Last night we had our graduation, where I performed to a packed house on the main stage at Gotham Comedy Club. It was amazing.
I was in my zone of fulfillment, sharing my authentic self and making people laugh. Everyone in my class crushed it.
More Than Comedy
The 6-week class transcended comedy. I was surprised by the amount of personal growth I experienced through this process.
As I floated home on cloud nine, my mind swirled as I digested the experience from the class and the show, and I started to put it all in perspective.
Here are my 7 biggest takeaways from my 6-week stand-up experience.
(1) Show Up, For Yourself and Others
Showing up starts the moment you register or commit to something.
Our class met for 3 hours each Monday night. Monday can be a tough night, and 3 hours is a long time. Life happens. Things get busy.
No matter how busy I felt, or how unprepared I felt, I showed up to class and played full out. I didn’t do this just for myself, but for my classmates. We all showed up to support each other.
(2) What You Need Is Inside You
I often felt like I did not have all my material together to perform a set in front of the class. Some people came to class with neatly typed notes or scripts. I often felt like I was “behind” because I didn’t have my act together in that way. In part, that’s just my nature. I never feel prepared.
No matter how unprepared I felt, I got up in every class, took the microphone, and delivered a performance. Sometimes I had a notebook in front of me, but I rarely looked at it. I spoke from the heart and told funny stories. Then the class and our teacher gave me feedback that helped me craft them into jokes.
(3) Work Your Process
On some level, I underestimated the power of my rituals. Creating time for reflection, contemplation, and idea harvest is one of my daily rituals. I had no shortage of material and ideas. It was just organized differently than other people organized theirs.
My pilates teacher always says, “no setting is right for everyone.” This is true in productivity and the creative process too. Each person has a different process; part of the productivity and the creative struggle is learning to honor your own process.
I learned that my joke-writing process is different from my blog-writing process. I’m still evolving in both, but I learned that I had to create different energetic space and different rituals for each. And I did.
(4) Practice in Public, Polish in Private
Comedy can’t be created in a vacuum. You need feedback from a live audience to help you shape the material. The audience reaction tells you what bits to keep, what to discard, and what to tweak.
Many big name comedians often pop into comedy clubs unannounced just to practice new material, because they know that comedy is a co-creative process. You need to test it before a live audience.
Each class was a practice session. I got up, delivered my material, and received feedback.
In between classes, I reviewed the feedback and worked out ideas to polish my jokes.
(5) Build Resilience to Rejection
Any writer knows that putting your work into the public can provoke anxiety. You don’t know if people will read it, or if they will like it. Stand-up comedy is even worse: if people reject you, it’s to your face.
The best way to build resilience to this is by attending open mics. Open mics are typically in a basement of a bar. You do your routine to a smattering of jaded comedians who are just waiting for their turn. Nobody laughs at anything.
Six weeks ago, I didn’t know anything about open mics. In the past week, I’ve done two. Open mics aren’t necessarily a great place for feedback. But they are an excellent environment for building resilience.
Practicing at open mics gave me comfort that if one of my punchlines fell flat, I’d be ok. It was the best preparation for getting on the big stage.
(6) Seek the Humor in Life
It’s ironic that comedy is often viewed as an escape from the reality of life. The truth is that to find the comedy in a situation requires full presence.
The best comedy comes from awareness of ourselves and others. It comes from noticing the details and our emotional reactions. And it comes from a willingness to embrace ourselves as we are.
You see what you seek.
Comedy is in every detail in life. We just need to be looking for the humor.
(7) Be Yourself
One reason I took the class was to learn how to “stay on script.” Staying on script makes me nervous. I worry about forgetting my lines.
In our first class, our teacher, comedian Karen Bergreen, defined the difference between acting and doing stand-up:
Acting is all about whether you look the part.
Stand-up is about showing up as you are.
Learning to be a stand-up comedian is the process of learning to be yourself and finding your authentic voice.
A friend asked me if I felt nervous at the graduation show. I know I thrive on stage in the spotlight, but I was actually surprised at how calm I was. And I think it was because I had learned that I didn’t need to be scripted or perfect.
The only thing I needed was to be unapologetically, authentically, me.
Want to see the video of my stand-up debut? Make sure you register for my list, because it’s only going to the members of my community.