Even as I type the words ‘how I got into stand-up comedy’, I’m wondering how I, a 53-year-old introverted loner who looks constantly worried/scared/bewildered/confused/as if I’m going to cry, ended up on stage at Comedy Virgins at The Cavendish Arms telling jokes about cats and serial killers.
But on the day before my 53rd birthday, that’s exactly what I did.
When people found out I’d done stand-up (I posted the video of my stand-up debut on Facebook, which was far, far, far more nerve-wracking than actually getting on stage and doing it in the first place), after the initial exclamations of, ‘You’re brave,’ (I’m not), ‘You’ve got balls,’ (I haven’t), and, ‘You’ve got gumption,’ (this is going on my gravestone), the first question is always, ‘Is stand-up something you’ve always wanted to do?’
And my answer is always, ‘No, never. It never even occurred to me.’
Then the next question is always, ‘How did you end up doing stand-up then?’
Well. It was an accident.
I kept seeing a Facebook ad for a comedy writing workshop and, as I’m a writer and I love workshops and I like to think my writing is vaguely amusing, I thought this would be a workshop for writers who wanted to make their vaguely amusing writing funnier.
I thought it would be like a normal online writing workshop where you get given an exercise to do, then you switch off your camera to write quietly by yourself/empty the dishwasher/check how many likes your latest Facebook status update got until it’s time to switch your camera back on and pretend to listen to the host when what you’re really doing is looking at the little image of yourself or checking out the other participants’ decor.
I thought wrong.
Although I’d braced myself for the usual awkward, uncomfortable and cringeworthy, ‘Let’s do introductions’ thing, before we did that, the tutor, Jane Postlethwaite, asked us to say what we wanted from the workshop, e.g. whether we wanted to write stand-up, sketches or sitcoms, etc.
Excuse me, where’s d) none of the above?
Fuck. I think I’m in the wrong place.
When it got to my turn, I mumbled something about wanting to write sketches, as I’d had a vague idea a few years ago that writing sketches would maybe be something I could do. (I’d also had a vague idea once about writing a sitcom set in a service station, because I fucking love service stations, but I kept quiet about that).
Anyway, the introductions were done and now we could get on with writing quietly by ourselves, yes?
There were latecomers and Jane made us do introductions again. I almost left then but I soldiered on and lied again about wanting to write sketches.
As if two rounds of introductions weren’t bad enough, Jane then said we were going to do an exercise where we had to choose something in the background of another participant and say something positive about it.
WHAT THE FLIPPING FLOP? WHY THE FUCK WOULD I WANT TO DO THAT? THIS IS IMPROV AND I FUCKING HATE IMPROV* I DON’T WANT TO DO SAYING I WANT TO DO WRITING I DON’T DO SAYING.
I’m an introvert, get me out of here.
I hovered over that big red ‘leave’ button like a seagull hovering over a queue at the ice cream van. But I’d paid for the day and I didn’t want to waste my money and so I stayed and did the stupid ‘say something positive about something in the background of another participant’ thing.
I chose a light switch I could see on the wall behind someone and said something about it being a nice shape and going well with the wallpaper.
I know. Comedy gold, right?
Then we had to say something negative and I said the light switch looked like she’d slapped a slice of white bread on the wall and hoped to get electricity out of it.
That got a lot of laughs. People were laughing at me (in a good way). This was getting better. I decided to stay.
During the rest of the day, we did various exercises – some by ourselves, others a more collaborative effort. All of them were fun, although most of them involved being put on the spot, which is something way outside my comfort zone (see above re I FUCKING HATE IMPROV*). I ended up loving the workshop and was buzzing for days afterwards.
We also got a ton of advice and information from Jane on comedy writing in general and, when Jane told me she thought I’d be good at stand-up, this was all the encouragement I needed and so I booked onto her Write Your First 5 Minutes of Stand-up 6 week course and ended up writing my first five minutes of stand-up, which I then ended up doing on a stage.
Then I ended up doing it again. And again. And now I can’t stop. It’s given me a whole new lease of life and, although I’m a self-confessed introverted loner, meeting so many nice people has been the best bit, as the comedy circuit (get me and my comedy jargon) is like a big merry band of misfits who I feel comfortable being around.
I have a lot more to say about my adventures in stand-up comedy but I’ll stop here and will write another post soon.
In the meantime, even if you don’t fancy giving stand-up a go, check out Jane’s fabulous range of tshirts and stuff. I bought the delightful tshirt you can see in the pic above because I love Jane so much after doing her courses** and getting a new lease of life, I’d buy an avocado from her if she brought out a range of them and I fucking hate avocados.
*I hate doing improv, not improv in general. No offence to my friends who love doing it. They think I’m brave doing stand-up, I think they’re brave doing improv.
** Despite all the swearing above about the comedy writing workshop, I actually did the same workshop again. I also did Jane’s comedy character writing workshop, even though she warned me there was a lot of improv in it.