Training to Be a Stand Up Comedian

I’ve mentioned a few times (here and here and even here) that I’ve been cast as the lead in an independent film. This is my first lead role in a full length film which is HUGE for me. The budget for the film or whether it goes to Sundance doesn’t matter at this point because I am acting. Acting continuously in the same role over months of shooting. And isn’t the work what it’s all about?

I play a stand up comedian in the film. I am not a stand up comedian. In fact, stand up comedy is one thing that scares me more than spiders. It probably has something to do with being alone on stage with the added pressure of making people laugh or you die. That’s how it plays out in my head anyway.

As part of my research, I attended local comedy shows and open mics as well as watched and listened to many of the top comedians. But I knew I needed to go deeper. I needed to BE the comedian. I had to learn how to tell jokes. I had get up there on stage and DO IT.

Cue freak out. StandUpSmall

So I did an open mic. I memorized the material in the script – 4 comedy scenes total – and wrote my own transitions between jokes. I put my name in the bucket and sat for TWO hours sweating it out in the corner until my name was called. My last thought before stepping up on that tiny square stage was ‘I can’t go back now.’ I grabbed the mic. The audience was awash in complete darkness. With the lights blinding me, I plowed ahead. And they laughed.

My next move was to coach with my acting teacher. I knew that would add a whole ‘nother level of stress. And I was right. He taught me the importance of landing the joke, embodying the joke and bringing Amanda to the joke. I spent the next two weeks worrying that I would never get the physicality of it down. So I practiced every night in my kitchen with a wooden spoon.

F Day arrived. Filming day. And a funny thing happened. I wasn’t nervous. I was prepared. I had fun. And I didn’t die.

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