Four hundred and thirty-six

Still working on that one “out of my comfort zone” act that I’ve been avoiding

Part of me is desperate to get it over with, and part of me is avoiding it at all costs.  The dreaded stand-up comedy routine.  The thought of standing in front of a group of people telling them jokes makes my skin tighten, my insides jump, and my stomach work really hard not to heave all of its contents up and out.  I want to have a child-like tantrum where I lie on the ground flailing my arms and legs around, hitting the ground occasionally with my fists and screaming out “I don’t wanna do it” over and over again between sobs and attempts to catch my breath.  That is how dreaded the stand-up comedy thing is for me.  But I promised I would perform a stand-up routine last August during Out of My Comfort Zone month and I will do it.

The routine is written and I’ve been practicing.  I’m still not even close to being confident with it, but I can only do baby steps.  If I can get through the routine from start to finish without running around in circles (literally) in frustration, then I’ve accomplished my goal for the day.  The worst possible thing I could do would be to go up on stage and be so nervous everyone just feels awkward for me.  Unless, that’s part of the routine and people are supposed to feel awkward.  I squirm while watching The Office – especially the British version.

I’m pretty sure my coach and comedic mentor has given up on the hopes of ever seeing me up on that stage.  I haven’t forgotten or given up the goal to get myself up there, Peter!  I’m going to face my fears and push myself so far out of my comfort zone I am already embarassed for myself.  Some people hate heights, some dislike snakes, I dread trying to be funny in a room full of strangers.

I’m talking about this today because a run-in with a couple of old acquaintances got me thinking about how I need to keep pushing myself.  A couple of years ago I was working New Years Eve and was serving a group of guys and girls in their 30s.  They all had a few drinks and were loving me.  One guy in particular kept talking to me and asked me if he could go out with me on a date.  I respond like I do every time I’m single and someone who’s had a few drinks asks me that question: “come back tomorrow and sure”.  The next day was New Years Day and I was sure he wouldn’t remember, let alone come in hungover – especially when I saw him making out with another girl later that night.  Funnily enough, the next day he showed up with his buddy and sat at the bar.  I was shocked, but went and chatted with them.  Since then every time they come in to the pub we chat about our lives.

A couple of days ago they came in and I told them about the book and the blog and how much happier I am than a year ago.  The one asked me “if I were to tell someone one thing to do to be happy and simulate the results of what I went through, but without the 366 days of blogging, what would it be?”  I was about to respond that it’s everyone’s personal journey that they have to take, but then something hit me.  “Challenge yourself every day.  Do something that gets you thinking and learning and pushing yourself just a little.”  I must continue to challenge myself too – not just in writing, but in continuing my educational and social journeys.  First one – do the stand-up comedy routine already, Lindsay!

One hundred and sixty-two

Writing a stand-up comedy routine

“You’re blushing and we’re sitting in a coffee shop only talking about writing stand-up comedy!”

Peter Cianfarani, stand-up comic, comedy teacher and lovely person (contrary to what his comedic persona would make you believe), offered to coach me in creating a stand-up routine of my own to perform in an open mic at the end of the month (ahhhhh!).  When I was a teenager someone told me I had the least sense of humour of anyone they had ever known (to be fair, I just have a quirky, dry sense of humour that not everyone gets) and I’ve kept that with me.  I am not funny.  What if no one laughs?  What if it’s awkward (which it most certainly will be, if I don’t get this writing done and my delivery planned)?

Peter says there are lots of guidelines, but only two rules.  #1. NOTHING is sacred – you can talk about absolutely anything when doing stand-up.  #2 Known your audience – know what you can get away with and what you can’t and what your audience might find funny.  He had me make lists of all the things I found peculiar, frightening, loathsome, confusing and ridiculous as homework.  I filled a page of things, and yet when he said to start writing about them, my mind went blank.  I freaked out.  Anything I think of isn’t funny.  He told me to write.  I said I couldn’t do it.  He told me to write.  I couldn’t think of anything to write (yes, the writer couldn’t think of anything to write).  I was petrified to be judged, that it wouldn’t work in stand-up, that what I had to say wasn’t good enough.  I shut down.

Then we went about it another way.  I started writing point form notes on topics.  Peter helped me along.  Make the premise (the main topic), the set-up and the punch line.  Write everything that comes to mind and then we’ll edit later – even if it’s not funny.  Make it raw and honest.  Use negative emotions – things that irk me.  Then I started talking about shopping and the Eaton Centre and I just rambled on and on about how much I hate it.  I’m not going to give too much away, as when I actually do the open mic (ahhhhhhh) I will get someone to film it and post it (ahhhhhh), so you can see then.

I’m still writing.  And it is one of the hardest challenges I need to overcome.  The writer who has a hard time writing – well, at least when it comes to comedy!

Peter Cianfarani is a stand-up comic (view one of his videos here – but a warning: his stage persona is a little crude), teacher (if you are interested in taking his classes, let me know and I will put you in contact with him).  His work-in-progress website is here.