I haven’t been doing many shows lately. As I’ve talked about before, bringer shows are becoming increasingly difficult to book because they require you to actually bring people to the venue you are performing at. Plus they aren’t cheap which is a major deterrent for people who barely want to see you at work let alone see you perform on-stage more than once in their lives.
It’s not for lack of love it’s probably just fear when you really dig down to the core of it. The dreaded open mics that I can’t stop talking about are my biggest fear.
Plain, dry silence.
I could keep going but, honestly, I’m getting sick of myself talking about them so I can only picture what it’s doing to you.
Bottom line is that I hadn’t planned on doing a set and then my sister told me she was coming up to New York. She lives in Maryland so the only exposure to my comedy – outside of the hilarity of having me as her little brother – was through what I posted on here and on YouTube. She asked if I had any shows set up and that translated to “you really need to do a show because I said so.”
The big sister dynamic was back.
So I booked a show for Monday, May 4th and was actually excited about it. Not that I’m not excited by every show I’m on but this time I had a little more at stake with my sister there to watch. A little more added pressure to make sure I was at my best.
I got to the club and something happened that usually doesn’t that often; all the comics were getting along and talking with each other. Most comics tap into something else when on stage and are typically introverts so this sudden burst of extrovert expressionism took me by surprise.
Once the show started everyone calmed down and sized up the other comics, this was a competition after all, and the talent was through the roof. Everyone was performing really well and getting great reactions from the crowd. I started to get nervous and looked for an emergency exit or fire alarm to pull. I planned on testing out some new elements of my set and with the added pressure of trying to make my sister proud I almost succumbed to the lizard brain telling me to quit, take a cab to the airport, and go home because I can’t afford a plane ticket anywhere.
I was next and it felt like someone was squeezing my heart and ringing out my stomach like a towel at the same time. There’s a moment right before you take the stage where it hits you that you’re about to stand in front of a group of strangers and attempt to impress them. Then they call your name and you have to go up there and perform like a trained circus animal except you didn’t get taken away from your natural habitat and, also, you put yourself in that situation.
I took more risks in this set. I trusted my instinct and acted more than I had before and, at least I think, it worked brilliantly. There was also a moment where I had to wait for the audience to catch up to a joke I told and I was completely exposed. It’s a risk because you’re standing there waiting for people to laugh and if they don’t then you completely lost them, but it’s absolutely thrilling when it starts to build because then you completely have them.
I didn’t win the contest and that’s fine because all that matters is that the show went well and I know I made my big sister proud.