Every comedian remembers the first time. Walking up to the mic. Getting on the stage. Looking out into the crowd. I don’t know if every comic had an experience like mine, but no matter what the experience, I’m sure they remember it. It’s the craziest, most exhilarating and scariest experience, all at once. Addictive? Probably. Fantastic? Maybe. Unforgettable? Definitely.
Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a stand up comedian. Not your average dream, but I loved laughing and thought comedians were geniuses. I always got attention for being funny, so why not? I sneaked watching “Eddie Murphy’s Raw” performance so many times the tape broke. I was allowed to watch, “Bill Cosby: Himself,” and I broke that tape too. Was I going to have to become a black man to be a stand up comic? Maybe. As a kid, I thought about being a comedian all the time.
But then I grew up. And I forgot about being a comedian. I had sensible goals. I did well in sales, and that seemed like a good way to make money. Boring. But it does pay the bills. So I went to my sales job, and went on vacations, and did everything everyone else does. Until one day I sorta woke up out of my coma, and said, “Screw this, I’m becoming a stand up comic!”
But how the hell was I going to do that? I had no idea. I didn’t know any stand up comics. I lived in NY, but that was all I had going for me. I decided to take a course at the New School. It’s this college that has all these different, artsy type of classes. They had a course on learning stand up comedy, so I thought I was in.
I got to the class, and I was kinda nervous. I sat down, and it was me, a few other women and a ton of guys. There was some oldish comic standing up at the front of the room, and he was the teacher. I never heard of him. He was weird, and he seemed nervous. I almost didn’t believe he was a comic. Comics are confident, right?
Anyway, he immediately started name dropping like he was in with every celebrity. He claimed he was responsible for Jon Stewart staying in comedy. He was like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, only he thought he was two degrees from everyone instead.
If that was true, wouldn’t we know him, and why would he have been teaching this dumb class? Name Dropper finally shut up about himself and wanted us to go around the room and talk a little about ourselves.
The first guy got up and said he was a lawyer, but he always wanted to be a comedian. He was a tax attorney. Not funny. Next. Another lawyer. Next. Another lawyer. Out of the twenty or so people in the class, fourteen were lawyers. This class was going to blow. I couldn’t believe there were so many unhappy lawyer wannabe comedians.
Then Name Dropper said, “Okay, it seems like you all have stuff to draw on for material. Come back next week with five minutes.” And he walked out of the class. Umm, how do I get my money back? Did I just pay a couple hundred bucks to listen to a bunch of attorneys brag about how funny they are at the ol’ water cooler, and then have some comic basically do nothing and tell me to come back with five minutes of material? Yes. The answer is yes, that’s what I paid for. I didn’t think Eddie Murphy ever had to endure this shit. But then again who thinks they’re really going to take a class at the New School and become a comic. But I had to start somewhere. It was shocking, but I started working on my five minutes.