His palms are sweaty. Knees weak, arms are heavy; there’s vomit on his s…wait a minute. That’s definitely not me.
But there is a rush that I feel as I get ready to take the stage. It begins to build as I walk the dog which is a great time to practice my set out loud. Incidentally, it is also a great time to make the neighbors think that I’m slightly psychotic as I not only talk to myself but crack myself up while my dog marks his territory on their property. I envision the audience; I see people laughing right on beat and a roomful of tipsy, happy patrons completely under my spell. Before I get too comfortable in that, I see the hecklers and begin imagining all the comebacks I should have in my pocket in case I need to make an example of some sucker.
I am not one of those comedians who can jump onstage and wing my way into hilarity. Oh sure, I’m funny off the cuff, but I don’t trust myself nearly enough to stand in front of a crowd with only a glimmer of what is going to come. I usually make up some cute little acronym or employ some other trick to remember the specific order of the jokes I want to tell to a specific crowd. I like taking a crowd on a particular journey. I’m a storyteller at my core and I need to be in charge.
When I step in the shower I remind myself about my goals. Take your time. Connect with the audience; find one person and smile at them. Be personable. Don’t mumble. Be vulnerable. Have fun. I think about all the reasons that I wanted to do standup in the first place. I think about the times when it has gone really well and also the times when it has gone completely wrong. As I try to identify what’s special or different about those times, I plot my course for the show in front of me. By now my fingers are completely waterlogged and I look like a giant raisin. I’m ready.
On the car ride I usually have my playlist to get me in the attack zone. It’s a little Drake heavy at this point, I’ll admit. But there’s something about that fake ghetto bravado that gets me amped. After I’ve found the cheapest parking spot available, I am ready to set fire to the club.
A lot of work goes into looking like what I do is off the cuff. I have to prepare myself to be in the moment. But the feeling of doing well, of making a roomful of strangers laugh until their bladders hurt, makes all the effort worth it. Hours of work for minutes of reward is a fine equation in my eyes. I know that everyone is listening and I know that I have something to say worth their attention.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go walk the dog.