I was performing stand-up comedy last night. Afterwards I was talking with a fellow humorist (that's the fancier title) about what we do. She told me how she sometimes felt disappointed with the audiences' reactions. Some nights people would laugh at most of her material. Then there were the nights where she only got a few laughs. She was down on herself for not consistently making the audiences like her. She said it made her feel insecure and fearful every time she went on stage.
I told her about the first time I went on stage with my funny stories. I'd been thinking about doing stand-up for a year and a half. I wrote lots of material, and I'd get the address where comics could go up on stage for open-mic night. But doing it was too intimidating. I thought no one would laugh at what I thought was funny. Sometimes I would drive to the clubs and then sit in my car. I couldn't get out.
Finally one day I drove to the club, got out of my car and signed up. I had to wait three hours before I went up onstage. I was pretty nervous. The four comics before me had the audience crying with laughter. The guy before me was a Korean guy dressed like Elvis. He yelled, sang and danced. He left the stage to a big applause.
Then I went on stage. I have a quiet personality. I stood still and whisper-talked my funny stories and insight jokes into the microphone. No one laughed. It was soooo quiet. I could hear a person shift in their chair. I remember hearing the air-conditioning kick on. At one point I listened to the silence and thought how bizarre it was to stand in a club with a lot of people looking at me and no one making a sound. I remember feeling really relaxed a few minutes into my set when I got it that no one was going to laugh. I felt I had nothing to lose. I enjoyed saying what I had written. It was funny and entertaining for me. I realized I wasn't like other comics, so people probably don't know what to make of me. I got off stage to a few claps. One guy in the audience stopped me and said, "What kind of acid are you on?" I went to my car and drove home happy.
That was an interesting experience for me because I'd spent a year and a half worrying about what people would think of me as a comic, and then when it actually happened, realizing that the fear didn't factor in. The opposite happened, I had a good time.
I think fear has a way of finding its way into most everything we do. It's so common that we get used to the fear being there. It seems normal to live in fear.
The part that interests me is that in retrospect it turns out that the fear is usually false. The bad things didn't happen. Or if things don't turn out that well, it's not as bad as the fear said it would be. Knowing that doesn't stop fear, but it makes it less credible. It makes us tend to not be 100% reliant on the information that the fear is feeding us.