By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Some people have used the downtime created by the pandemic to take up knitting or baking. Unfortunately, I am neither crafty nor a good cook, but I am arguably funny.
It was an idea I’d had kicking around in my head for about a year, trying stand-up comedy. I’m a comedy junkie, something that has been ingrained in me since childhood – I was an only child and kind of weird (neither of characteristic has changed in adulthood), so I didn’t have friends, but I had movies and TV to keep me company.
I discovered standup comedy as a kid, too, watching the HBO Comedy channel and discovering comedians like Patton Oswalt, Dave Chappelle and George Carlin. I was mesmerized by the way these people could get on a stage and capture people’s attention, all alone on a stage, armed only with a microphone and funny comments.
I never would have considered myself “funny” until fairly recently, although when I think back on it, I liked being the one who made my friends laugh when they were sad or saying obnoxious things just to be cute while in high school.
But I never stopped watching comedy specials. As I grew, my tastes changed, and I found myself falling in love with comics like Iliza Shlesinger, Bo Burnham and John Mulaney. I listened for their timing, the way they used words and quips to their advantage and how they observed the world around them.
So after getting into theater over the last year, I set a new year’s goal for myself for 2020: I was going to try standup for myself, at least once. If I was terrible, I would put the dream away and never talk about it again. If I was good, then we’d see what happened.
Then the pandemic hit, and any hopes for trying an open mic night in Cheyenne were basically dashed. Instead, I kept busy with work, school and doing theater, making my castmates laugh during rehearsals and while waiting for our cues onstage.
Then, Dillinger’s in Cheyenne announced that they were starting something new: a comedy open mic night every Tuesday. Multiple Facebook friends tagged me in the post, telling me I needed to go.
I was terrified. Sure, the goal was to try standup, but actually getting up on stage to do it? In a room full of people you don’t know? It sounded like middle school all over again.
But, with the encouragement of multiple friends (and my mom, of course), I did my first set on Oct. 27, nearly 10 minutes of it. It was rough, but I felt this rush of adrenaline I’d never quite experienced once I walked off the stage.
“Oh my God, I was so worried when you went up there, but after seeing you do this for the first time and do it so well, think of where you could be in a year!” my friend Kristine exclaimed as we walked out of the bar following my first set.
Two weeks went by before I went back, partly due to the election, partly due to fear of being a one-hit wonder.
My second set was shorter, around six minutes, but again, the rush was there. I came across more nervous, because I decided last-minute to go, but the feedback I got was incredibly supportive.
I did my latest set Tuesday night, and even for someone who is as critical as I am toward myself, I have to admit: I killed, telling two stories about death (pun intended).
There’s something humbling about walking in front of a group of strangers, under warm lights, just trying to entertain them. It’s horrifying and thrilling at the same time.
It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done. I spend Tuesday in a state of anxiety, but when I walk on stage, a weird calm rushes over me.
So, if you’re looking for something to really push yourself in a pandemic, Dillinger’s in Cheyenne is having an open mic night every Tuesday. Maybe I’ll see you there.