Story Value

random musings and episodes from the life of a 40 something comidienne/corporate refugee/mom - since whatever doesn't kill you provides excellent story value.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Magic happens – The “Deets”

Don’t worry – I haven’t gone all “angels are in the air” or “pixie dust sparkles” – I just had an incredible Cinderella evening. The last three weeks have been almost wholly consumed with preparing for and stressing out about my performance opening for the divine Miss L.

When I was invited to open three weeks ago – I neglected to mention that I had never performed in front of more than 300 people or performed more than 10 minutes of material. I am new to the business and am still, in the words of my comedy coach, “SueB the newbie”

I am still getting used to the incredible idea that people would actually pay money to hear me perform jokes I have written!

“Sure, I can do 15-20 – no problem!” I say to Miss L’s booker. It’s that can-do attitude that can get you into trouble. Hence, the stressing.

I focused on appearing nonchalant throughout the entire process. “Photo and bio? No problem – I’ll send them right over.” (after I write one and find my crayons)

“Do I need anything on stage? Goodness no, I am incredibly low maintenance. I just like to have a stool, so I can keep my water handy. I bring my own stool.”

I realized, shortly after this answer, that ‘bringing my own stool’ made me sound like an OCD Howard Hughes-type or a garden-variety dork. Or possibly worse … like I’d be bringing a “sample” in a zip-lock bag. YUCK.

I needed the stool – three legged variety – in truth, because that is where I planned to stash my crib notes. Having never before performed 20 minutes of material and having recently developed the very bad habit of checking my notes even during 10 minute sets … there was no way I was going on stage without my cheat sheet. It was my very necessary security blanket. Hell, there’s 900 people out there – you think I’m going flying without a net?!

On show day minus one, the divine Miss L’s handler told me Miss L had invited me to ride up to the show with her in the stretch limo. Opportunity!!
“The limo driver will pick you and your stool up at 2:30 if you’d like a ride,” he said.
“Yes, please,” I replied. “My stool likes to be comfy” (Heh ... heh).

I realized he must think I was a super-dork. Fortunately, my comedy coach made me pinky-swear not to use my notes on Thursday evening. I was terrified – but you never break a pinky swear!

Honestly, I am doubtful many comedians are as prepared as I was for this gig. I did research, wrote some new jokes, timed and rehearsed my set, did three sessions with an acting coach, did a session with my comedy coach, performed practice gigs, and even interviewed someone who has performed with Miss L. before.

Man – I can’t afford the stress or the coaching that comes with a gig like this, much less the baby-sitting required to cover a 6 hour round trip!

It all paid off.

On Saturday afternoon, the prom-worthy stretch limo arrived in my driveway. My little boys were blown away! They sat inside, took pictures & made me adorable good luck cards. I sped off in the limo (sans stool) and my boys chased me down the street on their razor scooters.

We picked up Miss L. at the airport and had a wonderful trip up. Great conversation, bonding and lots of laughs. We decided we needed a drink upon arrival and had dinner across the street from the theater. People kept coming up to our table to meet and thank Miss L. for her performances. It seemed everyone in town was going to the show.

We got to the theater & I was happy to be traveling in the wake of a seasoned pro who knew just what to do, how to ask technical questions and know where to go. I followed along & just tried to look casual.

The producer ran through the particulars of the show with us. “You’ll do 20 minutes and we’ll go to intermission,” he said, looking at me.
“Yup, 15-20,” I replied.
“You got 20? I really need you to do 20,” he said emphatically.
“Oh, 20 – no problem.” Gulp.

When we got down to the dressing rooms – I saw copies of the theater poster and a playbill. Inside was a big photo of me and my bio under the words “Sue B – Comedienne.” Let me just tell you how great that felt. Validating!!!

The producer called me upstairs and I was waiting in the wings. The house lights were bright and the director was introducing me. The producer and I giggled about a spider that was hovering right over the microphone. It broke the tension.

They spoke my name and I took the stage to thunderous applause. I let a second go by & then went into my material. I can’t even describe how good the first wave of laughter felt. After that first laugh, I relaxed and slipped into gear. I “leaned into it” trusted myself and the audience and gave my best performance ever.

I hit 20 minutes effortlessly with applause and laughter breaks. I have never had so much fun. There is no feeling in the world that compares with the feeling when you have connected with an audience and you are sharing a laugh together. The universe expands – because together … you have just created joy. It is amazing. The atmosphere was electric. I was sorry to get off stage! All the worrying and stress was worth it.
When it was over, I felt spent in the best of all ways.

I went back out into the audience to watch the divine Miss L. perform. Her brand of humor is unique – for she’s a motivational humorist – she not only entertains, she calls you out on your stuff Dr. Phil style and inspires you to improve your life.

The audience adored her. They were roaring with laughter and laughing at themselves and their own ridiculousness. People wore props and were high-fiving each other. The room was filled with pure radiant joy and everyone was having a blast.

After the show, so many people came up to her to thank her - not just for entertaining them ... but for helping them. That was really amazing to me. Honestly ... one of the top nights of my life.

This so differs from bar-room comedy and I can see there are other humor avenues and other types of audiences. I don't know how I'm going to go back to the stinky bar circuit -- but all my fellow comedians are dying to bust my chops and get me back to paying my dues.

That’s OK … knowing there are evenings like this make it all worth it !

P.S. – After enduring a couple days of the inevitable post-show let down … The divine Miss L. sent me a note telling me I was fabulous and asking me to open for her again tomorrow night! Saturday night – we do it all again! Here’s hoping #2 is even better – Woo Hoo!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Show time!

I just got my first booking for a "really big show" as they say. I am booked to perform as the opening act for an internationally-touring humorist (think if Dr. Phil and Lily Tomlin had a baby). The theater holds about 900 people and has sold out.


This raises the stakes considerably. With about two weeks to go, the chances of my losing 25 lbs are between slim and .... well, not-slim, which is what I'm gonna be.

I'm having one of those moments where the voice inside my head is saying, "OK, and the reason you are giving up a Saturday night to drive two hours to New Hampshire, pay a babysitter and stand on stage in front of 900 people to tell jokes is why again?!"

Its because my parents wouldn't pay me enough attention. Its cheaper than therapy and making people laugh is addictive. Besides ... I have these voices in my head that demand expression -- though not in a 'Son of Sam' way, so please don't alert the authorities. Frankly the chance to have a microphone and the attention of 900 people is fan-freaking-tastic.

So, why am I scared?

Because I'm up there -- solo -- with only a microphone and a stool. I don't even have puppets to protect me. There's no other performers to work off of (or blame later). There's no scenery or props in my act. Just me and my voice.

It's go time.

Fear and euphoria mixed together in one terrifying, delicious comedy burrito.