"To succeed, we must first believe that we can." - Michael Korda
I had never felt as nervous before as I did that night. There were 12 people performing and I had spot number 5. Anxiety started hit after the first person went up.
This was really going to happen, I’m going to attempt to be funny in front of a group of strangers… I’m going to attempt to be a comedian. A chill came over my body as I tried to gather my thoughts and remember the set of material I had worked on throughout the class.
I paced back and forth trying to make sure I remembered everything as the second person hit the stage. My turn was slowly approaching, and my nervousness was pretty much on overdrive.
At this point I stepped outside to get some air. The third person had their turn up on the mic. I tried my best to calm down, the last thing I wanted to do is get all choked up and not even perform at this point.
The fourth person took to the stage. I knew that it was now or never, put up or shut up. I was ready, or at least that’s what I told myself.
It was my turn now…
On the last day of our class we were tasked with coming up with an introduction for the Host to call us up with.
My introduction, “Coming to the stage, A man of few words.. none of which make any sense, Here’s Alfred Haywood.” Looking back at it now, that was probably the dumbest thing I ever thought of…
I walked towards the stage incredibly nervous and trembling. After seeing all the other comics, I realized that I had overdressed for this occasion. I was wearing a Polo shirt, dress pants and dress shoes. I thought in my head that it would be funny to point that out.
First Joke: I didn’t know what to wear here. When I was leaving my house, my roommate asked me “Where are you headed to?” I said, “I’m going to do some Stand Up Comedy.” He said, “Oh, I thought you were going to Church” The Crowd Laughed! My spontaneous thought actually worked as a joke.
It felt like some of the tension had been lifted off of me. I could do this! I then went into the jokes that I had prepared.
I hated being the Oldest Brother, it was like being at a job that you couldn’t quit. There were no Benefits, no 401k, no Vacation days… just a whole lot of harassment. Anytime someone messed up I got the blame. My mom would interrogate me like I was a member of Al Qaeda. “Why is the kitchen dirty, where’s his homework, and why is your brother sticking his foot in the toilet.” I felt like I needed a lawyer!
Not the greatest joke in the world but the crowd laughed. I felt good at this point, but then something happened. My Mind went blank…
I had tried so hard to remember my jokes that I forgot what I was going to say next. I just stood there paralyzed with fear as I had no clue about what I was going to say next. I almost began to panic and even thought about just leaving the stage, but then I remembered that I worked too hard on this material to just leave like that. I took a deep breath and then everything started to come back to me.
I was able to finish my set after that 20 sec pause. For my first time, I was on stage for 3 minutes and 15 seconds. That short amount of time felt like forever to me though. I was incredibly proud of myself for doing something that I honestly didn’t think I could actually do.
I had taken my first steps in the world of comedy…
I seem to write better away from home it seems. At home, there are too many distractions and its easy for me to lose focus on what I’m doing. A coffeehouse seems to be my new preferred location to write. I’m not a fan of coffee but the environment seems to help somewhat. While I’m at home, I feel like I put a lot of artificial pressure on myself to write something, and that causes my mind to get distracted. In a coffeehouse, I’m surrounded by random people who really don’t care what I’m doing as long as it doesn’t affect them. At home, its just me and I do care about what I’m doing because I want to progress. I guess in a way, its sort of a freeing feeling when the person sitting across from me has no idea I’m trying to create an act that hopefully one day they will want to pay to see.
I procrastinate way too much. I have been doing stand up comedy for almost 3 years and I feel like I haven’t achieved much at all. I keep saying that I want to do this and I want to do that in comedy but I can’t seem to over come the biggest obstacle in my way, Myself. I stand in my own way a lot and I try to justify that by blaming other things. If I had this I could be better, or if I could lived here I could be more active. I spend more time planning than actually doing things. I could spend as much time writing and performing jokes as I do avoiding it I could have a solid 25-30 min set by now.
I think deep down I’m afraid of being successful. Whenever opportunity arises I always try a way to avoid the situation altogether. For example, I’ve always avoided promotions in job that I know I’m qualified for because I don’t want the extra responsibility, or being held accountable. One of my excuses is, I don’t want to be held accountable for someone else’s mistakes or actions. This is true to a certain degree, I have learned to be patient with people but I have a low tolerance for bullshit. I would rather getting in trouble for my own actions than because I was associated with someone. This is why I gravitated towards stand-up comedy. If I do well, its all because of me. If I fail, all its because of me. I like this fact about stand up, its a solo activity and any reaction is caused by me alone. I have bombed and I have had good sets as well. I’m ok but I could be a lot better.
Along with the fear of success also is my fear of failure. I never want to have a bad set, but having a bad set can lead to a good one down the line. This is another hurdle I have to overcome. I have jokes that I have never even attempted because of too much self doubt. Failure in comedy to me can be very painful both to watch and to be in. The first time I bombed I contemplated whether I should even be doing comedy. That experience needed to happen though, I needed to know why there are so many good comedians. Failure is a part of the game, just like in life, you have to experience failure in order to enjoy success.
Damn, that’s the answer I was looking for all along. Failure is a scary thing, but it will lead to success if you make the effort. To think it took a Starbucks Iced Caramel Macchiato and an hour of free time to come to that conclusion. And I don’t even like coffee…