"And Now for the First Time"

I'm all about comedy. Wrote and performed in sketches as part of a comedy troupe, done improv, and did standup (because it's cheaper than psychotherapy).

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I can still back out. No one has a gun to my head. I can tell them I won't be doing it, and just walk out.

Can I really do this?

"There are a lot of things that sound like they should be good but are actually bad," I recited to myself, to rehearse my act one last time. "Like, 'I'm gonna clean your clock!.' 'My clock has been looking so dirty, so it could really use a good cleaning -- thank you!' Or the double-whammy, 'He's taking you for a ride -- he's gonna take you to the cleaners.' 'Oh, that's so nice! I was wondering how I was going to get this giant pile of dirty clothes to the cleaners. And now I know that he's gonna give me a ride there. Whew! What a load off my mind, now!' And, 'My boss gave me a pink slip.' 'Wow, that's so nice of her -- she must have noticed that I really need one to go under that new pink dress that's a little too sheer to not wear a slip.' "

Is any of this funny? Will the audience just sit there stone-faced? Will they throw objects at me, like pieces of fruit? Seedless grapes might not be so bad...but if anybody happens to have a ripe pineapple -- good thing my medical insurance covers concussions. At least I hope so. But I don't think insurance will cover the corrective plastic surgery if the sharp points of the pineapple pierce the skin on my face, forming an imprint of the 'eyes' of the fruit. With my eyeglasses, I already have more than enough 'eyes' on my face -- I don't need any more.

Oh God. There's still time for me to walk out, and just not try to do this. What made me think this would be a good idea?

I feel myself starting to shake. Could this be an earthquake here in New York City, happening at the exact moment I'm starting to panic about going onstage in roughly three minutes from now? Seems a little too coincidental. Maybe I could make this part of the shtick? Maybe I could just stand there and make spastic movements for the entire five minutes that they're giving me? Maybe I could try to drink a glass of water with the shakes, and give myself a shower -- whip out a bar of soap and start scrubbing my clothes at the end? Is that funnier than what I wrote and rehearsed for my first comedy club open mic night?

Oh God. Why did I do this to myself? My therapist would probably say it's because I have a troublesome tendency towards masochism -- after all, I'm a lifelong New York Mets fan.

I can do this. Maybe. I hope. Oh God, please let me get through this.

The M.C. took the stage once again, to usher off the previous standup comedian, and to announce me onstage. There's still time for me to signal that he should skip me and go on to the next comedian.

"And next up, we have a very funny woman from the Bronx," said the M.C., looking my way just offstage. I was aware that he said something else, as he pointed to me. Did he say my name? Did it really matter? The moment of truth had arrived. No going back, now. As I started to walk, my legs felt like a couple of accordions being stretched out and collapsed again. I felt like I might collapse any second. Would that be funny, to fall down and pass out onstage?

As I grabbed for the microphone, I looked out at the packed house, searching for signs of hostile fruit. Not seeing any, I took a deep breath and prepared to launch into the act I had practiced, a million times over. Well, okay, maybe only 999,987 times. I believe in rounding up, though.

"I feel really tired," I began, "because I don't sleep well, There are just too many things that keep me up at night -- like why isn't there a euphemism for the word 'euphemism'?" I paused, as they taught in the standup comedy class that this appearance was the 'graduation ceremony' for. I prayed that the bit of soft giggles I thought I heard wasn't just a hopeful hallucination. I took another deep breath.

I continued, "Another thing that keeps me up at night -- why do they call it a PAIR of panties, when there's only ONE? I keep thinking I left one somewhere...like on the bus. So I always carry a spare," as I reached into my jeans waistband and pulled out the kind of panties that one might imagine a hefty female clown to be wearing under her clothes -- a far too big pair of panties with a garish hot pink and neon green plaid pattern -- which I held up over my head and twirled on my index finger.

People were howling with laughter, now...or...maybe another hysterical hallucination? Wanting to believe it might be real, though, I heaved a sigh of relief -- at least I got one really good laugh out of them.

I kept going, almost on auto-pilot as a result of all those earlier self-recitals of my material --
"There are a lot of things that sound like they should be good but are actually bad...."

I HAD that audience. They were with me the whole way -- all five minutes -- laughing heartily at all my jokes, right up until the M.C. came out to usher me offstage and announce the next comic.

I started to breathe normally again, as I stumbled towards the backstage area. I did it. Holy Moley -- I DID IT! I somehow managed to muster up enough courage to get up there for the first time to try to make a live audience laugh. My first standup act in a comedy club is a thing of the past, now -- absolutely the longest, most nerve-rackingly excruciating five minutes of my life. And not a piece of flying fruit in sight. Not even a seedless grape.