Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Stand Up- For Jesus!

I did it. I actually did it.

I tried my hand at doing stand-up comedy for the first time ever.

It started with a regional CCA (Christian Comedy Association) conference. It was fifteen minutes from my house. That should have been the first red flag, but nooooo, I decided to click on the link and register anyway. 

I knew some of the people running the conference. That should have been a second red flag. People who know you make you do stuff you want to do, but but won't do, because you're too terrified to do it. Blah.

They had food. The third red flag. I was doomed the moment I clicked on 'Register'.

Three red flags and a lot of trepidation later, I'm at the Meet and Greet, thinking so far, so good, when someone asks "You signing up for the open mic tomorrow?" 

I laugh. 

Foolish mortal- do you not know the depths of my fear? It's somewhere between bed-wetting and a near-death experience. Thank you, but no. Nope. Nuh uh. Never ever gonna do that. Don't even think it.

Then these comedians, these heinous humortarians, these crazy carnivores of comedic chaos nipped at my heels, smiled ever-so-charmingly, and planted seeds in my head that I just might be able to pull of a three to five minute set.

I resisted. I was a warrior! I had my hedge of protection- the problem was, they gave my muse a nice sharp pair of shears. 

My muse began tickling my mind as I slept, giving me ideas on how I could whip together a set from the myriad piles of notes I'd taken throughout life. Comedy notes I'd been writing for years but never intended to perform. I awoke with my mind buzzing, tearing through my notes faster than a toddler eats crayons.

I actually had enough material on one topic to create a quick set. Egad.

Lucky for me they had all day comedy classes, so I had time to firm everything up on a 3x5 card. If I was going to do this, there was no way in Washington I was going to rely on my cheap sponge-mop memory! I took notes, learned a lot, and tried not to eat or drink before they started the open mic session.

I was fourth on the list. 

My nerves were shot. But as I watched the others, the critiques were actually encouraging. They included my opinions in the critiques as well- it wasn't 'professionals vs. newbies' but more like a discussion group to help improve (or get rid of) material. There were even suggestions that made everyone laugh! And the newbies were taking notes. 

Maybe, just maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

At least until he called my name. I got up there all smiles, but my little piddly 3x5 card was shaking like a neurotic hummingbird in my hand. 

I did my act. 
I was horrible

I held the mic everywhere but my mouth because I talk with my hands. 
They reminded me to breathe in the beginning, because I forgot.
I missed joke notes and had to go back.
I paused too long (no dead air time during open mic! Bad, bad!)
I was shaking through the entire thing.  
About two minutes into it, I settled a little.
One minute more, and I started getting laughs.
I also got blank faces at times.
By the time I got to the end of my little 3x5 card, I'd done a whopping six minutes! That was one minute over the set time, but they were nice enough to let me ramble on anyway.
I didn't even mention God or Jesus. I forgot!
I was still shaking when they applauded.

Now was the part I dreaded. The critique. Surprise! They actually liked some of my jokes! They told me what they liked, what I could work on (hello mic skills!), and what I could improve or make into a longer piece. They also suggested different topics (I had chosen stories about being overweight- not my usual topic, but a popular one), and ways I could manipulate words to make the stories a bit funnier. 

They all sympathized when I could barely hold my pen to take notes. I was still shaking like a caffeinated squirrel for at least ten minutes afterward! But I managed to make legible notations, thanked everyone and got a lot of smiles and pats on the back for my first try. 

I'm still not sure that will ever be the right path for me- Maybe my path runs along the Funny Inspirational speaker, maybe I'll write for other comedians, or maybe keep my focus on being a funny author- but these skills are still very valuable skills that will not only help me tell and write better stories, but might allow me to make funny vlogs, vines, videos or even short commercials somewhere down the line. 

No skill is ever wasted. If you take nothing else away from this post, please take that with you. 

You never know when those odd little skills will be needed. For instance, I worked in the print and copy industry for eleven years. When my husband was burned, he had over three hundred staples in him to hold pigskin on his mid-section- and the docs were hurting him when they removed some of the staples. Who knew my awesome staple-pulling skills would come in handy in a hospital burn unit? 
And guess what? I taught the doctors a few things about staple removal!

Doing stand-up is hard. All of the professional comedians I met were helpful, supportive, and humble. They have no problem taking critiques as much as giving them! Many of them shared great stories about their first tries, which made us newbies feel a whole lot better.

I want to ask a favor from you.

Please help support your local Christian comedians by sharing their links with your Christian brothers, sisters and churches. Go see their shows! And if the church is large enough, your church can host a show of their own- How awesome is that?
Please remember that comedians have families to support- comedy is a hard job, and these fantastic people are worth every penny!

My thanks to Al Smith (our Host from the East Coast), Rik Roberts, Gordon Douglas, Sandi Joy Chadwick, Mary Ellen Rinaldi, and all of the other wonderful funny people I met at the conference!


Unknown said...

I'm so proud of you, Beth! And kudos for pushing past the fear. It sounds like the perfect place to test the waters--a safe place that offered kind critique. It's a scary thing--I've never gotten to that point yet. I've done plenty of public speaking, and certainly infused humor,but never straight out stand up. I think you should pat yourself on your back for being brave! Well done.

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