Six weeks ago, when my friend told me she signed up to take an intro to stand-up comedy class, I decided: I was in.
Stand-up comedy has long been on my bucket-list. And it was a stretch for me. I often make people laugh in conversation, but crafting and telling jokes is different from making people laugh.
As a creative, I relish the challenge of exploring all different types of creative expression. I think it’s healthy to be well-rounded and well-versed in the different creative forms. It leads to more synergy and keeps my well of ideas full.
I was excited, and a little nervous.
The Big Performance
Tonight, after only 6 weeks of class, was our graduation show: a live performance at Gotham Comedy Club.
I stood on stage in front of a packed house, delivered 5 minutes of material, and people laughed. They didn’t laugh at every joke. But they laughed at many of them. I had a great time.
The Self-Judgment Tendency
It’s my nature to be self-critical, to focus first on the things I didn’t like or did wrong. And although I did nothing “wrong” in my set, I immediately thought of all the things I could have done better or that I didn’t do the way I wanted to do.
If you’re a certain type of person (like one who reads this blog often), you may find yourself passing judgment on your own efforts. This is common among my circus friends. We often start judging ourselves and critiquing our efforts before we have rolled out of the net.
It’s easy to pick apart an act from the perspective of hindsight or from a seat in the audience. When you’re not standing on the stage under the glare of the spotlight, everything looks different.
Why Self-Criticism Doesn’t Help
We often think that the self-criticism will serve us. It will help us become better. But it doesn’t work like that. The brain already has carved out negative neural pathways. Self-criticism only reinforces those.
The moment I felt myself start to judge my own performance, I immediately shifted to a positive mindset. I put myself back in the mindset of being on stage, with the glare of the spotlight on me. I remembered what I felt in the moment. The raw nerves. Feeling blinded by the light. The way time moved fast and slow.
I reminded myself that this was just the beginning. It was my first comedy performance, other than some open mics over the past few days. I have a long way to go to hone this craft. Even the best comedians are still improving and fine-tuning their acts.
Nobody ever really has their act together 100%.
In the quest to constantly improve in any pursuit, we often jump straight into those lessons and critiques. When we do this, we end up trying to build from a place of deficiency instead of from a place of sufficiency.
It’s an ineffective strategy that leaves us with a rocky foundation for building something amazing and long-lasting.
How to Build a on a Solid Foundation
The creative path is difficult enough. It’s important to build on a foundation of success and accomplishment. The first step in this is to celebrate what was great.
That’s what I am doing.
Starting with: I showed up.
Six weeks ago, I didn’t know how to put together material for a 2-minute set. Tonight, I delivered 5 minutes to a packed house.
If someone had given me an extra week, I would have gladly taken it. Even a few hours before the show, I was writing new material. But nobody gave me an extra week. And somehow, I managed to get on stage and deliver.
Not just deliver, but thrive. I won’t hold back. Tonight reinforced for me that I thrive in front of a live audience, under the glare of the spotlight.
The audience laughed, and I had a great time. I’m basking in the warmth of Post-Event High, celebrating my accomplishment.
Are there places to improve? Of course.
Lessons to learn? Absolutely.
Wisdom to extract? Without a doubt.
Those will wait. The first step is to celebrate.
Watch the Video of My Stand-Up Act
There will be a video of my performance, but I’m only sharing it with my inner circle. If you want to see it, get on my the list.