Comedy Matters: Whiskey, Laughs & Butterflies

A First Foray Into Standup Comedy

Courtney Foster
5 min read
Courtney Foster
(Rob M)
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Comedy is a weird, subjective thing. Everyone has a different view on what’s funny, offensive or stupid. But the idea that laughter truly is good for you, and that a good joke or a silly situation can bring people together is a definite fact. For me, laughing and cracking jokes, or appreciating the irony in daily life is one of my favorite things in the world; it’s how I manage my existence. I’ve always had a deep love and appreciation for standup comedy and the brave, genius folks who do it. So I thought I’d try to explore the intimidating world that brings me so much joy.

I’m an extremely nervous person who has intense social anxiety, which equates to crazy stage fright. Because of my anxiety, I also tend to second-guess myself. I decided the best way to ease into the situation was to lurk. So I started going to open mics just to watch and get familiar with the scene. I was surprised at how quickly I made friends, and soon enough I was going to events two or three times a week and would look forward to seeing the local comedians I had grown close to. They were all wonderfully inviting and most of them had great advice for a super newb like myself.

The first time I did comedy was very spontaneous. I had been bouncing around joke ideas and structures in my mind for weeks by this point but hadn’t actually written anything down or solidified what I wanted to say. I didn’t even have an official joke, let alone a full five minute set. I wasn’t ready, to say the least. And I probably wouldn’t have gone up that night were it not for the help of the big birthday balls I had (it was my birthday) brought on by the celebratory drinks and the encouragement/egging on of the wonderfully funny (and sexy) local comedians Kevin Baca and John Cuellar.

Looking back, going up spur of the moment like that for my first time was probably better than setting a date in advance. I had no obligation to invite people I knew would have wanted to come (Sorry, Dad!). I didn’t have to spend that entire day (or days previous) shaking in anticipatory dread, and it got to be one of those adrenaline rushy, “fuck-it” type of experiences like when your friend drags you into their next karaoke song. And for being pretty unprepared and nervous, I did okay. I did the three-ish minutes of the incomplete jokes I had in my head and everyone was incredibly encouraging.

The second time, a few weeks later, was much different. I did set my date in advance this time, I had written my jokes down and the anxiety, apprehension and general waiting were killing me. The entire day leading up to showtime I was terribly nervous. Shaking and sweating, the mad butterflies in my stomach flew into my throat, making my voice shaky and unsure. With two hours before sign up, I knew I needed to calm myself down, I needed to practice my set and solidify the wording of my new jokes. So with a glass of whiskey-flavored courage, I found a table at Sister Bar and made the people around me uncomfortable as I sat and rehearsed my set to the empty seat across from me.

Finally feeling less like a human-shaped pile of molecularly unstable anxieties, I walked myself and my notebook down the street to Back Alley Draft House to sign my name on the list of comics performing that night. When the other comics saw my name on the sign up sheet they all got very excited and came up to give me a friendly elbow or words of encouragement. Albuquerque comedians are incredibly welcoming and supportive (thank goodness).

I was hoping to be one of the earlier performers so I could get it out of the way and relax for the rest of the evening. But in the unfailing wisdom of Kevin Baca and John Cuellar (the hosts of the Robot Lazer Kitten Open Mic @ Back Alley) they threw me right in the middle. So I was able to get up on stage when the crowd was warm and when I had had a few more beers in me and a bit more time to look over my jokes.

Being on stage is incredibly intimidating. Not only are you standing in front of a room full of people expecting you to be clever and funny, you need to try to remember the stuff that you wrote down, and, in my case, I had a group of already established comedians (that I had been hanging out with for the past few months) looking at me with anticipation. However, I did well. Though I was still kind of shaky, and making eye contact with the crowd was a bit difficult, I was able to stand up and tell the jokes I had prepared in a semi-confident voice. The important thing: I had fun—a lot of fun. And after my set was done, I felt like a badass. If I can get up in front of all of those people and make fun of myself and command their attention, I can probably do anything. There’s almost nothing as satisfying as hearing laughter at one of your jokes move through a crowd or feeling the glowing energy of their applause as they agree with a point you make or feel for your self-deprecation.

This was definitely a lesson is confidence and bravery. Situations are always way worse in your mind. While you may think you’re being a dork or everyone is judging you, keep in mind that you are your own worse critic, and if you approach a situation with a “Fuck it, what’s the worse that can happen?” attitude, nothing can touch you. Go out and get it.
Courtney Foster

Am I right, folks?

Rob M

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