October 5, 2013

Supporting Stand Up...

I watched my friend, Karthik Palaniappan, perform stand-up comedy at an open mic last night. It was the happiest moment I’ve had all week. I don’t say that to imply that my life is a shit sandwich—it’s not. I say it because I adore watching stand-up comedy; and, when I get to combine watching people I care about with stand-up, it makes my heart giggle with happiness.

It also helps that my friend didn’t bomb. He had a very nice set. I could tell he practiced in private beforehand—maybe in front of a mirror, maybe not. Rehearsed, edited, re-rehearsed and re-edited the wording until the phrasing was tight and crisp. The knowledge that he began doing mics only a few weeks ago made his belly-laugh inducing 4 minutes on stage all the more impressive.

Even today, 13 hours later, I am still running a residual high from watching him shake the host’s hand, take the mic in his own, and stay on stage for the entirety of his allotted time in spite of the fear one must battle when the host asks the audience to, “put your hands together for the very funny next comedian!” It’s the fear that you won’t be “the very funny next comedian” you’ll just be the next comedian. But, last night, my friend beat the fear. And, for that, I am exceedingly proud of him.

Jorie Stein
The phrase “getting up there is hard” doesn’t come close to explaining how naked and vulnerable it can feel on stage as a comic—I know because I rarely get on stage anymore for that reason. If you make them laugh, it can be a validation like nothing you have ever felt before. The love of the audience is intoxicating—the rush, overpowering. And when they don’t laugh, it can feel like your soul has been crushed—shit, like you didn’t even have a soul in the first place—just a shell of a human being who cannot connect properly with other human beings—that your view of the world is unappreciated, misunderstood, not worthy of the attention of others.

But last night wasn’t one of those nights—last night he made them laugh—he made me laugh. He was beaming after his set. I saw a side of him I hadn’t seen before. I liked him more because he liked himself more. He was finally doing what he had thought about for years but shared with few—a comedic coming out. It was beautiful.

In that moment of the afterglow, my mind raced frantically with all the things I wanted him to know. I wanted to tell him it would get harder and that he would bomb in the most wickedly glorious of ways you can bomb but that he should not let that keep him from the stage. I wanted to share my knowledge of the Chicago comedy scene, limited as it may be, so that he might not make the newbie mistakes that I once made—and still sometimes make.

I wanted to insure that the best part of his new comic naivety might stay intact— the excitement, the awe for the seasoned comics that came before him—that he might not become jaded—that he would continue to laugh. I wanted to give him everything I could so that he would never stop.

And, so, I said none of those things... I let him enjoy the moment. He deserved it.

Contributing Writer - Jorie H. Stein, Ph.D.
Stein is a writer, recovering comic, former Assistant Professor at the  Illinois Institute of Technology and a huge supporter of the Chicago Comedy Scene.