I will be performing tomorrow at Two Brothers Roundhouse.
I have always been afraid of speaking in public. I avoid speaking whenever possible. However, I ended up becoming a teacher. And now I am a Spanish teacher and a standup comedian.
I was always afraid to speak as a young boy because my first language was Spanish, and I didn’t speak English until I started school. I struggled with both languages through my entire grade school years.
There’s an old joke that goes like this: “What were the worst two years of your life?” “The fourth grade.”
Now, I am still struggling to overcome my stage fright. But now, I am a standup comedian. Each time I perform, I feel a little more comfortable, and a little less nervous. The more I perform, the more confident I feel in myself. All performers admit that they suffer from stage fright, but they have controlled it so well, that is hardly noticeable. I hope to reach that level someday!
Well, I’ve started going back to the comedy clubs after more than thirty-three years. Things have really changed since then. So many changes! I think the changes are for the better.
I was surprised by how many comedians go to the so many available open mics in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. And the comedians are so supportive of each other. Of course, that’s not surprising because Chicago is one of the comedy breeding grounds for the U.S. If you are a new comedian, you may perform every night of the week, multiple times per day. And there are no hecklers. I was incredibly surprised by that. I remember always dreading my confrontations with hecklers. Some of my best shows, of course, were when I was able to handle the hecklers.
Gone are the smoke-filled comedy rooms since smoking was banned indoors, which is great for me since I have always been a non-smoker. But I miss the ambience. However, the audiences are nicer now that they don’t smoke.
Back in 1986, I occasionally earned money as a standup comedian. Now, many clubs have a two-drink minimum for comedians who want to participate for the open mic. Yes, I understand that this helps keep the clubs open, but I remember getting paid five dollars and getting two drinks for performing at the open mic at the Higgins Street Cafe.
Back in 1983, all the open mics started at 9:00 or 9:30. Now they start much earlier, often as early as 6:00 PM. This is much more convenient for aspiring comics who must get up early for work the next morning.
There are so many comics attending all these open mics. Yes, I’m one of them, too. Last night, I went to The Comedy Shrine and there were forty comedians signed up! And about half of them were very funny. Not only do I perform, but I also enjoy watching the other comedians perform.
When I started performing this go-round, I wrote all new jokes. I had my friend Vito look over my jokes and he contributed some very funny jokes, as he did for me back in 1983 and 1986. Most of the jokes went over very well. Afterwards, several comics would ask me, “How long have you been doing comedy?” I suppose you can take that both ways: 1. That I sound like I have some previous experience as a comedian, or, 2. You must be new to comedy!
Well, I am finally overcoming my stage fright and getting more comfortable on stage. My new jokes are getting laughs at all the right times. Plus, I have been inserting my old jokes in there from time to time. At first, I was afraid to tell the old jokes, but I told one or two from time to time. Some of my biggest laughs come from jokes that are more than thirty years old!
I’ll keep working at standup comedy for the near future. I enjoy hearing the laughter. Maybe I’m crazy, but I finally found my true calling.