Can you think of anything scarier than stand-up comedy? Probably, but as far as terrifying experiences that can’t kill you go, stand-up is damn near the top of the list. This is precisely why I signed up for Scott Novotny’s four-week “Beginning Stand-up Comedy” workshop. Can four, 90-minute group classes possibly be enough to prepare you for eight minutes on stage in front of a real, live, paying audience?
I am convinced that nothing can prepare you, aside from getting your butt up there and doing it. I don’t think I really need to spell out why stand-up scared me (though I did in this post & in this one, too). And of course, sharing the video of my performance (#193) is almost as scary as actually doing it. Because now, the 100 people I performed in front of at the Phipps could potentially grow to, I dunno… a virtual audience of many more.
Scott asked us to prepare five to seven minutes of material. He’d give feedback during class, but it was mostly up to me to build and hone my routine. As my big night crept closer, I found myself obsessing. I’d write and rewrite. I’d try to memorize the flow of content, but nothing verbatim (which I think tends to sound too rehearsed and insincere). And then I would try to say the whole thing aloud (to either my beyonce, Josh… or my dog), but it was so awkward feeling that I gave up. What worked for me was getting into my car and going for a long, scenic drive. That allowed me to run through my lines comfortably, plus I had a digital clock 18 inches from my face, which helped me nail my timing.
By the time our showcase rolled around, I actually felt pretty prepared. I was totally nervous about the 15 people I knew in the audience, but I felt prepared.
The problem, I later discovered, was that my beyonce DID NOT feel as confident. Remember, at this point, he’d only seen me A) trying to practice my routine for him (and giving up) and B) telling him sucky jokes.
So with that in mind, I am letting the beyonce take over the rest of this post. Here’s one of Josh’s Hey Eleanor! moments… in his own words.
Watching Someone You Love [Potentially] Bomb On Stage.
Your fiancée says she wants to try stand-up comedy. Out loud, you say, “Great idea, sweetie!’ What you’re really thinking: “I hope she doesn’t embarrass herself (and me, for that matter).”
In all honesty, I’m getting used to Molly approaching me with some pretty crazy ideas… but her getting up in front of a big crowd and airing our dirty laundry is scary to me, too. I’ve done plenty of things that could make for some good stand-up fodder. Who knows what will all be brought up?!
So, it’s the night of her big debut and I still hadn’t heard much of her content. I know Molly is HILARIOUS in candid conversations and she’s amazing at observing some very funny realities in day-to-day life, but how is the pressure of being up on stage going to affect her? In the car on our way to beautiful Hudson, WI, I asked if she wanted to rehearse. She said no, but did eventually ask if she could run through a few little sections she was still working through. The timing and content of the jokes was off and there were lots of long pauses. It was uncomfortable. Uh-oh.
Once we got to the theater, I dropped her off up front and parked the car. On the way in, I saw her dad, a few of her uncles and an aunt, plus many friends. We had a Molly cheering section of about 15. We took our seats and shortly thereafter, the first of 12(!) comedians took the stage.
Let’s just say it went as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, there were some pretty funny people and hilarious moments, but it was every bit as uncomfortable as I had imagined. Inappropriate jokes, long, rambling stories, utterly missed punch-lines, and on and on. And then it was Molly’s turn. I was a bit anxious as Scott announced her name. And then she spit out her first line and I knew it was going to be okay. She carried herself so confidently and seemed so comfortable. It was pretty unbelievable. She nailed it! So well done, timing was impeccable, transitions were smooth, kept a great theme going, so professional!
I think the video speaks for itself. I was the proudest beyonce out there!