The first time I got up on stage to try and make people laugh was kind of by accident. I had heard about a comedy workshop that The Comics Lounge held regularly and was keen to check it out. I went with the intention not to get up on stage, but due to my own personal and social insecurities I pretty much had to. It sounds counter-intuitive I know, but here’s how it went down.
A good friend of mine was starting up her own podcast and wanted to have comedians on as guests. I had mentioned the workshops and that I had been meaning (for years) to go to one. We decided on a Saturday night, that we would go to the one on the following Tuesday. It wasn’t much time for me to get any material together, but on the Monday night I ran through a couple of jokes (about 15 times) and put together what I thought was about 2 minutes of material – just in case.
I went to work the following day, struggling to concentrate on my job and running through the material in my head over and over whenever I had a spare chance. I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t ready to get up on stage and perform it. That was a bit of a relief, I could go to the workshop and just observe. After work I jumped on my motorbike to meet my friend and we went to the club.
We went in and up the stairs to the bar area where we sat awkwardly off to the side as you do when you don’t know anyone or anything about what is going to happen next. After about 5 or so minutes, and some more people had arrived, we were told we could go into the room and take a seat up in front of the stage. The comedian hosting the workshop said that he wanted everyone to get up on stage to give it a try. I panicked. He then followed up with “If you haven’t prepared or don’t want to go up tonight, raise your hand and I won’t call you up”. Instantly I felt relieved, This was my big chance to opt out.
I hesitated and waited a second while I looked around. Nobody was putting up their hand. I turned to my friend expectantly, but she wasn’t putting up her hand either! I was trying to figure out why, she wasn’t there to get up on stage, she was just there to meet some people and network a little. Just then, the host said “Good! Everyone will be getting up and giving it a shot.”. I realised it was too late, I was so busy waiting for someone else to put their hand up as a cue for me to do the same, but it never happened! That was it, I pretty much had to do it now.
For the next 10 or so acts that went up, my mind was racing between going over my material and figuring out a way to get across the room to tell the host I wasn’t prepared and didn’t want to do it. Then as more time passed, I realised it was even weirder to go over there and say it. All I could do is bite the bullet and get up on stage. About 15 comics in, I was playing a game of chicken in head: “OK after this one, put up your hand to go next…. Nope? Next one…. OK, next one…. Next one”. Until finally I thought to myself, “All you have to do is focus on the action of putting up your hand. Don’t worry about the consequences, just the action..”. As the comedian on stage finished up, I beat the internal struggle and raised my incredibly heavy hand. The host asked my name and introduced me on the mic, and the next thing I knew, I was walking up the stairs to the stage, taking the mic out of the stand and moving it aside. Everything after that was a blur.
Yes I was terrified and shaking, yes I panicked and told the audience it was my first time and yes I fumbled some of my words but all-in-all, I got through it. I got some small laughs (mostly kind supportive laughs from other comedians who had been in my shoes before) and afterwards I got some great constructive feedback. The workshop really was a great introduction. I could sit back down and let the buzz die down while I watched others try out their new material.
The buzz took so long to die down, the workshop finished up and I couldn’t wait to get home and relax. We stayed around and had a bit of a chat to some of the other comics (all of whom were really nice), then I went downstairs to my bike. I started it up and headed home, or at least that’s what I thought I was doing…. My brain was running overtime about what I had just done, I completely lost all sense of direction and found myself riding all over North Melbourne going the wrong direction down the wrong streets, laughing and yelling “Where the fuck am I?!”. But I couldn’t wait to do it again.