Quick Question…What Was Your Scariest Moment On Stage?
Once again I polled my comedy friends. This time I asked them about their scariest experiences on stage.
Mine was that I was on stage at Club Bart very early on and was getting
heckled by a black guy with crazy hair. Growing up in the suburbs I
didn’t realize the potential racial implications of saying, “Settle down
Buckweet!” He tried to rush the stage, but the other open mic comics
formed a barrier keeping him away from me. I was afraid to leave the
stage. Nowadays I realize that faking confidence goes a long way and
gives you a lot of leeway with what you can say to an audience.
Trevor Smith: I had a scary nervous moment once. I don’t get nervous really before shows. I’m sure a lot of comics are the same and can get real anxious for big shows which can feel the same. This was different.
I was emceeing a double headliner show for 1700 students at Central Michigan University. I had a really good 10-15 min set and introduced first headliner. After the first headliner literally got a standing ovation I was told to do a quick 5-10 before the other. I was told this by the activities leader as I was walking up the stage. Well I didn’t have much material at the time so I didn’t have another 5-10. My heart was racing and I was literally visibly shaking knowing I didn’t have much to talk about. It didn’t matter I did great in the beginning because a standing ovation will make people forget they have even seen you. I knew that. It was terrible, as one can imagine. I stretched terrible crowd work and nervous bits for what felt like 3 hours as my lips trembled and I showed my inexperience. I feel like the beginning set never happened. Afterwords, both comics told me I didn’t have to do that.
Jeff Dwoskin: My scariest moment on stage was one of the first times I was Mcing at the Castle and I blanked and went silent for 20 seconds. I couldn’t remember anything. I know it was 20 seconds because I recorded it and was able to relive this wonderful moment. I finally remember something – got through it and went on to fame and fortune. Well… At least I got through it.
Julie Lyons: The scariest thing I did was my graduation night. I had no idea how many people would show up, and I had never had to speak in front of a crowd. I threw up right before I went on, and was afraid it would happen on stage too. It happened right after I got off stage. But those 5 minutes of stage time were the best 5 minutes ever.
Germaine: The scariest moment I ever had on stage was at one of my first paid gigs. It was some town I’d never heard of, it appeared to be full of petroleum storage tankers, motorcycles and a bar. I was still very new at comedy and had my jokes typed out on a piece of paper in my back pocket. I was surprised I was getting good laughs because I was really out of my element. Suddenly, my mind went blank and no words came out of my mouth. It felt like an eternity and I couldn’t figure out what to do. I pulled out the notes. I had lost the audience but once I got reminded of my place, I put the notes back and won them over. A few minutes later I blanked again. I could not believe it. I was not confident enough to make a joke out of the moment. I pulled out the notes again. Again I had lost them, and then again, I won them back, wow, I could not believe I choked and won them back over, twice! Then I got to the end of my set and told what I refer to as ‘the talking vagina’ joke which truly is about childhood innocence but the crowd did not see it that way, not at all. An angry man stood up and shouted at me ‘we don’t talk like that around here’. The guy who booked me for the show made frantic hand signals at me to get off stage, now. Then he whisked me out of the building and escorted me to my car in the parking lot. He said ‘here’s some advice kid, lose the notes and don’t ever do that talking vagina joke again’. Then he shoved fifty bucks in my hand. I love comedy.
Norm Stulz: The scariest moment for me also came from a huge drunk audience member at a club in Indiana. After watching him interupt and heckle the opener and middle I slammed him pretty hard and at the end of the show I thought I would be killed, soooo I watched as the remainder of the audience left shaking hands and thanking each one, when a huge guy came by I handed him a signed dvd and said here, your my bodygard till that big moron leaves. It is not the only time I “hired” protection.
Sal Demilio: I worked on halloween one year and the club let patrons dress up. They had a $500.00 prize for best costume. It seemed like everyone was dressed like a zombie. I felt like i was doing comedy at the filming of Michael Jacksons Thriller Video! VERY SCARY!
Steve Lind: I’ve never had a scary moment like when you threw a horrific racial slur at a complete stranger in a questionable part of town and had him rush the stage. No one has ever threatened to beat me up or flashed a gun at me or anything like that.
Marty Smith: The scariest moment I ever had on stage as a comic was last Saturday night at Starters in Detroit. I was about four minutes into my act when a heckler started in and the usually friendly Starters audience became my enemy. The heckler developed some fans. I felt like Muommar Al Qaddafi: under siege. I finished a shortened set, thanked the audience and left. The stage, the building and Detroit. I’ve always felt in control on stage and that was the worst loss of control I’ve ever experienced. I missed an entrance in a show at the Performance Network in Ann Arbor a few years ago and I went completely blank in another show more recently, but the other actors saved me. Nobody saved me from the audience last Saturday night, except, when I got home, my Old Grandad.
And finally, I’ve always loved this story from Mike Green: Kevin McPeek, Joel Zimmer and I were doing a tour of colleges for The Funny Business Agency. The show was called Crack Me Up. It was like a touring Make Me Laugh show. We started out by doing short stand up sets 5, 10, and 20 minutes respectively. Our show for this night was at Lincoln University in PA. Lincoln is a historically black school and the students seemed upset by the all white comedy show. I only say that because at one point during Joel’s set I heard someone say “where are the black acts”? Kevin and Joel muddled through their sets. When I took the stage, about 5 minutes in a guy threw a French Frye at me from one of the front tables. I don’t freak out about much, but on the few occasions when something has been thrown at me I can’t seem to control myself. I immediately began to look at him for a flaw that I could exploit for a laugh. I noticed that he was wearing really, really long shorts so I said “don’t throw anything else knicker boy”. That was when it got scary. About 90 people in the lunch room stood up and started freaking out all at the same time. I then went over what I had just said in my mind and it occurred to me, they thought that I had used the “N” word. I very quickly cleared it up saying over and over again. “Hey, Hey, Hey, I said Knickers I was talking about his shorts”. At which point the crowd/mob settled back in their seats and went on to be a very nice crowd. I really feel like they were extra nice because they realized that they had misheard me. Oh and more importantly we got paid…