This Post was originally Published on October 27th, 2014
For my entire life people have said that I am funny, and nearly every time Joe Pesci’s “Funny How? monologue from Goodfellas plays in my head. I have always been a bit of a class clown and learned early in life that making people laugh was a great defense mechanism. I was picked on a lot when I was younger and I developed a self deprecating style that allowed me to get laughs first and take the wind out of the sails of any bully. While I love making people laugh I thought that my quick quips and bouts of wit were just inside jokes that could never expand beyond people who knew me. I had a professor in college who kept pushing me to do standup, he stated that all humor is situational and standup is about making a story that allows the audience to envision the scenario. I thought he was full of shit and that I could never be funny in the real world until I started hearing people repeat my jokes and get laughs from strangers. At that point in time I decided to hell with it, I might as well give it a try. I took a 3 hour comedy class in May and followed it up with a 6 week course that culminates in my first performance tomorrow.
I think that standup is one of the hardest things that I have done in a while. It is terrifying to put yourself out there and do a monologue while at the same time convincing the audience to see through your eyes. I have watched a few comedians over the years and always thought to myself “I can totally do that” but the reality is standing up there and laying it all on the line is super challenging. Writing hasn’t been a problem for me because I am a bit of a lightning rod and experience a lot of crazy things. I also am a pretty good storyteller and know how to explain things to people who were not there in a context that they can understand. I think that the biggest challenge is editing. The things that run through your head may sound downright HILARIOUS, but the minute you open your mouth they bomb. I also have problems with compliments, so it is hard for me to deal with people giving me praise. This kind of makes me sound like I am either depressed or have an inflated ego, but it is not because I am beat down or because I am faking humble, it is because I am always striving to be better.
The performance aspect of standup is going to be a challenge. I am relatively comfortable doing presentations to small groups in a professional capacity, but standing in front of a dark room full of strangers is completely different. I have a decent stage presence, and while I may be uncomfortable I don’t feel that it will be super noticeable. This is not a huge thing for me, I don’t feel like I will have a panic attack or anything, but it is something that I know I am facing and will be able to overcome. Timing and delivery are learned art forms and I am sure that I can perfect them as long as I start doing shows regularly but I feel that my pace is pretty much where I want it to be. I have also been having time management issues, something that I timed at 6 minutes may run at 4 or 8 and not planning the set appropriately can cause time overages or underages. These are all things that I can overcome with time and experience.
I don’t normally watch or listen to comedy that often because I am afraid of absorbing other people’s jokes and turning them into my own, which is a bad habit and can make you look bad to other comedians. I have been watching the people at these shows with a more critical eye than I would in the past. It is great to get the laughs, but as an added benefit I am able to see what people do that is good or bad and try to learn from them. I love watching Louis CK or Katt Williams and try to emulate some of the things done by the masters, but I also enjoy watching these comics who are closer to my level and learning from their mistakes. By putting a critical eye on the 2 shows that I have seen in the past week I feel much more comfortable and willing to give standup a go. As a side note I saw my first improv show and am kind of in awe. I really enjoyed the quickness and spontaneity but am absolutely terrible at voices and characters so I don’t know how well I would do. Maybe that will be something that I can try in a few months.
Standup has been a really fun experience for me and I look forward to making it my new passion project over the next few months. I have found that I am much more comfortable speaking to groups and despite the added work stress of the past few weeks I feel that I have been able to see growth on the professional side. It is also a great stress reducer to get into a room with some very funny people each week, turn off your phone, and just laugh. The old cliche is that laughter is the best medicine, and sometimes cliches are true, that being said if you have Ebola then please get real medicine. Breaking into the scene is hard since everybody already knows each other and I am not really good with new people, but I feel that once I get out there I can start making the necessary connections. I have already had the privilege of getting to know a few people and make a few friends, hopefully the growth will be exponential.
So now the time has come. In a few short hours I will be up on the stage at a creperie performing to a crowd of strangers. It feels a bit like the moments before a fight, I have worked hard and know what I am capable of, the key is taking all that training and translating it into results. This has been a pretty great journey for me and I am glad that I gave it a shot. Worst case scenario I suck. I think that heading up to Burlington for shows and open mics will give me a chance to get out of the house this winter and help bring some levity into my life. No matter what I proved to myself that I really am funny, not contextually funny, not inside joke funny, or even internet LOLz funny, just plain funny. And as Artie Lange says, “The only people who get laid less than funny fat guys are serious fat guys.”