(Amateur) Stand-up Comedy with Me and ASAP

Stand-up comedy performance

Do people ever tell you that you’re so funny and that you should do stand-up comedy? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s WAY harder than what the professionals make it seem on their Netflix specials (or in person).

In 2019, I started working in a different office and one of my new co-workers really was funny. And, as one does, I told him so. And I told him that he should do stand-up comedy. Turns out, he had. He told me that I should too. I told him I’d add it to my bucket list, which I did. Then, similar to how I accepted the invitation to try Bunco, I decided that I needed to just jump in while I had someone’s encouragement and the opportunity. My friend had gotten involved with a veterans organization called Armed Services Arts Partnership, which provides free art and comedy classes to veterans, service members, military family members, and caregivers. I am a veteran too so I signed up. Note for non-veterans: you can find similar classes available to anyone for a few hundreds of dollars.

“The jokes don’t write themselves.”

-Armed Services Arts Partnership

The comedy bootcamp was 6 weeks long where you meet with your peers (I think roughly 8-10 people) each week to write and (Lingo Alert:) workshop your jokes and delivery with the help of trained instructors, who are also graduates of the program. The bootcamp culminates in a public show (at The DC Improv, in the case of the class I took), where you perform the 5-minute set you’ve been developing over the past 6 weeks. Simple enough, right?

The 6 weeks leading up to the gradutation show were filled with lots of writing lots of unused ideas, editing, saying things aloud, editing some more, and practicing my delivery after things got firmed up a bit. Even after a was happy with a solid script for my 5-minute set, I practiced my delivery act probably 75 times – mostly unfilmed. Filming it in my living room, bathroom, etc. offered a lot of opportunity to account for small, nuanced gestures that I may have otherwise fumbled without the practice – like, how to handle the cord of the microphone, being comfortable with holding the mic so close to my face, and even my facial expressions.

The night of the show, my best friend, Kathryn, and another good friend, Shellie, caught a Lyft down to D.C. for the evening. We grabbed a drink before I was supposed to be at the venue and they gave me lots of encouragement. The rule, at least for the class, was to not have more than two drinks before the show (because that’d be awful – for ASAP and me – if all those weeks of hard work went down the tubes due to over-imbibing.) So I had one drink and then we went across the street to DC Improv. After settling Kathryn and Shellie into the seats we felt would be ideal for viewing the show, I was introduced to my first “green room,” which was wasn’t even green. (Lingo Alert, the green room is a separate space or room where performers can lounge and relax before the show.)

About 20+ friends and former family (yes, my ex-husband and his crew made up half of my audience) showed up for me! I felt so loved and, at the same time, SO nervous. As I sat with my friends for the first half of the show, my anxiety started creeping in. As my spot in the line-up grew closer, I found myself breathing more heavily and couldn’t hold back tears. I was having a full-on panic attack at the table and most people didn’t even notice. Luckily(?), having years of experience with anxiety, I had to disconnect and excuse myself to that green room to calm down, recite my lines and transitions so I could convince myself that there was no need to freak out.

Introduced and on stage, I found myself nailing my lines – until I wasn’t. For a solid 11 seconds, I was quiet, trying so hard to remember what I’d just said and what was supposed to come next. I just stared at the audience and smiled, trying, unsuccessfully, to pretend that it was part of my skit. Thankfully, the audience was made up primarily of friends and family of us amateurs and, as we were told, would be the most gracious audience we would ever encounter. Someone from the audience let out an encouraging “Woop!” and that was all I needed to resume. I’m so glad I did too. The bit that followed was my most risquéand thus favorite part – the Alexa bit. I made it all the way through. My set ended up going past 7 minutes but, whereas in the real world of stand-up comedy it’s a no-no, I don’t think anyone there minded really.

Would you do it? Or have you?! Let me know in the comments below!

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