I had a storytelling show tonight. I just got home a few minutes ago. I do these shows every couple of months and some go better than others. Tonight, I talked about one of my blog posts, The Forgiveness Machine. The goal with these stories is to be funny, but also share a real experience from your life. From the beginning, I was a little off my game. I was more nervous than usual, I didn’t feel like I had a strong opening to the set. The arc of the set was supposed to be tell something funny (me being drunk at a luau in Hawaii) followed by something sad (talking about my dog Mandy’s last few days) then wrap up with something funny again (me overreacting to some stupid things I did a couple of days ago.) Halfway through the show, before I hit the stage, a group of drunk people came in to watch their friend perform. They sat at a table in the main room and talked during their friend’s set. Then the emcee made a point to tell the room to be respectful of the performers and the people listening when he introduced the next performer. They talked through his set anyway, despite people around them ssshh-ing them. Then I got up. Toward the top of my set, I heard them talking and I said from the stage, “Hey just so you know, there is a room in back where you guys can talk. You don’t have to be in this room.” They stayed in the room. I got into my set, I couldn’t quite hit my groove, but I got a few laughs. Then I launched into the sad part, talking about dealing with Mandy’s death. I heard that group laughing. And that’s when I did something I have never done on stage before. I went off. I bellowed, “Shut the f@#% up. If you don’t want to be here, go in the back room.” The ring leader responded, “I thought this was supposed to be a comedy show.” And then the emcee said, “Actually it’s a storytelling show, it can be funny or serious.” And then the guy muttered something and then I wrapped up my set, omitting parts of the story that may or may not have paid off anyway. I got to my closing sentence about how we want forgiveness to be something instantaneous, but in reality it’s a process. I got off the stage and decompressed while the next and last comic performed.
Usually, after a show that does not go the way I hope it will, I have a tendency to beat myself up. I replay all the missed laughs in my head over and over again. For lack of a better word, I can be unforgiving. Tonight however, I felt exhilerated by what happened. I’ve had people talk or heckle during my shows before, but it’s the first time I ever addressed it from the stage. I was giving them the full Julia Sugarbaker and I kind of liked it.
After the show, several people came up to me and told me how rude they thought that group was. They were rude, but you, and by you, I mean I, you have to be ready for events like that to occur when you step up on that stage. It’s what you’re signing up for. Also after the show, the drunk ring leader came up to me and asked if he could have a minute of my time. My friend Linda was there and as I stuttered with “uhhh” she told him that whatever he had to say, he could say right there to all of us. Then he started to launch into something about how my words from the stage made him feel. And then, Linda cut him off and said, “Minute’s up, you’re done.” And then his friends pulled him away.
I realized as he was standing there, that I wasn’t mad at him at all. He hadn’t ruined my set, it wasn’t great to begin with. Also, as I said, I was proud of myself for shouting out, in essence, “I don’t want to be treated like that.” My daily life is filled with experiences where I have to nod and say yes when I want to say no, where the person I’m talking to deserves to be told no. But tonight, it went a little differently. And somewhere in the midst there is a lesson in forgiveness, forgiving myself and forgiving others. Sometimes, usually, it’s a process, and every once in a while, it is instantaneous.
Oh! Decompression. How do you decompress? I got so high on it, I could not come down.
I will say my face felt very warm for the next ten minutes, I worried about the possible consequences. And then, when the show was over, having friends who I knew where in my corner and strangers who I came to learn were in my corner, helped me on my way.
Well done! I’ve always felt that at its heart, storytelling and stand-up are a conversation with the audience. A conversation where it’s agreed that the audience is silent (for the most part). Tonight, the audience got loud. And you did exactly what one does in a conversation. Bravo!
This made me so happy to read. I’m so glad you said something. If you hadn’t, you might’ve spent the entire night gnashing your teeth about it. Speaking out for yourself takes courage and a ton of guts. It’s so brave, Ray, and I’m so glad you carved out some space for yourself. And it will have such an impact on your as a performer, too!
I’m glad I said something, too. When we talk, I’ll tell you what my friend Traci said about my outburst and I think you’ll agree with what she had to say, as did I.
Awesome! I had a similar experience recently at work. I felt backed into a corner and instead of staying quiet and being the pacifist, I spoke out. I later feared I would be fired, but a part of me felt proud to have stood up for me.