This weekend, I did two things for the first time:
I performed standup comedy in public, and I saw a boob.
The boob belonged to Drew’s friend Karen, and it was partially obscured by her newborn baby. I’ve been in the room when my sister has breastfed her babies, but she always keeps her shirt on. That’s good, because while I am totally down with the ladies and the miraculous, beautiful, natural Mother Earth joy that is breastfeeding, I don’t need to see my sister’s ta-ta’s.
I didn’t need to see Karen’s ta-ta’s either, but she apparently didn’t know that. She was breastfeeding when we walked in, and unlike my sister, at least one ta was hanging right out of her shirt. Given that she had a big happy smile on her face and that there were half a dozen other visitors there in full view of the baby’s first snack, I got the impression that we weren’t going to be expected to leave.
Drew broke right into the small talk. “Now that you’ve had the baby, can you eat sushi again?” I congratulated Karen and her husband while I looked politely to the side.
I know breastfeeding is nothing sexual or shameful and doesn’t need to be hidden, but it’s funny how having a baby in front of your nipple turns it from a PG-13 to a G. Of course, the only way I’m likely to see boobs is in a G-rated setting.
A few hours later, I was on stage in a bar in Santa Monica, telling jokes to strangers. If you had asked me last week which would be the more awkward experience, I would’ve guessed standup by a mile. But it turned out to be the other way around. Now that I’d seen Karen’s boob, the worst was over.
My biggest nightmare going in to standup was that no one would laugh at my material. And no one did laugh. But surprisingly, it ended up not being my biggest nightmare. There were only about 12 people in the entire place, and except for maybe one or two, all of them were comics waiting to go on stage. Nobody was too supportive of anyone else. It was more of a competitive environment, although just what we were competing for, I couldn’t tell. It felt like an audition room without a casting director.
I went with my friend Michael. He had been there before, so he briefed me on the regulars. There was an enormous African-American man named “Smalls” (get it?) whose routine centered on going to “big girl” clubs, which apparently are clubs that cater to overweight women lookin’ for love. Then there was the bitter guy who told common jokes that everyone knew (i.e., “I’m not a string, I’m a frayed knot!”) and griped when people started yelling out the punchlines before he got there. And the ventriloquist. I was dying to see the ventriloquist.
Michael and I put our names on the signup sheet. We were fifth and sixth. We went somewhere else for dinner and came back just as the second comic was going on. I was surprised that the comics weren’t terrible. They weren’t polished, but that’s what a place like this was for, I figured. It was a place for these guys to try out their material before taking it somewhere they’d actually be, you know, seen. On the other hand, I’m not sure how helpful it is to test your material on a roomful of people who refuse to laugh.
When I got on stage, I looked out and saw all the other comics staring at me. Blankly. I foolishly wrote a routine that was going to require a lot of commitment to pull off; it required me to get very emotional and even to do a little physical comedy, neither of which are my strong points. Sure, I can pull that stuff off when I’m rehearsing in front of the mirror at home, where my only audience consists of my Simpsons action figures. But in front of real people, I always chicken out.
Only this time, I didn’t chicken out. Well, at least not as much as I was afraid I would. As I started my schtick and looked out at everyone, it was just like being at home and looking at the Simpsons action figures. I don’t care what plastic Bart and plastic Apu think of me, and Smalls wasn’t of much consequence either. The only one I knew there was Michael, and he had to laugh, if only to be polite.
I feel good about how I did, and gosh darn it, pat on the back, give yourself a handshake, golly gee whiz, that’s all that matters, right?
Still, it’s nice to know I didn’t look like a boob.