Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Rockin' a 'Dead Mom' Joke Like No One's Business!

So, last night I did something a bit crazy. I faced one of my biggest fears, and crossed off another item from my bucket list. That's right, I did my first-ever stand-up comedy gig!

Allow me to give you a bit of background. As some of you may remember, I have a bit of a fear of speaking in front of large crowds. This partially has to do with confidence, I'm sure, which could account for the other reason such a thing terrifies me - lack of experience. Sure, I've done plenty of things that have made me face this fear, but it usually is surround a topic matter that a) I know a fair amount about and/or b) isn't of a super personal nature. So, perhaps it doesn't make a lot of sense as to why I would want to open myself up to criticism about certain parts of my life. But, I enjoy making people laugh - I know I have moments where I'm funny. And, by doing this, I knew I could kill two bird with one stone*, so to speak. Plus, ever since my Mom passed away, I've tried to do at least one thing a day that scares me. In this case, just signing up for this two months ago, was my thing that scared me, so I guess you could almost say this was killing two birds with one stone...squared?

Anyway, this really all came about because of my Orange Irish pal, Cillian, who has a similar dark sense of humour. Usually when the two of us are together, chaos ensues, and at the very least, we find ourselves hilarious. For example, at my birthday this year, after our karaoke time was up, he and I proceeded to carry on with the microphones pretending we were talkshow hosts, and interviewing everyone else in attendance. But, basically from this point on, we discussed off and on how funny it would be if we became a comedy duo. And, at first he was super keen, and would bug me for material, and I kind of shrugged it off, because as much as I loved the idea, it really scared me, and I just couldn't commit.

Then we decided to check out amateur night at a local comedy club by the name of the Frog and Bucket, and for some reason I thought that I could do it... on my own. By the time Cillian's birthday came around in April, I was pretty convinced I was doing this, and even "tested" out some "material" with the group of friends we were celebrating with.

But, here's the thing, I needed something that would reflect me, and I needed something that I could talk about for long enough to attempt to make a 5-minute set. Knowing that many comedians use personal tragedy as the basis of their material, I really only had one major life event to go off of... "my dead Mom." Now, I'm not saying that in quotations to make it sound like it's not true - it is - but that became the overall theme of my material... the same material I tested at Cillian's birthday.

Originally, my hope was to be able to sign up for the May 29th Beat the Frog competition. My rationale for that specific date was two-fold - Michael would be visiting me, and the two-year mark would have just passed, making for the ultimate way to not only pay homage to The Mujjie, but also just really face my fears in light of her passing. Plus, I knew that Michael's laugh would, at the very least, be a good buffer in case I choked or was really tanking. Unfortunately, that date was booked, BUT the next available date was June 29th. So, with a slight panic attack, I committed to that date.

Because it was two months away from the time of booking to the time of the event, I kind of put it aside, and didn't really put too much effort into it. I'd jot down various things that came to my mind along the way, but really I wasn't taking it too seriously. And then all of a sudden I realized it was two weeks away, and the fear of god washed over me, and I entered massive panic mode anytime the thought of this adventure popped into my head! I started piecing together a set, and even had a few gracious voluntolds (and one unsuspecting group of post-GKH Trivia Night participants) listen via Skype and give me some feedback.

Yesterday leading up to the event was a mixture of unnerving calm, terror, nerves, and everything in between. I rehearsed in my room for hours, sent my brother pictures of me in various potential outfits, and made sure I had a few friends to accompany me to the venue, so as to ensure I actually went threw with it! For the most part, I felt pretty confident leading up to it, until the first acts came on, and  then my nerves became so overwhelming, I couldn't even smile during the performances of those who went before me.

I suppose now would be a good time to provide a little context into the competition itself. So, Beat the Frog is a weekly stand-up competition, that is intended for amateurs, but experienced comedians often come out to test their new material. There is a maximum of 11 performers in the competition, with one or two 8-minute warm up acts, and of course the host. Each participant in the competition itself has up to 5 minutes to impress the crowd. If you make it, you go on to the "clap off" at the end of the night, which determines the winner. HOWEVER there are three cards in the audience. If the cardholder/surrounding audience doesn't like what yer sellin' the card goes up, and if all three cards are used you get the boot. BUT, the real kicker here, is that not only are you 'booed' off the stage, you're booed off by Beck's Loser** blasting as you exit. It seems harsh, but from a purely comedic perspective, is actually pretty hilarious!

(Photo credit: http://frogandbucket.com/manchester/)
Okay, so now that I've set the mood, it was closing in on showtime. The lineup is randomly selected, and I was number 4 out of what should have been 11 acts, but ended up only being 9. And despite how long it felt leading up to that moment, before I knew it my name was being called up to the stage! Well, here goes nothing...

WARNING: Due to the subject matter and my potty-mouth, viewer discretion is advised. Not appropriate for most work places, or those easily offended.

And after 4 minutes and 11 seconds, Beck came a blarin' and I proudly walked off that stage. Let's just take a moment and think about that for a second. What a heartless crowd... I confess my mother has died, and they still boo me off the stage!

In all honesty though, I couldn't be happier with how it all went down. Sure, I would have like to have made the 5 minutes, and yeah, it would have been a happy surprise to have won the night's competition. BUT it was the first time I ever did stand up, and I almost made the 5-minute mark. I won. Not only because of the comedic value of putting such a deeply tragic and personal topic out there and then having that terribly brutal lyric escort me off the stage, but because I tried to shed a little light on the most difficult moment of my life, while facing my fears. I was caught completely off guard by how comfortable I felt up there. My nerves washed away the moment I opened my mouth, and I just had fun! I feel no amount of upset, disappointment, or hit to my self-esteem. If anything, I feel more confident than I've ever felt! I put myself out there. I, perhaps naïvely, divulged my deepest, darkest tragedy in front of a room full of stranger in a semi-inappropriate manner!

I even received really great feedback from a few of the other competitors, the host, and members of the audience. But, perhaps the greatest feedback I received was from one of the cardholders, who immediately after the competition ended approached me apologetically, wanting to make sure that I didn't take it personally. I, was feeling the complete opposite, and made sure she knew it. However, she confessed that one of her friends was in the competition, and the group she was with feared I would win, so they put the card up! HA! So many elements of comedic awesomeness in this night!

I will say, that my little Irish pal, Cillian was actually the star of the show. Yeah, he stole my spotlight, and ended up making the night about him***... Because we were sitting in the front, the host started picking on him. And, since he was such a good sport (and easy target), a few of the competitors had a go at him too! Anyway, he's next, and I'm officially challenging him to have a try at Beat the Frog!

After the competition ended, my support team went for a few celebratory drinks. I know what you're thinking - but Emily, you don't drink! While this may be true, this didn't stop me from having my first ever shot! Okay, so it was cranberry juice, and I ended up choking on it, under the pressure of it all, but it was a true shot experience nonetheless (There is video evidence of this incident, but I'm currently awaiting permission to use it because it may contain a bit of language, and I'm really hoping that by putting this in here, that when that individual reads it he/she will give the go ahead due to peer pressure, and yes I understand how evil this tactic really is!). This was followed by an apple juice shot, and then Cillian broke a wine glass, so we called it a night!

So, now, it's the day after, and I gotta say, I'm still feeling pretty pleased with it all. Of course, I must confess that I awoke mighty early, despite heading to bed pretty late. Yep, at 4:00 am, my brain demanded to know exactly how long I lasted on stage, and after tossing and turning for a few hours, I gave in and uploaded the video in order to find out!

I'd like to conclude this post my saying one big, massive thank you to everyone who both encouraged and supported me throughout this entire process. An even bigger thanks to those of you who took the time (even when you didn't have much of a choice - yes, that means you GKH Trivia crew!) to allow me to practice my routine. And, the biggest thanks of all to those of you who came out last night to cheer me on! But, I must say a special thanks to my newest friend, Joana, aka "the girl Russell's seeing"**** for volunteering to film my 4:11 of fame.

Here's to facing fears,
-the Orange Canadian

*Yeah, that may not be such an appropriate metaphor once you read further...
** For those of you unfamiliar with this song the lyrics are as follows "I'm a loser baby, so why don't you kill me"
***Completely out of his control, and believe me, it was hilarious! No hard feelings about it all...for real!
****For some reason, my friend Russell aka Josh Groban, for the longest time referred to his lady-friend as "the girl I'm seeing"...


  1. Love this entire post. I could never, ever do standup. I am so proud of you and bow down to you!!!! You're a badass!!!!