Picture this: An empty stage, a microphone, and you, all alone.
Your job: to make people laugh. Terrifying.
It is my biggest fear in life: stand-up comedy. I am an actress so I am used to performing, but always under the guise of different characters, a veil of sorts. But for me to expose myself, as myself, AND be funny? Well, that seems like the scariest and most vulnerable place to stand.
So, of course, I have to do it, right? I have to push myself through my biggest fear (besides being stuck in a small space with tarantulas – facing that fear will NEVER willingly happen), so that I can see what I am made of.
I know about this class with a life-long stand-up comedian, Jeff Justice. It is a six-week course and for our graduation, we are slated to perform in Atlanta’s most famous comedy club, The Punchline. No pressure. But hey, if I am going to do it, I am going to do it big. Challenge accepted.
I figure that he will just hand-deliver jokes to us and tell us where to punch it up (see what I did there?). I assume we are in for more of a stand-up comedy choreography situation, You know, say this like this for the big laughs and make this face here… that kind of thing. Boy am I wrong.
Silencing Sally Sabotage
In our first class, it is clear that we are going to write our own jokes. Wait, our own jokes?!? No. This has to be a joke! But it isn’t and my fear escalates to I level I have never experienced before.
Before our second class, Sally Sabotage starts knocking on my door. She’s the gal that shows up and second-guesses my fierceness and feeds my fear.
- “You aren’t really feeling well, are you?
- “You should probably just skip class tonight.”
- “It would be SO much easier to just stay in soft pants and have a night to yourself than to attempt to write your own jokes.”
- “You can’t even do that. You don’t know how.”
- “Who do you think you are?”
Shut up, shut up, shut up!
Zip it, Sally.
I go to class and I write. I write my own jokes and they are funny. Through the weeks we practice for our classmates as we refine our “sets.” That’s industry lingo for “performance.” I’m in the club now, so…
I finish the course and the night of my stand-up comedy set is upon me. And I am FREAKING OUT.
Sometimes before a performance, I will pretend that I am not nervous, but this is never my truth. I always am. But this time I can’t pretend because I am FREAKING OUT.
When the checkout lady at Publix asks how my day is, I tell her I am doing stand-up comedy tonight and I am FREAKING OUT. I share with anyone who will listen.
When my friends who are coming to the show text me and wish me luck, I warn them that I may just freeze up, run off stage, and perhaps pee my pants. But hey, at least I will have tried.
Daring to Trust My Moment of Truth
At the venue backstage I’m pacing, I’m sweating, I’m going over my set in my head and I am forgetting all my jokes. The fear is debilitating. I can’t even think. Holy crap. All I can do is trust myself.
Trust that I have memorized my jokes and they are in my bones. Trust that I can pull off a great performance. Trust that I am funny and will put on a show. That’s all I got now, trust in myself. Oh dear God, I’m next, what’s happening? Where am I? Wait, I…
“Introducing Sarah Blackman to the stage!”
Now I’m on an empty stage, with a microphone, and it’s me, all alone. I’m here to make people laugh.
I start telling my jokes and they are flowing. I’m not even thinking about a thing. They just show up for me.
And people are laughing at me – in a good way.
From Fear Comes Fierceness
It was one of the most rewarding and exhilarating experiences of my life. I was proud that I was funny and I did a good job. But I was most proud of myself for sticking with it when all I wanted to do was run away and stay in my comfort zone. Bravo, Blackman. Bravo.
Sometimes you just have to feel the fear and do it anyway. Let the fierceness in your heart take over the fear in your head.
Author’s Bio: Sarah Blackman is a born and bred Atlantan writer who also works as an actress and model. Throughout her career, she has played a variety of roles that have highlighted both her elegant demeanor and comedic timing. She writes for 17th South and Hope For Women magazines. She maintains a personal blog called Fat Girl at Heart – Because nothing is sexier than a big-hearted gal. You can follow her at FatGirlatHeart.me. As you get to know Sarah we think you’ll agree, she’s like Swan Lake on three espressos.