“I just flew in, and boy are my arms tired.” That opening line from the stand-up comics of old is enough to make you either cringe in embarrassment for them or throw your head back in frustration about how long you’re going to have to sit and listen to this schtick. It’s a stereotypical opening line for a comic whom the audience would rather he sit down instead of doing his stand-up.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once did a bit on humans’ two greatest fears: public speaking and death. He explained that death was second on the list. Seinfeld said we would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy. Public speaking is one thing, but stand-up comedy comes with yet another expectation: be funny. You not only have to speak in front of a group of people, but you also need to make them laugh.
I know you’re aware of what stand-up comedy is, and I’m sorry if I’m belaboring the point, but I want you to understand how frightening it is. I know. I’ve done it.
Right after our wedding, Paul announced that he wanted us to try our hand at stand-up. Being brand new to the marriage game, I said YES! After a lot of practice we performed at The Comedy Zone in Charlotte; we headlined in Wilmington, performed at the Marine base at Camp LeJeune; auditioned for HBO’s Def Comedy Jam, among other things.
Every single performance was extravagantly terrifying. I would feel nauseated just practicing. And performing? The only reason I didn’t physically get sick before hitting the stage was that my body was in a state of fear so great that it had forgotten how to function.
Walking off the stage after a set, my relief would be so great that I would convince myself that I could do it next time without getting so worked up. But as soon as I was out the door I would start worrying about the next gig. Paul and I finally decided it wasn’t right for us. The payoff wasn’t worth the price we paid in nervousness.
But looking back? Wow, I’m proud of myself. I did it. I actually did it. Wow, I learned a lot. About speaking in front of people and controlling a crowd. And wow, oh, wow am I glad it’s over.
Despite all these things, I wouldn’t take it back or change it for anything in the world. I would say over 70% of the confidence I have today I gained from those experiences. That's how it works: you do what scares you the most, and if you survive? You’ll never be the same person you were before.
The other part of that confidence is also built on the fact that I have a little more experience in the art of marriage. So when Paul asks me to do something hairbrained again, I pause thoughtfully and smile as I say, “I don’t think so, Dear.”