Stand up and be counted: Why I think everybody should give comedy a go

comedyAT THE age of 14, I think I was convinced stand up comedy was my future.

I watched it endlessly on TV and on Youtube, I was acting in everything I possibly could at school and I was even writing jokes of my own, (and laughing at them endlessly in the mirror too). I, however, was 14 and as with most things that I liked at 14, it tended to get repeatedly punched in the face by reality. And so by the time I made it to adulthood and into our fine university, most of my 14-year old dreams had flown the nest before I had. The notion that I may become a world class hacker, a stadium touring stand up comedian or even at least get to fourth base with somebody who didn’t hate herself was ethereal at best.

The stand up thing stuck more than anything else though and I put it down to the fact that I had put all this effort into coming up with jokes, only to now not aspire to tell them, which got on my nerves. Don’t get me wrong, the niggle in my mind considering my baseball analogy bothered me, but it just didn’t last as long into Freshers (if you know what I mean *nudge nudge* *wink wink*). So when the opportunity arose to partake in some stand up, I took part. And I don’t regret it one bit.

To briefly return to 14 year old me; I actually took the opportunity to M.C. a music night and test out some material. Being 14 though, I was not prepared. I got drunk to deplete the nerves and did not handle stage time well at all. I talked to my friends in the audience, failed to address any acts and physically asked if I should get off stage. It was safe to say that’d I’d bombed harder than Hiroshima. Resilient as ever a 14 year old could be though, I kept writing, reading up on stand up tips, (tip 1: music gigs and stand-up rarely mix) and refused to consume half-to-full bottles of Vodka in one sitting ever again (until University).

Fast forward to a student comedy show last year, and I was determined to simply see if what I had come up with as a spotty teenager, fine tuned with a spotty student mind was actually funny;  I am happy to say I wasn’t not funny. That isn’t to say that I was very funny, I just managed to make it off stage with an applause and no fruit in my face. It was an unforgettable experience though.

Many people say that stand-up would scare them. That stand-ups are brave. And they’re right to a tiny extent, but I believe anyone could do it and gain something amazing. Confidence, the ability to get straight to the point, and most of all, the ability to talk to groups of people are all things I got out of just one real stand up attempt. It’s hard to truly describe the feeling I got when I left the stage. A mixture of relief, accomplishment and enjoyment, but mostly closure. To make an audience of around thirty people laugh (even if it was only at a third of your very small act) is something completely alien, and a feeling I can’t imagine replicating in any other vein of life.

It makes smaller presentation settings pale into insignificance and teaches you the value of the words that actually come out of your mouth, especially in situations like that; and should you bomb (which is normal at first) you’ll learn first hand what I’ve been through, but if you’ve got the resilience to continue, and you think it’s for you, there’s no reason you can’t just do it over again, but better, and learn even more.

There’s also an odd sense of calm on a stage, on your own, about a minute in. The sense of no return will either make you rush, or enjoy yourself, and if you’ve prepared, I promise you’ll enjoy yourself, as long as you stick to your act. And if everyone who had the opportunity to give it a go, actually did so; firstly comedy clubs would be rich, but mainly people’s opinions of free speech, social interaction and 50 shades of moral grey areas would be much more firmly aligned.

If you’re apprehensive but have always thought about standing in front of an audience and embarrassing yourself for the amusement of others, I’d heavily advise doing it. Put your inhibitions to one side, practice a routine and just do it. There’s plenty of help out there on websites such as Chortle, Reddit and About along with plenty of other courses and books. Failing that, just get yourself to some local comedy and support aspiring comedians.