I found out at 9:17am that I have my first stand up comedy performance tonight! Sweet! Uhhh…
Stand-up Comedian prepares for his first set
Three and a half hours to curtains. Anxious. Rene Payes hosts a comedy show called Spillin’ the Beans at Full of Beans, a coffee house on Dundas. I messaged him on Twitter last night requesting a spot. He said that he would have first come, first serve openings tonight. I jumped at it immediately.
I’ll be there an hour early. I’ll wait outside if I have to.
The immediate thoughts that go through my head are, “I wonder what the crowd will be like? Will my material work there?” But my cognitive behavioural therapist kicks in and tells me to stop catastrophizing, that I have killer material, and I can improvise with the crowd. I’m going to do great.
How To Be Comfortable On Stage
That said, how do I prepare in such a way that, when I do get on stage, I’m comfortable? Because that’s really the ideal feeling on stage, I think. Seeing Jeff Leeson work his magic on Thursday night taught me that when your mind isn’t preoccupied worrying about the next sentence in your routine, magic is possible.
There’s no easy answer to that question. However, it is possible to create the moment that I go up on stage beforehand. When psychiatrists help people to overcome phobias, they gradually expose them to the fear-inducing agent more and more, until the patient can finally cope with the fear of the agent head-on.
For example, if you’re afraid of a bee, they will show you pictures of a bee until you’re comfortable, then let you hear a bee buzz, then expose you to a real bee in a glass jar, etc.
And I guess that’s what I’m facing: the fear of being on stage. But wait, I’ve been onstage before. I did speech arts throughout school, God I even teach finance to classes of 50+ people on the weekends. This shouldn’t be that bad.
So What Am I Afraid Of?
The fear or apprehension of the crowd not responding is a better way to put it. The CBT therapist chimes in: I’ve crafted the bits in such a way that there is a punchline every 5-15 seconds, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Thank you Louis CK for the insight.
As I write this, I’m feeling a bubbling in my throat. My legs are wavering back and forth. I’m not breathing naturally.
CBT to the rescue: but now that I know my physiological reaction to imagining going on stage, I can work to address them.
Strategy to Prepare
- Record my voice introducing myself.
- Find a sound of a crowd applausing.
- Say, ‘Thank you so much everyone. Another hand for Rene Payes!’
- Crowd applauses again
- Say the first two lines of the routine.
Here’s the final product that I put on my iPhone. I playing this over and over, and even imagining firmly shaking Rene’s hand as I walked on stage.
I’ll keep replaying the above exercise over the next few hours so that when the time comes, I’ll have already met the challenge. Now obviously, you can’t truly create that exact moment, but you can acquaint yourself with the feelings that you may have and get used to them in advance.
Am I the only one doing this?
I get the impression that a lot of the open mic’ers I’m seeing write jokes and go on stage. In other words, it seems like they don’t practice. I don’t have that type of confidence. But I do have fear. And that fear of not performing well on stage scares me into practicing, rehearsing, and visualizing a great performance.
You can meet me at the club (finally),