Dallas, TX –
Life can easily sidetrack us from goals and aspirations, but commentator Sarah Crisman reminds us it's never too late to try.
There are three carpeted steps leading up to most comedy club stages. The infamous brick wall and bold lettering of the Improv has been a fixture of my imagination since the age of ten. 20 years later, I found myself climbing those last few steps beneath the infamous brick wall for my first real gig. Now here I stand, a comic.
Comedy was the first professional possibility I envisioned for myself as a child. It took my dad years to convince mom installing cable television would not corrupt our nice family. We were homeschoolers, after all. But it took less than a week before I was sneaking down to the basement for my daily dose of corruption - the endless stand up specials running on the Comedy Channel. Shows like An Evening at The Improv taught me just about everything I needed to know. If I didn't get a joke, I looked it up. Home school had taught me as much, and it now afforded me afternoons worth of life lessons.
My dreams of stand up comedy lingered on while I engaged in a series of lateral career choices: I studied theater through college, took improvisational workshops at Chicago's Second City, and even waited tables at the Improv before becoming a writer. I was never more than a few steps away from the stage.
Finally at the tender age of 30, I stopped Tweeting (and passing myself off as a marketing professional) and started writing jokes. Armed with enough material for a three to five minute set, I hit the open mic circuit.
Each night, we aspiring comedians wander the Metroplex like circus folk from stage to stage. We'll happily settle for a microphone next to a pinball machine if you've got one. Anything for a laugh, even if it means an open display of vulnerability when the joke falls flat and you can hear the crowd blink. The varsity comics pass on varying degrees of encouragement to freshmen like me as we run the gauntlet, trying out new material and fleshing out the jokes that may still have life in them. The rigorous routine can be exhilarating and soul-crushing within a span of five minutes. It is not for the faint of heart, rather for those who find simultaneous liberation and sabotage by tapping into the lighter side of darkness.
Even now, in the embryonic stages of a life in comedy, I feel the accomplishment of being the grown up I always knew I could be. I haven't played this hard since I was ten. Even when I fall flat on my face, taking my own Triple Dog Dare is always good for a laugh.
Sarah Crisman is a writer and producer from Dallas.
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