My First Stand-up Comedy Performance: The Video and the Story. 27/03/15 05:56
Here it is, as promised to those who couldn’t make it to my performance, the video of my first stand-up comedy performance.
Below the video is a story about the gig and the lead-up. Hopefully it will give you a bit more context, plus it will tell you how the aborted joke towards the end was really supposed to go. It is funnier if you watch the video before you read the story because the story is the majorest of major spoilers.
While you are watching the video you must remember 4 things.
- All the jokes in my performance were my own. Everything came from my skull, I didn’t plagiarise anything deliberately. This was very nerve racking because I had no idea how people I didn’t know, who didn’t know me or my style of humour, would react to my material.
- It was my first time so I was extremely nervous, my mind was racing, and so were the jokes. Due to nerves I didn’t leave too many gaps for laughs. That’s why the jokes in the video are edited so close together.
- I have edited the video to show not only some of my favourite jokes from the performance but also what I was thinking during it, so the whole thing is not in the video. The jokes that are included were my personal favourites, but it doesn’t mean they were the best received. In fact, only one person, my brother, laughed at my favourite joke. (see if you can guess which joke it was)
- When I was up there the jokes seemed to fly by super quick, and the gaps waiting for a laugh, momentarily forgot a line… or worse, seemed to go on forever.
The overall narrative of my script was of my inability to pick up girls. I like girls and they don’t like me, and I can’t really figure it all out. It’s been done a million times before but c’mon it’s my first time. I’m not going to reinvent the bicycle wheel on my first performance. The best I could do was add a footy card to the spokes and try and make it sound like a motorcycle (really it just sounds like a bicycle with a footy card in the spokes).
During the story I outlined all the places I’d gone, things I’d tried to get a date, and how all of these attempts had ultimately proved futile.
Warning Adult Themes: wear headphones if you are at work or on public transport. Not much swearing, but a massive amount of adult themes.
If you are thin skinned and easily offended watch a different video. Maybe watch one with cute baby farm yard animals, where a pussy is a cat, a cock is a rooster, and a dogger is the man who hangs around outside and looks after any stray bitches.
I hope you enjoy watching my debut performance as much as I enjoyed performing it.
Now you’ve watched the video, here’s some context.
How Did You End Up Doing Stand-Up Comedy?
As many of you know towards the middle of last year, due to an extended battle with illness, I decided to finally take a break from working to concentrate on my recovery. (I am now back to good health if anyone was wondering.) For somebody who has always had a job, and thinks/worries about work most of the time they’re not there, it is a strange feeling to all of a sudden not have to do anything at any particular time, so to fill the time I did the stuff I’d always wanted to do, study my family tree, play some guitar and do anything else I wanted. Ironically, it’s when I was so sick that I could no longer do the things I needed to do, that I finally found time to do the things I wanted to do.
After a few months of not working my health had progressed to the point where I was able to make medium term commitments and know that I would meet them. For example, I could now confidently tick the ‘I Am Attending’ box on an RSVP and be pretty confident that I wasn’t lying. With my new re-found abilities I decided that I would do some study so that the task oriented part of my mind didn’t shrivel up and die without the stress of paid employment. It wouldn’t be a course like the courses I’d done before, High School, TAFE, University, it would be something that I would enjoy. Something I wouldn’t regret wasting my time doing. Something that I had always wanted to do but had never had the time, or courage, to do. Now I had to just figure out what it was I had always wanted to do.
As fate would have it I was in the bookstore one day buying a book on comedy writing, to see if it was something I wanted to do, when I met professional comedian, Rob McHugh. He looked at my book and said “I run a class on comedy writing, how about you come along”. I initially said no because I thought he was just a creepy old guy trying to lure me to his “class”. It seemed too convenient that the man at the bookshop runs a course in the very same thing I was buying a book on. Very creepy and convenient indeed. I got home and gave it some further thought. It occurred to me that I was now over 30 and not as ‘attackably sexy’ as I once was, so the chances of an attack were minute…It also sounded like something cool that I’d enjoy. I did a Google search to check everything was legit (it was) and I enrolled on the very same day.
What Is This Course You Speak Of?
The course I attended was called ‘Stand-up For Beginners‘ and it was held one night a week at Sydney Community College. The class is designed for people to learn how to write and perform stand-up comedy but that didn’t necessarily mean that you had to have to harbour any secret ambition to be a comedian to attend. There were people in my class who were scared of public speaking, there were people who came to boost confidence, there were people there who thought they were boring and needed some tips. The reasons for going were as varied as the people who attended.
In the few years leading up to me attending this course my life hadn’t exactly been a barrel of laughs, but when I came to the course all my issues were forgotten. I laughed constantly. I laughed when people made funny jokes, I laughed when people made unfunny jokes, I laughed when the guy who didn’t really understand English failed to do the tasks correctly. As one fellow student pointed out when I came to watch his debut performance, “I’m glad you turned up. You’ll laugh at anything“. It was great fun. Technically, I was learning how to construct a joke, what makes jokes funny, how to develop a comic persons etc etc, but I was learning so much more. I was discovering a new passion… I really liked writing comedy. I would go home and write all the time. I would be thinking constantly of jokes I could use, characters I could create and situations I could include both the character and joke in. Through comedy writing I was really helping my health because I had something to look forward to doing each day. I was gaining confidence all the time. That class is the reason I now have this website.
The best part was that after you have finished the classroom component there is a graduation night, of sorts, where you get to perform your own original material in front of a real crowd. Very exciting, very cool, and very daunting.
Over the next little while after the course had finished I developed my script. I wrote countless jokes and picked my favourites and ones that fitted into my story. I would send them to Rob, he’d send it back with heaps of praise and some criticisms and suggestions. Eventually I ended up with what I thought was a pretty funny routine. If I watched a comedian perform these jokes I’d laugh. But probably everyone who was writing their jokes thought like that
How was it?
I was surprisingly calm beforehand. I knew I knew my lines and I thought my material was pretty good so I wasn’t really that worried… yet.
Rob, our teacher, was the MC for the night. He got up in front of the crowd of just under 100 people and started rattling off a bevy of his jokes to get people chuckling. It worked. People were relaxed and laughing. I had been to a few of these graduation nights before but I hadn’t seen a student do an act that was as crass as mine, so I was still a little nervous about the audiences reaction.
I watched all the other guys from my class get up and do their routines and was having a great time. I could see my friends who had come to watch me perform were also enjoying everybody’s sets. A couple of acts nearly had us in tears. The jokes were great, the jokes were terrible, Some jokes made sense, some were so random and ridiculous that I had no idea what was happening. Some jokes were well thought out observations, some were just terrible puns, but it was all hilarious. The awkwardness and nervousness of the performers made it a million times funnier. Not in a laugh at them kind of way, but in the type of way you could tell they were just regular people having a crack at something new and you’re really cheering hard for them. Judging by the laughs I think most of the crowd was thinking the same way as us.
I was up 8th, just after intermission. As soon as intermission rolled around I started to get really nervous. I was like a little boy on his first day of school, excited, nervous and most of all really hoping the other kids would like me. And then Rob got up on stage, called my name and I started.
The gig was going great for me. Obviously because I was so nervous some of my jokes weren’t being delivered as well as they could have, and I was going a bit quick, but the audience was laughing at some of the bits, and groaning at most of them. A few people seemed a little shocked, but not in a bad way. As the nerves wore off a bit and I started getting on a bit of a roll it was actually pretty fun to listen to how people reacted to what you were saying.. until one guy gave me a bad reaction. The dreaded boo.
A Guy Booing You?! What was his caper?
I swear to God there was a bloke who was booing at the end. It doesn’t show up on the video, and even my friends and family who were there said they couldn’t hear him because he was over the other side of the room, they just thought I had a cluster of really shit jokes. I think he was close to the stage about 4 rows back, audience left. I couldn’t really make out what he looked like because of the lights in my eyes, I just knew he was out there somewhere. He started softly booing after I said the word disabled. He booed at the next 2 unfunny punchlines and then he shut up once I got off the disabled bit. It was only at talking volume but it was loud enough for me to hear.
I don’t know what his intention was, but after I’ve thought about it a bit I definitely don’t blame him for booing. I hadn’t told the audience about my health problems before I started to try and make a disabled joke. This was a massive schoolboy error. It didn’t even enter my head to do this while I was writing my script. I made these kind of jokes in front of my friends and family and they laughed, but it never occurred to me that their positive response may have had something to do with their knowledge of my medical history. If I had tried to reinforce disparaging stereotypes about Jews I would get booed, but if I told people I was Jewish (i.e lie about my ethnicity) before making humorous observations about Jewish people and the way they are, the audience would laugh. I don’t know why it’s like that, but the reality of the situation is that you can’t pick on people unless you are one of their group. Due to the set-up it sounded like I was about to rip into disabled people and as far as the audience knew I wasn’t a member of their group. In hindsight he was well within his rights to boo. It just would have been good if he’d waited for the jokes to come first before making his judgement on whether they were boo worthy.
For most people, one person booing would have been nothing. Just someone who is not enjoying the show and is offended, but unfortunately it played into all my fears I had before the performance. Someone getting offended and booing was worse than my worst nightmare come true. I had prepared for the fact that no-one would laugh. I had prepared for someone heckling me. I had prepared for the unlikely event that someone would storm out or try and fight me after the show. But it never occurred to me that someone would hate my material so much they would boo me. I instantly forgot about every laugh I had got and started ruminating on the one guy who booed once. It’s very disturbing how much that one little noise played with my head.
At the end of my performance, and as I was walking off the stage I was pretty upset with the booing guy. He knew it was my first time onstage. He doesn’t know me and what I’ve been through. He had no idea what my motivation for being onstage was. He had no idea how hard it was for me to get to the point where I could get on stage. He had no idea how hard I had worked on my material. And I thought that one boo had wrecked my performance. It pissed me off big time. 10 years ago I would probably have got myself in serious trouble if I was this angry. Fortunately by the time I had got back to my seat I had calmed down and was relatively happy again.
If the booing man is reading this, or anyone who was offended by the performance is reading this, I apologise for my jokes. It wasn’t my intention to really piss you off… too much.
Why Did You Edit the Video Like That?
I could have edited the video to show the only the good bits. I could have forgotten the parts where I told the terrible jokes about disabled people. I could have left out the parts that if you didn’t know me well you would think I was a complete jerk. But I don’t think that’s very interesting viewing and it isn’t what I would want to see. I have watched many videos of people’s first gigs, and watched many comedian’s first shows, and they usually are all the same. It’s always a really nervous person delivering some good jokes, some bad jokes… all pretty poorly… the same as my show. The thing that has always intrigued me about comedians performing is what is happening behind their eyes, especially the rookies. How nervous are they and how are they dealing with it? What are they thinking about? What thoughts go through their head if someone heckles? Obviously I wanted to share with my friends the good things I did and show off a bit, but I also wanted to give an insight to people about what went on in my head while I was performing. It makes it much more human and interesting this way.
The second reason for editing the way is that it is funnier than the original video. I find it hilarious that I totally got mentally destroyed by something as small and innocuous as a little noise from a man I don’t know, who probably wouldn’t even remember doing it. Imagine if he did a small boo on my first joke. It’s karma for all the times I was pissed at a pub concert and yelled at bands “play us your good song”, or laughed my head off at some screaming fool. It had never occurred to me when I was a young drunkard that the guy on stage is just a normal guy who is trying to have some fun, conquering demons of some sort, or has a backstory. I just assumed every guy on stage with a guitar wanted to be a rock star. By freezing the video near the end I was trying to demonstrate how quickly thoughts come into my head and spiral around once something upsets me. I don’t know if other people are the same, or if it’s just me but it’s unbelievable how many thoughts can fill one persons head at a time. The actual gap between the moment I realised there was a boo and the next joke was only about a second or two. But time seemed to slow down as I was bombarded with potential options. The video would have to be half an hour long to do justice to just how bombarded I was. It was a really amazing thing to experience.
What was the Joke that you Ruined by Self Censoring? Was it Really That Offensive?
I suppose I may as well tell you guys what the joke was going to be. I admit it, the joke at the end was going to be a little offensive but it wasn’t supposed to be as bad as it was forecast to be by the set-up. I believe that it was no more offensive than the rest of my act, which was only offensive to people who are alive. The joke was supposed to be on me, not on the poor disabled people.
Here’s the last bit as I had it written on my piece of paper:
I tried hooking up disabled, retarded and deformed girls and it didn’t work.
That is the end of the bit where the guy started booing. It’s also the lead-in to my story about my attempts to take advantage of disabled, deformed and retarded girls for my own depraved sexual pleasure. Not offensive yet, but strongly hinting that it might get there…
I had heard from others in my situation that there was a party on the Gold Coast where all the disabled, retarded and deformed girls and guys get together to participate in orgies, drug taking, and all manner of debauchery. I think it is called Droolies Week and it’s apparently awesome fun. I went to the school leavers equivalent when I was young and hooked up with heaps of girls who were too drunk or drugged to fight off my advances. It was the best time ever… well not for the girls I hooked up with. For them it was a black-out, Bill Cosby-esque, nightmare, but for me it was great fun. If Droolies week is anything like Schoolies Week I have to be there. I may finally get myself a girl after all.
That’s where the Droolies Week bit fits in. It’s not the main joke, it’s not even a real joke. It’s just the name of the event. This part is not really even funny it’s just the set-up for the next bit. Not really too offensive yet compared to the rest of my routine, except for the rape joke. Definitely not having a go at disabled people yet. Just pointing out what a depraved creep I am. That’s my comic persona, a creepy arsehole. Just like my real persona. 🙂
When I got to the Gold Coast I was full of confidence. I mean my competition for these girls were going to be disabled, deformed, or unbelievably desperately creepy blokes like myself, so I thought I had a good chance of getting some freaky disabled love. I could even be the Big Man on Campus for the first time ever. So I got my mojo on and pulled my moves, but no dice. Unfortunately it turns out that the disabled women are just as unresponsive to my advances as every other girl I’ve tried to hook up with. Alright, some were a little more unresponsive but I think that was due to their disability. Most were just unresponsive because an Easter Island Statue has better moves than me… and a better head.
I spent thousands of dollars and wasted a week of my life and the only hook up I achieved was with one girl for one night, an amputee from the UK. It wasn’t a total waste though I suppose… she did give a mean stump job.
I was then supposed to move onto a joke about being destined to die alone like Jennifer Aniston, and then ask if there was any single girls in the audience looking for a single guy. When I got no response I was supposed to get angry and remonstrate about how it pissed me off that girls “only go out with arseholes. Why don’t they give nice guys like me a chance”. Show over. Audience Claps. The End.
So now you know what I was supposed to say. If you are offended by the real joke now you have seen it, and I’ve explained above that I did have my own health problems then voice your distress in the comments section, because I now know what to do with booing arseholes… attack back. One small clause: no secret disabled people are allowed to say boo in the comments section then reveal their disability after I blast them. I still don’t want to be the guy who picks on the disabled dude.
What’s the Conclusion?
The main conclusion is that doing the Stand-up Comedy Course and performing my jokes on stage was one of the greatest, most exciting, and rewarding, things I’ve ever done. I am very proud of myself for having done it. After my performance I was a little bummed because I choked at the end, but the next day I could put the whole thing into perspective and I realised:
- I am sure the booing man would never have booed Steady Eddy for making a disability joke, so it means that I am so healthy now that even when I am under the most extreme of stresses the bloke can’t even tell there was ever anything wrong with me. And if I didn’t know me, after watching the video I would have to agree with him. That’s great.
- I have just conquered my overactive nerves and anxiety and performed stand-up comedy in front of people I don’t know. This is an anxiety so severe that at one point I couldn’t even board a train without having a panic attack. Superb!
- I didn’t look at my notes once. I remembered nearly the whole routine. Excellent!!
- Some people I didn’t know laughed at the jokes that I had written. My brother even said he noticed there was a guy who he didn’t know who was really getting into it. Awesome!!!!
- Before the booing and after the initial nerves I was actually enjoying myself while talking in front of a big group of people. I think I may have conquered my fear of public speaking and public standing once and for all. Radical!!!!!!!!
- I had done something I had always wanted to do and had never done before, and in the process found something I want to continue doing. Best Ever!!!!!!!!!!!!
I would recommend the stand-up comedy course I attended to everyone who reads this. No matter if you want to get a confidence boost, want to conquer a fear of speaking, want to be able to make your work speeches funny or you just want to have fun.
I know it sounds like I’ve got a sponsorship deal with the course but I swear I’m just talking it up because I enjoyed it so much.