May 8, 2007

Stand-Up? Siddown!

Mom and Dad were here for a visit over the weekend. They wanted to hug their Olympic director son and their comedian daughter. We watched my latest clip together at my brother's house and it was then that I realized I'd given the finger during the Cosmo joke, and I said "God damn it" twice. (You may remember that I was admonished to use clean language by my mom, and actually apologized to her at the end of my first open mic because I used both "bitch" and "ass" in my first set.)

I told Mom that it was going to be pretty hard to leave bad language out of comedy, and she might just have to get more comfortable with the idea. She is therefore agreeing to chill a little with her policy about my use of bad language in my sets. "Maybe you could just leave the 'God' off of the "God damn it,'" she suggested brightly. I agreed, and yet now, as I type this, I'm realizing what a bunch of crap that is, because if a linguist had conducted studies in our home while I was growing up, I know they would have collected enough data to prove that nobody in the universe cusses more than Catholic moms with five or more children. I love you, Mom, but you are now officially busted on this one.

So, a little more on the whole stand-up thing. It's fun to post clips to let people see my evolution, but of course, I want to be writing and offering my insight into the whole process as well, both for interested readers (not that I have a lot these days - my readership may have peaked about a year ago when I did the "Interviews With Bloggers" series), and also for myself. Because as much as my early writing life was filled with private scrawls, I don't really keep a personal journal these days, per se. I keep a writing notebook with me at all times, for notes from conversations with writing clients and colleagues, and comedy notes (which pop into my brain at all hours of the night and day), but I don't keep a diary lately, and I know that it will be very important to the me of about a year from now to be able to look back at these early comedy experiences, for many reasons.

(For whatever it's worth, all of the sudden I think it's really cool that this blog started off as the internet reading journal of a small town Indiana dog walker and house sitter. All I did was make comment on stuff I saw online, never referencing myself, using my real name, putting up a picture, or anything. And now it's becoming this chronicle of creative evolution. I'm doing stand-up comedy, writing for a living, and writing a book, which I sort of can't believe. And who knows where things are going to go from here? I really can't rule anything out at this point. That's how my life feels to me right now - wide open - and that's certainly not how my life felt to me two years ago, when I was writing wank like this: British Crime Is More Literary and Complex Than American Crime.)

Anyway, back to the stand-up. Two things I'm really happy about with the comedy right now -

#1 - Being able to immediately watch (and, yes, rewatch) clips of my performances. SO SO SO valuable as a learning tool. So valuable that I'm thinking about starting a Contribute To Joy and Laughter (By Buying Elizabeth McQuern a Video Camera) Fund to make sure I can always tape myself. So far I've been lucky enough to have Sloan there to tape, or had a kind friend point, shoot, and e-mail me the raw footage the next day (which is awesome, because I love editing my own stuff), but I don't know if that's always going to be the case, so I'd love to have a little tiny handheld Sony Something 'er' Other Camera at some point in the near future.

#2 - Also, I'm very happy about making new friends along the way. I'm talking about my new Blewt!-related friends who are marching around the open mic circuit in a pack of 3-10 people, which is totally cool. One of them blogged about the night at Pressure that was my third open mic, including clips of himself (Bryan) and another performer, Paul (AKA the Noob, on whose tv show I was an off-camera guest about six months ago). Dan, who was nice enough to film my set, declined to post his own set from this show, but he can be seen here. I'm also talking about Brandipants, the little sister I always wanted (who maybe just arrived about 24 years late?), and my new open mic bud K., whose first time immediately followed mine at Bad Dog lo those many weeks ago. K. is an art student who has managed to whip my butt and has performed stand-up about three times more than I have so far.

Okay, back to stand-up. Last time, I opened with a crack about going onstage after a bunch of really tall people, because I felt like I was swiping for the mic like a little tamarind monkey trying to slap fruit off a mango tree. Part of my pack of friends for that night included three guys who range in height from about 6'0" to 6'5". They all went up before me, and the guy right before me was Ross Hyzer, who gave me lots of good laughs during my set, and with whom I had a nice chat after the show - and who must be 6'6". And I'm about 5'3 1/2". I just think that's funny.

Like the other times - and maybe this is just normal and now I can be cool with this - right up until the very last second before my foot hit the stage, I was terrified. My mind was racing and I was absolutely sure I was going to forget everything. I felt like a fraud who shouldn't even be sitting there in that room. I was hungry but my stomach was so knotted with fear that I couldn't eat. Granted, I had written most of my material that day, and hadn't spent days and days memorizing, but that's pretty much how I've done it every other time, too. Still, I was spazzing, and rewriting stuff from my notebook onto an index card, cutting it down from paragraphs to phrases to words. Pointless. Pointless and sort of rude when I could have been talking more to my new friends and making them more comfortable, too. Oh, and I could have eaten some of the fries and chicken fingers that were being passed around. (Damnit.)

But somehow, when I took the mic, I felt totally fine. I felt clear and calm and absolutely fine. I could feel that all of these people were totally cool with me, and I could play whatever game I wanted to with them. I didn't feel relaxed enough to really have fun the way I want to next time, but this was the first time for this sort of experience, so I kept my thoughts very organized and focused, while feeling like I had everything I needed to do whatever I wanted. The crowd was awesome and receptive and energetic, and I even got through the German jokes while getting solid supportive laughter, even though I had given myself the option of leaving them off if I felt jittery or unsure.

And I really did do and say things that I hadn't planned on (and, in some cases, didn't realize I'd done until I saw the tape). And, I won't lie, I was concerned enough about not having the mic close enough to my mouth (a boo boo I perpetrated the first time around) that I overcompensated a bit and three times I actually touched the mic to my lips. Hope the dude that went after me likes the smell of Kiwi Strawberry MAC lip gloss, because I sauced that thing.


Dan said...

Yeah! Stand up rules. I fully support heavy writing and research for this stuff, you know? So many people are lazy about it. I think you're doing fantastic, when you had your notes out I just kept thinking I needed a little moleskin. Most of the people in the crew have one!

Also, on a vanity note, I am not in the YouTube link that claims to show me, though K-Rock is!

I can be seen here:

Bella Rossa said...

Oops! Fixed the link. (You mean Dan Telfer is not Kristy Mangel? I'm confused.)

I'm listening to your velociraptor joke right now...I love it. Your exasperation is especially funny.

You'll be happy to know I'm going to tell nerdy-ass computer jokes Thursday, including URL, blog, and emoticon humor. RAWK ON.

Dale said...

I'm so glad you're enjoying your excursions into stand up Bella. Last night I was at Yuk Yuk's and thought of you while enjoying all the entertainment. I used to go to open mic nights more often and enjoy, wince and play along but it's become less frequent for no good reason. Keep at it superstar!