My First Set as a Stand up Comedian – Before the Set

I found out at 9:17am that I have my first stand up comedy performance tonight! Sweet! Uhhh…

Jump to: How to Be Comfy on Stage | What Am I Afraid Of? | Strategy To Prepare | Alone in this?

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.

Bee on Boy

Bee on Boy

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

  1. Record my voice introducing myself.
  2. Find a sound of a crowd applausing.
  3. Say, ‘Thank you so much everyone. Another hand for Rene Payes!’
  4. Crowd applauses again
  5. 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.

Next up: The performance + video

You can meet me at the club (finally),

Michael Jagdeo

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About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
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4 Responses to My First Set as a Stand up Comedian – Before the Set

  1. Mandible Craig says:

    Just came across your blog by accident. lol.
    I think you are out of your mind doing stand-up, man. Its so scary isn’t it? I mean, you’re putting yourself out there. Some of these stand-ups have had their lives destroyed by drugs, dysfunctional and abusive family conditions, and who knows what else, but despite the conditions of their environment, they managed to stand up out of the ashes and fill the void in their lives with five minute sets once a night (if they’re lucky).

    Too bad the video isn’t your whole set. Looking forward to seeing your progression!!!

    • Hey there Mr. Craig,

      Yes, you’re right. Often the material on stage has its roots in adversity. Heck, my five-minute bit is about obesity.

      But thanks for following! I am putting my heart and soul into this blog.

      Your friend,

      Michael Jagdeo

  2. Like the above poster, I also happened by your blog by accident. I just started doing open mic’s a couple of weeks ago and still feel like I have a lot to learn about writing and performing. I am hoping this blog will provide insights into both.

    Good luck to both of us!

    • Hey Mike,

      Glad to see you’re getting your feet wet. I’d suggest starting with the category of posts, ‘Art & Science of Comedy’ so you get a feel for the basics.

      Then, from time to time, check out my Open Mic Diary from the beginning, so you can get a feel for the number of times that I did well, bombed, in between, etc.

      It took me a while to come to terms with bombing…I still am struggling with it, truth be told. Look forward to seeing you on the scene!

      JagdeoComedy on Twitter

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