Can you think of anything scarier than performing standup? Me neither, so I signed up for a four-week class with comedian Scott Novotny at the Phipps Theater.
When you think about it, what’s really so scary about doing stand-up? It’s literally just you, saying something you’ve had plenty of time to craft and think about. It’s not like you don’t have a plan. You do (or at least you should!). However, most of us have a hard enough time with public speaking… and now you add ‘trying to be funny’ to the mix. Even watching standup comedians (especially newbies) can be so incredibly uncomfortable. The only thing I can think of that would be worse than watching someone bomb on stage is being the person bombing.
Our first class met last Monday and it seemed most people were scared shitless, which actually made me feel better. The twelve of us took our seats at 7pm sharp, facing nothing but a big, black theater with a lone microphone. Ugh. Scott did a nice little welcome thing, then immediately got crackin’ on the teaching.
Our first drill was so awkward and kind of amazing. Simply stand in front of the group and say your name into the mic. Then, you just hang out up there as 11 strangers judge you only by your name and looks. Scott asked questions like, How old do you think they are? (OMG, that lady looks at least fifty… but she could potentially be 38… I’m gonna just let someone else guess), What do they do for a living? (hit man? Professional taxi driver? Librarian?) Are they married? Kids? What kinds of jokes do you think they’d tell? It was the first time in my life I was publicly encouraged to be judgmental. How great is that!
I was third to go. As you can see in the above photo, I’d worn jeans, mukluks, a V-neck tee with a grey cardigan and a big ol’ scarf. I approached the mic and said my name, then stood back and smiled, my subtle way of saying “be nice, please.”
“She’s a student. 24-years-old.”
“Yeah, she’s definitely single. Had a lot of boyfriends.”
“Probably a teacher.”
“Yeah, a special ed teacher.”
“Or maybe a secretary.”
“Irish. Definitely Irish.”
“I think she’s artsy.”
“She’ll probably tell a lot of jokes about dating. Lots of men jokes.”
YOU GUYS. How great is that? I am not any of those things! I’m a 31-year-old food and travel writer who’s been in a committed relationship for nearly six years and is getting married. I’m scandinavian. Men jokes are not really my thing, either. But isn’t it so interesting to have a candid glimpse at what you might look like to other people? I loved it!
Anyhow, our intros took up much of the class. Then, Scott gave us an assignment: write our first 5-8 minute act. He gave us some guidelines, which I am not going to get into. After all if you knew what I was going to say, would you even bother going to our showcase?
Yes, we have a “recital” on Tuesday, March 25 at the Phipps Theater. Just putting that information out there makes me want to barf (#148). One of my biggest fears is feeling foolish in front of people you know and respect. But if I want to really face my fears, I must spread the word. So mark your calendars. And if you come, bring me some Xanax.