I’ve tried stand-up comedy before, which ranks among my top-five most stressful experiences. It’s hard to stand in front of people, talk into a microphone, and not melt into a pile of stammering butter. And then you have to be funny!
Few sensations of immediate dread have surpassed that of telling the first half of a joke – a joke I rehearsed in my head dozens of times, each to riotous laughter – and realizing “Oh my god this joke doesn’t have a punchline what do I do shit I wish I had brought a sledgehammer and watermelon maybe I can spin this into something self-deprecating or about George Bush but shitshitshit I need a punchline or a watermelon!” Then there is silence.
I should have figured out that stand-up wasn’t for me after my experience, which happened when I was six years old. My school had a talent show, so I chose to sign up and tell jokes! I don’t think I planned much, but I do remember that I used that opportunity to tell one joke I conjured myself:
What do bees chew?
And, just like every time since, my wit was greeted with perplexed silence.
(Thesis: Everyone who isn’t me doesn’t understand comedy.)