Last night I took part in the finals of 'You Must Be Joking' 2015 at the Newbury Corn Exchange. 130+ people in the audience, 1 stage and 8 comedians - 6 of which were competing for the prize - me included!
I came to stand-up around a year ago having been in part inspired by seeing friends flex their creative muscle, and in part wanting to challenge my old drama teacher's view that I wasn't right for the stage (in fairness to her the production was Godspell and my audition was awful). It felt like the culmination of a year in which I have shared stages with rappers, spoken word artists, poets and musicians at open mic events; a way for me to see if I really am "good enough" to be on a proper bill. Here's what the experience has taught me:
The worst is (probably) not going to happen
I did not get booed off. Nobody told me that they hated me. Nobody died.
People generally want you to do well
The audience turned up because they were looking forward to a good night out - they did not arrive hoping to see someone have a panic attack, after which they could boo them. And then tell them that they hated them.
We are all of us unique
I did poems about childbirth and swimming costume challenges, one guy sang a song that made me spit my drink back into the glass (through laughter, not disgust), another appeared in character as an MP, and the winner had a great act that started with, and culminated in, what happens with your Tesco club card points when you die.
What you do will affect others
I had some marvelous texts from my female friends (mostly unprintable) to say thanks for "****ing doing it for the girls" - as the only woman in a night that had six male contestants, two professional male comedians and a male MC, it felt good to be seen as standing up for the interests of over half of the room.
Often the only thing stopping you, is you
The only person that has ever said "you can't do this" to me, is me. The next time you think "I can't do that" - try writing down why. Unless it's because you need a PhD or because you need to transform yourself into a Russian gymnast, the likelihood is it's because you've built yourself a big old wall of fear. Smash it down!
We are never the finished article
All of this has been a fantastic learning experience for me. I'm learning more about language - crucial for my work. I'm also learning about stagecraft, communication, and comic timing. I'm learning about myself too - who says you get to 30, 40, 50 and then just stop? Learning keeps us alive.
You don't have to be the best
I didn't win, and that's ok. I got a taste of something fantastic, a chance to consider if it's for me and the opportunity to see what goes into making a very polished performance. I also made some people laugh. The experience alone was worth it - I was good enough.