I’ve always been a generally entertaining person — I’m loud by nature, my face is farcically expressive, and over all, I’m a nut. And yet, I never knew if I was all the way funny. I grew up in a loud household — both my parents are extroverts, as are all four of my younger siblings. Our dinner conversations were always raucous with knee-slapping snort-inducing laughter over awkward encounters and tales of younger days. My sisters always conducted our orchestra of laughing, setting the pace and genre of the stories, and the rest of us followed suit. I’d get in my ridiculous stories with a bad date here and a racist comment there, but on the whole, while I reeled in a good laugh or two, my sisters effortlessly stole the show. Night after night after night.
When the opportunity came to put my comedy prowess to the real test, I had to take it, if only to determine whether I was actually funny or if my family was just really polite. Rubi Nicholas, certifiably America’s Funniest Mom, offered a four week stand up comedy crash course at Fruition Collective in Downtown Lancaster. So naturally, I invited two of my funniest friends and got straight to work being funny.
It was harder being funny than I anticipated, to be honest. I’m not as witty and quick with the puns as my classmate/coworker Ryan Michael Jones. I have countless bad date/hookup stories, but always in the back of my head was this comment from a dear college friend. He said, “the problem with female comedians is that they either talk exclusively about sex or they’re just not funny.” I was hell bent on changing his mind.
The early goings were really rough. Stories and anecdotes I thought were genuine gut busters fell flat during rehearsals. There’s something terribly vulnerable about standing in front of people who anticipate that you’ll make them laugh and unsure if you’ll be able to do so.
I chose to focus my comedy writing on my experiences growing up biracial. I’ve spoken about them at length with friends, classmates, and professors, usually in a semi-serious tone in reference to race relations and intersectionality. But the fact of the matter is, a lot of what’s serious is better discussed in comedy. Your audience isn’t as nervous about what is or isn’t okay to laugh about. You can explore stuff that would otherwise be uncomfortable in a relatable fashion, as per Trevor Noah and Hasan Minhaj’s smash-hit stand-up specials on Netflix.
The night of the actual performance was nerve-wracking. Each member of the 10-person class thought their friends would be the only ones to show, but everyone’s friends showed up with plus-ones. All totaled, our audience clocked in around 70 people. I’ve never suffered from stage fright, but I could easily envision suffering from painful silence after a flopped joke. And as if my nerves weren’t wild enough, the person who was immediately before me in the lineup flat-out bombed.
All in all, I think I did really well. I should have spoken more slowly. I wish I didn’t have to look at my notes as much. And in earnest, I think the swearing I did choose to include was gratuitous. All that aside, though, I was funny. My stories made people laugh. After the show people came up to me still in stitches to tell me how much they enjoyed my seven minutes of flailing about and telling stories.
You can listen to my bit, half of Preston’s bit, and Ryan Michael Jones’ bit below. If you like it, leave a nice little note for us. Our egos could use it. And keep an eye on our social media pages! Who knows? Maybe we’ll appear at an open mic near you someday soon