I attended my first ever stand-up comedy show with my boyfriend last week. As a self-proclaimed empath, the probability that I’d have to sit through watching at least one or a handful of comedians bomb made me uncomfortable to the say the least. The same kind of uncomfortable that overcame me during a middle school talent show when one of the performers clearly farted during her dance routine and the sound echoed around the auditorium. The second-hand embarrassment and nausea followed me all the way home.
With that being said, I have an endless amount of respect for comedians. I grew up on stage, dancing and failing many times myself. However, I usually played a character or felt that the dancing itself was a barrier that kept the real me hidden inside. I never had my raw personality scrutinized by others. I never had a crowd of people stare blankly at me while I failed to make them laugh. This specific kind of person and the specific kind of courage it takes to be this vulnerable is magnetic to me.
Not only are comedians brave, but the best of the best are also acutely aware of their surroundings like they have a sixth sense. I’d like to think comedians are sort of like boggarts from Harry Potter, those creatures that can shape-shift and contort themselves into our greatest fears, only instead they shape-shift into the dark, light, strange, true, and connect it all together through story-telling, ultimately revealing something universal and distinctly human about life – and they juggle the ability to do so while being charming and making us laugh. That’s a lot!
The open-mic comedy night was no exception. I was stunned by the respect I felt for all of these up-and-comers, even the ones who “bombed”. Not all of the jokes were my cup of tea, but the sheer confidence the people delivering them carried up to the stage was enough to be impressive in its own right. I was stunned by their lack of fear, or at least by the way they made it seem like they were indestructible. When a joke flopped, most of them would just shake it off with transitions like “guess that one didn’t take” or “probably not the right crowd to be talkin’ about eatin’ ass with”, which was one of my personal favorites. The whole thing was messy, funny, a perfect homage to how beautiful chaos can be.
By the end of the night, the host bought my boyfriend and I a couple of drinks just for sticking around to support the performers. I held my third glass of wine in one hand as I shook the hands of the comedians we were introduced to in the other. Off the stage, chatting with them, it was impossible to detect any discernible difference between us – but it was clear to me that we weren’t the same. Not at all. As I left the bar, I looked back at the stage and thought about how important it is to introduce fear and vulnerability into our lives, to take chances on the things that scare us the most even if it means you could end up farting in front of an audience, even if all you hear is crickets when you tell a joke.
Anyway, if you live in the Boston area, definitely go check out comedy night at The Burren in Somerville to support some cool local comedians. It’s definitely worth it, chaos and all.