10 Reasons Your Comedian Friend Does Not Want to Perform For You Right Now

dancing monkeyI’m not mad at you. I don’t blame you. I get it.

You’ve got a comedian friend. You poor thing. You put up with their constant invites to shows in shady neighborhoods at ungodly hours for normal people so you can watch them do the same jokes they’ve been saying for months. You patiently let them go on emotional rampages because they clearly need to practice a new bit on someone and want to test it on you without explicitly asking.  You listen to them complain about how they’re broke while paying for an over-priced drink at a comedy club. You diligently “like” their Facebook statuses and follow them on Twitter to stroke their gentle egos. You allow them to ramble on for hours about the minute details of an interaction that they are obviously exaggerating in their own over-active imagination. You tell them they were hilarious and the audience was terrible after they clearly bomb onstage.

On behalf of all comedians everywhere, I thank you for your service.

But also on behalf of all comedians everywhere… please stop asking us to perform for you and your friends at any given situation. Here are just 10 of the thousands of reasons why that is a ridiculous and unfair request.

1. We are not at a comedy club

There is a bit of magic that goes into creating a successful comedy experience. The temperature has to be right (a little cold so you’re awake but not so cold it’s distracting). The ambiance has to be right (a little dark so you don’t feel self-conscious and plenty of booze to go around). The seating has to be right (close to each other- it’s proven to make people laugh more). The sound, stage, hecklers, smell, noises outside- you name it- they all have to be in a perfect (often impossible) synergy with each other so the comedian is the only thing everyone is focusing on. Of course these are never always correct and comedy is often done in a loud back corner without a microphone at 4 pm to a sober lunchtime crowd of hecklers… but at least the comedian usually knows what they’re getting into.

Your dinner party is not the time or place for a stand up routine. It will feel forced. And like I’m trying really hard. And I will be trying hard. Because I will feel on the spot. And I will desperately want you to like my material because you’re all my friends or friends of friends who have been supporting my career. And since nothing else in this environment will be working in my favor… I will likely get little more than chuckles with jokes that get big laughs in the right environment. And everyone will think it’s “adorable that I tried.” And  I will be resentful and drink the rest of the available alcohol. And someone will have to drive me home or pay for my uber because we all know I can’t afford it.

Good comedians are excellent at making jokes they’ve been carefully practicing and crafting for months (and years) seem off-the-cuff and natural. It is a skill. But what they are doing is not off the cuff or natural. It is practiced. Just like a duck seeming to glide above water with their feet going crazy below the surface, there is a lot going into a successful comedy show. And none of those factors are likely present at your party.

So please don’t put us all through all that. Please.

2. You all are not a comedy audience

Crowds that gather at comedy clubs are mentally prepared to laugh at stand up comedians telling jokes. What actually happens during the set largely varies. But at least we’re all in agreement about who goes where and who’s supposed to do what.

In a dinner party setting, the roles are not specified and people’s intentions are not so laser-focused. So it’s gonna feel weird for everyone. And, again, does nothing but set the comedian up for failure.

Please. No.

3. It will be awkward for everyone

In case the first two points didn’t make it clear enough, asking your comedian friend to suddenly perform stand up at a party will feel very awkward for everyone involved. Where the comedian stands will be weird. How much people will feel obligated to listen and how many people will actually be listening will be weird. It will be awkward starting and delving into the routine. It will be awkward ending it. Even if you get laughs, it will be awkward reading them like a comedian normally can with an audience. It will be awkward for whoever suggested it if the comedian does poorly (which, as I’ve said before, is likely).

Everything about this will be uncomfortable for everyone involved. Even if the comedian does alright and gets some laughs, it will be awkward trying to get back to the party like it was before.

Comedians often feel awkward interacting normally anyway.

Please don’t add this level of awkwardness to our day. Please.

4. I will feel judged

Doing stand up comedy already requires very thick skin. In a non-comedy-club (or something like it) setting, it will feel even more vulnerable. I’ll want to impress you more because I like you. Or at least probably like someone who likes you because we’re at the same party. And so the stakes are going to be higher for both of us for me to be funny. So I’ll feel judged and inhibited and nervous and it will all go to hell.

Please don’t make me do this. Please.

5. I will hate myself whether or not you laugh

Asking me to perform in this scenario is a lose/lose situation for me. As I’ve already mentioned, I VERY LIKELY will have a hard time getting the hearty guffaws you want and expect from the best comedic performances. But even if by some miracle I get some laughter, I will be disappointed in myself. Performance aside, I will have just spent the past few minutes making this party all about me. And, despite what perhaps the career choice would leave you to believe, not all us comedians are egomaniacs. When you say “dance, money, dance!” we want to please you and so we want to dance. But we will feel like dancing monkeys. And that’s no fun at all.

I love comedy and I come alive when performing. But I cherish the moments when I don’t have to be “on.” I love when I don’t feel the need to entertain. I can just relax and take in all the world has to offer. I can be a normal person at a party hanging out and taking in the sights and sounds. I can have conversations where I am present and listening intensely without any sort of agenda. I can just be me the person, not me the entertainer.

So when the party is transformed to center around me (assuming it’s not a birthday party or something that was already centered around me), I will feel like a real doofus for stealing the limelight. It’s not my time to be “on.” It’s my time to just enjoy and listen to the hilarity of people who have no desire to be onstage despite their fantastic senses of humor. It’s my time to be part of the crowd and just enjoy going with the flow.

Please don’t take away my “us” time and ask me to turn it into “me” time. I’ll feel like I’ve disappointed you if I don’t or if I’m not funny, and I’ll hate myself if I do. I cannot win. Please don’t make me play.

6. I cannot transform into my stand up persona because you all have spent the past couple hours getting to know a different person

This happened to me not long ago. I was at a party with my then significant other’s friends and family. I was quiet. I didn’t speak much. Not because I was uncomfortable, but because I was enjoying the other people’s conversations. I talked to him sometimes, talked about myself a little, but mostly enjoyed listening and not having to create any sort of entertainment.

As we left, my guy mentioned we were leaving because we had to get to my stand up show. People were suddenly really interested. They either hadn’t known I was a performer or didn’t actually believe I was actively performing or WHATEVER. The point is, they asked me to do some of my set for them right then and there.

Now remember the first part of this story. I spent the whole night in quiet-mode. I actually enjoy being quiet sometimes. I wasn’t “on.” I was very much “off.” I was even being borderline “shy” because I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt anyone.

So I was supposed to immediately snap into my confident, chatty, extroverted, loud-mouthed, highly-physical, high-energy stand up persona and start spouting out jokes right then and there. Aside from all the reasons I just listed above for why this would be a disaster, I especially didn’t want to do this because I wasn’t in the zone. I wasn’t anywhere near the zone. I wasn’t in the headspace. I was in quiet-mode. The performer wasn’t available at the moment. She was taking a nap upstairs to prepare for the later show. And any attempt to suddenly jump into that persona would have felt really forced and I would have had to push myself big time and the change-up would have not only been confusing for everyone, but would have been disastrous (for any reason listed here). She was napping. If I wake her up suddenly, she’ll be all groggy and not make any sense and be confusing and disappointing to everyone.

Please don’t ask the magician to perform tricks when he doesn’t have his special deck of cards available. It won’t be as cool and it’ll make everyone think he’s not as impressive as he actually may be.

In this case, I smiled and kindly declined. Several times. Luckily, I could turn on the charm easily and get out of it without any hurt feelings. In fact, they all began telling each other jokes. Which leads me to…

7. This will lead to utter chaos

Let’s pretend we’re in a fantasy scenario where this went well. Your comedian friend obliged and charismatically did a well-received 5 minute set and found a gracious way to end it.

Wow. Congrats. Mark this day for thou hast seen a miracle.

Now, everyone is going to want to tell their jokes. It happens whether or not the set actually even occurs. The second someone brings up jokes- especially if people have been drinking for a bit- everybody’s gonna wanna try on their old comedy sea legs and tell jokes. And it will turn into chaos. I could go on about the ridiculousness that will likely ensue, but I’ll just leave it to your imagination. You know yourself. And you know your friends. And you know what you all get like when you’re drunk.

8. Nobody will talk to me about anything other than comedy for the rest of the night

As I’ve mentioned before, I cherish my “off” time. I spend so much time thinking, writing, and investing in good comedy performances, I love when I can just relax for an evening. If it comes up that I do comedy- and especially if I do some sort of “performance” everyone is just going to want to talk to me about comedy for the rest of the night. But I don’t want to. I talk comedy all the time. I have comedian friends that I live and breathe comedy with. I analyze it. Spend my free time watching and writing it when I’m not performing it. When I am not in the comedy world, I’d rather not talk about the comedy world. I’d rather talk about the bajillion other things that exist on this planet and I am completely ignorant to.

Please don’t make me have to listen to your joke ideas that I could include in my next set/sketch/improv/screenplay. I’d rather hear about things you’re passionate about and your world and your life and your experiences. That’s MUCH more interesting to me that what you think will make a funny joke. Let’s please keep the conversation about you. Please.

9. You’re not paying me

Bottom line here is, performers should be paid for our work. Sure, it seems like it comes so “naturally,” but good performances are a result of hours and hours of investment of time, energy, and money. Yet it is so undervalued that actors are the only profession that have to have the label “working” in front of it to give it any validity. To ask me to suddenly perform for you without any expectation of compensation is like walking up to a surgeon and being like, “You know how to medicine. I have this tumor. Get rid of it for me.” That sounds absolutely ridiculous because it hasn’t been diagnosed, we’re not in a surgical room, he doesn’t have his tools, and there is no discussion of compensation for the valuable work.

I know comedians aren’t doctors (I’ve dated enough and split the bill to know that…), but what we offer is valuable too. And you’re inherently devaluing it when you ask me to give my services for free. Of course I love laughter and of course I relish in it, but it doesn’t keep my rent paid.

I am daily working toward having my creative work monetarily valued, even if it’s just a little. I, too, am providing a service and spending hours (and thousands) crafting it to perfection. Why shouldn’t I expect the same currency that everyone else gets paid?

Please don’t devalue me or my work by treating it so flippantly. I know you don’t see it that way, but please try to.

10. I don’t want to

In case it isn’t clear enough from the amount of energy and effort I poured into this list, I don’t want to do this. Most comedians will not want to do this. It will shatter our fragile egos and eat away at our soul. I just don’t want to. I promise you… no matter what the scenario is at the party, if it is not a club or a specific venue where people are there to see stand up comedy and know what they are getting into and I am there as a performer who knows what I’m getting into, I don’t want to do my set for you.

Please don’t make us do this. Please.

So don’t take it personally the next time your comedian friend declines performing at your party. Remember: It’s not you. It’s us.

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Land of Pure Imagination

willywonkathechocolatefactoryLast weekend I went to the San Diego Comic Convention. It’s the largest comic convention in the world. It’s overwhelming and ridiculously crowded and so much fun.
I had a delightful time. Not only because it was delightful to see so many of my imaginary friends from comics and books and TV and movies come to life in front of me, but mostly because it was one huge celebration of human imagination.

And I’m an big fan of the imagination.

I have a highly active imagination. I love to play make believe and dress up and create bizarro characters who exist in their own worlds (which I also create). I’m obsessed with the imagination. I became obsessed with improv during and after college because I couldn’t believe people would come watch you play in a world you’re creating on the spot where anything is possible. I nearly had a melt down the first time I did the Universal Studios tram tour because they take you into different worlds of movies and show you how people use their imagination to bring to life imaginary stories that then stimulate other people’s imagination. I’m creating a career based on living my life in the make-believe. I love people who play along and who embrace their imagination. And Comic Con was full of those people. And I loved them for it.

Also there was a lot of free beer. So that was pretty cool too.

Podcast episode 55: Being Open – Show Notes

photo1 (1)On this episode of Femoir: The Podcast, there’s a lot of discussion of the adventures and pitfalls of being open to the world around you. To your left is a picture of one of my favorite people, Renee Colvert, who I met through just being open to the sillies of this crazy world.

And now, as promised, is a list of ways you can be more open. I promised maybe 10. I’m providing 11. Because I don’t understand limits.

 

 

11 Ways to be more Open

1. Say “Hi!” to a stranger

2. Make eye contact with your Barista when you tell them your order

3. Say thank you, [their name] to your cashier.

4. Ask a co-worker how their night was last night. Then actually listen to them without any agenda.

5. Ask someone a question about something they just shared with you. They’ll be shocked you were listening. You’ll be shocked that you’re learning!

6. Compliment a stranger. Click here for some more details on this one.

7. Ask someone you don’t know well to coffee. Accept that it could be uncomfortable. It could also be awesome. You never know. It’s just coffee.

8. Go to that random Facebook event your friend invited you to.

9. Go to a bar, sit by yourself, smile and look around. See what happens.

10. Throw away your to-do list for a day and just say yes to whatever strange things come your way.

11. Uncross your arms when you’re listening to someone. You’ll look and feel more open to whatever they’re saying.

Podcast Episode 47- Forgiveness (Show Notes)

The latest episode of Femoir: The Podcast is available now here or on iTunes. We’re talking all about Forgiveness!

A couple people who know a lot on this topic were brought up:

The Dalai Lama

Thich Nhach Hahn

One more food for thought:

Also I sang this song:

…poorly

Next week’s podcast will focus on the power of our thoughts. Yeayer.

Thanks for listening. I’d love to hear back from you, friends.

What do you wanna talk about? What’s bothering you? Can I help?

xoxo

 

Prepping for the Influx

I love goals as much as the next person.

No. That’s not true. I love goals a lot more than the next person. I love goals a lot more than the average person. I’m a big, big fan of setting and pursuing goals.

But I have to admit, I’m anxious for the New Year.

Only because I’m also protective of my personal space. And I just know it’s going to be overtaken by people who made resolutions to work out when I do.

And good for them. But UGH… it’s gonna be busy. Hopefully they’ll all have given up by February.

Not because I don’t want people to be healthy. I want you to be healthy! Just, you know, not if you’re inconveniencing me. That’s all.

Is that selfish? Ah, screw it. I’m selfish.

And I’m selfishly enjoy the last few quiet weeks in the morning at the gym with all the regulars. We’re all embracing for the influx.

*Le Sigh*

My Dearest Stand Up Comedians,

Hi. Briana here. Your friend and colleague. Your peer. Your buddy. Your fan.

I’ve been hitting up a few open mics in a great effort to get more involved in the stand up community and challenging myself. So far, I’ve done a handful and it has been a really great experience. I wanted to take a moment to dispel a little idea people seem to have about stand up comics once and for all.

Stand up comics are supportive, nice, open, kind, and funny people who love to laugh.

I’m not saying when you go to an open mic, immediately expect to have a room of people who are going to guffaw at you like a bunch of drunk non-comedians. That’s unrealistic and unfair. Comedians have a higher standard. Everyone who wants their 3-5 minutes on that stage spends a good portion of their free time studying, breathing, and practicing jokes. We’re going to have higher standards to get a laugh. We can’t help it. It’s what we do. If we think your joke is obvious- even if it would kill for a crowd of drunk hillbillies on a Saturday night- it’s not going to make a room full of comics laugh. And that’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because you have to do better.

If anything, comedians are people who love laughter more than the average bear. (And if I’ve learned anything from the Muppets, bears love to laugh) We’re trying to make a living out of laughter. We desperately want to laugh. We love laughing. We want you to make us laugh. Please. But in order to do so, you’ll need to do your homework.

I’ve been at a few open mics now where I see comedians start to get frustrated at the crowd. They make snide comments like, “Isn’t it great how supportive comics are to each other?” or “Great, a room full of comics. This should be great…”

Well, guess what, snide-commenters? You’ve got the worst attitudes ever and I hope you take some time to work on it before you go back onstage and blame me for your lack of preparedness. Because here’s the reality check: Comics are supportive of each other. I’m sitting in a podunk coffee shop sipping an expensive latte and quietly listening to you, aren’t I? I’ve left work early to make sure I can sit at the club and listen to you try out your material. Sure, I’m waiting for my time to get up, but in the meantime, I’m listening to you. You’re a comic. What more could you ask for than someone to listen to you? So don’t waste your or my precious time by blaming me for not being supportive. What more do you want from me? A back-rub and Hallmark card thanking you profusely for getting up and doing a rambling complaint about your insecurities with no foreseeable punchline or original observation in the entire tirade?

And sometimes, I’m smiling. Or chuckling. And that’s the most you’re going to get from me. No, tears are not forming in my eyes. I listen to and write tons and tons and tons of jokes every single day. I see the 1’s and o’s in your matrix pattern. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it, it just means know your audience. And by knowing your audience, you can curb your expectations.

I’ve seen comics blame a crowd of comics for being a tough crowd after the person in front of them had everyone cracking up hysterically. How can a crowd be that tough if moments ago we were all laughing? Maybe you’re just not doing as well as the guy before you. Ever think of that?

The second a comic makes a comment about how tough the audience is because it’s a bunch of comics is the second I want them to get offstage and stop wasting their time so I can get a chance to get onstage and practice the jokes I’ve been writing diligently at home, hoping I could get three minutes on a microphone in front of anyone to see how they do.

I’m certainly not saying people who don’t kill at open mics should give up immediately. Not at all. In fact, I think it’s really exciting and fun to be there while people are brainstorming their ideas out loud. It’s thrilling, in fact, to be there the first time a comic realizes a joke works. And it’s even fun to hear how the same jokes told every day can transform and hit differently in different rooms (because we all know the same comics frequent the same places to work on their set).

Maybe you had more confidence delivering that joke today. Maybe you were really nervous yesterday. Maybe you were having a great day. Who knows! Hopefully you can figure out the choices you can make onstage that will get you the highest percentage chance of getting laughs the entire time and eventually you can build your set with that. That, to me, is what makes open mics genuinely exciting and fun.

So don’t worry if you bomb. Don’t worry if you screwed up the wording of a joke. Don’t worry if you forgot something. Don’t worry if nobody is keeling over with laughter. Don’t worry if you don’t get a standing ovation. Just enjoy your time onstage and see what happens.

If you need everyone to laugh loudly and hysterically at your every breath, go do five minutes in front of a bunch of seven-year-olds, have a bag of candy with you, and promise them the person who laughs the longest and loudest will get the most candy.  I promise you’ll get a great response.

So for the love of god my dear sweet fellow up-and-coming comics, stop saying other comics aren’t supportive of each other. Just keep working on your jokes and your voice, grow tougher skin, and relish in the fact that you’ve got a room full of people listening to you.

Dagnabbit.