Ironically, the place I feel the most comfortable these days is on a stage doing stand-up. This is a huge transition from 23 years as a private art advisor, and now instead of selling a Warhol I am selling myself.
Microphone as Security Blanket
I am suspended in a state of semi-anxiety making this huge life change and a microphone suddenly feels like my security blanket! I always thought speaking the bubble over my head was my comedic strength which stand-up allows me to actually get away with!
Btw, my mother always believed I was funny and encouraged me years ago to write a blog. I had no idea what she was talking about but I believe she saw it as a sign from Oprah, who at the time was promoting blogging. And leave it to my twelve-year-old nephew to teach me how to get one up and running. However, crafting comic material and its delivery is a far cry from her thinking I was funny. And what I see in myself and fellow open-mic buddies is that thinking you are funny and standing up and being funny are two different animals.[DS1] Scared yet?
Gonepausal: Blog to Book to Stand-Up
I began in my fifties to write a blog called Gonepausal devoted to the crazy time in a woman’s life when menopause turns every inch of you into something or someone you don’t recognize — starting with the mirror. I discovered it really made women, and even many men, laugh as well as relate. After all, haven’t we all become frantic over a lost cell phone when in fact we were talking on it?
Last year, I turned Gonepausal into a book. Having a humorous book from which to draw material, I became the queen of one-minute comedy sketches on Instagram. Again, the response was encouraging enough to try the next step which was stand-up comedy, the ultimate experiment in terror.
The Craft of Comedy
The best decision I made, however, in this attempt at comedy, was taking classes in stand-up at Second City in Chicago. I urge everyone interested in being funny professionally to RUN, don’t walk to Second City. Rob a bank if necessary, but get your butt there! I cannot thank my teachers enough.
I usually think I am the smartest person in the room until I learn I am not! I learned how to craft a story, how a joke evolves, the different kinds of delivery, and weekly practice, practice, practice in class. Most of all, I learned to listen and take criticism from professional funny people. When I go to open mics it is so apparent who can write and who is just freely associating with no solid material. Every great comic looks like they are making the shit up but it is practiced day after day and revised and revised until it looks spontaneous.
Lone Woman in a Band of Brothers
I am the most nervous thinking about going to an open mic and grouse that I want to stay home and watch another episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel instead. The irony is, when I get there I always want to go first, although I learned it’s not the best spot so I beg for third. I have to learn to make brisket like Midge Maisel to bribe the host so I secure a good place. I see the genius in the brisket now. Once I hear a few people I can’t wait for my turn!
I am in the Palm Desert area warming up for LA. [DS2] I am the only woman in the open-mic scene out here and my fellow comics are all male and younger than my son. I think I almost fainted when I saw them all grouped at a table at The Hood Bar and Pizzeria, which runs an open mic every Wednesday night. They are really a band of brothers and I was the lone woman waiting her turn. Now that was terrifying! Recently, however, I am very excited to announce I have become tangentially one of the “band.” I beg them all to bring women.
I also do one other open mic at Pete’s Hideaway in Palm Springs which is quite different as it is at 12:45 on Sunday and draws older folks. It is run like a comedy workshop by Bob Rufer so we critique each other after a set. Less nerve wracking for me, and more practice.
My friends cannot believe I can get up there but right now, as I mentioned earlier, it feels like my safe place in life. I am excited about testing my material in LA at every open mic I can find, except the ones that start after 11:00pm. Yikes, too late for this female comic and need my beauty sleep. The LA adventure makes me nervous but excited as I feel my toughest test has been the boys in “The Hood.” You will be able to follow my adventures on YouTube and Instagram so fasten your seatbelt and take a Xanax for me!