Last night I stood up in front of a group of strangers, and two close friends, and performed a comedy sketch. When I woke up yesterday morning, I had no idea that my night would end with applause and me fulfilling a dream.
I love comedy. I’ve actually been working on a piece all about my love of comedy, and in that piece, I was going to reveal my secret dream to one day perform something on a stage. About a month ago, I wrote a comedy sketch with no plans to let anyone hear it anytime soon; but as life would have it, my planned sequence of events got derailed.
Last night, my good friend invited me to open mic night at my favorite coffee shop here in Fort Lauderdale- Brew Urban Cafe. I had never been to an open mic night before and it’s something I’ve been wanting to do, so I went for it. In the back of my mind, a tiny voice was reminding me that I had written some material and that maybe I could perform it. The trouble was that I hadn’t really practiced it. I didn’t know the sketch by heart– far from it. In the big lake of all the projects I’d like to do and am doing, I had decided that working on my comedy routine would have to wait its turn. I’m getting better at doing fewer things at a time. I’m down to about 20.
In addition, my printer was out of ink so I couldn’t print it out to read either. I consoled myself with the thought that there was probably a pre-registration anyhow. I relaxed into my comfort. I had every reason to expect not to perform this half-baked skit that was mostly sitting in my Google Docs and getting glanced at occasionally.
When I walked into the coffee shop last night, my friends hadn’t yet arrived and neither had most of the performers or audience. It was pretty quiet. I walked up to the counter for a drink and the lovely woman behind the bar asked me if I would be performing.
I didn’t say no. I didn’t say yes either. I needed coaxing. I mentioned that I had something that might, maybe, sort of work, and they coaxed me until I wrote my name down on a little piece of paper. As the minutes ticked by, more and more people started showing up, and by the time my turn had come, the place was standing room only. I died a little death, and not the French kind.
I would be performing this comedy sketch that I had never fully rehearsed. Why would I do this to myself? Because I want to take chances and not just talk about it. Because who knows what tomorrow brings (that old cliché) and I don’t want to live with regret. Because the opportunity was right there in front of me and my friends were coming, and what the fuck did I have to lose?
My dignity. My self-esteem. My confidence. My comfort. My pride. My imaginary daydreams of being great at stand up.
What did I have to gain?
Points for my “Reasons I’m a Badass” section of my personality (we all could use some points there).
Pushing myself and going after my dreams. This is one of them. It’s still scary to say this out loud.
Being comfortable gets me nowhere.
Finding out if I’ve actually got any talent.
I’m a writer. If for nothing else, it’ll give me something to write about (see the post you are currently reading).
What you all really want to know is how it went. I started off telling the audience that this was last minute and that I’d be reading from my phone primarily. Lord knows that I think all kinds of stuff is funny that other people blank stare at. That would include the very first joke I told. It was far too subtle and no one got it. Talk about yikes. I thought, “this is the torture that comedians talk about. This is going to be a doozy.” But I kept going, my brain somehow working on max and totally shut down simultaneously.
After about my third sentence, I slid my phone into my back pocket for reasons that I still can’t explain. Remember how I mentioned that I didn’t have the sketch memorized? Yeah. But I pressed on, floundering my way through, using every laugh and chuckle as a flotation device. Some jokes that I thought would really work fell flat while others were spot on. We can’t live in theories– experience is where real revelation happens.
I forgot about 70 percent of the material I was supposed to say but I tried to weave the parts I did remember into some sort of cohesive whole. When my mind began to go completely blank and I could tell that I’d be on a downward spiral of filler words and fumbling, I thanked my audience and got the hell off the stage. Better to leave while I’m still holding chips.
My initial internal reaction was to beat myself up. I knew that I could do much better. I have it in me, but here’s the thing: there were more laughs than awkward silences. It was my first time. It was last minute. I put my script away at the start of my performance. And most importantly, I made people laugh. I’d be a fool and a masochist to be mad at that.
I’m so grateful to my friends who sat directly in front of me and cheered me on and recorded my very first performance. When she sent me the video, I was terrified to watch it, dreading that maybe it had gone worse than I had imagined. When I finally watched it, I was pleasantly surprised. Everything that I felt was true. There were too many umms and words to fill the space, but there were also genuine laughs. I was a girl taking a chance and being vulnerable and the beautiful audience was supportive and good-humored.
Now I get to study the film and study my sketch and work to make it better.
I have to include that the environment was nothing but loving and supportive. I got encouragement before, during and after my performance. The crowd was a mix of other people waiting to perform and those just there for a good time. Those who wanted to support local artists. It made a world of difference in the outcome of my performance, and I’m grateful to everyone that was there last night.
I hate to end on a cliche, but do the thing that makes you uncomfortable. Even a baby step is a step in the right direction. There’s no failure but letting a dream rot in a corner of your life. Do it. Your happiness is worth it. I know it’s scary out there, but so is living with regret. Take a step or take a plunge. You’ll have a great time or a great story to tell, or maybe both.
My name is Lyz-Stephanie and I want to inspire you to be more connected to yourself and the world, to find beauty in simple pleasures, and to have more adventures. Every day we can do something to make our lives happier and richer, make our minds more active and engaged. I’m on the journey. Will you join me?