BY: BRAEDEN ETIENNE
Working at The Making-Box does weird things to my brain. Before working here, I definitely appreciated stand-up comedy, but as far as I was concerned, that was something I would absolutely never do.
But things change.
Once I felt comfortable performing improv on a regular basis, stand-up seemed liked a logical next step to challenge myself. However, stand-up seemed way scarier to me. This fear came from the stakes feeling higher:
With improv, you have a team of people backing you up. Stand up, it’s just you.
With improv, the audience knows you’re making it up, which makes them more forgiving. Stand up, the audience comes in with expectations.
With improv, you don’t necessarily try to get the laugh. Stand-up, that’s all you’re trying to do.
This fear is very real for a lot of people. It was for me too. I wanted to try stand-up for a year before I did it. Every time an opportunity came up, I’d find an excuse out of it. None of them good.
I’d like to say I was busy on the evenings First-Timers shows happened, but I’ve watched every single one. I’d like to say there wasn’t time for me to write jokes, but I’ve binge watched Bob’s Burgers at least three times on Netflix in the past 2 months. I’d like to say it was tough for me to get a spot, but I book the shows.
There’s always an excuse NOT to try something new, and usually those excuses are complete poo.
It was time to get over myself. It was time to take action on those valuable comedy lessons from improv. Here are the lessons that ultimately convinced me trying stand-up would be okay:
Be Cool With Falling on Your Face
If improv has taught me anything, it’s that failing is totally okay. In fact, there’s sort of a beauty in it! Facing your fear will only lead to one of two things:
Failing, some embarrassment, and living life without regret.
Succeeding, and feeling great you faced the fear.
With stand-up, I convinced myself to be cool with either option.
The Community is Still Here, Even if I’m on the Stage Alone
If it wasn’t for the First Timers format at The Making-Box, I don’t think I would have considered trying stand-up. When everyone in the room knows you’re doing something for the first time, it is far more likely a culture of support will exist. This is exactly what I’ve seen at these first-timer comedy shows and it definitely helps confidence. It’s not you vs. the audience, but instead, you with the audience.
Everyone Can Get a Laugh (or at Least Be Relatable)
The advice I kept reading online, was being your authentic self is the best way to get a laugh. For your first time, you don’t have to knock it out with a huge joke. Just be authentic with real stories you believe are funny and people will relate to that.
In improv, some of the best laughs and scenes I’ve been a part of are when my team and I pulled from stories of our real life. Through improv, I’ve learned people laugh most when there’s truth and relatability behind your funny. People laugh easily when you are honest, and see right through an insincere gimmick specifically designed for a laugh.
In improv, I’ve learned how to be honest and know myself more. It’s made me a better person, and also a better comedian. So instead of focusing on being funny, I focused on being honest. The laughs were just a natural by-product.
Having Guts is Already Impressive
You’re courageously stepping on the stage while most people in the world aren’t. You have every reason to be confident about that.
People are blown away by the fact I can just make up things on the spot in improv. While I think that’s easier than writing funny things, the majority of the world would prefer to do neither. But performers have the guts to put themselves out there - something that automatically deserves respect.
Even if my jokes don’t land, at least I’ve done something I never thought I’d be able to stomach. And that, I’ve convinced myself, was a perfectly personal win.
On First-Timers night, I took the plunge alongside seven other brave souls. And you know what? We all survived. In fact, I’d say the set went rather well! I certainly wouldn’t have tried this if I didn’t have the support of my improv training and improv community (many of whom you can hear laughing along in the video below).
I’d recommend anyone who wants to try stand-up try improv first. It’s a great prep tool to build confidence, timing and hone your comedic voice. If you have any inkling to try comedy. In fact there’s a chance at this year’s Guelph Comedy Fest (Oct. 17) for you to try standup. Email me if you’re interested.
You can do it. I did!