Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The first day of the rest of my life

As you might be able to tell, I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to do well at my first stand-up gig. To recap: I’ve been writing down comedy ideas for years. I’ve been thinking about doing this for years, but never really pushed myself to move from the realm of dreams to the realm of reality. I think it was due to fear over failure.

Thus, last night was an important litmus test. Even though I told myself that if I didn’t do well I’d keep working at it, the truth is a poor performance or bad audience reception would have really been a blow to my confidence.

I can’t deny that I’ve been comparing myself to the other guys in the class since day one, trying to figure out where I stood, who had the best material. I think most of us have been doing that. Thus, I instinctively understood that the lineup would say something about who the teacher thought had the best stuff. But was first or last the best? Don’t they save the best for last? What if I am in the middle? What does that mean? I told myself that the lineup didn’t matter, that I’d go out and do my best no matter what. But again, the truth was lineup was important to me, it would raise or lessen my confidence.

When I arrived at the theatre one of the guys said to me, “Hey, here’s Zak. You know, Jim put you down first. You’re starting out the show. How do you feel about that?” I felt okay. I just didn’t know what the bigger honor was, first or last. I soon bumped into Jim. “You’re on first Zak!” I asked, “Is that good? What does that mean?” He said, “Yeah, it’s real good. It means you have strong material and you’ll get the crowd hot and start the show off well.”

Once it sunk in a lot of my nervousness disappeared, replaced by confidence. I think I started walking with my head held a little higher. I noticed a subtle shift in the way some of the other guys in the class reacted towards me, an ever so slight deference that didn’t exist before.

I milled about chit-chatting and waiting for my family and a few friends to arrive. I was a bit jumpy, but not too nervous. I found myself eager for the show to start; not so much to go and get it over with, but actually to experience being up on stage and being a comedian for the first time (For the record: I by no means consider myself a comedian—yet. Once I start making money—any money—doing comedy, then I’ll say “I’m a comedian.” Or at least an amateur. In the meantime, for those few minutes that I’m actually up on a stage doing comedy, I’ll consider myself a comedian, if ever so fleetingly. Thus, last night for 6 minutes I was a comedian.).

The show started out with the MC, a former student from two years prior. Then Jim did a little material. Jim had asked me to operate the sound board for the MC and himself and showed me how to do it. I didn’t have much time to think about going up because I was concentrating on doing the sound. Next thing I knew, I was on deck. I took a few deep breaths to relax myself and then paused just to appreciate the moment in time. Next thing I knew, the MC called out my name and it was show time.

The routine went smoothly. I found it easier to do my routine in front of a crowd then at home. I think I had more energy. What’s also nice is the applause and laughter following a joke. Not only does it egg you on, it gives you a moment to collect your thoughts. I got the laughs I aimed for following my jokes, as well a few things I didn’t consider jokes. After one impression I really cracked the crowd up and it actually seemed to take a really long time before the laughter died down. I was almost annoyed because I wanted to keep going. But I was also happy as hell. I enjoyed being up there. I wanted to keep going, but I stuck to the 5 minute mark, like I was asked to do.

Then it was over. All of the worry, pressure, battles with self-doubt—everything I had been feeling ever since starting this course was gone, gone, gone. I felt a warm glow inside. I felt as a snug as a clam in a rug, as happy as a bug. Nah, I think I felt happy as a clam and as snug as a bug in a rug... I just felt really good!

The show seemed to really drag. A lot of the guys went well beyond their allotted time, and having heard a lot of their stuff previously, I found myself sneaking out of the room and chatting with my little sister who was actually being funnier than a lot of the guys up on stage.

By the time the last guy went up, over half of the crowd had already left. Jim, who has put together many comedy shows, must have known that after nearly two hours of acts a lot of people would leave. It was then that it sunk in what an honor it was to go first—I was ensured the biggest crowd.

Zak being Zak, I was prepared for the perfunctory accolades that I expected to receive; I had given them to the other guys that had gone up, and in some cases I was just being polite. But to be honest with myself, the feedback I received seemed heartfelt. My relatives told me I was the funniest, but then again, they’re my relatives. Then again, Jim did put me first…

Right after I had finished I was also approached by a black comic who has worked some good venues here in Milwaukee and who was slated to close the show. At the time I didn’t know he was a comic. He had come up to me and extended his hand and said, “Good job funny man. You’re a funny guy.” I thanked him and asked his name and he introduced himself and mentioned that he was a comedian. I felt honored. After the show I got his contact information. Gotta network. He said he’d tell me about open-mics around town. Pretty nice guy—and funny, even though he knew the crowd was tired and thinning out and so truncated his routine.

I was going to write, “All’s well that end’s well.” But nothing is ending. This is only a beginning. There will be setbacks. Every comic has them, and you can’t make it unless you are ready to work hard and persevere. I’m ready to do that. I realize the crowd consisted of friends and family, but I'm confident I'll win-over most crowds (although not all. I'm told that every comic has to bomb, or encounter a stupid audience at some point(s) in their career).

Look out world, here I come!


Blogger airforcewife said...

Wow! Great Job! Even if I didn't get to see your routine, I'm assuming that anyone who posts the picture you have up on your blog would be very funny.

8:23 AM  
Blogger semite1973 said...

Thanks AFW.

I've gotten some good feedback today from some people who saw me last night.

I'm on cloud 9 today.

11:41 AM  

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