Stop when it hurts

Hey all,

Unusually, I’m going to write about something that happened in my male life. It’s not something I do very often, but here goes. Those of you with good memories may remember I did some stand-up comedy last year. I enjoyed it so much, I thought I’d have a second go. It’s been a struggle to find any open mic nights in my area, but as luck would have it, I found one and got myself booked in. Before you wonder, no, I didn’t do it in Lynn mode. 🙂 I was fully prepared with lots of stories, gags, etc and I’d whittled that down to five minutes of new material. It was well practised and I knew the rules about the voting mechanism. In short, midway through your five minute slot, the MC will get some of the audience to vote on how it’s going. Get enough thumbs up and you stay on for the rest of the slot. Thumbs down? Well, you get the idea.

So, how did it go? In a few words: not well. :-/ But at least they didn’t boo me off stage – which they did to one poor guy.

I was on half way through the evening and by then, the audience seemed warmed up. It was a young-ish crowd and it seemed the only folk around my age, were some of my fellow newbie performers. The lights came on, I took the stage and went into my routine. Three jokes in – which I used on a difference audience – and…. nothing. I could have been a talking clock. I changed tack and launched into the other elements. I remember during the training last year, that if something fails, just move on. Keep hitting them with what you’ve got and hope something will stick. It didn’t. I came to the end of my second theme and I saw the red lights come on and the get off you’re done music came on.

I felt very let down and to an extent, I do now, although a few night’s sleep have worn the sharper edges of disappointment off.

Where did I go wrong? That’s what I keep asking myself. I think the problem with dying on stage – to use a well loved cliché – is that it really knocks your confidence. I guess I’d been hoping that the gig would be like the one I did previously. I mean, the people in the audience seemed good natured, I’d practised and practised, stuck to the training (don’t ramble, keep it sharp, etc) and yet…. instead there was the slow whistle of air rushing by, no whumpf of a parachute opening at the end, just bang…. and stop.

Was I doing the wrong material? Was my delivery off? I think it had been so long that I was more nervous than I should have been. I asked for some feedback when I got home and the vendor put simply: your material and presentation need work. Hmm. Yeah, well, I kinda guessed that. 🙂

Speaking to a few stand-up mates who where there. They said that what I’d done was okay – I could hear them chuckle as one had kindly video’d it for me – but would probably have gone over the heads of most of the audience. That sounds like I needed to know who I was performing for and by not having enough ‘back catalogue’ I couldn’t turn my act to something they wanted. Which, judging by what my mates said, seemed to be more about sex and close to the knuckle observation / sexism. Whereas, I’d gone for slightly surreal and nothing too rude. Wrong material and wrong crowd and iffy nerves. Altogether, not a cocktail anyone would want. Oh well! :-

So, I guess one of the questions – other than why did I do it? – is what was I hoping to get out of it? Truth? I was hoping for it to go as well as it did the first time. I was hoping that I would finish my set and it would make people laugh. That’s the only two things I wanted out of the evening. There was a final where you’d do a 60 second performance to see who’d be King of the Hill, but I wasn’t there for that.

A work mate who is into comedy asked me a little more and asked me if I was looking for validation. I guess I am to an extent. I mean, why stand up in front of a group of strangers and try to entertain them?

The Ever Lovely Mrs J said that she was worried about me – before I went – and was both empathetic and understanding when I got home. She asked me what I’d wanted out of it. Again, I repeated it was just for fun and she said something along the lines of it doesn’t sound like you had much fun. Do you really want to put yourself through this to get a good night? As usual, Mrs J is the wise one. 🙂 She said that I’m a bit of a dreamer, and that’s true; I am. I’m not dreaming of the lights, nor a career. I’d just like to be good at it.

But, I guess the real question is this: do you persist at something because you fancy a go at it? I mean, my temperament (I wear my cynicism as armour ) is ill-suited to rejection and much as I might be able to make folk I know laugh, or entertain an audience at work, am I actually suited to doing stand-up? How much pain have am I willing to put myself through when really, I’m not hungry for success. Maybe it’s better to enjoy what I’ve got – chuck in occasional gags during training or presentations, and keep my thoughts to this blog.

In short: do you stop when it hurts?

Take care,


  1. This is something that kind of hits home for me. I have several things (maybe that's part of the problem, I should pick just one or two to concentrate on!) that I do, largely as hobbies… mostly sports… and I often times find myself asking the same things you asked of yourself here.

    I tend to have singular focus on things and miss the forest for the trees as the saying goes but, in general, if it's something I still enjoy doing, independent of whether I'm particularly good at it or seeing the results I'd like, then it's worth pursuing. That's a little over simplistic, but usually simple is the best answer to a complicated question.

    And I think your answer to why you do it is similar to mine. Namely, I just want to be good at it. I don't have any delusions that I'll ever climb to the top of the mountain, it's just something that I enjoy doing and hope to, one day, enjoy doing at a higher level than I currently am capable of doing.

    My admittedly crude litmus test is if it's something you keep coming back to time and time again, even after perceived failure, then it's something that's part of the fabric of your being. There are lots of things that I've tried once, failed at and didn't give a second thought to. The things that I've tried, failed at, but keep coming back to? Those are the things that give me a reason to get up in the morning, even if I'll never be world class.

    And to bring it around somewhat full circle, isn't that kind of what this whole dressing thing is about, after all? 🙂

    1. Hi Kristi. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. If I'll give it a second shot – at that same venue – I'm not sure. Maybe that's the wrong outlet for me, I don't know.

      Maybe there is, as you say, a connection with cross-dressing. I mean, it's not like we're born with the ability to put eyeliner on without blinding ourselves (nor look like we've used a magic marker :-), nor walk in heels. Maybe, like being trans, other things need more practice and one good night (and indeed one bad night) do not set the tone.

  2. Don't be too discouraged *hugs* . Eddie Izzard did years of street performing with no one much laughing before he got to be any good. I think stand up is something you have to work at for a long time – with a whole load of nights where no one laughs and you feel totally awful afterwards. I guess you really have to want it.

    1. Thanks for the advice, Jonathan. Not sure I'm willing to go through years of silence. I can get that at work 🙂

      As you say about 'wanting it', am I willing to put more time into it. Time that means I'm going to not have for other pursuits. Given the advice of friends (here and real world), I'm not 100% sure that I am. Time will tell, tho.

  3. Exactly – the point is that you are really funny. You have the craft of storytelling down perfectly and deliver a great punchline. The reality is, as Jonathan says, that two occasions are not enough to judge it on and certainly not enough to get discouraged. You've done exactly the right things – 1. thought carefully about how you could improve and 2. sought feedback.

    I still think that some comedy vlogs are a good way of getting some practice and feedback without the same kind of pressure. But seeking out some open mic nights is good. Might be worth, when you find a new one, going to it the week/month before you actually get up so you can scope it out and find out what works – would probably boost your confidence.

    Hold on to the fact that you are going to be really good, but even David Beckham didn't become great overnight! :o) Keep going x

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Rhi. <3 The comedy vlog – or even podcast? – could be a good way to go. It's a way to work on my timing and trim back what does and doesn't work either. Thanks for the suggestion.

      The other option is to stick with writing. I can deliberate over a word, or a phrase, for minutes and you'll never know. 🙂 Then there's the training stuff which I do at work. That's a nice outlet for it and something I enjoy more.

      L x

  4. Don't know if you watch Alan Davies' Apres Ski on Friday night? The jokes were good but his presentation was awful. Could tell that he was reading off the card or auto-cue and the jokes were flat. When he did wing it, he was quite funny.

    Don't expect a quick hit. The audience don't know you. And you are not naturally yourself on stage because you are working hard on your act.

    If you really want to do it, stick at it. Yes, the tumbleweeds will blow across the stage at times, especially early on, but the high points are just going to be mind blowing.

    1. I didn't catch Alan's performance, no. Funny how some former stand-ups seem to miss the mark. I mean, he's done brilliantly at the panel show stuff and acting. I think it is a different thing, to be sharp on a panel show, compared to holding your own (so to speak) with a show.

      You're right about the not being yourself. It is an act and it was far from my usual laconic stance. Thanks for the ideas.

  5. I have a feeling the adorable Little Miss got a bike for Christmas ? When the time comes she will lose her stabilisers and you know what, she might come off once or twice before she can fly on two wheels.

    Like you lovely daughter you might have the same experience – fall off a few times before your practice and your effort pays dividends. Don't give up …. the lovely Rhiannon told me once you were a comic star in the making – and she never lies x

    1. I get the idea, Becca, even if Little Miss is more about the swimming, than the biking. Mind you, given her tenacity, perhaps a skateboard would be more appropriate. 🙂

      PS: I paid Rhi a tenner to go around and say that. 🙂

  6. I would ask how much you want to do this? If it is something that you really want to do then you can ask yourself if it is worth another couple of pops to see the result.

    If it is something that you thought may just be a bit of a laugh then maybe you do need to reconsider whether the payback you get from doing it is worth the pain that it can cause.


    1. The idea of pain vs payback jumps out from your comment, Stace. It's the best part of a week since the gig and I think it's only now that I'm getting used to what happened. Silly, but then, that's me. When I've blown an interview, or a presentation, it's the same: I go over it – perhaps once too many times – and wonder what I could have done, to have been better. On the upside, that does mean I try to improve. However, the downside is that that's not always the best route to get over something 🙂

      A bit of careful thought – a yay / nay list? – of why I'm doing this, might not be a bad idea. I think part of it, is that I'm a bit bored at work. This is something to think about. Something to put my energies into, but perhaps, it is as you suggest, time to think if this is something I really want….. and truthfully? I don't expect to go far. I am doing this just for the fun of it and if the price is the occasional emotion drop…. I think that may be too much a price for me. L x

  7. I've lost count of the amount of shitty gigs I've done. I know you didn't get paid for it but if you had, then I would be telling you to treat it as a 'paid rehearsal'.

    I once did a gig and there was more of us on stage than there was in the audience. And that gig was me and another girl as a duo! Lol

    You HAVE to do another gig asap otherwise you'll go mental wondering what happened


    1. Unpaid and unaccepted 😉 It's all practice. I've not looked for another open mic night yet. I think that's a good idea once I've got some more material together. Perhaps some that's more topical and will make people laugh! 😀

      Sorry to hear about your duo experience. That sounds terrible!

  8. Let me act as your unofficial unlicensed and uncensored psychiatrist. Hmm… Mizzzz Jonessss… might this be about acceptance? Hmmm… indeed??? Might you be expecting a little too much from yourself after only two performances? I mean, don’t get me wrong, you are an amazing person, but you aren’t gonna be a stand-up comedy genius after just two performances. That’s like saying you looked like a passable girl the second time you tried on a dress. Ha! Pah-lease, you probably looked like a parody of a poorly dressed salad. It’s crazy the high expectations we anal retentive people put on ourselves. Think of it this way, you dress because you love it and don’t care if people laugh at you. Do this because you love it and don’t care if people don’t laugh at you. Same difference. And what was your relationship like with your father?

    The Best Counselor After Her First Try,
    The Amazingly Conceded and Obnoxiously Always Right Alexis Alexandra The Great… Ph.D., M.D., DDS, Psy. D., D.S.W., D.O., Ed. D. etc!!!

    1. "Well, Misssss Jones. It seems you leave a double liiiiffffe. One of you pays your taxes on time and is a systems adminissstrator at a local academic insssstution. The other, is a would-be comic. Only one of these livessss hasss a future…." 🙂

      I can't believe Agent Smith missed out on the trans elements. Maybe the AIs have a better non-discrimination policy?

      I think part of the problem – other than not getting the gags right for the auidence and sucking at the delivery – is that the first time I did a gig, it went very well. Everyone laughed, the jokes worked and – dare I say – my delivery seemed to work just fine. A different time and naively, I thought the second time would go in a similar vein. Not as well, but reasonable. "Eerk! Wrong answer, Hans!"

      So, yeah, the high expectations were my own and yes, you're right on the trans front too. I looked like a mess, but it's a learning curve (like the a cliff sometimes), but we keep at it and with a little luck and persistence, we get a little further towards the goal.

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