If there’s anything guaranteed to set my teeth on edge, it’s people who yap on about stepping outside their comfort zone. Or anybody who declares themselves midway through a year of saying yes. And yet just yesterday, I experienced toilet-sitting fear as ‘yes’ landed me in the most uncomfortable place going.
Was it when I bounded onto a stage as 20 strangers clapped, whooped and stamped their feet. I announced my name and grinned. My literal first step into the world of stand-up comedy.
So … you know how January gets us all. How even the hardest of hearts sets your mind thinking of ways in which the year to come will be special? Nine months ago, I resolved 2018 was the year I’d scratch a nagging itch. Do I have it in me to be funny in front of people? I write stories with a comic edge. I’m told they make people laugh … in a good way. But standing on a stage in a dark room that smells of sweat and strangers?
I signed up. And promptly forgot all about a moment of madness. I didn’t even tell Mr Fanning until a month ago when the lie-awake-at night-and-regret-my-actions sweats kicked in.
Yesterday, I popped a beta blocker, did my best to calm Mr Fanning’s nerves – he was more scared than me – and set off for Brighton’s Komedia. I’ll be going there for the next twelve weeks.
I’m not great with strangers, terrible in crowds, and my social skills rank with those of an incontinent goat. What the hell was I doing? Arriving early, I tried to blend with the pleather bar stools in the club cafe, and nurse a flat white, trying to determine who else had signed up for ritual humiliation. They all seemed so confident.
After being led down darkened stairs into a room set up like an AA meeting, true terror took hold. We were to pair off and introduce each other. I duly trotted out my claim to fame (had a wee next to Chris Tarrant at an Abba concert) and hung my head in shame as my partner spoke of a Baywatch walk-on part. To be fair, she got there, took one look at the malnourished airheads, had an attack of the sensibles and pulled out … after blagging a photo with the super-tall Hoff.
The hours flew by. I met people who made me laugh. The teacher was suitably teacher-like. Wise and taking precisely zero shit. This wasn’t one of those airless company team building days, and by the end of the afternoon, I found myself in a pub with ten strangers, and feeling like I’d met new mates.
Next week, the actual joke writing, learning to perform and falling flat on my arse stuff starts, but so far so good. Comfort zone successfully breached. I said yes.