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May 6, 2021

A brave foray into the world of stand-up

By JENNIFER DIAMOND | February 7, 2013

I took Adam Ruben’s stand-up comedy course over Intersession. Thanks, Adam! If you saw me in the final show, allow me to say thank you for coming, and I apologize for saying the word “anus” so many times.

Never had I attempted stand-up before the class began four weeks ago. While I hope my performance came across as collected and not from someone about to pee herself, do know that self-urination was a very real possibility at the time. For someone with experience primarily in improv – a team-based comedic performance – stand-up seemed like the loneliest, craziest activity ever invented. Stand-up could only be rivaled by feeding sharks out of your own mouth or kissing Sylvester Stallone (don’t lie to yourself, these are both equally scary things). For lack of a better description, stand-up seemed f*****g nuts. In improv, a bad comedic decision can be fixed by the other members of your troupe running on stage to save the day. In stand-up, a bad moment is yours to swallow, wallow in, and cry about that night while eating two pounds of dry cake-mix. In short, the crushing disappointment and rejection is disgustingly imminent.

But I decided to take the class – and it turned out to be great. We watched a lot of funny things, hung out with a lot of funny people, and even traveled to DC to see some comics perform at an open mic event. Cut to three weeks later and I somehow found myself on the Swirnow stage, spooning up four minutes of my own material. And, remarkably, I enjoyed doing it. I somehow did not projectile vomit everywhere; so, all in all, I would call the experience a success.

If you are interested in trying stand-up – and I do recommend it – here are a list of things I learned:

-While on stage, the audience looks like a bunch of blurry beans. Feel better knowing that you are a real person – not a quesadilla ingredient. Use this confidence to your advantage.

-Don’t fret if no one laughs at one of your jokes! You can always giggle uncomfortably and say, “Haha. My grandpa made up that one. What a guy. He’s dead now.” Pity laughter is better than no laughter.*

-Wear something casual. If you are dressed too fancily, it might look like it’s your bar mitzvah, which is festive but confusing. Wearing any kind of costume is stupid. It is not Halloween, ya goof.

-I had a great time eating a sandwich after my performance. Maybe you would enjoy doing that too. Or maybe you hate sandwiches.

I decided to take note of my inner monologue starting right before I went on stage. I have transcribed it here so you can see the workings of an amateur comic’s mind:

I feel very much like vomiting. If I have to vomit, maybe I will do it in that tall kid’s backpack. He will only mind a little bit because he is so tall and can therefore see more important things and this will keep things in perspective. If I were taller I would probably be wiser. If I were wiser, I probably would not be backstage right now. What if I vomit on stage? Will that make me famous? Maybe someone will post the whole thing on YouTube and I will become a vomiting sensation. Like that video of the baby puking on a small dog. That baby was so cute and so gross. Oh, s**t. My turn. That’s a curtain. That’s a mic. Everyone looks like beans. That’s cute. But beans can’t laugh! Oh, wait. They laughed. Kay, they’re not really beans. Maybe I forgot to brush my hair today. Maybe they are laughing at my hair. No, I did brush my hair. Okay, I have nothing left to say. Wave. Turn around. Done. I’m hungry for a Reuben.

There you have it. All in all, stand-up was terrifying in the best of possible ways. I even plan to try it again. I definitely recommend taking Adam Ruben’s intersession course. It turns out that people laughing with you can feel pretty great – even if they may or may not be beans.

*Just kidding, don’t try this one.

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