I just did something I thought I’d never do.
Seriously, I had never thought that I would find myself doing what I did last night. I was nervous, I felt like I couldn’t prepare myself, and I was walking onto a stage with no guarantee that people would find me funny, or likeable, or that I wouldn’t walk home with tomato juice all over my clothing.
I, Anna East, was a Stand Up Comedian for a night.
And guess what, I survived!
It was such a significant event in my life, even though it might seem like I perform all the time. (Yes, I do it for a living, I know.) But this is different.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, at the tender age of 16, I joined my first real acting class. We were given scenes at the top of each class & had to work on them in front of everyone after having them in our hands for about 10 minutes. Pretty straightforward, but for a new actor like 16 year old me, (in a class with kids who were actually working actors), it was scary and it was a challenge. I did pretty well with the dramatic scenes, because I was much more comfortable with scripts of that kind & had experience with drama. But when it came to comedy, I had no idea what I was doing. The quick pace & beats of a sitcom were something I was never taught, and the stare of the teacher when I didn’t get it right made me crash and burn even further. At one point, this same teacher told me that I wasn’t suited for comedy, and I just wasn’t funny. She never gave me another comedic scene for the remainder of the 8 weeks that I was with her.
Well, BOY, did that stick with me. Throughout my time in LA, I joined comedic improv classes & even performed weekly in an improv troupe. I absolutely fell in love with it and it brought me a lot of happiness. But STILL, somehow in the back of my mind, I believed that I just wasn’t funny. That I couldn’t actually be successful in comedy.
Have you ever had one person tell you something that makes you doubt yourself, have disbelief in your potential, or distrust your instincts? And it probably didn’t even stick with them after 20 minutes? Well, this comment, made by someone I haven't talked to or seen since my third month in California, stayed with me for FIVE YEARS.
But then, something happened. I moved to Atlanta last fall, and I decided to throw myself into some acting classes. I wanted to take improv and a scene study class, but the improv classes weren’t starting quickly enough. I had no time to waste! BUT THEN, I found Cathy Reinking’s Comic Persona class. I thought, “Hmm… this sounds like it could be fun! I’ve been told I’m not funny and that I shouldn’t pursue comedy… but I’ve done improv for at least three years, I make my friends laugh, and my mom thinks I’m funny. This class says it’ll help me find out how I’m uniquely funny… I might suck, but, CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!”
So I signed up. It scared me, I felt so out of practice, and I had all of those fears and doubts floating in my head. But over the course of four weeks, I learned what makes me comical, how I can make others laugh and smile, and more importantly I faced one of my fears and had fun doing it.
Take that, teacher from the past! (I’d love to mention her name, but I’m not that petty.) ;)
At the end of the class, Cathy arranged a stand up showcase called, “Casa De Cathy”. My fears said, “No, no no!” to signing up. But something else inside said, “No, you’ve got this. Prove yourself and your fears wrong.” And so I took on the new challenge of doing a stand up routine… on stage, in front of strangers.
And not only did I survive, but people actually laughed. They laughed! And they didn’t throw tomatoes!
And above all, I had a great time!
But before I had a great time, I was nervously talking with my housemate, at home, before the show last night. I told her that I had never been to the venue before. She was surprised that I would feel okay with going into a place I had never been, to do something I had never done. I then realized and laughed aloud as I said, “That seems to be a theme of my life. Going somewhere I’ve never been to do something I’ve never done before.” And I know I’ve only walked away stronger from it all.
So I write this blog post today to celebrate something going well in life, to reflect on my comedic-confidence-transformation, and to encourage you to get out there and do things, even if you’ve never done them before. It’s kind of fun to prove people wrong, and more importantly, to prove to yourself that you CAN, you can, you can… do it.