My heart’s racing. What if I forget all the jokes? What if they’re all really terrible? They seem terrible. Having practiced them a million times. Who would laugh at this crap?
I take a deep breath. It doesn’t help. But it doesn’t matter. You just have to push through. Fuck it. Swallow your terror. Go through the motions. People will laugh. Probably.
And if not? Well. There’s always vodka.
Sure, Let’s Start Doing Comedy at 34
You know you have your life pretty well figured out when you suddenly decide, at age 34, to start doing stand-up comedy. When I tell people I’m doing stand up, people often ask this totally legitimate question for which I have no answer:
“So what’s your plan? Are you trying to do it professionally or what?”
Like I have any fucking idea.
All I know is that I like doing it, it fills me with terror, and I don’t really expect to succeed at it. Which is fine. The actual journey of trying has been more enjoyable than I’d have thought.
In A Perfect World, I’d probably be writing comedy for some awesome sitcom produced by Tina Fey. In this world? I’ll probably keep doing local shows and if I’m lucky, in a couple of years, I won’t completely suck at it.
That’s a goal, right?
Embracing the Bad
I’m not very good at comedy. I do think I can be funny, but comedy itself is a skill. A skill Louis CK believes takes fifteen years to become great at. I’ve been doing it for nine months. That’s how long it takes to make a baby. Not like, a good baby, but just any baby.
So yeah. I’m not very good. But I’m not very bad, either. And there are some truly terrible comics. So not being terrible is totally a thing. And something I can live with.
When you watch someone who’s been doing comedy for years, you can detect their comfort and presence. And you hate their stupid faces.
But you don’t blame them. They earned it. And you hope someday you can get there.
But how long does it take?
I keep asking people how long it took them to get comfortable on stage. The answer is terrifying:
It never happens.
Well, that’s… not comforting at all. Maybe in 15 years, you get it. Maybe Louis CK is comfortable. Maybe he can throw away his whole set every year and work on new shit because he’s a genius.
But I’m just some dude trying to figure out the timing to my BuzzFeed jokes. Tryin’ to get from chuckle to full-on laugh. Clapping? Ha. That shit is for professionals.
Self-promoting? Forget that shit. Step one: Don’t suck. The rest of the steps can be figured out later.
How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never bombed on stage?
If you ever wanted to eat some humble pie, go ahead and try to do some stand up. Bombing horribly is an… interesting experiment.
“Why the fuck am I doing this? I’m not good. I’m not going to be a famous comedian. I don’t know why I thought those things were funny. I was probably stoned. And drunk. Fuck this shit.”
Oh, the sweet stink of failure.
But it’s what you do with your failure that counts. As Twain said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
So here’s to failing better, one open mic at a time. Fuck the fear, fuck the self-doubt, fuck the uncertainty, fuck the anxiety.
There are worse things than not making it. Like lying on your death bed and wishing you’d at least tried.
Or writing for BuzzFeed.