them were my mates, each as nervous (for me) as I was. They were briefed and ready to save me with roars of laughter should I have made a wally of myself.
When I arrived I was told that I was going on 12th, which translates to last, which is better than 1st, but not better than say, 5th. I was so fricken jitter-bug the entire show (all the newbie acts were awesome btw!) that by the time I got up there I felt like I’d gone into labour. It was like my stomach had squeezed all the butterflies to death and lit fire to itself. It actually hurt.
I started off my set by whacking myself in the teeth with the microphone. And that wasn’t intentional but luckily people enjoy laughing at other people’s misfortunes. It ended with me smashing my head into the speaker as I walked off the stage which made my brothers’ night. I did okay for my first time and you might see that in this video here. I personally can’t watch it because I say ‘like’ too much, do too many inflections with my voice, tell too many stories without enough jokes and create an awkward silence when I talk about suicide. And in all honesty, I’m not sure how good your jokes are if the biggest laugh happens when you call the audience ‘pretentious cunts’.
That’s my constructive criticism on myself. But you enjoy yourself, this is my first time doing stand-up comedy.
The next show was in Brisbane, just last Thursday. And it was for the RAW Comedy Competition. It was a much less intimate crowd and to really paint the picture for you: it was pretty much just the friends and family of the other contestants, in a room far too big for them.
This time around my nerves were way more in tact and I didn’t get contractions. But they still let me down because I’ve not yet mastered my ability to feel totally relaxed, which ruins my authenticity, delivery, timing and emotional expression. So, you know, just the things you need to be a comedian. I also think I’ll leave out the suicide jokes from now on.
I’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy and of course I’ve always thought I never would. I’m not quite sure what switched in my mind, but I know it had something to do with the public speaking course I did last year and the feedback I got around that. I’ve managed to form a new perspective around what actually happens (in terms of perception) when someone is standing in front of a crowd.
It will be continually focussing on the following factors (which all kind of tie into each other really) that will continue to get me up on stage. So if you’re interested in trying out first time stand-up comedy too, by golly I hope this helps you out.
Accept that no one is ever going to be liked by everyone
There are loads of successful comedians that don’t make me feel like I want to be their friend. I find them too crass, or too arrogant, or too boring. But that’s my perception and they’re out there making comedic career cheddar because other people see them in a totally different light to me. All our brains are made up of different unconscious biases that determine what will resonate with us. So at the end of the day – just like with making friends – it’s about personality and preference, which leads me to my next point.
If you can make genuine friends, you can make people like you on stage
Comedians that successfully build followings or unfollowings are generally the ones who use authenticity to do so. This makes it easy for audiences to build their love or hate relationships with them. I mean, you can’t just get up there and be your adorable self and succeed in this arena, you also have to have good jokes, but I look at it a little something like this:
Some comedians who I’m not totally fond of could say the funniest thing in the world and I wouldn’t notice because I’m not what they’re about.
Flash your creative and embrace vulnerability
Putting your creative ideas and thoughts out there is bloody hard. But I’ve been doing it for over four years with this blog and even longer with my professional career as a creative copywriter. Not everything you do as a creative being is good but you have to put it out there to find that out. Comedians accept that some people will poo-poo their work, to their face, in the most unpleasant of circumstances. It’s like a silent self-esteem killer in that moment, but afterwards you’re like, well how can I make them throw less tomatoes at me next time?
It’s called workshopping ideas, brother.
Handle judgement like a boss
This is about reminding yourself that judgement and criticism is not only subjective, but temporary too. Yes, doing a bad job or having an unresponsive audience could feel socially traumatic in that moment. But who actually cares? Comedians are the types of people who realise that the uncomfortable parts of this job are just learning curves. As my friend Merryn said when I first announced my new comedic endeavours “Most of the audience are incredibly envious of the fact that you have the kahunas to get up there and actually do that so fuck ’em if they look blankly at you – they are just thinking how much smaller and less exciting their lives are compared to yours.”
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