Otwo attempts: Stand-up comedy

 
 

Stand-up comedy is no laughing matter, as Kevin Beirne finds out as he gets to grips with how to get laughs

On a freezing cold night in March, I finally lived out a life-long dream of mine: I forced people to listen to some jokes that I made up as they laughed politely at the points where they thought the punch-lines were. As far as life experiences go, it was one of the most terrifying of my life, so it’s only natural that I would want to relive it by writing all about it.

I had wanted to try my hand at stand-up comedy ever since I saw my first episode of the Comedy Store on TV when I was 12. It took me nine years, but I finally got the courage to get on stage and tell a room full of strangers about the time I lost my virginity. I decided that I would start off one of the most nerve-racking moments of my life by reliving possibly the most nerve-racking moment of my life. It made sense at the time.

Although I had known that I was performing for around a month beforehand, I was still finalising my material while I sat on the DART in to town that night. I was so nervous that I didn’t even care how crazy I looked; not only was I talking to myself, but I was timing how long I was talking to myself for. Between five and seven minutes they said, and I was clocking in at six and a half.

I got to the Ha’penny Inn at around 9.15pm, just 15 minutes before the show was set to start. I wandered upstairs and explained to the woman at the door that I was performing but no, none of my friends were coming. The only one who knew at this stage was my little sister, who was sitting at home. I had purposely hidden the details from anyone who might think I wanted them to surprise me by showing up.

I bought a pint and thought about how I had sworn off drinking just three days earlier, but at least I had made it through Paddy’s Day. I took a seat beside a girl who had a guitar with her, and she introduced herself to me as a name that I honestly can’t remember right now. I can’t stress this enough: I was incredibly nervous. I know she was Canadian, at least, and she could see how nervous I was.

The MC for the night came over to me to confirm that I would be on sixth. Again, I was asked if I had any friends coming, and again I explained how I didn’t want a single person I knew to see the train-wreck that I was sure was about to take place. A large group of people arrived to see the Canadian girl, and I got talking to them.

Her friends were a mix of Canadians, Australians and one Irish. I felt comfortable knowing that I would never see any of them ever again after my set. The show started and I felt incredibly nervous. I had performed before in front of huge crowds, crowds 20 times the size of the one in that bar, but I had never done it alone before, or with words I had written myself.

During the first act, something strange happened. I took out my phone and I texted my friend Louise, telling her the details and saying that if she wanted to come see me, she would have to run. She did. She arrived just as the fourth person was finishing up. We sat and watched the fifth act, and then the moment of truth arrived.

It was the sixth act, which meant I was up. Well, it meant I supposed to be up, but then the MC called out a different name and someone else began talking. I didn’t know whether to be mad or relieved. The same thing happened for the seventh act. I was very confused, but also grateful for the extra time. Then it happened.

The MC called out my name, and I awkwardly climbed over some stools to get to the stage. I introduced myself and began my routine. I was shaking so much that I decided to lean on the microphone stand as an attempt to look cool. I got through my set and apologised for it not being longer, although no one seemed to mind.

I came off the stage and I felt proud of myself. I had just spent the last five to seven minutes talking to a room full of strangers about my dick, and I was applauded for it. At the next break, the MC asked people to stick around until the end to find out who the winner was. I had no idea that it was a competition when it started, but I knew I wanted to win.

At the end of the show, only four or five performers were still left, so a crowd applause vote was used to determine the winner of those remaining. My new friends were kind enough to ignore their friend who performed to cheer very loudly for me, so I won a rubber ducky and a certificate.

I left the bar that night with another thing checked off my bucket list. Even though I was completely terrified, I managed to get through it without crying, which I am counting as a huge victory. I may not have been the funniest person there that night, but I got the sympathy vote and now I have a certificate that I can shove in people’s faces when they don’t laugh at my jokes.

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