Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting my funny on

Last night I leapt into the unknown. In the form of a stand-up comedy routine, 8 other brave women and I took to the stage to test our mettle.  In a nutshell, we rocked it.  The crowd was rooting for us from the beginning.  The majority of the packed house (about 100 strong) were friends and supporters with a few complete strangers sprinkled in.  It was a night to remember – and already I want to do it again.  For us brave souls who leapt, the last two weeks have had their ups and downs to say the least.  We came together for the first time on May 20th for a 4-hour workshop lead by the brilliant Kristina Hall.  A veteran comic with over 25 years experience both live and on TV, Kristina created a flagship program to help women step through fears, find our own unique expression and get our funny on.  The level of power and accomplishment in the room did not lesson our shared anxiety.  Would we be funny, would we remember, what if we froze, what if no one laughed and you could hear crickets???

I said “yes” to this opportunity after interviewing Kristina on my radio show in early March  All during the interview, I was feeling the pull to jump yet I resisted committing.  Aware of the contradiction between this and the premise of my show, I knew that to do anything but leap would be contraindicated.  The opener clanged loudly as I considered my options,
Through interviews with luminaries and leaders in the field of leaping, the “What Are YOU Waiting For?” show will coax you out of your comfort zone as you stand teetering on the edge of transformation. Whether you are at the edge and ecstatic…flying mid-air and freaked out… or waxing poetic as you plummet, tune in to the show that has you jump!
I know I know I know, I told my inner-leaper.  But, really, now???  Do I need to put my fragile psyche through this?  Is this the right time?  Will I be perceived as insensitive for making jokes about my experience with the fire?  Will this affect our legal stance?  Regardless of my screaming concerns, I recognized a personal edge.  Seeing Kristina perform a multitude of times and admiring her genius, I knew I could learn a lot.  Never called to be a comedian, my desire came from the challenge and the extreme level of comfort Kristina consistently displays on stage.  I haven’t seen too many people as “at home” in front of a crowd as she.  Given that 1/4th of my career involves public speaking, I craved the ease she wears so effortlessly.  So I jumped – and immediately wondered what I had done. 

During the course, I vacillated between seeing the beauty in my material and wanting to run for the hills.  Kristina stressed memorization which has never been a strong suit.  When I speak, I have an outline.  Typically, I know how I will begin and end but fill in most of the contents from what occurs in the moment.  I have a concern that (1) I can’t memorize it and (2) that to memorize will separate me from my authentic expression.  Add attempting to be funny on top of this and it seemed a recipe for disaster – or at least me as stiff as a board and oh-so far from funny.  So, I didn’t try to memorize, then time sped up and the big event approached, and I began to develop a mighty concern.  I always sweat before speaking.  My first “real” gig in front of the general public was in 2009 where I launched into the stratosphere with an opportunity to share the stage with many legends in the field of personal development.  Prior to that, I had spoken in recovery rooms for many moons, but this was different.  I had to create a speech that spoke to a broader audience.  After many sleepless nights, I had a coaching session with speaker superstar Mark Sanborn who gave me a basic formula and helped me craft a beginning, 5 points and an ending.  Now with a framework from which to hang my material, I had some peace.  Though, I still spent many sleepless nights in the month that lead up to the event. 

I thought that the more I spoke, the less I would fear but it seemed that any speech that was the “next” level brought waves of anxiety with it.  Last September, I was invited to speak at a local TedX event.  The month leading up was one of the biggest roller coaster rides of my life.  The angst extreme, I threw myself into my spiritual work.  Some moments during that month, I will never forget.  There was a richness, a beauty and I was a little difficult to be around – to say the least.  On the day before the speech, I threw out my opening.  My topic: “Being a Fierce Disruption of the Ordinary” had begun to feel ordinary.  In a moment of bizarre inspiration as I hung laundry on the line, I made a promise to not decide how I would begin until I began.  Seeming like a great idea at the time, as the day went on, I questioned my sanity.  What the heck was I thinking?  Yet, I knew this was my next level of growth.  I did just that and felt freer on stage than ever before. 

A couple months later, I had another invitation to speak on a TedX stage coupled with much less nervousness than before.  Yet, I still sweat each time.  For my comic debut, I slept better than my typical M.O.  Last Friday as I planned to spend the day preparing, and yes, attempting the dreaded “memorization”, I suddenly developed a severe case of vertigo which lasted all day and into the next.  A few days before that, I thought I had an ‘out’ in that I hadn’t cleared my appearance with our attorney.  I was sure he would not approve, yet after telling him about the course and the opportunity, he gave me the green light.  Damn it!  No way out, unless I quit.  After two days of vertigo, I began to feel the heat of the approaching evening.  Certain that memorization was out of the question; I didn’t spend much time with my material until Monday.  Then a good case of self-preservation kicked in and I rallied, re-typing my material a couple times, reading it a few more, and yesterday going over it as much as possible before the event.  I had the gist – and it was all real-life tales. 

Discovering I was to take the stage first brought another level of angst – and also some relief.  I wouldn’t have to sit in the audience anticipating my time.  I could get it over with, then re-join the crowd and actually be present.  My assigned handler, Jessica, spent time in the corner with me going over my bullet points to attempt to remember the flow.  She intercepted as well-meaning people stopped by to wish me luck and offer their condolences.  I couldn’t converse with anyone prior and continued to beg their forgiveness, as I needed my Zen space.  Finally, the show began.  Kristina warmed the crowd with her brilliance and beautifully set them up to receive us with even more love in their hearts than they had already. 

My moment came… I fumbled with the microphone and was blinded by the lights which truly prevented making out any faces in the crowd.  And, I began.  Laughs came quickly and easily, surprising me utterly.  My system was in rev mode until a few lines in and then all of a sudden, I was there, present – and alive.  A particularly loud gremlin kept telling me to worry that they might not continue laughing as boisterously.  I kept going anyway, slowing it down, remembering to wait as people laughed, recalling that pauses are actually funny in themselves and can create a new level of laughter as the joke settles in.  As Kristina coached us, it’s not so much what we are saying, it’s how we are being.  And, slowing it down and bringing expression makes the words shine.  She also insisted we remain vulnerable – and shared how on the comic stage you can do anything, be anything. 

In my “normal” gigs, I don’t tend to bring edginess but last night there were no holds barred.  Edgy was present, anger was expressed and the crowd ate it up.  At one point, they cheered so loudly that I thought I should just end right there on the spot.  Not wanting to leave the stage, and still having a few more tales, I continued on.  It was over in a flash and I wanted to ride the ride again!  One by one, the rest of the group took the stage.  Everyone was brilliant, gorgeous and hilarious.  For real.  Absolutely none of us had ever done that before – and at least one had never been on stage before, ever.  Each woman shared real life stories with perspective and glorious wit, admitting challenges and vulnerabilities with ease and grace.  We were all unique yet connected by our spirit of leaping into the unknown.  The crowd loved it and cheered us on for the entire show.  We all returned to the stage for a final bow and to pat each other on the back.  We each knew what it took, what we had to deal with and overcome to be there that night. 

Kristina’s talent was unmistakable in the fact that 9 novice comics were actually quite funny.  Even the slight mishaps that some of us had flowed naturally.  Under her masterful tutelage, we all shined so brightly.  Extraordinary to witness and to be a part of, we triumphed as a group.  Early on, when I first got wind of the course, I was drawn but thought I would “help out” vs. actually participate.  There, I could watch from the wings, live vicariously and definitely not stretch myself in that way.  I am so grateful I was willing to leap, fragile psyche and all. 

Big gratitude and admiration to Kristina Hall!  Huge acknowledgment and lots of love to my cohorts (in order of appearance): Charis Charistopoulos, Sabrina Fritts, Jane Wood, Juliana Gregory, Robin Colucci, Elaina McMillan, Laura Lee and Patti Sommer.

And to those of you who supported us along the way and attended last nights show.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Muchas gracias from the bottom of our hearts and the  funny in our souls.  

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