The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Who Said Dying is Easy, Comedy's Hard?

by Melissa Bell

I'm serious. Who said that? I can't find a definitive answer. If you know, please share. Thanks.

So I recently signed up for a stand-up class. I tell people this and they look at me as if my hair is on fire. It's not that big a deal. Really.

I would think it would be much harder to stand up in a boardroom full of suits and try to give a PowerPoint presentation. At least when a comedian gets up on stage, he knows the people that are in attendance are there because they want to be, and they want to have fun. An executive boardroom is a completely different environment. I've sat in on numerous business meetings in my life, and I'd much rather be in some smoke-smelly, beer-soaked comedy club any day at any hour. More executives should sign up for comedy classes. It might have a positive effect on their quarterly returns.

I enrolled initially because I thought it would be good mental exercise to not only try and write the funny, but to get up in front of a bunch of people and be the funny. Not having performed in front of a live audience for years and years, I wanted to scare myself a little. And so far, it hasn't been all that bad – I still have a long way to go in terms of self-terror. Last class, I choked halfway through a riff I was doing about the Swiss – but I blame that on the fact that I don't have a printer, and trying to memorize material from a computer screen is a lousy way to learn stuff. I was a wee bit disappointed in myself, but so what? The class had no idea I dried in front of them. They laughed. They clapped at the end. Sure, pretty much everyone else in the room got the same treatment, but is that so bad for a Monday evening, some laughter and applause?

So far it's been great fun and I would encourage anyone to try this. I would also encourage anyone to try anything outside of their comfort zone – it's remarkably happy-giving. My goal is to find an open mic night somewhere and do a routine. I might just do it the one time, but I am going to do it. Of course, I'd love you to be there – just please leave The Heckler's Handbook at home!


Blogger tamara said...

Mel, this is something I would love to take. I'd take it with you, if I were there. What fun. I am so terrified of standing in front of folks, I've turned down every opportunity (well, the few I've had) to read in person. Good luck with the course. Can't wait to hear how/if it informs your comedy writing.

Sun Oct 21, 03:09:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

How brilliant and brave of you! I can only handle audiences of two or three at a time with my silly stories. Usually I get a laugh.

I used to do a little teaching and it was unnerving watching all those eyes on me, waiting for my next words.

Sun Oct 21, 10:48:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

If it's any help, Peter O'Toole said "Dying is easy, comedy is hard" in My Favourite Year as Alan Swann, but he attributed it to Edmund Keane. The phrase was attributed to a lot of other people as well.

Sun Oct 21, 10:52:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I rarely am intentionally funny, so I would much rather do boardroom Power Point presentations (and I have, many times). I applaud your courage and would love to applaud one of your performances in person. Are you taking this with Second City?

Sun Oct 21, 02:18:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

I've often wondered about comics and the jokes they write. Are they the same kind of funny on paper as they are out loud and in front of an audience?

Sun Oct 21, 07:25:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Exciting! I can feel myself edging towards being convinced to give this a try, maybe. You make it sound thrilling and not un-doable. But as I write this my stomach is seizuring. I think it would be pretty awful to bomb. You get my courage badge of the month, MelBel!

Mon Oct 22, 08:56:00 am GMT-4  

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