Scared To Death

“Joe, you should do a story on this and then try out.”
It was March of 2005 and I was working at WKRN and Zanies was having an open mic night.
Standup comedy. In front of people. Hmmm.
I have been a goofball/class clown my whole life and if I had a nickel for every time someone said I should go into standup, I would not have to because I would already be rich.
So I said yes.
Now I had forgotten all about that night until I went and saw Dennis Miller Saturday night at the Ryman and was just in awe how he was able to make everyone laugh.
Back to that night at Zanies and there were 9 people who were going to get up on stage in front on an absolutely packed house.
I was going to go 5th, lead off the second set and that was OK, as long as the 4 in front of me, weren’t very good.
And that almost happened. 3 were not funny at all but the one before me, as usual, pretty damn funny.
I had been a nervous wreck all day. I had written jokes, thrown them away, written some more, changed them, practiced them, threw them away and started from scratch.
I thought about going on line and stealing jokes from lesser known comedians and saying screw it.
I had barely slept the night before and was genuinely, scared to death.
But once that last act left the stage and I knew I was next, panic set in.
If it weren’t for the story we were doing, I would have left.
Not kidding. I was hyperventilating.

I had come this far though, so I figure why not.
It could be epic, or it could be horrific.
“Big Joe, 5 minutes.”
Breathe Joe, breathe.
“OK, 1 minute, come on up to the door. When you hear your name, walk on it and the show is yours.”
Damn, no turning back now. I had been back in the green room for 15 minutes. I actually prayed that the room looked like this now.

‘”Excuse me, how full is it now? I saw some people leaving, a bunch of people after that last act.”
“Oh, they were out to smoke, they are back in now. In fact, we have people in standing room only. We have never had that for an open mic night.”
I was gonna die.
“Allright, let’s start the second part of the evening off now. He is a well known, much respected journalist who is beloved all over the world. And he is pretty damn funny, too. Let’s welcome to the stage, Big Joe.”
(I wrote that, hoping that would make people laugh. It didn’t work.)
Door opens and here we go.
I only remember what my first joke was and after that, I do not remember a single thing.
“Knock Knock”
“Who’s there?”
“Go F*K yourself!”
That dumb joke, which I stole, killed for me.
After that, no clue.
Jokes about shopping and raising a daughter and sports, I think.
We were supposed to go about 10 mins. I don’t know if I went 5 or 50.
But after that first joke and everyone laughing, that felt good.
That felt real good.
I can see how comedians can get addicted to that. The adrenaline rush, night after night, has to be amazing.
After watching Dennis Miller go for about 90 minutes was mesmerizing to me, just knowing you can make people laugh like that with comfortable ease.
I have thought about doing it again.
But I have also thought about jumping off the Empire State Building too.


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