Last night I had a chance to do something I’ve always thought of doing… just never got the opportunity and was to afraid to try. I did an 8 minute set of stand up comedy in front of a live audience. The high school I work at was celebrating homecoming and there was a talent show for the staff to perform in.
I signed up quickly so I wouldn't change my mind.
It was two weeks before the performance. I wasn’t really thinking of it that much. I actually watched a couple of my favorite comedians on their Netflix shows to gain some insight on how this whole comedy thing worked. The act started forming in my head of possible jokes. I started jotting down a few notes.
Time flew by… the date got closer.
A week out from the event, I started to become more focused on my act. I really tried to notice things in the school I thought would be funny. Some days, I focused too hard. Some days, I didn’t focus on it at all. It was a draining process. I felt under pressure daily. I started doubting that I could pull this off.
One day before the show, something snapped…
I looked at my notes and wrote out three main jokes. I built around those three jokes. Things somehow got a little clearer. I felt a hint of confidence. This whole routine might just work! Everyone close to me was asking for a little sample of the routine. My family, who are my biggest critics, were asking at the dinner table. I tried to explain to my family what I was going to talk about. They all looked at me like I was speaking to them in a different language. I thought for a moment and realized I was actually speaking about things they never experienced. I was talking about things my students and fellow teachers experienced. That’s when I knew it was going to be funny. I realized I was playing to my audience.
I realized this was going to work!
The day of the show arrived! A few hours before the show, I was walking around my office going through the routine. I kept reminding myself to pause at certain times and use funny facial expressions. I couldn’t show people I was nervous. I had to be confident on stage. I had to get the timing right. Comedy is all about timing...right?
Backstage was like a dream.
The act before I went on was a teacher who was performing martial arts. She was nervous. It made me feel better that there were other acts that were nervous as well. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I sat on a stool and waited for the show to begin. I had to control my breathing. I felt an anxiety that I’ve never felt before. In through the nose...out through the mouth. I was the second act following the person doing martial arts. She was on stage performing. I watched her go through her routine in awe. It was fantastic. She was doing kicks and punches. The crowd of students and teachers were cheering. My tension started to ease. I saw that it was a supportive crowd. Her act ended.
I thought of my opening joke right there.
I would start with how the first acts kids would never be late again to class because she knew martial arts. It was on. I vaguely heard my name called by the host. I grabbed my stool and walked out on stage. The rest was a blur. The routine went great! A few stumbles that went largely unnoticed. At the end, the crowd cheered. It was over just like that. I did it!
For some time after the show, I was filled with energy. I fulfilled a lifelong dream of doing standup comedy. I may try it again with a different audience. I loved the challenge!
Takeaways from this event…
I often encourage students to take risks. Getting outside your comfort zone is easier said than done. Those first steps can be terrifying. Once you are past those initial moves, the rest is pretty easy. I think most of us talk ourselves out of it before we try. We self destruct creating scenarios that we deem terrible. We create assumptions and convince ourselves that bad things will happen without ever testing our theories and assumptions. In reality, they aren’t that bad. Our assumptions become excuses. I would encourage anyone to take the “I’m going to prove my negative assumptions wrong” attitude and go for it. It’s a rush of entertainment and learning all wrapped into living your life. It is totally worth the risk!
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