Open mic comedy: Third time’s the charm?

Okay, it will actually be the sixth time. But I’ve never been very good at math. Which makes being a computer programmer challenging.

Let me explain.

I have performed comedy in front of an audience 5 times now.

The first time was in 2015 at Listen To Your Mother in Indianapolis. That was the first time I heard my own voice through a microphone. I loved the feeling.

Then, I performed stand-up twice at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop.

What a fucking blast.

It’s been over a year since the last Erma conference.

I knew I wanted to try my hand at an open mic comedy, but it was just an “in the future” thing.

You know, something you think about and never do.

Except, I didn’t want stand-up to be something I never did. I mean, I don’t know stand-up is something I want to pursue seriously. I just find it fun to do.

I performed at an open mic three weeks ago. The performance wasn’t perfect, but definitely wasn’t bad. I walked out feeling good about myself.

My first four times performing for an audience were fulfilling, fun experiences. Scary, sure, but over all, awesome.

My fifth comedy experience wasn’t quite that.

I returned to the brewery where I did my first open mic. There weren’t many people there, maybe 15 or 20.

My first 3 audiences had hundreds of people which I find less intimidating than a handful of people. A handful is kind of like being at a party and fucking everyone is looking at you. So, you know, typical nightmare for those of us with social anxiety.

Plus, I am way older than most of the people there. Which I used to my advantage the first week and it fucking worked.

I practiced in my head for months before the first time at the brewery. I knew the material. I was prepared. I was ready.

Then, I wrote some new stuff and read through it a few times. No months of traffic rehearsals.

Two weeks went by fast.

Randy: You’re not ready for this

Me: Nah, I got this. I’m ready

Randy: You’re not ready.

Me: Dude! I’m fucking ready, okay? It’s 5 minutes. I got this.

Yeah, so Randy was right.

I wasn’t ready.

My first joke fell flat. No laughs.

I wasn’t ready for no laughs and had barely practiced. I continued and about 10 seconds in, I lost my train of thought.

I didn’t recover gracefully. Total deer in the headlights moment,

I finished the 5 minutes and remembered the material, but felt completely out of sorts. My timing was off. I rushed through the material.

It wasn’t good.

I’m not saying I got no laughs. I did. I even had someone approach me after and tell me how much they enjoyed the standup, which was lovely.

But it wasn’t good.

Here’s why I’m not upset about this. There are a couple reasons.

Failure was going to happen. It just was.

Making people laugh isn’t super easy, so it’s not going to work every time. Might as well get it over with.

And it didn’t kill me. It didn’t even make me feel bad. Well, after about 24 hours. I cringed for at least a day.

But really, it wasn’t horrible. It just was “not great”. And even if it were horrible, it still wouldn’t have killed me. I think I already knew that, but now I know for sure.

I can fail! In front of people! And I don’t die!

I didn’t realize I was cool with this, so in a way, I’m glad it happened. I needed this lesson.

Hahaha. That’s total bullshit. I always want to do well. Still, silver lining and all. 

I’m going to try a third time. At least a third time.

I will be better prepared next time and I might find a new venue that more suited to me.

Or I’ll go back there. But I’ll do stand up at least one more time.

Anyway, life is short. If there is something you want to try? Go do it. It probably won’t kill you.

Unless it involves hang gliding or rattle snakes. Then, it might kill you. Be careful.


Photo courtesy of Pexels.



38 Thoughts.

  1. I think it’s great that you are working on migrating your humor from writing to stand up. You have a great perspective to offer. Writing is less scary. I’m proud of you for doing this a handful of times and for committing to at least one more palate-cleansing stand up.

  2. Mitch Hedburg’s wife told a story of how one night she saw him completely bomb at a club, and this was after he’d had great success and been on TV. When he came off he said the same thing you did: sometimes everybody fails.
    I think it’s fantastic that you’re going to try again. It’s that willingness to get back up there that seems to make all the difference.

  3. I think you’re great no matter what you’re doing, but you have to remember that failing in that sort of venue is NOT PERSONAL. These people don’t know you. They have expectations because it’s stand up. That particular group didn’t get you – but at least one person did and made it a special point to come and tell you that. That’s SUCCESS! (And please, get Randy to buy you a “Like” button for this page for your next Birthday! Or for mine.

    • HAHAH…I used to have a like button!

      And the crowd was very forgiving. It’s mostly other comics at this place and they really want everyone to do well, it’s kind of amazing. I just didn’t.

  4. Yeah, it can suck to screw up performing in front of people, but everyone who performs does it once in a while, and even so there is probably gonna be someone who likes it.
    I broke a B string playing the solo to Pink Floyd’s “Time” once and wanted to crawl in a hole and die, only to have a guy wearing a Frank Zappa shirt come up to me afterward and compliment me on my tone.
    So I guess it takes all kinds and you never know.
    I’m glad you still plan to do it again, as what I’ve seen was good and you seemed to be enjoying yourself, and remember what Robin Williams said in his sketch about bombing on “Wow, Reality, What a Concept”:
    “Fuck you, what do you want from me anyway!!??”

    • Haha..What an amazing talent he was. It still makes me sad to think about him.

      Yeah, it was actually okay. The earth didn’t swallow me. I survived. It’s all good. Well, except for that performance. haha

  5. I love stand up comedy and I bet you’re hilarious! I don’ t think I could do it though speaking in front of an audience is like my worst nightmare!

  6. Wow. Just an awesome, giddy, heart-felt ‘wow.’
    Now you can do ANYTHING! I’d rather land in a rattlesnake pit from a misdirected hang gliding than public joke delivery, so you have my most complete admiration.
    I knew you were having fun with the Mom and Marriage talks, but true comedic style joke slinging on the stage for soon to be drunks is about a thousand degrees removed…
    Just Wow <3

  7. I’ve always heard it’s important to step out of our comfort zones on occasion if we want to feel successful, but….I rarely do it. In my book, you are one brave lady. And I admire you.

  8. You are amazing- I love that you did this and survived to tell about it. Way to go! You are an inspiration – timely bc I am looking at jobs online tonight. Stayed home to raise 6 kids and now run an in home daycare during the school year- mostly teachers’ kids. Anyway, I was looking at a university’s job postings in Chicago. Free tuition for my kids if I work there. There was a Coach Spirit job. Description included ordering uniforms and scheduling tryouts. I thought it was related to the athletic dept in general. I was like- hey, I can do this. I was voted most spirited in high school (forever ago). Then I realized it was for a cheerleading coach. Bah! No way. That would be my rattle snake pit. Still I feel like there might be something out there that will click for me besides changing diapers. Knowing you put yourself out there is giving me hope.

  9. Ok, first of all, I have a whole new respect for you now that I know you do stand up. That is fucking HUGE!!! Being a stand-up comedian is HARD!!! I would think that just trying to relate to the audience, and know what they think is funny would be really hard to pull off. But (I think) is more important is that someone enjoyed it enough to come find you afterwards and tell you how much he enjoyed it! People don’t do that very much anymore. People LOVE to complain, but it’s pretty rare for people to track you down and tell you how good you are!!!

  10. Congrats on doing it at all. I’ve never done standup but I have to give speeches to groups of strangers at times, and falling flat was important, but it made me realize falling flat was possible for me. Being nervous helps. Knowing I could fail helps.

    It’s funny reading his, because I am way better in front of big groups too. It’s like juggling tennis balls: When it’s happening and it’s working, I just go with it and don’t think about it.

    I look forward to hearing about your next time.

  11. My motto is “the worst I can do is screw it all up,” which on the surface is an attempt at dark ironic humor, but which also translates roughly to “one may make a horrible mess of things, but the world isn’t going to stop turning, and there will be another day.” You are funny in print; I’m sure you are funny in person. Oh, and one of my favorite things you’ve ever written was when you used the dog shampoo and your mom said “Who’s a good girl?” The funny obviously runs in your family. Rock on.

  12. Ach, you got this! Next time you’ll ace it, takes a bit to perfect new material, which is why even big comedians test their stuff on small club audiences first.
    You rock! xx

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