How to Stand-up (Once or Twice)

“Egress,” oils on 16″ x 20″ stretched canvas—illustrated a poem-song, “Nurse Rear I’m,” about post 9-11 U.S. war crimes and bullshit response to them, that was published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review under my old name. It’s a word play on egret (the bird) and egress (qua exit), and a visual play on a peacock (pride) and a chicken (cowardice). But also it kinda just looks like a rubber chicken; thus appropriate picture for stand-up experiment feedback synthesizing post… 

So I did stand-up at a few open mics last week, and a few fellow comics/writers/travelers were kind enough to give me some feedback. Now I synthesize the feedback before writing more new material and prepping for a few more open mics. (I don’t know why. Bracket.) 

Here’s what I learned. 

1. Relax and feel beautiful already.

Being a woman, I was worried I looked fat.

Survey says I could indeed be thinner; shall I donate my arm or my leg first? (Sigh.)

“Does this make me look fat?” is really only a good line when you’re trying on a fat suit for the next Austin Powers movie ft. Leonard Cohen, “The Spy Who Was Sentenced to 20 Years of Boredom for Trying to Change the System from Within.” 

Seriously though? I feel loved, beautiful, and safe here. So I can do this thing where I exist as a body in a public space and don’t hate myself. Even though it’s still different as a woman doing comedy…

Another comic made a cheap shot at my rack after my second Berlin show last week, and I was like HAHA GOOD JOB I LIKE YOUR HAIRCUT AND HAVE A NICE DAY! because (1) ja, comics do this to one another, (2) politeness reflex so automatic, and (3) dick joke too easy. 

But male comics don’t do this to each other’s bodies like they do it to women. This is a thing that exists and sucks a little. It doesn’t bother me like it used to. I have so many kind people in my life now that I’m coated with some form of joyful immunity. 

2. Small words, some German. 

I am doing English language comedy in Berlin because cos America so crazy kthanksbai. Eventually, I should be doing this (and much else) in German. 

But for now, the best I can do is try to keep my English relatively simple. Substitute smaller words for larger ones—it’s better writing anyway. 

And work in some bilingual wordplay to start getting comfortable presenting in another language…

3. See and be seen. 

I gotta stop touching my hair. And look at people. Put down the paper. Put down the hand. THE AUDIENCE IS ACTUALLY THERE TO SEE YOU AND FOR YOU TO SEE THEM, SO FUCKING SEE AND BE SEEN. 

Or as my favorite old director used to tell me, “No hiding.” 

4. Use the crutch wisely. 

I’m so green and afraid of blanking out. Holding a piece of paper on stage is a bad. But it worked better for me than the hand. Maybe I need to get a blank card deck and write bigger/shorter prompts, or set up something like that on a first row table? Practice eventually solves this problem, but I’m not there now. I need a crutch. So I want to choose my crutch wisely… Play with different possibilities before one of the becomes a habit. 

But I’ve performed in plays and music competitions and such in past lives, and my memory is fine. This is just so new… I need to be able to call “line” to myself when the beautiful people distract/frighten/applaud me. For now. 

5. More practice is better. 

Even just one to two Berlin open mics. So yay.

6. More acting out is also better.

This comes from knowing the material better, being more comfortable on stage… Basically also from practice. 

7. Being a woman talking about sex is ok. 

I am not crazy about the trope of the token female comic doing menstruation and vagina jokes. But sometimes I am a female comic doing jokes about being a woman who has woman parts and stuff. 

But I am not advertising sexual identity when I talk about condoms and swingers. I am saying, “here is a piece of truth that I found for myself, with a little help from my friends, rather clumsily as we happy animals do. Aren’t we funny? I’m funny. But at least now I get the joke. Let me tell you…”

8. Talking is good. 

There is so much more that I want to say. Being an expat is funny. Changing your name is funny. Lie detection is funny. Death threats are funny. (But oh, how quickly trying things out loud in front of people becomes a better idea than typing out a draft on a blog…) 

9. Continue. 

Must painter. Am painter. Need to painter. Paintpaintpaintpaintpaint. 

I still have no idea why the stand-up experiments are important and must continue even though making noise is hard and I’m busy.

But both open mics last week were fun… During and after, at least. (Not before. Before I was nervous, sorry I’d signed up, almost couldn’t make myself go, and just wanted to paint.) 

And my friends say to continue. So I will.