Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Deer in Headlights or: STATE FINAL, LOL

Now I'm kind of wishing I'd asked someone to bring an actual camera. 

So friends, there's quite a bit to report. As you may remember from a previous post, I spent most of last weekend crapping myself out of fear and nerves before my heat in Raw Comedy. For the uninitiated, Raw (or is it RAW? I actually don't know) is a nation-wide open mic competition endlessly plugged on Triple J, held in conjunction with the Melbourne Comedy Festival. After a bunch of heats and finals, amateur comics compete in the Grand Final, which is during the comedy festival. Then the winner wins stuff. In order to compete, one can't have earned over a certain amount of dough doing stand-up. I haven't earned any, nor have I ever even tried this sort of thing. Unless you count running around wearing a Dodo suit in a high school production of Alice in Wonderland "stand-up comedy".

In any case, my heat was on Sunday. I was terrified. I arrived at the Comic's Lounge, and to my horror I found that the vast majority of the other competitors were all seasoned in the ways of "gigging" and "being a comedian". I was suddenly certain I'd made a terrible mistake. I was going to die. I was going to vomit onstage. No one would laugh. I wouldn't know how to use the mic. I'd fall off the stage. 

I became increasingly convinced I'd let down all of my closest friends. Hell, Ferg had even driven (hungover) from a wedding somewhere in the country especially to see me. That was way too much pressure. WAY too much. Backstage, I'm pretty I must have looked like I was about to pass out. 

I peed about eight times in the space of an hour. That's no exaggeration. I paced up and down, then sat down and stared at my shoes, running through my material in my head, convinced I'd get onstage and be unable to speak. 


Of course, that didn't happen at all. Right as I thought I was going to throw up amidst all the sweating and barely held back panic attack, I jumped up and down a couple times and bounded onstage. 
"YAYY!!!! REBBYYYYY!" I heard Alice's voice yell out. That calmed my nerves immensely. 


People laughed. I felt natural. I didn't pee. I even got an applause break! Which was weird, and I almost forgot to pause to let the audience clap. What the fuck?? was the most memorable thought going through my head at the time.

I tell you what, it was exhilarating. I ran off the stage and was greeted with beaming smiles, high fives and shocked praise from the other comics. I floated about three feet off the ground for the next few hours. My phone started buzzing immediately. I reemerged at the end of the bracket to shrieks and hugs and high fives from my posse of friends. I could barely breathe. And after we all headed to Auction Rooms for breakfast (they walked, I fled), and after everyone had heaped good vibes and praise on me, I began to think that maybe I had done okay. Like, more okay than merely proving to myself that I could do it at all. As we left, I felt hands on my arms and shoulders, followed by "Hey! Good set!" or "Man, you were funny!". 

I felt almost greedy, that I could want to get to the next round after all I'd wanted to do was "see if I could do it". But then the prospect began to excite me. After all, why else would I have wanted to "see if I could do it"? I fucking love making people laugh. It's one of the few things I know I've got going for me in social situations. Or any situation. That I'm goofy as hell, and sometimes funny. 

So after we ate, and sweated in the ridiculous heat, and after I calmed down and after everybody left, I returned for the end of the third bracket. It ended, and the judges read my name out with six others and I made a choking noise and then I bailed, without speaking to the producer or to the judges because I was quietly freaking out. In the happiest possible way. 

I spent the next twenty-four hours being elated, psyched, delighted and excited. And proud of myself. 

Then I heard my preliminary final would be the next day and I freaked out again. 

I spent all of Tuesday afternoon in varying degrees of panic. I honestly thought I would vomit. All day. I was nauseous and sweating profusely all day, and I got no work done because suddenly I couldn't remember any of my jokes.

What was heartening though, was seeing one of the guys (see also: legitimate comedian who like, has gigs and everything) from my heat, Ethan Addie, on the tram. He immediately told me that he thought I was the best of our heat, and that I should start hitting up some comedy rooms around Melbourne. Which was lovely, and enough to keep the chunder from breaching my throat for the time being. 

In fact, I think I was more nervous than in my heat. Before, I had no expectations. Now, not only did I want to do well, I had more people coming, which meant more people to potentially let down. Also, everyone competing was picked as one of the best from their respective heats. I got to the Evelyn and went to the bathroom so I could close my eyes for a little bit. 

My friends started arriving shortly afterwards and I calmed down a little bit. I watched the first half, and decided that I wasn't going to win. That, I think, was when I began to feel less pressure. I reminded myself of the first thing I had to say when I got onstage, and figured that if I managed to get that right, the rest of it would fall into place, and who cares anyway - I wasn't going to win. Only two comics would go through, and this was only my second gig. My first time onstage had been two days previous. I told other comedians I knew vaguely (acquaintances from time being cameraman on Studio A, a channel 31 variety show) that it was my second gig with a mixture of pride and terror. At least I was able to speak, which I wasn't able to do earlier in the afternoon. 

Anyway, I eventually ended up bounding onstage without chundering everywhere beforehand and as soon as I did, I felt fine. I actually walked around the stage this time, and occasionally paused. I felt really, really good. People laughed in all the right places, and I was able to enjoy myself without the underpinning terror that had characterised my first foray onto the stage two days earlier. Honestly though? I was sure that the crowd wasn't laughing as hard as they had during the heat. So as I raced off the stage afterwards, I was sure that the congratulations I got from backstage was simply because it was "only my second gig". I hoped that it was enough to not let my pals down, and headed back out to the main room of the Evelyn to watch the rest of the show. 

Side note: the last act of the night had me in stitches. His name was Stuart, and for the life of me I can't remember his last name, but fuck me I could not breathe I was laughing so hard. It was intense. I was doing my zebra/hyena laugh in between choking for air. I was sure that he'd be the winner. 

So when Adam Rozenbachs read his name out first as the runner-up, I thought Cool, lol. Time for me to boost, I got some Paul Kelly to see. Did I mention that? I had a ticket to see Paul Kelly and Neil Finn with my folks. I didn't get to see either of them though. Which was okay. Because my name was read out as the winner, I shrieked and dropped my bag and threw myself onto the stage (over an amp which was very graceful) and I stood there like a deer in headlights and made ridiculous faces and I think I even danced around a little bit. 

The next twenty minutes or so is a blur of saying "THANK YOU VERY MUCH" and "AAUUURGHHH!" to pats on my back and hugs and yelled cries of "WELL DONE REBBY!" and "CONGRATULATIONS BRO!". Alice was shrieking, Lucy was crying, and I didn't quite know what to do or say apart from THANKS and nondescript noises of delight and terror. 

Some dude wanted to give me his number. People were shaking my hand. Someone asked me if I had any gigs coming up. "Uh. The state final?" I replied. Then it hit me. I was the winner! I am so rarely the winner, I didn't know what to do. So I bailed. I got in a cab, thinking I might make it to Paul Kelly. I immediately realised I wouldn't, so I went back to the Evelyn. I thought it awkwardly after the point to track down the judges and do some "NETWORKING" (oh, god...), so I called Nate. 

It seemed appropriate, that the rest of the night be spent on the phone to Mitch, then having a beer with Nate. After all, they're the two #PerthLads who so vehemently told me that I should try standup. Nate had even told me as much before we knew each other particularly well, so that was certainly noteworthy at the time. Not that I don't take heed of what Mitch thinks (quite the opposite, really), but he is the one that Always Believes in Me No Matter What.

So yeah, we sank some beers and I calmed down and I slowly came to terms with the fact that maybe this could be something to try. Something that I might be good at, and perhaps worth giving a concerted go. I always feel most victorious when I'm making my friends laugh, and I think deep down I had really wanted to do well in this competition. Now's a good a time as any to admit that to myself, I think. And I think that even if I don't progress to the next round (I really don't think I will), I might as well try my hand at a few open mics around Melbourne. After all, this began as an exercise in pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Why not see exactly how far I can push? Fuck, I'd love to see if I'm a good comedian. Or comedienne. Whatever. 

Honestly though, I can definitely say that I haven't been this excited about something, or this proud of myself in a ages. I mean, fuck, it feels GOOD to win! And it feels good to feel like you're doing something that people get a kick out of. This, combined with a few other little things I've got going on has meant that for the first time in a while, I'm actually super psyched about what the next few months might hold. Or maybe that's just the lack of complete and undiluted terror and panic talking.

THANK YOU to everyone who came to see me on Sunday or on Tuesday. I really appreciate that you made the trek over to support me and kept me from chumming everywhere with your yelling. You guys are The Best. 

Also, I feel I must give Mike and Jaz a shout-out. You guys are SUCH good sports. x

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