Thursday, June 9, 2016

Standing up

 "I loved to make people laugh in high school, and then I found I loved being on stage in front of people. I'm sure that's some kind of ego trip or a way to overcome shyness. I was very kind of shy and reserved, so there's a way to be on stage and be performing and balance your life out." -Steve Martin

Between 1989-1994 you could often find me coming home from school, grabbing a snack, and sitting around with my hilarious friends. These friends were stand-up comedians and I would catch their "bits" on The Comedy Channel (the precursor to Comedy Central) show Short Attention Span Theater. I've been enamored with stand up comedy for about as long as I can remember. I remember renting Comic Relief VHS tapes, and being exposed to the genius of Steven Wright. I can remember watching Eddie Murphy's RAW and laughing, although I now wonder if I even understood what I was laughing at. I bought Bill Cosby and Jeff Foxworthy cassette tapes, Jerry Seinfled, Ellen Degeneres, and Jack Handey books. My uncle Darwin and Aunt Betty introduced me to Foster Brooks one Christmas and I listened to Bob Newhart on an airplane trip to Orlando when I was very young. I had a fascination bordering on an obsession.

It's been on my bucket list for a while now to perform at a stand up comedy open mic. However, the idea has always been a terrifying. I've always had people tell me I'm funny and I've always been able to make people laugh. For some reason, the idea of going on stage to do it intentionally, seems exceedingly daunting. Why?

It's a matter of self confidence. An attribute I've always lacked. I never excelled at sports because I lacked the confidence in myself, I never believed in my abilities or felt that I was good enough. That idea of "I'm not good enough", has always echoed in my head. Even at the age of 37, I still lack the confidence in myself that I should have learned somewhere along the way. At this age it shows up differently then when I was a kid. I remember once as a kid going to my brother's soccer practice, my parents were the coaches (which is odd because neither ever played soccer to my knowledge...but then soccer was a relatively new sport to our small Indiana town at the time), they had me do one of the drills the team was doing. Instead of kicking the ball, I swung my leg and kicked nothing but air and then fell down. I was so embarrassed. I didn't touch another soccer ball for years. When I was in 5th or 6th grade, my parents enrolled me in 4H, because that's just what you did. I was a trapezoidal peg in a round hole, to say I didn't fit in at 4H is like saying Hitler wasn't fond Jews. I was once asked to say the pledge of allegiance, and I cried and refused to do it. I couldn't go up in front of these strangers and do it. I was so embarrassed. Similarly, I experience a slight variation of those same feelings today when I wonder if I am a good enough teacher, or when I don't feel like a man when I can't fix something around the house or I have to admit I don't know how to change the oil in my car. I get so embarrassed.

Perhaps soccer and 4H would have given me self confidence had I stuck with it, and not been so embarrassed to try. Maybe I should have tried other sports, clubs, or activities to develop my confidence. Perhaps, had I done those things, today I would spend less time wondering if I'm good enough or if people like me. Perhaps I would not have waited until I was 37 to do my first stand up comedy set.

Last week I performed for 14 minutes at a local brewpub, and it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. It was a rush like none I've experienced before, this is coming from a guy who has jumped out of plane, bungee jumped, and rock climbed in the PNW. I have to be honest and say that it went extremely well.  Admittedly the room was full of friends which helped, and I know there is much room for improvement. But, my first time doing stand up... was great.

Here's what I learned:
1. Fake it till you make it. I faked the confidence that is so crucial to stand up comedy. I had to, at first. As my set continued, it got easier to be confident and eventually I felt quite comfortable.
2. Confidence is a muscle that must be exercised regularly. I did something that scared me, I I thrived. Now, I want to do it again. Am I still scared? Heck yeah! That's part of it though, the truth is I might get back up there and tell the same jokes and completely bomb. That doesn't mean I'm not funny or that I can't do stand up. It just means I need to keep working on it.
3. Failure isn't fatal. Not all of the jokes in my set worked, there were at least 2 places where I thought I'd get a laugh that I didn't get anything. Those jokes didn't work, but I kept going and eventually, like Stella, I got my groove back. I now know to either not do those jokes or re-work them.

So my goal now is this: Apply those lessons to all areas of my life and develop a confidence that allows me to be comfortable with who I am. So, I must do things that scare me. Also, I want to instill these lessons in my kids so that I can help them be confident in who they are.
As a postlude, Wednesday June 22nd I will do my next open mic at an actual comedy club as a part of a contest called the The Great Indiana Mic Off at Morty's Comedy Joint in Indianapolis. This is the real deal. I have 6 minutes to fill with my best stuff and I need to kill...and have supreme confidence. If you'd like to support me it would mean the world to me. I would love to have a fan base there, I can literally feel the positive vibes from you when I'm on stage. Plus, the winners are decided based on the volume of audience applause, so the more fans I have there supporting me the better my odds are of winning. I really do hope to see you there.
See me at Morty's Comedy Joint on 6/22 for only $5!

Below is footage from my first show:

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