People who know me laughed out loud when I told them I was going to do standup comedy. Good, I thought. I’ve already got ‘em laughing. I guess I’m not thought of as a particularly funny guy. If you had to use 10 words to describe me, “funny” would probably not make the top 10. So, what the hell am I doing standup comedy for?
I’ve always thought standup comedy to be the hardest possible performance art. It’s just you and the room. There’s nothing to hide behind. No musical instrument, no fourth wall. Just the thought of it was scary as hell! In my personal development, I believe there is immense power in facing fears. I saw a great opportunity for growth in standing up (so to speak) to face something I found so scary. I had done it before with music and singing. Learning to do those things I thought I’d never be able to do provided me great growth, both personally and creatively.
I went to see a friend from acting class do a standup show, and I had a blast watching these comics. Some were better than others, but I really admired their ability to get up and take a risk. It was a rather casual show, so I saw many of the comics simply working their shit out, without regard or worry for how it would play. I witnessed immense creative freedom and I wanted some of that. I also felt like performing standup could be a proactive and positive action to take when I’m not getting out on as many auditions as I’d like. I thought it could be a good way to keep the wheels greased and stretch myself as an artist. So, I made a new year’s resolution to do standup in the coming year.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, I’ve kept a daily journal on and off for years, mostly on for the past 3. While I didn’t think of myself as a particularly funny guy, I did feel like I have a knack for observation and communication – both through writing and acting. I know I can act so I thought, “Why can’t I act like a standup comic with material I’ve written?” Surely, I could do that.
The hard part was learning how to write jokes. I did some research on standup comedy teachers and after reading some good reviews about Joe Falzarano, I took his introductory standup class. Joe has worked with some of today’s top comics when they were on their way. Learning the “science” behind joke-writing was hugely enlightening because it took the elusive mystique out of being funny. The more I learned to edit myself and shape my material into joke format, the more I realized I could actually be funny. I learned that being funny was about setting up the audience to expect one thing then surprising them. Surprising the audience is what elicits laughter.
So, I wrote and wrote and shaped a 5-minute set for our “graduation” performance at the world-famous Hollywood Improv. It was a blast! I was nervous, for sure, but I felt such freedom performing and felt high for hours afterward. There is something very magical about that immediate, intimate connection with the audience. So, I decided I didn’t want to stop there. I talked to some of my standup comic friends and they pointed me toward open mics, comedy promoters and other venues. Each performance is its own liberating experience. I love being able to craft my material each time I take the stage. Jokes change, material gets cut and shaped, new material makes its way in as the world around us happens. I get to continue to dig deep, learn about myself, and comment on the world around me ‘cuz, if nothing else, I’ve got strong opinions.
That’s not to say I don’t go through incredible nerves and anxiety leading up to a show. I’m told that never really goes away. But I’ve caught the bug. Those are my 5-8 minutes to exercise my first amendment right to free speech. And I’m loving it.