Last week I stood on a stage in front a room full of strangers and performed a ten-minute stand-up comedy routine. It was Open Mic Night at a local comedy club, but you might’ve thought I was headlining the show for all the preparation I put into it.
I googled the subject for tips on the do’s and don’ts of stand up comedy. I researched comedians on YouTube. I even planned what I would wear for my debut’, because jeans wouldn’t cut it. If they didn’t like my jokes at least they would be able to say I was dressed nicely. I’ve been writing jokes for a few years anticipating the day that I’d be sitting in a crowd and the MC would beckon for somebody – anybody – to take the stage and fill in for the entertainment that would be mysteriously absent. And I would step up to the challenge, of course. Sort of like when they ask “is there a doctor in the house?” for a medical emergency. I can be a bit dramatic, but when the opportunity presents itself I planned to be ready.
Most of my friends tell me I’m way too serious. Yet when I’m around people with whom I feel really comfortable I can be quite entertaining; at least that’s what I’m told. But sometimes friends and family members lie to build your self-esteem. You don’t have to look much farther than American Idol auditions for proof of that. So I wanted to prove to myself that I am funny – not just to people who know me – but even to people who don’t know me.
And that’s what led me to the bright lights of a comedy stage and the potential heckles of a real audience. I’ve done plenty of public speaking, but trying to make people laugh takes a different kind of courage. I happened to be watching Oprah’s Next Chapter the other day when she attended a Tony Robbins seminar. Robbins, known for helping people to overcome mental challenges, said we shouldn’t treat our fear as if it’s an adversary, rather we should treat our fear as if it’s a dance partner: Don’t fight with it. Just go with it! He said when we follow our fears instead of trying to run from it, fear loses its power. I found that to be true.
Although I’m not ready to walk over a bed of hot coals as Oprah did that day, facing my fear for that ten minutes on stage makes me wanna try for fifteen minutes the next time. Who knows, instead of hoping for a chance opportunity, somebody might actually book me to headline the show. At least that what happens in my day dreams.
Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas metroplex. For comments, speaking engagements and standup comedy bookings contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.