It’s hard enough to be funny, never mind being funny quickly.
The show that is wrapping up this weekend involves some improv in the first act, an exercise which I can safely say I was never asked to do back when I was only doing opera and not musical theater.
For those of you not familiar with The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, it involves audience volunteers. Each time a volunteer takes a turn, my character, the host, offers a fact about them as color commentary.
I have a few stock jokes (involving things like Alphabits, Alphabet soup, etc) but I try to base most of them on the person who volunteered – something about their appearance or a fun fact they wrote on their volunteer form. I have about 5 minutes backstage to come up with a few, and then have to invent the rest on the fly during the first act.
Not surprisingly, a few of the things I have said have completely fallen flat. Either the joke goes on too long, my delivery isn’t quite right, or it is just a lame idea. Still, every time my co-host calls someone up, I have to say something.
That’s where the lesson is for me. I just have to try. Sometimes I embarrass myself, and sometimes I have the audience rolling in the aisles. But I just keep trying.
For a long time I was so scared to fail in front of anyone. I still am shamefaced if I make a mistake publicly, and for all my talk of self-acceptance and not caring what people think, I cling tightly to the image of someone who doesn’t make mistakes.
Each time I try out a joke that doesn’t work, I’m getting closer to hitting the mark. Each time the audience groans at a silly pun, I’m getting feedback that helps me figure out how to amuse them the next time. Each mistake brings me a tiny bit closer to getting it right.
So I take a deep breath and tell myself it’s OK to try. It’s OK to fail. It’s OK to learn.
In what ways are you learning to be OK with your mistakes?