Jess Goodwin
September 20, 2015 6:00 am

I’ve been told for years that I should try standup, and after much hemming and hawing and being flat-out lazy, I finally did. The night before this past Valentine’s Day, I spent somewhere between seven and nine minutes telling jokes about my then-boyfriend (the perfect way to gear up for a day of romance), and people laughed! I made people laugh! Crazy, right?

Since then, multiple people have asked me if I’m going to give it another try, and though I’ve always said yes, the answer is actually no. I just didn’t realize it until recently. (I’m sorry to all my fan—yes that’s one fan.)

So, why no more standup for me? It’s not that I bombed. But while I definitely didn’t nail it, I did okay. There was the aforementioned laughter, and I have enough brutally honest friends to know that I at least didn’t suck.

My problem is that there were no fireworks, no thrill in the pit of my stomach, something I’d heard comedians describe when talking about their first time onstage. (Ophira Eisenberg used the words “chemically altered.”) From the moment I got up there and took the mike to the moment I stepped down, I expected a rush, one that can come only from receiving positive feedback for a performance of some kind. I’d felt it when I portrayed Madame Thénardier in my high school’s production of Les Mis, so naturally I would feel it doing standup, right?

Nope. There was nothing. Nada. Zip. Well, okay, not exactly nothing, nada, zip. I definitely felt nervous, but it wasn’t a good kind of nervous. It was more of a how-many-more-jokes-do-I-have-again-oh-right-okay-so-I’ll-be-able-to-get-offstage-in-like-two-minutes nervous. (The fact that I’d shown up way later than I wanted due to the misguided decision to take the bus instead of the train and arrived half-frozen didn’t help.)

Afterward, I agonized over the set, thinking about the jokes I’d accidentally skipped over and the ones that only got a few laughs or none at all. I found myself barely paying attention to the comedians who followed me because I was so worried about whether or not people really liked my act.

Still, I wasn’t inspired to work on my jokes or plan a visit to an open mic. I didn’t even watch the video that had been taken of my performance, which I’d been advised to do to get a better idea of what exactly worked and what didn’t. I somehow felt very blasé about something I’d only experienced once.

Despite the non-chemical alteration, I’m glad I tried standup. Not to sound like an after-school special, but it’s important to try new things, especially things that scare us. Trying standup was a boon for me in particular because I’m not typically a try-new-things gal. I’m well-known to my friends as the picky eater (avocado is among the most exotic foods I like) and you definitely won’t catch me base-jumping or wrasslin’ alligators or sliding into a crush’s DMs anytime soon. Most of my evenings are spent staying in, re-watching movies and TV shows I’ve already seen instead of going on adventures or partying or having new experiences.

I’d always felt like standup was something I would love, once I got past the whole fear thing, and now that I know it isn’t, it’s kind of a relief. It’s one less thing to feel compelled to do. Even better, when I go to comedy shows I’m not spending the whole time analyzing the performers’ delivery and joke composition, wondering why some of their jokes worked and others didn’t. I can just sit back, relax, and laugh — or not.

[Image via Obvious Child/A24]

Related:

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