What I Learned From My First Attempt At Stand-Up Comedy

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That’s right, folks. Last night I performed at an ‘open mic’ night at the Greenwich Village Comedy Club in New York City.

Now, I’m all about doing little things to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but this scared the absolute crap out of me. Never in my LIFE have I ever, EVER considered doing a stand-up gig.

And yet, there I was, on a tiny stage in a dark room with a microphone in my hand and blinding lights in my face. My goal was to make it through the allotted 5 minutes without having beer cans hurled at my face.

This situation was completely unplanned, by the way.

I had just spent the day at a speaking workshop with comedian and coach Judy Carter, and had met Helaine, a comedienne and joke writer. She said to me: “You like comedy? Come to this open mic night! You’ll be great!”

Yeah, right. There was NO WAY I was going to attempt comedy. “Come on!” Helaine said. “It will be over before you know it. Just tell some stories about your life!”

As I thought it over, I came to a realisation:

The fact that it scared me meant that I had to do it.

And you know what happened? My fear began to turn into excitement. I do have stories to share, I thought. What if I DID pull this off? Is there a possibility that…I could actually enjoy it? How exhilarating would that be!

So I did it. And you know what? I actually had a lot of fun! I felt amazing afterwards too, like an “I can’t believe I just did that!!” feeling. I was so pumped afterwards though, I couldn’t get to sleep. (Forget coffee. If you ever need to get your heart racing, go do 5 minutes of stand-up.)

What was the verdict?

Ok, so for my first attempt, it was definitely not a disaster. I got laughs (well, sympathy laughs at least) but I figured even if my jokes bombed, the audience would at least be mildly entertained by my being Australian. (The host, Ricki, seemed to have the same thought: “Let’s hear it for Christina! Watch what you do with that accent, or you will be…pregnant.”)

(Just as a caveat, I should mention that I recently went to a session about how to add humour to your speech…so I did have a few jokes-writing formulas in my head, which helped a lot. Thanks Judy Carter!)

What can we learn from this?

1. Make it a habit to speak or get in front of audiences at every opportunity. Just DO IT. Maybe you’re in a fitness class and the trainer asks someone to demonstrate. Put your hand up! If you’re in a lecture, ask a question! Who cares what the answer is; it’s the speaking as practice that counts. Or if you’re at dinner with friends, take a few minutes to stand up and say how much you appreciate them. These little things WILL make a difference.

2. If something scares you, turn that fear into excitement. Instead of focusing on the potential of being publicly humiliated, I focused on how I really wanted to just share my funny stories about my experiences in New York. The open mic night turned into a great opportunity!

3. There is nothing like the feeling of exhilaration you get when you’ve accomplished something you originally thought to be impossible. Coming off that stage, I felt like I could achieve anything. Woo hoo!

So if you want to get more comfortable and confident at speaking in front of people, just take it slow. Small ‘wins’ will help you build confidence to take on bigger things. If I can manage to work up to doing stand-up comedy, you too can work up to overcoming your own speaking fears. And that’s no joke.

Comments

  1. Reminded me of a joke…..

    A guy went into hospital for a leg amputation (just wasn’t working for him). Woke up after the op with the surgeon standing beside his bed.
    “Got some bad news and some good news.”
    “So tell me the bad news doc.”
    “Sorry but we made a mistake and amputated the good leg. That meant we then had to amputate the bad leg.”
    “So there’s good news?”
    “Yep… The guy in the next bed wants to buy your slippers.”

  2. Holy crap! That’s the bravest thing I’ve heard of anyone doing in a long while. Trouble is, if you can do this, what the HELL are you going to do next that will scare the bejaysus out of you? MAJOR tip o’ the hat.

  3. Helaine witt says:

    You did great. You can sign yo for every Sunday at http://www.newyorkcomedyschool.com

  4. Great advice! Dont wait to get perfect. Just do it!

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