If someone had told me two years ago that I would start performing stand up comedy at university, I would have said that that was a funnier idea than any joke I could ever write. But two years later and I’ve performed stand up at student and external gigs and at the Edinburgh Fringe, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I had always liked comedy but only from the safety of my seat. I’d comfortably marked it in the category of “Nope, not for me” and “I love it, but someone else would be far better”. But when I arrived at university and joined the Comedy Society I thought I would give it a shot. After all, it was only a student gig, how bad could it be?
If someone had told me two years ago that I would start performing stand up comedy at university, I would have said that that was a funnier idea than any joke I could ever write
Pretty bad, to be honest. The nerves were so overwhelming that if you had harnessed the energy from my shaking hands alone, you could power half of Guatemala.
Before I go on stage I basically hate myself. Why did I put myself in this situation? Why did I think it would be a good idea to arrogantly stand on a stage and demand people laugh at me? Why did I wear these glasses, did I honestly think they make me look quirky and kind of like Zooey Deschanel? Before I get on stage I am crippled with self-doubt. Even though there are only ever about ten people in the audience I think I’m about to vomit up any ability to string together a sentence, let alone something people can at least pretend to find witty.
Often the best jokes come from someone laughing at something said off-the-cuff in casual conversation
But each time the compère reads my name, somehow I find myself shuffling up to the mic stand and desperately trying not to trip over the cables on my way. As soon as I start to speak most of the nerves fall away and I can enjoy my five minutes of limelight. When it’s over I want to do it all again.
If you thought cheese was addictive, you should try laughter. When someone laughs at something you wrote, you can actually feel the bicycle pump inflating your ego. You think sex feels good? Try experiencing the group social validation of not being able to continue your set because people are laughing too hard. These moments make the nerves worth it, and keep you coming back for more.
Stand up has completely changed my mentality of how to react when life gives me lemons
In fact, it’s the writing that is actually the hardest part of stand up. The nerves of preforming are nothing that a few gin and tonics can’t fix, but finding inspiration for material is tricky. You will go through long stages of being unable to write a word and will brand yourself a failure. The trick is to stop trying so hard and wait patiently for inspiration to strike. Often the best jokes come from someone laughing at something said off-the-cuff in casual conversation.
Stand up has had such a positive impact on my life. It’s completely changed my mentality of how to react when life gives me lemons. I can now turn anything rubbish into a positive by using it as a source for material. Had a bad break up or disappointing essay mark? I’m sure there’s a joke to made in there somewhere. It doesn’t have to be degrading or nasty, the silliest observations often produce the most honest humour, while simultaneously curing you of any negativity in the process.