I’ve never had stage fright. I’ve played music and spoken in front of thousands of people, and never once had a single butterfly in my stomach. Being on stage has always just been something that felt natural to me. It felt like where I belonged.
Except for one time.
About 10 or so years ago, I did a few minutes of stand-up comedy at a club in Rochester, NY. It was at an open mic, so the room was full of other wannabe comedians, which is not a particularly good way to put a crowd together. Everyone is nervous and competitive, which keeps the laughter at a minimum.
In any case, those five minutes on stage were the toughest five minutes I ever spent in front of people. Unlike with music or general public speaking, the feedback loop for stand-up can be measured in fractions of a second. You say something you intend to be funny, and people either laugh … or they don’t.
I got a few laughs. I didn’t bomb, but I didn’t kill, either. I did about average.
I think I went back once or twice. I’m not sure why I stopped. Over the years people have told me again and again to do stand-up, but I always say that being funny at parties or as the MC of a poetry open mic is not the same thing at all. Not even a little.
This Saturday, though, I’m giving it another shot. I’ll be doing 4-5 minutes of material at Celebration Hall, 2280 Commercial Blvd. in State College, at around 8:30. If it goes well, I’d like to keep at it. It’s always been a dream of mine, just one I shuffled to the bottom of the deck as life did what life does.
NOTE: As I get ready for this weekend, I’m finding a lot of inspiration in one of my comedy heroes, Bill Hicks, and his 12 principles of comedy.
Oh, and if you want to see comedy done right, watch Louis CK’s new special, which he released yesterday:
And read this, too.