Hahahahahaha! I did it!

Well, it was the bravest thing I’ve ever done, apart from forcing two small heads through my pelvis, but I did it! On Sunday night, after two afternoons of tuition, I did my first ever five minute stand-up comedy gig.

I was absolutely terrified before and during the Laughing Horse course, convinced that I would be crap and not funny and none of the other four ‘students’ would laugh at my jokes. I didn’t even think I had any jokes, just a load of rambling thoughts written down. And I certainly wasn’t planning to do my set in front of paying punters at the ‘graduation’ comedy night. Oh no.

And yet such was the skill of tutors Jay Sodagar and Rick Kiesewetter – both professional stand-ups – in showing us the real craft of comedy writing – breaking every ‘gag’ down into its component parts to make each part of the set-up and the punchline work, that at about 9.15pm on Sunday night I found myself in a room above a pub in Earl’s Court with a spotlight and a microphone, and people actually laughing at my lines.

It was the biggest buzz ever. I really did the whole Fear the Fear and Do It Anyway thing. And my set – including stuff on being half Polish, my family history of mental illness, the crapness of being pregnant, and desperate mums drinking too much wine – seemed to go down well. I was even approached afterwards by a lovely advertising person whose client is a baby products company, who said she’d be interested in talking to me about a launch event they are planning. OMG! Even DH thought it was good, despite me making a joke about him thinking his penis might hit the baby on the head if we had sex while I was pregnant.

After functioning on pure adrenaline for two days, it was really hard to come down from that high and I barely slept on Sunday night. Or last night. I’ve been making endless notes about how I can tighten my set and ideas for extra material, and I’m planning to check out local comedy nights to see if I can get a gig so I can do it again. I actually think it might become my new hobby, which seems pretty extraordinary considering how much I was dreading it. It was a massive confidence boost and the most ‘myself’ I’ve felt for a very long time.

My nearest and dearest are already taking the piss, of course: my sister called last night asking for Mrs McIntyre, and DH now swaggers into every room I am in pretending to be talking into a mic. Still, stand-up has got into my system now, and I need to find my next fix…

 

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Will they be laughing with me, or at me?

My DH has his moments. Some of his moments are truly rubbish, and some are really quite inspired. For my 36th birthday in August, frinstance, he presented me with a voucher for a stand-up comedy course in London. I’ve always secretly wanted to have a go at stand-up, but I didn’t know he knew this, so I was really touched, and excited.

Now time has rolled around rather too quickly and the course, run by Laughing Horse , is this weekend, I’m actually bricking myself. I only found out on Monday that I’m expected to bring along an A4 page of ‘material’ to work with. And throughout the two days me and my fellow Michael McIntyre wannabes will be performing little skits to each other. And everyone will be given a spot in a proper open-mike night after the course. Gulp.

I will be saying funny things into one of these on Saturday...

Practically everyone I’ve talked about the course to has the same response: I couldn’t get up in front of a room full of people and do that! I know public speaking is apparently one of the most common fears, but it’s not one I suffer from. I’ve always loved speaking in public, from the first time I did a reading at the school carol service in Salisbury Cathedral aged 11. Since then, I’ve spoken at conferences, hosted workshops, and done readings or speeches at a dozen weddings (including my own) and funerals. I’m actually a bit of a show-off, and I must admit I do enjoy the high of ‘performing’ and having everyone’s attention.

No, my anxiety about this course is that I have a deep fear that I’m not actually funny. I’m not one of those people who holds court and always has their friends/family/colleagues in stitches with their quick wit and spot-on hilarious comments and observations. I tend to think of the perfect funny thing to say a couple of minutes too late – the French call this ‘esprit d’escalier’, or ‘wit from the staircase’.

I think I can probably write funny – I am a professional writer, after all, and have even ghosted a couple of bloody funny best man’s speeches in my time – but whether this translates to performance, I don’t know. I fear hecklers because however perfectly crafted my one-liners will be, I might not be quick enough to come back with a great put-down in a live situation. Stand-up isn’t like a wedding speech where the audience is on your side. They might want to laugh and be entertained, but fail to strike a chord and I get the feeling I would be toast.

I don’t have any ambitions to be a professional stand-up, spending every night in a dingy comedy club somewhere, although there are so few prominent women comics that it would be good to contribute in some small way to the Funny Sisterhood. (Speaking of which, I am loving Miranda Hart’s new series on BBc2 on Mondays after University Challenge).

So what of that material? As a mum, I can’t imagine building an act around anything other than that, really. There are so many darkly funny moments as a parent, whether you are juggling work and mummyhood or fully immersed in the world of small people. There was one report after the Edinburgh Fringe this year noting that an increasing number of comics are starting to talk about their babies/kids/families, so I think I’ll join them. After all, who hasn’t laughed (albeit sometimes a tiny bit hysterically) at their offspring’s latest surreal antics, from potty training adventures to random/inappropriate questions beginning with ‘Why…’?

The question is whether an audience will be laughing with me. Wish me luck! I’ll report back next week.