So here’s a thing. I’ve always desperately wanted to do stand-up. I did it a bunch before I left for Canada, then a couple of times while I was travelling through. I never did well. I got disheartened, then scared to get back up. The honest truth is I was going about it all wrong. The “way to do” stand-up is to write a couple of jokes and refine them, editing to find the funny in your concept and tweaking them over time as you work on the right delivery, wording, etc. Instead, I’d write five minutes, it wouldn’t work well (because I was trying it for the first-third time) and I’d discard it to write another five. Accordingly, I was getting the response I deserved. Eventually I threw in the towel. For years now I’ve been secretly ashamed and resentful of myself for giving up. I’ve felt cowardly and had a hard time reconciling that if I’d just stuck with it through the hard parts, by now I’d be better regardless. It’s been the kind of thing that with no exaggeration I’d think about at least once a week, going back to try again. Fear told me no and I believed it had my best interests at heart. Or it was easier to do nothing than to try, which is a whole different kind of seductive.
On this holiday, my comedian friend said she was curious about trying an open mic in a new city. I pondered out loud about whether I should give it a try. She and my other friend couldn’t have been more supportive. “Sure”, she said “go write some jokes”. Simple as that. It was weird too, but in her cavalier delivery of those words there was something I heard that may or may not have been intentional. She said it so matter of factly. It sounded like she didn’t for a second entertain the notion that I wasn’t fully capable of writing jokes. So I chose to believe her. I went off to write and wrote a ton. There was so much waffling. I knew though, that I had the kernels of some decent jokes once I cut out the chaff. Even better, I’d worked within a structure I’d always wanted to replicate, but never had. You know when a comedian does the punchline and the room laughs, then it goes quiet? It’s like “well, that was a funny joke”, then instead of moving onto the next joke they tag with the real punchline, which is even funnier because it defies the room’s expectations of structure? Well I wrote some of those, and if felt so goddamn good to finally be able to see how that worked as opposed to only reaching that first stage. I looked at my page. I had material. I got excited. I woke up at 6am the next morning, too excited and nervous to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then as the night approached, fear crept back on in. I thought about how badly I’d feel if I tried and failed, See, until I did it I existed in this Schroedinger’s Cat style situation. I didn’t know that I could do it until I tried, but at the same time it wasn’t confirmed that I couldn’t do it. If I did it and sucked, that was it. If I never tried, in some twisted logic, I could never fail. I tried to make excuses and mentally talked myself out of it. I implored my friends to talk me out of it. They wouldn’t. We went.
I was nervous and shakey, which was only exacerbated when the host said sets were three minutes long. Back in Toronto most open mics have five minute sets. ‘That’s like one of my jokes’, I thought. I had three long jokes I wanted to try. I resolved not to rush, but to accept that I I would do the one joke and take my time with it, find the correct cadence.
Honestly, the set went better than I could’ve hoped. I was nervous, but my delivery felt natural and even. The structure and lead in felt right. They were laughing in the right places. It’s not like I ever expected I’d crush, but I had a bunch of big laughs and the joke I really liked got the whole room cracking up. They flashed the light at two minutes and I realised I was rounding off the end of my joke, that there was no way I could fit another one in. That felt good enough for me and I was stoked to get in the whole joke at an even pace, without rushing.
It felt so amazing to have faced my significant fears. I was proud of myself for getting up and overjoyed to have done it. Even now, the morning after, I still feel like I’m glowing. It’s probably just sunburn, but maybe I sunburned my heart, y’know? This holiday has been outstanding. I’ve enjoyed the pace, my friends and I have really complementary travel styles. We’ve done so much cool shit, but this is one of my favourite memories from it hands down.