Yesterday I made the decision to start getting up with the gusto I had when I was twenty years old. While the whole standup thing made me ill and I had such a terrible parting with the home club I had done so much for-don’t even get me started-I didn’t want to be touch and go forever. Sure, I have a chip on my shoulder about how I have been repeatedly shafted for being a woman and for being as different as I am. Yes, I feel the art form is hypocritical, goading the comedian to be groundbreaking but the second you are the doors close on you. Or better yet, once you have ambition and are a woman there must be something wrong with you. My list of issues goes on.
Anyway, on the other hand I enjoy being onstage. I have a day job where I perform. I have performed on the street and subway too and love it. There is something about stepping out there, the lights on my person. I always request the Apollo spotlight like they did in the movie Ray. When the room is dark, I say my opening line and I hear laughter. Sometimes when things are going well I hear, “Wow, this girl is funny.” Of course, then May Wilson comes out and people are amazed that I can make her talk without moving my lips. They have never seen a ventriloquist. Premise, set up, punchline, I am awesome. They love me. I feel on top of the world. This is my safe place. This is the place where everything goes right when everything is wrong. When I am going through a breakup, running from myself, trying to be an adult, trying to get through the death of a best friend from drugs, trying to deal with being broke this is where everything is fine. This is when I am safe.
That is, when it goes well.
I decided yesterday to go to an open mic. It was my friend Hector Luis’s mic. I love Hector because not only is he a good guy, but he is a student of the art form of standup comedy. As part of the prizes at his mic, I have won several comedy DVDs that he so lovingly burned. I won best set once or twice, and the place is always supportive. It’s fun, laid back, and safe. Something told me get up, go, do it. I also told Hector about my book and he was awesome. So was Maritza. As a matter of fact, Hector invited me to promo the book this Saturday on his radio show Rat Dog Radio. More details to follow.
I of course came with my type written set of jokes and was ready to rock and roll.
Instead it was sort of the opposite. None of my jokes hit. I was like WTF?!?! I wrote these, I spent time on them, where did this come from? All the jokes I had written weren’t working. What had I done wrong? What was wrong with me?
Immediately I left the stage feeling like I had to fight for all the laughs I got. Then it hit me in a way. Maybe I had lost my ability to make people laugh. I had written my book. Yes, it was funny, but I had lost my stride onstage. Last two weeks, I had been up a few times and did well, but my jokes were tried and true and had worked for sometime. I was also getting sick of them and wanted to work on my new puppet Don Juan.
Still, maybe I had lost my ability to make people laugh. That paranoia shook me.
After I ran out of the mic to get some dinner before meeting my friends on my friend Tony’s yacht, I told myself maybe I had made a mistake. I should just stick to author land. I had been inconsistent as a comedian. When I hit I really hit, and sometimes handled some tough crowds very well when others were eaten alive. On the other hand, at times I should have just held the damn torch I always just dropped it and burnt down the village. It was an either/or situation. At this point I felt things should be better, I should be more crisp when I hit the stage, right?
Then I remembered the immortal words of Chis Murphy, a comedian and comedy coach I have had the pleasure of crossing paths with several times. He once told me that even if you tank, you still got up which means you won. Then it hit me that I still won. I had written new material and didn’t do the same A stuff like some people do at mics. Yes, there are people who do A material at mics. Sometimes it is to workshop a set for a showcase, but sometimes it is because they just aren’t writing anything else. I had put new material on it’s feet and some of the jokes have a future, some need to be shelved for a little bit. Some need to be put in a circular file never to be heard from again. I also have to relax a little onstage, which means getting rid of that diva chip on my shoulder. I need to have fun again with new material, and know that everything happens in it’s own time and this means not always knowing where the punchline comes from right away.
I have had some awesome sets in my life. I have done a lot in my short time on this planet. None of that is going to go away. Yes, I tanked like hell but I took the risks. I also didn’t sit on my ass and wonder what the next move was. For months I have been agonizing over what next. I wrote a damn book that is coming out in a month, I have had songs that charted on the internet, I was a talking head and left that job. I have been wondering, what’s next. The answer is and has always been to get onstage. In a career where there is so much one cannot control the only thing you can control is your output and quality of the work you produce. Sure, if you are funny you can still be denied, but on the other hand it does make life easier.
Yes, I have an attitude about all I have done and the whole comedy thing and again, wont get into it here. I will be the first to cop up to the fact I am a drama queen and a diva. But perhaps it’s time to scrap that, eat humble pie, and just keep getting up no matter how many times I get knocked down. The crazy part is, I want to do it again, and again, and again. I don’t even care if I tank. I just want to do it again.
So to bombing, and doing so brilliantly.
PS. Listen to Rat Dog Radio this Saturday. More details to follow