You’re standing on the edge of the high dive. You look down. It feels like 50 feet, but it’s only 15 feet. Your palms sweat. Your breathing staggers.
You back up and climb down the ladder! Holy shit, I’m not jumping from that high!
Don’t blame me if I wouldn’t jump off of a diving board, what with my fear of heights and the fact that I don’t like swimming? I can’t handle it!
But I did do stand-up comedy last weekend, which is practically the same thing.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m a theater major, I perform all the time. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is I’VE NEVER DONE STAND-UP!
Sure, I’ve hosted MamaCon, hosted BabyFest, performed in plays, made my zany YouTube videos; but nothing compares to winging it in front of a live audience trying to be funny, hoping you hear laughter and not quiet cricket chirps.
And to be fair, how does one measure their success performing in front of an audience? Laughter? Applause? Because I heard both. Maybe folks were just being nice. Or they were drunk. So, job well done, right?
Sounds good to me.
I think though what means more to me is how I did something that would scare a lot of people shitless and I lived to tell the story. Some folks handle snakes, some folks jump out of an airplane, ride their bikes off of a ramp, whatever for a thrill. I’m starting to think that performing in front of an audience is my mid-life crisis antidote. It’s the cocaine upper to my every day ordinariness. I like it. I hate it.
When I’m asked to do something, I usually say yes. If I’m asked to address an audience, I don’t scare off easily. If someone asked me to sing the Star Spangled Banner at a Seahawk’s game I would be scared and say no. There’s only so many talents in my wheelhouse!
I met Joanie with Spilt Milk comedy two years ago at MamaCon. She said that one day I should come to Portland and perform with them. SUUUUURE. I can do that.
So back in November, a Facebook message with Joanie went something like this:
Me: Why haven’t you asked me down yet to Portland?
Joanie: I thought you were busy and didn’t want to. How about January?
Me: January? As in for real?
Joanie: Yes. January. We have a Friday show I could use you for.
Me: What should I do?
Joanie: Anything you want.
And then I decided that I wouldn’t just read a blog post like I had done at some other events. I would do some stand up. Like talk to the audience and make them laugh. And then I would put on Spanx. In front of them. On stage. Because somehow, THAT’S easier than telling jokes! I know, I know. I’m weird. What’s the big deal? It’s not underwear. It’s Spanx.
I spent my days and nights running through what I thought was funny, in my head. I muttered to myself while walking the dog. I talked to the mirror alone in the bathroom while blow drying my hair. It’s a process folks. The creative process is complex. I’m sure this is what Sarah Silverman goes through each time. Before she lights up her cannabis pipe, right?
Sometimes, I would lie in bed with my eyes wide open staring at the ceiling while a cold sweat prickled my skin. WHAT WAS I THINKING? I COULDN’T DO THIS! I would yell inside my head. Not outside my head, because James was sleeping next to me.
There was that part of me that wanted to give up. The part of me that was my lower descending colon that would gurgle and bubble every time I thought about trying to get up in front of a crowd just to ‘be funny’.
But I’m no quitter! Who’s a quitter? NOT ME!
Is that from the movie Rudy? I don’t know.
Sometimes what we fear most, makes us stronger and free in the end. I read that on a motivational poster at the KINKOS I went to in the 90s.
I picked a wing man. You know, a buddy that would support me. My wing woman Betsy joined me for the 3 hour drive and split a hotel room with me for the night. She’s been a huge supporter of my blog and books since day one, and I just needed someone to tell me honestly if I sucked but in a nice way while bringing me a soy latte. Or tell me that she peed her pants and she thinks I’m the funniest ever.
I love that when we got to the hotel room that afternoon with a couple of hours to spare before the show, she let me go by myself for a tea at the corner Starbucks and get my thoughts in order. She may not be a performer, but she gets ‘the process’. Some may think a shot of whiskey would have been good for the process, but honestly, I needed to be sharp.
I’d have a gin and tonic before I went on stage anyway. And lots of french fries. Why is it when I get nervous I want to eat?
The intimate little bar held about 60 people. There was a little stage, a microphone and a stool. We even had a green room. You know, the space between the dining area and the restroom backstage. Like all performance venues!
I was to go after Nikki Schulak. Nikki does readings and is a humorist. She always cracks me up. Her book, “My Mid-life Thong Crisis” is a hoot. There’s some body hair and dimpling involved. I like that Nikki read about diets and Prozac and eating her way through Europe.
I decided that during her set, I should probably stand up and get on deck. I felt my legs wobble. Was I capable of this? I mean, what the hell was I doing? I didn’t have anything written down. I had a few jokes that I felt packed a bit of a punch. Hoped they at least would giggle. Maybe snicker under their breath.
So up I went with my package of Spanx and nerves of steel.
I threw out a couple of labia jokes and used a few choice phrases, and oh my gosh- they laughed!
I won’t spoil it for you. You can watch the videos here.
When I was finished, I felt like I climbed fricking Mt. Everest! Tired and winded? Sort of. But mostly exhilarated. I did it! I faced my fear and I did it!
You know what? It felt fucking awesome.
I might do it again. We’ll see.
What ladder to the high dive will you climb?
Is there something you’re afraid of but really want to do? Do it.
Just fucking do it.