I’ve been “working” from home for about eighteen months now, though I put it in quotes because it isn’t at all what I thought it might be like. I have an office in my home, with your average, functional set up, perfect for getting hours and hours of work done. But as I just said, that office is in my home and I currently have three children, ages eight, three, and one. So, working is a relative term. I am working all the time but the rate at which I check things off my to-do list is much longer than I prefer.
Yet, here I am, putting in a valiant effort to plow forward, budget what little time I do have to be in my office for things like writing this blog. I’ve wanted to blog for years but there never has been, and never will be a perfect time for it. At this moment I have one kid playing at his cousin’s house, one watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and one taking what I hope will be a two-hour nap. There is a load of laundry going, but the sink is full of dishes. Long ago I came to grips with the fact that there is NO SUCH THING as multi-tasking. I am, however, always-tasking.
So, I hope you’ll enjoy this mini-series about Megan Bryant, the comedian, the stay-at-home mother, the living, breathing one-woman variety show. We start here, with a little peek back to the night I first tried stand-up comedy —
In mid-November 2009 I decided to head to a comedy open mic in town, just to see what it was like. By then I’d been performing improv comedy for a few years, and been an attention monger for as long as I could remember. I’d grown up watching Saturday Night Live on the weekends, and In Living Color on occasion. I loved this form of comedy, but the lure of stand-up was edgy and challenging and I often thought about giving it a try, but didn’t know how to step out of my comfort zone of performing with a troupe of performers. I felt safe in a group. The pressure was off because even if I didn’t score all the big laughs of the night myself, the collective performance of three or more players was guaranteed to be a hit for our audience.
So there I sat, as a patron in an up-stairs bar in Meridian Idaho. Bulls Head Pub, it was called at the time. It was a cool, cozy little room with a decent stage area and a handful of audience members looking on as people took the stage, one by one, for a handful of minutes, trying their hand at making people laugh with their prepared material.
I had already been carrying around a notebook for years. It’s always been my flavor for catching thoughts on paper for eventual use in the entertainment business, if I ever built up the guts to try stand-up comedy. I didn’t know the first thing about joke structure or punchlines. It amazed me to listen to the variety of topics and take note when people were, or were NOT laughing.
Some of the performers were just terrible. I couldn’t bear to watch them. It felt like I was rubber-necking at the scene of a gruesome car wreck and I wanted to respect their privacy as they succumbed to the Grim Reaper right there in front of me. I turned my attention periodically to the table I was sitting at. I pinched the edge of it with my finger tips and gave it a little tug. The legs, off-kilter, sent it rocking back the other direction, with a slight jostle that cause the plastic tumbler glass, holding my ice water dutifully, to scoot across the table top a bit.
A couple of the performers were very funny. I watched them so closely. I observed how they held the mic, where they paused, how they connected with the audience. Those performers’ sets raced by, while the others seemed to drag on forever, despite the use of the exact same measurement of time. Five minutes, with a warning light at four.
About halfway through the list of a fifteen or so people, my friend, who was emceeing the mic that night, made the announcement for the next “comic” to take the stage. “She’s a very funny girl from right here in Boise, give it up for my friend Megan Bryant!”
Um. What? Yikes.
My heart rate spiked and I could immediately feel the sweat collect in the arm pits of my yellow v-neck Optimus Prime T-shirt, yet my body instinctively rose from my seat and I headed to the spotlight.
I don’t remember much of what I said that night, on acounta I had NO prepared material, but I remember how I felt. It was a rush of adrenaline and fear and giddiness and panic like I’d never felt before. The people sitting beyond the rim of the stage light, just shadowing outlines, yet I could feel their energy.
Two ladies sitting near the front were giggling and engaged the whole time I was up there, so I focused on them.
Before I knew it, my time was over and I was heading back to my chair.
What a rush! Being alone on the stage in front of strangers without being booed mercilessly, or dying, was an invigorating feeling. My mind raced as I considered the realm I’d just been nudged into without any real thought or preparation.
I haven’t looked back, though I often wonder how long it would have taken me to make that step on my own, without some blatant provoking by a friend in the business. Even worse, what if I never would have taken that step on my own?
Ready or not? Sometimes it doesn’t matter. Just take the first step and keep on walkin’.