“Folks, the next comedian drove from Richmond here to Virginia Beach tonight. I wouldn’t do it, but he did for free to make you all laugh. Please help me welcoming to the stage, Drew Fridley!”
My first attempt producing laughter from a room full of strangers. The host just announced my name, no turning back now.
I inhaled a Chipotle burrito an hour ago but my stomach feels empty. Mouth is dry, but how? To my sensitive teeth’s dismay, I drank two and a half glasses of ice water three and a half minutes ago. My chest thumped like a dryer with only shoes inside. Sandpaper would slide away from my palms. Milliseconds have past since I had been announced; fight or flight? — I stood.
I traipsed down the center aisle of the 200-seat, dark-lit venue; I’m glad only a quarter of the seats are occupied. I have dealt with feet falling asleep before but not my entire body. It feels as though I have pins stuck in my skin from an acupuncture appointment that I needed to leave abruptly. I notice people drinking alcohol and hope they have drank enough for an endorphin rush to facilitate laughter. I am second-guessing my decision to not indulge in a drink myself.
Success! I materialized on stage! Six seconds of walking without tripping! After shaking the host’s hand, I thought, thanks to anxiety-ridden comics, his right hand must stay moist most of the night. I feel the heat of the spotlight on my back. If I would have known about that synthetic-sun contraption, I would not have worn a black and red flannel.
On the floor behind a speaker, I lay a cell phone sized piece of paper on my cell phone. My phone is recording so I can cherish this moment forever. Or delete it once I return to the back of the room. On the paper, five topics are written; the topics of my jokes in case my mind goes blank up here — hours of practicing the five minute performance is not enough to forgo this miniature insurance policy.
The metal microphone feels like an outside rail in winter. A nice contrast to that light, still doing its best to burn a hole through my back. I turn and slowly raise my head to face the crowd for the first time. Unbeknownst to them, this my first time performing stand-up. I want them to know. I want them to know I am not a professional, before I prove assumptions wrong.
I move the mic stand behind me. With apprehension, I pull the slack in microphone cord like I am about to wrap up an extension cord. I am trying to remember what all those psychology articles said about confidence: shoulders back, stand up straight, make eye contact, smile, speak clear and loud. — I spoke.
The host introduced me as driving from Richmond but I drove from Charlottesville, another hour on the other side of Richmond. I improvise self-deprecation, “I actually drove here from Charlottesville tonight, so I’m truly a dumbass.” — Everyone laughed.
I loved the feeling of performing stand-up for the first time. It is like a drug. I know I’ll never have that feeling again and I’m fine with that because I have a vivid memory of it.
Laughter is an excellent tool in life. I’ve used it for defense and attention for almost my entire life. Some people use it too much, some too little. There is a balance and I feel like I’ve found it. I do not feel I need it for defense or attention as much. I don’t say never because I’m still human. Well, half human. But at night, I turn into a mythical dragon 🐉 . On full moons I turn into Freddie Mercury and perform the entire set that Queen performed at Live Aid in ‘85.<
encourage everyone to do any kind of performance in front of an audience. It’s a kind of magic. Any kind of performance. Sing, dance, poetry slam, act in a play, cover Queen’s set at Live Aid! It is a great way to gain insight about yourself and others.