I hadn't been this nervous in my entire life. My friends were seated around me, all drinking beers and enjoying the other comics. But I was staring into the ground wondering if I had made the worst decision of my entire life, contemplating sprinting out the door and never coming back.
Starting stand up comedy is a giant leap for ones confidence. Everyone likes to think they are funny, but only some people are right. Getting on a stage in front of dozens of people to prove how funny you are can be accurately described as "just plain crazy." But there I was, about to do my first five minutes in front of everyone I knew, a few people I didn't, and I was terrified.
Breaking into stand-up all starts here: the first night, the first jokes. Without these humbling moments of silence, fear, and tear inducing nervousness a comedian can never really know just how hard it is to begin a career in this art. Starting stand up comedy isn't about knowing the right people, getting good gigs, or even being funny. It's about finding the bravery to step on stage for that first time and being able to withstand every muscle in your body screaming for you to stop what you're doing and run. Stand up comedy is about taking those first few sets with nobody laughing and convincing yourself that you are good enough to do this and that you can get up on this stage again.
Any comic, from the local showcase to the Apollo Theater, will tell you it's not as easy as it looks. But you never truly believe something like that until you do it. Until you're staring at a crowd of faces begging to make them laugh. My first set was supposed to be five minutes, I spoke so fast I was done in two. It felt like ten seconds. My tip for anyone considering a career? Get on stage. You don't know if you're going to make it in this art until you try it. You can practice in front of the mirror all you want, but until you're on stage in front of people you don't know what it's going to be like.
Starting stand up comedy is about courage, well, courage and delusion. Professional comedian Mike Birbiglia said it best when he said that starting out in comedy was full of delusion because despite everything going wrong you had to tell yourself "it was going pretty well". It's not as simple as being funny...it's about being brave. I didn't kill my first night, I didn't walk away with a comedy central contract. But I did get back on the stage and I did find the bravery to keep doing it. With that, I can promise anyone they can make it in this industry. I can promise anyone they'll find their way. You just need to convince yourself that you can.
Breaking into the comedy scene will take time, effort, hard work, and determination. Nobody gets handed a career in this industry. But just getting on stage that first time is the hardest part of it. That's the part most people will never accomplish.