I’ve done this before, believe it or not.
I was one of five contest winners lucky enough to open for Louie Anderson, only to annoy 5,000 or so New Years Eve revelers because I got distracted by a loud-ish farter in the expensive seats down front. I’ve killed at the Hollywood Improv, as part of an industry showcase where no industry folks showed up. (Fortunately, the video crew did.) And I’ve baffled Minnesota Fringe Festival audiences with a mix of jokes, poems and stories, leaving at least one woman worried that I might be autistic. If her review is to be believed. Maybe she was just looking for an original way to say “deadpan.” Or “ugh.”
I bring up these tidbits of my comedy history because I often have to remind myself I know what I’m doing. Because it doesn’t look like it sometimes, I realize. I have eyes and ears, too.
But honesty in the moment, being present in the experience we’re sharing, outweighs my sense of responsibility to entertain like some kind of wind-up primate outfitted with cymbals, a too-small hat and an obnoxious cackle. I don’t know how or when my priorities changed, but change they did. I wanted more than just laughs. I also wanted a human connection with the people watching in the dark, which resulted in a looser performance style. Almost as if I’m making it up as I go along, except there are still punchlines.
Improvisation, some people call it. But, believe me, it’s not that, whatever it is I do up there.