Monday, January 16, 2012

Memoir Monday: The Worth of Worry

While I'm "married" to a fairly stable, reliable person, I've always been strangely attracted to those aren't. As I kid I was uncertain, rules-obsessed and constantly worried about what tomorrow might bring, and sure enough, my childhood best friend was brash, disobedient, and acted completely without regard for the future. When I was with him, I got to sample that attitude. I can't say his way was the best guide to living, but it sure felt good in small doses. Worry is hard.

Fast forward twenty-five years and I'm starting out in stand-up comedy. I was doing only so-so, getting some laughs from audiences but not really surprising anyone…including myself. Back then I attended open mics once or twice a week, so I was getting substantial stage time and seeing all sorts of audiences. One Monday morning around 1am saw me at a bar on South Street, pitching to a crowd that had just been treated to a drunken, shouted rendition of "Girl, Get an Abortion Now." (If you hadn't guessed, this was sort-of sung to the tune of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon." The original was pretty stupid, so you can imagine how bad the filk was.) After that there was a bunch of heckling, and…well went as badly for me as you might expect, and I left the stage and the bar frustrated and depressed.

Anyway, two days later I was at Helium, where I was lucky enough to score a spot in the open mic. (Helium can be very tough in terms of getting stage time, which aspiring comedians should keep in mind.) While in the green room I looked at my set list and thought, "This sucks. I'm angry about what happened to me two days ago and I'm going to bitch about it." Worried Me warned that many of the people at Helium were also in the audience the night in question, but he was quickly shushed by Angry Me, who didn't give a damn. If someone in the audience got pissed that I called out what he did on stage, tough. So I threw away that set list (Worried Me howled in protest) and worked up a 2.2 minute set on the spot. You can see and hear the results here.

I was a hit. Although I was bitching I didn't come off as aggressive – I'm nearly incapable of that – and the audience was not threatened but entertained. And because I had stopped worrying I was able to speak not from my fears but from my passion, and audiences always know the difference. In that moment, I understood exactly why people drive to L.A. and live in their cars for the chance to make it big. My performance was hardly flawless; I said too many "umms" and stepped on the laughter more than once. However, I nearly flew off that stage, and I giggled like a Keebler elf all the way home. (Thanks to Dan for not back-handing me for that.)

That was one of the best moments of my life, and I can remember it far more vividly than any of the times I fretted, equivocated and wore myself to a frazzle over money or a job or whatever. It was a new feeling for me, but one I suspect my childhood friend was acquainted with. I can't say I live like that all the time, but then again I don't eat as much fruit as I should, either. So if I get one serving a day of each, I'm not worried.

1 Comments:

Blogger greengreyeyes said...

I love this story. I am also a worrier, have been since I was a kid. I remember asking my BFF and next door neighbor where her brother was and she didn't know. What her mom was making for dinner that night, she didn't know. How can she not know, my ten year old self wondered. Now, I'm practicing not knowing, and I like it. Are we low on milk? I don't know. Did I pay the electric bill? Dunno. It's good not to know sometimes.

9:39 PM  

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