Here’s some useful advice I got before my first stand-up gig.
I was really nervous the day before.
I had tried some of my lines out on actual people. There was no Twitter back then. I knew from their reaction that my first gig would be carnage.
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Rich Hall for advice. I said to Rich, “Is there anything I should keep in mind when it’s all going tits-up?”
He said, “Yeah, remember this. EVERY. BODY. DIES…”
I tuned out for the rest of it. (He went on to say, “…Even me!”)
That’s not the useful advice I meant. After performing for a few years, I now totally get what he was preparing me for, and what a generous thing it was to say, but at the time it shook me.
As it turned out, angels intervened and my first open spot was cancelled due to someone in the venue having a heart-attack before I got there*. Phew.
My next bite at the cherry was three months later. This time, when I got nervous the day before, I asked a newish act friend of mine if he had any advice.
He said, “Yeah. Just stand there, get through your five minutes. If you get a couple of laughs, literally two, you’re doing really well”.
This really took the pressure off and helped me get through those hard early gigs.
Maybe, because my new act friend was having experiences a bit closer to my own, his advice helped. Maybe you have to travel a bit of road to be able to interpret the advice of someone so far into a journey you’re just starting out on.
Maybe the lesson is that everybody’s got a valid point of view, but no-one knows what you need.
Or maybe the lesson is cut down on fried food.
*(The show before my cancelled first gig was called “Cabaret Extreme”. Ironically, the flyer said “You’ll die laughing, or we’ll die trying”)