I choked last night and am eating a donut this morning because of it and also because I love donuts. I was scheduled to be on a show last night at my favorite club. I was looking forward to it and had several new jokes that I wanted to do. Wednesday night is the “Fresh Faces” show and a perfect time to try my new stuff. Although I’m no longer a fresh face, I love doing the Wednesday show because they are usually relaxed, fun and a nice mix of new and seasoned comics and last night was no exception. I checked the schedule ahead of time and as expected I didn’t recognize the names of the fresh faces but was glad to see a couple of my favorite comics would be on the show as well.
So I arrived at the club and the crowd was small, maybe a dozen or so regular people and lots of comics which is typical. I checked the line up to see where I was and I was last. No big deal, I can hold my own but closing the show. That stuck in my head though, and soon enough I was rethinking the material I would do. I felt a strange pressure to do well and be funny as if that’s not something I always strive for. My philosophy is to do the best you can at what you are doing all the time. I don’t mail things in. I hand deliver every time. I’m not great at everything I do but I do the best I can at that time, in that place and under those circumstances. Tonight would be no different. Sure I was going to do a few new jokes but they’ve been tested and have been working pretty well at the open mics and bar shows lately so it was time to bring them to the club. But now I’m on last and in general the show should end strong so maybe I should just do my normal routine for this place.
Then it started. That voice in your head that questions, the voice that doubts was there and it was all I could hear. Maybe I’ll just do one new joke. Which one? Clam shack? Bumper stickers? Gay marriage? There was an Asian comic who did all Asian jokes so no Asian jokes. Those are my openers. Eh I have other jokes I can open with. Do the Buddhist material since someone‘s already gone there. The time travel joke’s been doing well lately. Maybe the old dating joke since there are mostly couples here. The whole time I could hear the voice of reason trying to be heard, saying, “Just do your thing. It’s all you can do.” which is generally the approach I take. My act is what it is and it won’t get miraculously funnier in the next five minutes so I need to just get up and do what I do. But that voice was barely audible. Then the kicker walks in. One of my favorite comics who isn’t just a great local comic, he is a big comic. That’s what this club is known for. Huge comics come to Boston and show up at this club and it’s amazing to see. I’ve seen Louis C.K. here and was on the show here with Marc Maron just a couple weeks ago. Tonight Gary Gulman walks in. He might not be as big as Louis C.K. but he’s as big to me. Gary is the first comic that I ever saw that resonated with me. I know that sounds strange. Most comics will say they were inspired by George Carlin, Kinison, Cosby, Carson or Prior or so many others. I am inspired by them today, but I didn’t grow up watching comedy. Comedy is relatively new to me. Gary and his fruit salad bit and cookie jokes for some reason stuck with me. So here he is. Now that voice is even louder in my head, that pressure even greater. All the while, it’s just a Wednesday night and there are only 12 people watching the show. This is not difficult or even something I should be thinking twice about but I am consumed by that voice. I couldn’t get out of my head and any comic can tell you that that will ruin you.
So I did my set and it wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible but I am better than that. I blew it. I choked over 12 people on a Wednesday night. How lame. There was a positive that came out of this. Now I know how easy it is to slip into your head, to over think, to doubt. Hopefully in the future I will recognize what’s happening and be able to shake it off, to just do my own thing and believe in that. Another good thing that came out of last night too, I got to see one of my favorite comics close the show and his Rudolph joke is still making me laugh today.