CC Issue 03 / Comedy

The First Time

I paced back and forth mumbling to myself, glancing at my watch and occasionally looking into the middle distance with an expression of sheer panic.  One hour to go.  Is it too late to pull out?  Will anybody care?  Why am I even doing this?  This is ridiculous.  No, I can do it.  No, I can’t.  You’re an idiot.  No, you’re good.  Well, you know, not that good, but certainly not that bad.  You can do anything you want to do in life.  Except this.  You suck.  Go home and watch TV.  Crap, 55 minutes to go.

What even made me think of trying something so obscenely stupid?  The summit.  Oh yes, the 2020 summit.  Back in the heady days of 2010, I found myself in a suburban Melbourne lounge room chatting to a group of friends who were in the midst of a what-do-you-wish-you-had-done-in-the-last-ten-years type of conversation.  Before you could say, “Unfulfilled potential,” some industrious soul had quickly grabbed a pencil and paper and declared the following: “Enough of this, ‘I wish I had’ stuff.  All of us are going to write down all the things we want to achieve in the next ten years and then do it.  We will hold each other accountable and meet up again in 2020 to see what we’ve actually done.  Deal?”  It was, indeed, a deal.  Everyone wrote down and then shared their wildest dreams, among which were learning Chinese, dancing on a Mardi Gras float and remembering all the words to Don McLean’s American Pie.  My biggest goal was to write and perform a stand-up comedy act.

We felt good about how proactive we were.  We felt so good, in fact, that we went to sleep and promptly forgot all about our brand new life-changing goals (much like the actual summit from which we appropriated the name).

Sometimes, though, it’s tough to shake off an idea.  It’s a bit like a plastic bag that gets stuck to your leg on a windy day and no matter how many times you kick it away it just does a loop and finds you again.  Okay, so it’s not a lot like that, because that was completely contrived and never happens in real life, but it should illustrate my point: I had an itch that I needed to scratch.  Metaphorically.

For reasons that are too boring to go into here, I found myself living in Hong Kong later that year.  Not long after arrival, I was walking with a friend through Soho when I noticed a sign that was ostensibly advertising a comedy club.   I saw the real message, though.  It was something like, ‘Do it, do it, do it.’  My friend said to me, “Right.  Give it a date.  You’re doing it by Christmas.” I said, “No worries.”  It was October and I thought he’d forget.  He didn’t and Christmas came as quickly as it always does.

So, standing outside the club with ten minutes to go, I greeted my friends with a nervous smile, the smile of someone who is about to boldly leap out of their comfort zone and say, “Look at me, look at me, look at me… and laugh… please laugh at me, oh, please, please, please.”

Five minutes to go.  Two.  One.  Go.  I strode onto the stage, half-blinded by the spotlight and surveyed the crowd; it was not what I had imagined.  I had hoped for a room full of sophisticated, beautiful young people, slapping their knees and nodding at each other in breathless amazement.  One and all would agree that the guy on stage was the real deal, slightly raw, but obviously gifted.  In reality, there were nine people nervously dotted around the room and I had invited four of them.  Some jokes were greeted with nervous giggles, others with laughter and still others with the deadest of dead silences.

It was not a resounding success, nor was it a complete failure, but, by George, I did it, and if nothing else, it’s better than staying home and watching TV.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to listen to American Pie.

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