I can't believe I haven't written here in six months.
Well, I kind of can. Because I've been thinking about this post every day for the past six months.
I actually started a draft of this on January 22nd. Then I stopped writing it, came back to it a few times, tried again, and couldn't find the words to express what I've been thinking and feeling.
And I guess it's appropriate that this post has so many stops and starts…because that's the way I feel about the comedy I've been doing.
Sometimes I feel insanely confident. Like, there's no way someone at my experience level should be as good as I am at this.
Then I feel insanely insecure. Like, am I any good at this at all?
I try to live in the middle area as much as I can: No matter how great I feel about a set or a week of comedy or whatever, there's no way I'm as great as I probably think I am, but at the same time, I'm probably not as bad as I think I am when I'm feeling no confidence in my comedy.
And I'm ready to write about all of these things because I'm feeling confident in one thing right now that I haven't felt at other times in the past ten-plus months since I started doing comedy:
I'm ready to call myself a comedian.
Here's a little back story for those of you who don't know: I've always wanted to try comedy. I remember hanging out with some friends, probably in 2002 or 2003 or so, and doing a quick 3-to-5 minutes of comedy at their urging. We were just hanging around someone's living room, but I liked the attention. And though I know most of the material was bad, there were a couple of funny jokes in there that got some laughs. I liked how that felt.
But I had thought about comedy even before that - ever since college - and I'd started writing jokes in a notebook in 1999 or 2000. So I literally have been thinking about doing this for 15 years.
It was last July (the 14th, to be exact) when I finally tried it.
I've written about this before - I definitely could not have done this 15 years ago. For some reason I can handle a crowd not laughing at a joke right now. I can handle rejection in whatever form (not getting booked on a show, not getting laughs, not being accepted into a contest or festival, having trusted friends with whom I share my material tell me a joke is no good) better now than I ever could have at any other time in my life. (We'll save the psychology of why this might be for another time.)
The first couple of open mics I did weren't great. My first open mic was fine. Not great by any stretch, but not horrendous. I got enough laughs, I guess, that I wanted to do it again. My second open mic was a disaster. But I wanted to do it again to get rid of that bad feeling…so I did. And then I did it again. And I started to figure out how to hone some material.
In January I did my first booked show for a paying audience. I started to figure out who to talk to and where to go to find out how to get on other shows. I've since performed at about ten different venues, and most of them have invited me back. So I take that as a good sign.
I'm starting to get a good idea of where I perform well (and where I don't), and what types of audiences seem to enjoy my work (and which ones don't). I've performed for sparsely attended rooms (15 people or less), and I've performed for packed rooms of 50 people or more, and I've gotten laughs in both spots.
This has been a particularly exciting time for me - I spent a lot of the winter booking spots that are just now happening. I'm in a string of five consecutive Wednesdays where I'm on booked shows. (This Wednesday I'm at The Comedy Studio in Harvard Square, which, with all due respect to some other pretty great rooms I've played, is the one stage I still get the most excited about performing on. You should try to make it to one of the shows I'm on there this summer.) I am on multiple shows all summer long. (You can see my schedule at this link - at the 'Calendar' link on this website.) I had some head shots taken, which I will soon be using to help dress up my website. I've tried to network a lot more than ever before. I've met some really nice people doing comedy so far - I've worked hard to come out of my shell a little and talk to (and pick the brains of) as many people as I can. I've been really impressed with how helpful and nice people have been, and I hope I'm able to return the favor to new comedians when I have some time under my belt.
It's still hard for me to gauge, though, just how good I am.
Some people say that to be a "true" comedian you need to be out there every night of the week, performing in multiple places in the same night. I just can't do that. I'd love to be performing every minute of every nighttime hour - I really do enjoy being on stage - but given my home life that's just not possible. So I'm a big believer in quality over quantity - I work as hard on my material off-stage as I do on-stage, and use the few minutes I have on stage during open mics as wisely as I can.
That's part of what makes this hard for me - can I ever progress to the point where I can make money telling jokes on the schedule I am on now? Am I getting booked because I'm any good at what I do, or just because I happen to know more of the right people right now who can help me get stage time?
I am working to figure out the answers to these questions. I have a few goals as I approach the one-year anniversary of when I first tried out stand-up comedy:
1) Continue to perform (and write) as often and as well as I can.
2) Continue to talk to everyone I can about the world of comedy.
3) Update my website.
4) Make money as a comedian.
Maybe number four should be a higher priority, but I don't know how realistic that is just yet.
After eleven months of performing comedy, there's a lot I still don't know.
But I know this much:
I've put in a lot of work.
And I really like making a stranger - or someone who has never seen me perform before - laugh.
And I'm able to do that when I'm on stage more often than not.
So I think, for now, that allows me to confidently call myself a comedian.