Over the last little while, I’ve been passively writing. You know what I mean–I’m composing these things, they’re kind of like philosophical essays, in my head, but I don’t write them down because I’m in the fiction/nonfiction business. I’m not Alan Watts, for God’s sakes. Where would I publish such thoughts? And who would care to hear them? Well, I was telling an old friend, one time, about one of my philosophical thoughts which amounted to a kind of a multi-part essay about the perils of dating and being single and male/female relations, with a lot of if/then statements and “therefores!” So we’re on the phone and I tell her this whole thing, thinking it’s probably pretty obvious and glad she’s willing to listen to me ramble about my dumb thoughts. She listens without saying a word, then there’s a pause, and I’m kind of like–I guess this is where she says, “You know, I have a lot to do and I gotta go…” but instead, she said, “That entire thing was like a hilarious stand-up comedy piece. No notes. You could do it exactly like that.”
So, I looked for a place to do an open-mic set and I went up and did it, exactly like when I was on the phone with my friend, and I got a pretty good reception, too. But that’s all I had, so that was the end of my experiment with stand-up. Then, years went by, and I realized I was passively writing these philosophical essays all the time and just torturing my friends with them because I had nowhere to publish them. Finally I realized they, too, were stand-up routines. They weren’t written to “be funny,” but they are kind of funny just because they reveal the particular way I think and my unique analysis of the world. My fear, of course, is that people won’t think they’re funny at all. So, naturally, I had to face that fear and find out. Nothing I hate more than an unanswered question.
My horse-trampled mush-mind
I have three pieces by now. They’re about: 1) male/female stuff, 2) my version of “there are 2 kinds of people in the world”, and 3) surrendering to fate. I’ve been performing them at the open mic events in town. It’s fascinating because I had no idea I’d have so much stage fright, first of all, so a big part of what I’m doing right now is just trying to push through to the other side of that so the writing itself can take precedence over my flawed delivery of it. These open mics are really cool because it’s a lab. Nobody is really “performing,” but rather we’re all trying out our stuff, mostly for one another, to see what works. If nobody laughs, it’s a horrible feeling, but that’s the information you need in order to cross the bad bits off the list and add more bits and see if they work. This is an avocation for incredibly brave people.
What’s weird about the whole thing is that 99% of the people at these open mics are in their twenties, and I’m in my fifties. So I’m performing to a culture I only barely know. These people’s lives are so foreign to me I might as well be in Argentina or Nairobi instead of the grilled cheese restaurant I’m actually in. (Located near a “toast” restaurant. Who? What? Why? Who knows! Who could ever know!) So far, I have noticed that my work is VERY dark compared to what the rest of them are doing. For the most part, it will be another twenty years before any of them find my brand of cynicism funny, but that presents a really interesting challenge for me. After all, compared to a bright-eyed twenty-something, I am a troll with a mush-mind that has been trampled by horses and ground into the mud by several pieces of heavy equipment. So, will I survive my audience? Will I destroy their fragile minds? Should I? Time will tell. Stay tuned for more updates!