the five stages of comedy

I’M TIRED

I had no desire to go to a comedy show tonight. After a day of non-stop would-you-like-a-bag-for-this retail inquiries, my questioning mouth, the body it was (and still is) attached to, and the tired feet that provided support for this union would have rather sat on the couch and watched Gilmore Girls while sipping on a glass of wine over getting dressed, ready, and out to go catch a gamble of a comedy show. The relaxing hot shower my tired body enjoyed after kicking off shoes and before turning on Netflix did not help matters.

“It has been a long day. Comedy shows happen all the time in Nashville. You don’t even know if you’re going to get there and find out the $12 ticket you budgeted is also paired with a two-drink minimum purchase, transforming your economical night out into a financial pit of mandatory spending on a show that might not even be funny.” – Me, making excuses to myself and rationalizing with terms like economical to reinforce the whole smart-money-choices angle.

Something, however, kept hounding me to get out and go see this show. That something, as it turns out, was the self-imposed structure I created in order to help me maintain a schedule in an attempt to find some normalcy in my recently-disrupted life of moving from Southern California to Nashville.

“You need to go. You’ve already told like three people you were going to go out tonight and see a comedy show. They all asked you to report back to them how you enjoyed it. What are you going to tell them!? – Me, to myself, as if those supporting my weekend activities would question my integrity, commitment, and ability to follow through on my word, thus disowning me as a known connection forever.

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I realized I was being ridiculous, and that no one would actually care if I stayed in, but then I remembered the one person’s opinion that mattered the most, the person I had been talking to, and the only person around: myself.

“What do you think, Mellie? Would you really rather stay at home all alone or would you rather go out, experience something new, see some creatives doing their thing, and possibly even learn, or be inspired by, something? Maybe meet some cool people, or at least some characters that’ll make for a good memory? You need to go.” Me, to myself, with the appropriate perspective.

And so, I went. And I didn’t regret it.

I’M OPTIMISTIC

This comedy venue was out in the middle of nowhere. This is somewhat of an embellishment, given that it was right in the heart of Nashville, but it certainly felt like it as lefts and rights around unlit blocked-off streets due to the many construction sites that were never memoed to my poor GPS.

Fate swooped in when Siri’s navigation failed, and forty-seven detour roads later, I magically found myself outside of a giant brick building – Marathon Village, my Googling tells me – and so I parked near the glowing Third Coast Comedy Club sign as not only was it where I was headed but it was the only bright light in the area. If there is one thing I learned from my parents, it’s that when you are in an unfamiliar neighborhood or headed to a sketchy WalMart, you park under a light, thus making your car a less-inviting theft target, and if the light isn’t enough to ward off thugs, position your keys in-between each finger and hold your hand in a tight fist, ready to punch, just in case someone tries to attack you. I did all of these things like the obedient child I am.

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When I walked through the building, it was extremely quiet. Had it not been for the blinding lit-up sign on the street and strategic signs placed on doors, I would have hopped in my car and left due to unwelcomed confusion. I give props to these folks on their well-positioned signage as this is often an overlooked detail. Good work, Third Coast Comedy! Once I came across The Green Room Bar, I knew I was getting warm to where I should be, and also smiled at the punny name of the place.

Fortunately, there were some patrons sitting it out in the cozy, welcoming bar area so I knew I wouldn’t be the only audience member in this probably-a-bad-idea outing of mine. A bar with beers for $4ish dollars? Chips and candy for $1.50ish? A billion-dollar tab was not an essential at this place.

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The bartender (bartenderess?) was so warm and welcoming, I felt like I was experiencing that small-town charm of the big city of Nashville that I love so much here. She chatted me up as if she legitimately wanted to learn more about me as she poured drinks and grabbed people M&Ms. Even if the comedy show itself was about to suck, this pre-show 30-minute wait at the bar made getting off my couch worth it.

I’M LAUGHING

Live comedy is something I find to be a nerve-racking way to deliberately spend my free time.This evening’s show was improv, giving me even less context in which I could form a guess on how things might go. Are the comedians going to overuse curse words as a way of filling their substanceless sets? Are raunchy, sexual scenarios going to be presented in far too much detail to the point that I need to plug my ears until the show ends? Will the comedy be straight-up bad and no one will laugh, leaving the comedians humiliated and their dreams shattered? Are broken, dark souls going to get up and make “jokes” in attempt to find joy in their severe sadness as an external cry for help, moving me to interrupt their set, completely stop the show, to give them a hug and tell them Jesus loves them? The stress of it all is what keeps me from spending my hard-earned cash on this type of gamble as my odds of a win would be better if I bought lotto tickets instead. Fortunately, luck was on my side for once.

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I cannot articulate what improv-y things went down (I don’t speak theater) other than that there was loose structure, audience members shouted out scenarios and topics, and then the actors did their thing. Oh, and it was funny. Like, really funny. HILARIOUS. From beginning to end. The intimate venue was packed (all three rows of folding chairs were filled) and the energy was alive. It was my first improv experience, unless you count me reading of Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s personal accounts from their autobiographical early-life summaries, or watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? with my parents as a teen, and I had a better time than I even thought possible.

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It seems it takes a lot to be great at improv, according to my expert-novice observations. First, you need to be quick on your feet and even quicker with your wit and tongue. Secondly, you need to know a little bit about every topic possible, or at least know how to fake it ’til you make it. If the audience gives you sketch topics related to diverse topics like Buddhism, cheese, K-Y Jelly, Long Island accents, and reality cooking television shows, right along some deep stuff like fear of mortality and the significance of making a difference in daily actions, you have no choice but to go with it. Finally, you have to make it funny. Every single one of the sixish (I think that’s the count? Could’ve been more?) on stage had a balance, camaraderie, and united mission to deliver their best. I was beyond impressed with the level of performance given that night. In Yelp terms, FIVE STARS.

I’M COMING BACK

As I exited the venue, the comedian crew lined the hallway to greet show-goers. I wanted to tell every single of of them how funny they were but fear paralyzation came over me so I hung out by the drinking fountain for a minute (I pretended to fidget with the machine as if it wasn’t working to help with my masterful stalling plan) until I could muster up the courage to go compliment the deserving performers.

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“Will they think I’m funny? How can I make an impression on these people so that they remember me when I come back, but not in the way that labels me as a weirdo, but someone they’d be happy to see out there in the audience again, and then as company later? Is there a way to give the ‘Yes, I am single!’ vibe and feel out to see if any of these cute, funny guys are also single?” – Me, suddenly insecure in the presence of these performers (super-duper attractive ones, no less) I found myself wishing I could be like, or at the very least, marry and laugh happily ever after.

I waltzed up to the pack and made a joke that seemed subtle and unplanned about the awkwardness of the present interaction I has having with them, all the while knowing the direction of where I intended the conversation to go in order to express my sentiments of praise in the most flattering way possible while dazzling them with my unpredicted, effortless charm and wit. Come to think of it, perhaps I am more of a performer than I originally assessed.

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I’M CREATIVE

I attended this comedy show and decided I belong on a stage, or at least write for it, or even just marry into it. I went to the writing thing and confirmed within myself that I was a novelist, next in line for The New York Times Bestsellers 2018 Book List. I saw a musician showcase and knew I was a songwriter, an unassuming artist who would get her breakthrough during an open mic set at Douglas Corner Cafe.

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With all these awakenings, it has never been more clear to me that I have no idea what I want or where I belong. All I know is that I feel most alive in a creative atmosphere and that I am a creative person, in the vaguest of definitions. I am on the verge of my breakthrough, whatever that means, and I invite some clarity when the time is right. Until then, I will continue to settle into the moment (or try to), enjoy doing my thing, living my life, improvising as I go, and just like the act I witnessed at Third Coast Comedy, giving my all! For my faithful blog readers, I hope you’re enjoying the show.

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