What if every blog post name was a pun? That’d be awful; so I won’t do it. What I will do, however, is tell you about last night’s joke telling experience, which was my first serious attempt in a very long time (other than three stabs I took last year).
See, I felt the need to tell you I haven’t performed jokes in a while so that you didn’t think, “Euch, this guy’s been awful for years!” I mean, I’ve been making people laugh, but it’s just not the same. I also felt the need to tell the audience that to get them on the same page as you, my readers. And so I could launch into far too many thoughts on the differences between doctors and comedians (in case anyone was on the fence on this issue).
See: I’m of the opinion that one should start with the truth and build from there (laughable truths, of course!). And the truth is that I haven’t done comedy in years. It’s been so long that I’m a completely different person from who I was four years ago. I remember what it was like for me to do comedy back then. I was miserable almost all the time! I had anxiety, I couldn’t write, I was constantly worried, and I wasn’t having fun. I was just too afraid of failing to really try, which lead me to simply giving up! (Something I wrote about for the JVP ).
What I was going through then was deeper than just fear; my low-self esteem undermined me at every step. It also made me paranoid. I couldn’t hear laughs as signs of encouragement and every piece of praise or success I got made me suspicious and ill. “But I told you were so good.” “I know, I didn’t trust you!” “But that would mean everyone lied to you, including people who were giving you opportunities and money.” “I know!” “Which means you could have succeeded without any of the hard work of trying to be good!” “I know! I could have ridden the wave of pity success all the way to the Whitehouse!”
Now I’m not afraid of failing because I believe in myself. If a joke doesn’t work, I’ll write another one; if a joke works, I’ll write a better one; if a joke’s great, I’ll retire it and write more. So last night was a test: I wanted to see if I could survive failure. I can’t imagine a doctor doing that. “I’m just gonna kill some people and see if I can handle it.”
I was Dr. Mengele up there, subjecting the crowd to awful experiments in humor. But I didn’t want to be in an adversarial relationship with my audience, so I told them they were Hitler. “We’re all Nazis together!” I said, and then I launched into some Gypsy material. JK. I couldn’t get on a white-power comedy show; too many “kh’s” in my last name. (Any is too many when you’re running with that crowd!)
See, if a comedian bombs, a lot of times he or she will blame the audience, which a doctor wouldn’t do. “That guy who died on me was a total moron! He totally didn’t get where my procedure was coming from. He just couldn’t relate to the anesthetic.” (No more doctor jokes, I swear!) But, for me, a failed joke isn’t a personal offense that merits getting defensive. It’s just one less joke for me to make; and I expect to make plenty of unfunny jokes before I start making funny ones.
All this makes last night’s test a success; I tested positive for confidence. I also got that hooked feeling that comedians talk about when they perform for the first time. One thing I do remember about telling jokes is what it feels like when one hits: it’s like scoring a goal at foosball. Right now I’m just a noob at the table, but I’m gonna practice till I shut you out!
Another interesting thing about all this (I know you’re all on the edge of your seats!): even though I didn’t get any compliments after the show, which I used to get four years ago, I got a compliment from my girlfriend. She told me she was proud of me for trying at all. Usually I’d get defensive or paranoid at this point and think, “You jerk! Why are you egging me on to fail?!” Instead, I thought, “If getting up there is the hardest part, then this is going to be a blast!”
So, I learned two things last night: how to fail and how to succeed.
The Blogster is out!