Here’s what had happened…
I had a show tonight in DC that turned out to be a great learning and growing experience. I don’t often perform in our nation’s capital since moving from Prince George’s County (right outside of DC) to Baltimore (about 35 miles north of DC). DC is a special place for various reasons. First, it’s home, it’s the city I started comedy and cultivated my first act. It’s also pretty stuffy. In Baltimore, audiences tear down that 4th wall. They don’t just want to WATCH a show, they want to be a PART of the show. DC, not so much. They make it clear they are the audience, you are the comic, you tell jokes, they laugh. Period. *Yawn* My style of comedy is more of a conversation. I encourage [polite] crowd participation.
Tonight, the comic who went up before me was really good. Shout out Jamel Johnson. After the show, I actually thanked him for forcing me to work hard. However, while he was on stage, killing it, I was getting nervous. More nervous than I usually get. And yes, I get nervous before EVERY performance. The moment I don’t get nervous, that’s the moment I know something is wrong. In addition, I had friends in the audience. It’s extremely nerve-wrecking (more than usual), when folks I KNOW are watching me perform. I don’t want to let them down. I don’t want to put them in a position where they’ll have to lie to my face and tell me I was good. That’s not Christian-like.
Anywhos, as I delivered my first few jokes, I could feel the disconnect with the audience. I promptly decided “I am not bombing tonight.” Did I mention I was the headliner? Sigh. I’m not yet accustomed to headlining. Usually, I’m the middle act, which means minimal pressure. The middle act has the sweet spot – the host has already warmed up the crowd, and since you’re not the headliner, you’re not expected to kill it. The audience has no expectations of or for you….actually, the only person with high expectations are you, and maybe the booker/owner of the venue. That’s it. It’s almost impossible to “lose” in this position since the stakes aren’t high…cause there are no stakes. The headliner is supposed to not just be funny, but be the funniest. The amount of times I’ve had folks come up to me after a show when I was the middle and tell me I was funnier than the headliner…I don’t ever want my middle getting that shine. I know. That sounds horrible.
So, like I said, the show was not going well for the first few minutes. Then something clicked. I started trusting myself. Like really trusting myself. I reminded myself, it’s not my jokes that are funny, it’s me that is funny. So, I stopped telling jokes…and started being me…and they started laughing. Imagine that! I was honest! I talked about things I was passionate about – AT THAT MOMENT. See, every joke I have in my rolodex comes from me. At some point I was passionate about that premise, so passionate, I wrote a complete thought on it. However, over time, the passion dies. I guess I was telling some jokes with dead passion.
I trusted myself and that’s when I got funny. I did material that hasn’t worked ever. Material I had been banging on for over a year. Material that I didn’t even know was material! Material that is 100% me. Material that paints me as brutally honest and insensitive. And. I. Loved. It.
As soon as I became comfortable with being me, the audience became comfortable with me.
This probably sounds like mumbo jumbo if you’re not a comic/entertainer/performer, but it applies to everything and everyone. We all may not get on a stage and tell jokes or paint beautiful pictures, but, everyday we are in front of an audience of some sort, performing. The moment we become our authentic self, the easier life gets. So many folks run around pretending to be who they think they’re supposed to be. Wearing shades in the club, driving cars they know they can’t afford, going to a job day-in, day-out they know they absolutely hate. We spend so much time trying NOT to be our authentic selves, most of us don’t really know who we are. Most of us are staring at a stranger every morning while brushing our teeth. Scary.
Why are we not ourselves? Fear, maybe? Scared that if we are ourselves, no one will like us? We’ll lose our job? We won’t like ourselves? The reason I was not myself for so many years is I just didn’t know how to be me. I was programmed by society and experiences to behave a certain way. Go to college. Get student loans. Get a degree…along with a ton of debt. Get a job. Buy some shit to make me feel better about not making my own decisions and living a miserable life. Go on vacation to escape the horrible reality I live. Continue to work shitty job to pay for all that shit. Rinse. Repeat.
Yes, I know, some of us have jobs we absolutely adore and thoroughly love all the crap we own. I get it. But most of us don’t.
One of the biggest fairs I’m facing (and still am worried about) is trying to maintain the lifestyle I had. I’m starting to realize I need to let this fear go, because I no longer require that lifestyle. Shopping to make me feel better about how crappy life is will no longer be necessary. Now that I’m living the dream, I no longer have to seek out happiness in a new pair of heels or some overpriced hair pomade from Sephora. Happiness is something I create and experience, not something purchased with a 25% off coupon.
So, with all that said, I look forward to getting to really know me.
Tonight, I am excited to say I had the opportunity to introduce myself to an amazing person – Myself.
“Hey girl! It’s You…and I am so pleased to make Your acquaintance!”