Finally Back on Stage!

It had been a while since I got on stage and told jokes.  You get a rush when it goes well.  There is a level of happiness after a good set that's hard to explain besides saying it's like taking a bunch of ecstasy without the worry of going to jail or dying.  After my first set I was hooked.  I tried to book myself as much as possible.  I needed to get on stage and get better.  For two months I went up at least once a week (except one week when Swedie told me I had to keep my ass at home).  I was starting to feel like a comedian.  Then the summer came.  This summer has been bad (ask any Swede) in regards to the weather, but my first summer as a comedian was a tough one.  Most of the comedy clubs (and everything except bars) shut down in the summer here.  That means every comedian in Stockholm is trying to get on one or two stages.  That also means no one cares about Jonathan Rollins getting some time.  Who is Jonathan Rollins?

Some people in the Stockholm comedy scene had been really nice to me.  Two of them are comedians and the other a club owner.  One comedian has been at it for about two years and he's given me some good tips and encouragement.  I met the other comedian in preparation for one of our live podcasts. She is a veteran comic that has taken me under her wing.  The club owner gave me stage time at his clubs.  He even gave me another shot after I forgot my joke on stage (super embarrassing) and then sped through the rest of the set!  I'm very thankful for these people in my little comedy family.  The journey so far has been a fun one.

Thanks to the summer shut down, I went almost two months without getting on stage.  I was missing that rush big time.  I asked the club owner when they start up again and he said the end of August.  Wow!  That's a long time to wait.  My comedienne friend told me that she would get me a spot with her.  She said this is just the reality.  Summers are slow.  I was sure this was a test from the comedy gods.  This would have been the perfect opportunity to give up.  Throw my hands in the air and say at least I got it off my bucket list.  I told myself I wouldn't give up.  Whenever I could get on stage I would.

Then she came through for me!  She would be headlining on August 2nd and I would be on the schedule as well.  Thanks Melody!  I started going over my stuff.  I had a new bit that I had tried out a couple of times.  It went well.  She told me to be safe.  Don't try the new stuff unless you feel comfortable.  Stage rust can lead to bombing.  I want to know what bombing feels like, but not my first time back at it.  I went over my material in my head at least ten times a day.  I know the jokes.  I have to nail it...

Yesterday was the big day.  Melody was sending messages of encouragement.  I was feeling like my imminent doom was approaching.  This was my night to bomb.  Swedie made a beautiful dinner.  Baked salmon, bulgur and vegetables.  It looked so delicious.  Just what I needed before my big night.  I couldn't eat a bite.  I was legitimately nervous! I tried my set on Swedie.  She didn't really laugh.  She smiled and kept preparing the food.

       - You're going to do great!

What does she know?!  I'm going to suck!  I love listening to comics talk about the process of building sets.  They always talk about that fear that you're just not going to be funny.  Those are big time comics that have been at it for years.  Of course they're funny!  Now I understood that feeling.  What if I'm not funny tonight?  What if they just stare at my rusty ass while I stutter through what should be punchlines?

I got there early.  I saw a lot of comedians talking to each other.  I tried not to look nervous.  Part of me hoped the host would come up and tell me that unfortunately they didn't have room for me tonight.  But that wouldn't happen.  He walked up and verified that I was Jonathan Rollins.  Unfortunately I am.  I felt extra pressure because stage time is such a premium right now with the summer closings.  One bad night and it would probably be hard to get time until the end of August.

The show started.  I watched some good comics do their thing.  The crowd was good.  My comic friend went up (out of turn) and did his thing.  He did great as always.  He smoothly worked in a new joke that killed like the rest of his set.  It was good to be back in a comedy club.  I found out I was in the second half of the show.  Third after the break.  My heart was in my stomach.  I was still able to laugh at jokes, but I was jumping from a skyscraper on the inside.  I picked Melody's brain a bit while she casually ate dinner like this wasn't the scariest night ever.  She offered me some fries as if it was possible for me to consume anything.  I was good with my 19th glass of water.

The comedienne before me went up.  My nerves started to subside.  Fuck it, you're here now.  No new jokes.  Just go through your stuff and get to the closer joke.  That always works, so you'll at least get one laugh.  I decide not to record it this time.  The results could be embarrassing.  No new jokes to work on tonight anyway.  The nerves were now gone.  It was go time.  Her set came to an end and she called me up.  I gave what must be a top five most awkward hug/mic grab ever.  She looked at me like something was wrong with me.  In my defense, something is wrong with me.

       - I'm going to be telling my jokes in English!

Yes, I started like that.  I questioned this beginning immediately.  Why was I up here?  Is it too late to change my mind?  But I was up there now.  This was happening.  Get to it.  I kind of stumbled into my first laugh.  I had said I'd do this new tag that always makes Swedie's aunt laugh.  I tried it and it worked.  They laughed.  Now I was feeling more comfortable than ever.  I got into my joke about lying parents and I was off to the races.  It was like muscle memory.  I focused on having fun as I told my jokes.  I took my time.  I could feel myself gradually gripping the audience.  When I said my punchline (which includes me as my mother screaming into my 8 year old face as she reveals Santa isn't real) the place burst into laughter.  That's supposed to happen.  Then I say "Was that just me?"  But I couldn't say that because they began giving me a round of applause!  What?  I tried not to look surprised.  I wanted to cry with happiness.  I pretended I was used to this response.  When the applause died down I said the line and got another laugh.

I went into my joke about fans in lakes.  That worked too.  This was going great! Time had flown by. I hadn't missed on anything.  It was time to close the show with my best joke that includes a Swedish lullaby and "The Thong Song".  I took my time on this one.  My set had never been this successful.  They were going to get a good closer!  I set the joke up and closed it well.  I was on cloud nine.  I said my name again and thanked the audience.  I loved them all more than they knew.  They clapped loud and made noise as I introduced the next comic.  Then she solicited another round of applause for me!

I wish I could live in that rush of emotion from that set.  But I can't.  I have to regroup and try and recreate that magic next time.  That's the scary/awesome thing about this.  The next time I could bomb and feel like a worthless piece of crap.  Man I love this comedy stuff!  Until next time...


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