Doing stand up comedy is weird. One minute you’re shaking from nerves and fumbling with the mic, the next you feel like an invincible genius who will literally never die. There’s rarely an in between. At least, for me.
I’ve been doing stand up comedy for six months now and I still get nervous before I go on stage. I still forget my jokes and I still learn something new at every show. The lessons may be minimal, like learning the importance of one-liners or where to stand on the stage. But there have been shows where I learned really important lessons that gave me a better understanding of the industry and how to be a successful comedian.
I remember when I first started doing stand up, I spoke really fast, didn’t leave any time for laughter, and told short, separate jokes that weren’t connected. I was always embarrassed and felt like I was the worst comic there. But I was, I am, passionate about comedy and am determined to push through it. I want to go all the way to the top.
Then I came to watch an open mic without actually performing. I watched my fellow San Diego comedians absolutely bomb. All the comedians I had admired and revered, for some reason, got no laughs and got really awkward. It sort of put things in perspective for me. That night, I realized that everyone is always going to fail at some point. You’re pretty much always gonna look stupid, and people will definitely ‘boo’ you at some point. In a way, it humanized them. That was a major learning point for me.
Even now, as much as I admire and look up to other San Diego comedians, I still can’t seem to break into the scene. Though I’ve been doing open mics at the same places for six months, most of the regulars, who absolutely know me by name, will not even acknowledge me. It used to bother me. I used to wonder why they never reached out or even said hello back.
Then I realized that if it matters that much to me, I can always say hi to them. There are some people who I know just aren’t super friendly and are a bit standoff-ish in general, so I don’t waste my time on them. Sure I might give them a half smile or a “sup” but that’s about it. But ever since I made an actual effort to engage with other comedians, I’m starting to feel like I might actually fit it.
Now I could go on and on about all the lessons I learned from doing stand up but in the end, the most important stuff I learned is this: You’re always going to look stupid, you’re absolutely going to fail. You’re going to forget your jokes or mess up the punch line. The crowds are always the same, whether they be in the great New York City or at a dingy pub in the outskirts of San Diego. The lows are low but, man, are the highs incredible.
There’s just something about being in front of a crowd, with an entire room laughing with you, with bright eyes, that makes you feel so alive that you can’t help but wonder if you’ve ever lived at all. That moment, whether it lasts ten seconds or ten minutes, makes every failure, every awkward silence or empty room, worth it. I could ride that wave forever.