So I did my first 20-plus minute stand up gig to a sold-out crowd last weekend. As frightening as this little hobby of mine is to do, I love every second of it.
The day before, heart-pounding-through-chest, vomit inducing anticipation; the routine post-lunch ‘water-only’ diet on performance day; the countdown to the drive to the venue; reciting of script en route; the thirty deep breaths before stepping out of the car; the faked calmness when talking to patrons; the last minute panic trying to recite a script you’re afraid you might forget minutes before your time; that ‘no turning back’ gut feeling when you hear your name echo through the mic to a cheering, capacity crowd; the euphoric feeling when you know you’ve connected with the crowd (or the ‘see this to the end’ never surrender attitude when bombing); and that surge of empowering accomplishment when you deliver your final punch line and hang up the mic. Needless to say, an emotional roller coaster!
I never ask myself why I do it. I know why: to express myself (therapeutically) and of course, to make people laugh. No matter where I go to perform, I believe there are people in the audience who are hurting. For the most part, you can’t tell by looking at their faces but life is tough and no one is immune to its challenges. Laughter provides a much needed surge of endorphins – naturally produced chemicals by the body that reduces the perception of pain. Cliché, I realize, but laughter is the best medicine.
During my set last weekend, I was fortunate to have connected with the audience. I produced many a laugh and genuinely had a great time doing so. I continue to refine my art form in hopes that someday I will have the privilege to reach out to larger audiences. But in the meantime, even if I can just produce a shot of endorphins in a single person who may be struggling, to me this is what it’s all about. A good laugh reduces the perception of pain and can sometimes make things appear more manageable. Indeed, laughter is the best medicine and the ultimate leverage for mental well-being. It is a privilege to be a part of this in so many ways.