Last year, at Cherrywood cafe in Austin, I performed standup comedy for the first time ever.
Performing my own standup set at an open mic has been a dream of mine for more than a decade.
When I was 16, I became obsessed with Comedy Central Presents. My parents bought me tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld for my birthday. While my friends were paying to see bands like OAR and Dispatch, I was buying tickets to Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Stephen Lynch, Mitch Hedberg, Dave Chappelle.
My standup collection grew to over 70 albums, and I made standup mix CD’s for my friends. (This was a few years before radio stations began playing standup clips).
During my junior year of high school, I started keeping a secret journal of my own material. Over the years, it’s expanded to about 150 jokes.
Then last year, I finally said “screw it” and performed five minutes of my own material at an open mic.
When I got offstage, the spell was broken.
I thought I’d love doing standup. It seemed fun and glamorous. But I have very little interest in doing it again.
Not because I bombed or had a terrible set. The process just wasn’t all that enjoyable.
Improv is much more fun for me.
Improv is about creating with a team. Standup is solitary.
With improv, there are always surprises, because you’re making things up and throwing them away. Standup is the same material, over and over again.
Improv is positive and playful. Standup is critical and often uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong. I still love — and will always love — listening to and watching standup, because it’s the only place where you hear grown ups speak uncomfortable truths and be celebrated for it. I really love that.
But I wish I hadn’t fantasized about being a comedian for a decade. I wish I’d just tried it when I was smitten by the idea, instead of being afraid and coming up with excuses about why I wasn’t ready.
Because if I’d done that, standup wouldn’t have been this “What if…” career, this scratch I hadn’t itched, for too long.
Of course, I’m glad I did it. Even if it took me awhile.