Acme’s Funniest Person Contest

Many of you know that last night I participated in Acme’s Funniest Person in the Twin Cities Contest. This is my third year entering and I’ve got to say, I LOVE it. I love Acme. I love the stage, the people, the crowd, the atmosphere… The headlining comedian last night said that being on the Acme stage was a dream come true. Some people laughed, even though I’m not sure he was joking… maybe but I didn’t laugh. It is a dream come true. This stage has hosted some of the hottest comedians today. Lewis Black, Arj Barker, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffigan and Louis C.K., not to mention two of my favorites: Chad Daniels and Jenny Zigrino. So, yes, standing where they stood? It IS a dream come true. Next dream? Stand on that stage and get paid. But, that’s a ways off, I know. Something to strive for, right?

Yesterday was a difficult day. I woke up not feeling well. Physically I ached. I was tired and sore. Mentally, I felt unprepared. Unfunny. Unworthy. I texted my best friend Shar, “I don’t want to go tonight. Not feeling well.” She asked what the real reason I didn’t want to go was and I told her. She did her due diligence, assuring me I am funny. I am good enough and she loves me, despite how I may feel about myself.

I went over and over my routine. Timing it, deciding I didn’t like it. Changing it. Timing it. Changing it. On and on… before I knew it, it was time to go.

Ugh, no matter how many times I do this, I get scared sick. I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t concentrate or sit still or listen…

I met the three other contestants. One guy, Josh, it was his 4th year entering the FPC. I believe it was Brandon’s second year, it was Brian’s first year and my third. Everyone was really nice. Brandon especially. He was quirky behind the curtain, funny in front of the mic and an all around encouraging person. I was definitely ok with losing to him!

So I didn’t win my night, but I had fun … a lot of laughs and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my score was high enough to make it to the top 25 and I’ll advance to the semi-finals in August!

Oh, I almost forgot! Natalie was there too. We parked behind a car whose license plate read HELLO. I thought “Um, hi” whoever you are… Then, in the bathroom, there was a door in the back. It looked like it had said Natural Disaster Shelter or something like that but the sticker had been ripped and now just said Nat. The final (because they come in 3’s) was when I was telling Don about the signs and I looked up and Shar and my mom were standing on either side of the parking spot 444. (A sign that angels are around)!

Lights, Camera, Acme!

I did it. Back in late April or early May, I entered Acme Comedy Company’s annual Funniest Person in the Twin Cities contest. My original performance date was scheduled for June 5th but with Natalie passing on the 19th of May… there was no way I was going to be ready. I emailed Acme and the coordinator was kind enough to reschedule me for August 23rd. Even with all that extra time to prepare, I was still utterly unprepared. It took six weeks for me to even be able to get downtown without having a panic attack.

Sunday night I texted my boss asking if I could have Monday or Tuesday off to prepare. I got Monday off and I CRAMMED. I’d gone over it enough to attempt the Open Mic night. What an experience!

Nothing spectacular happened, not in a good or a bad way for me… It wasn’t my first time. I’d done other open mics, been on stage and under the lights, the scrutiny of judgmental drunks… but for a few others…

Really one in particular… I won’t mention her name because it is my hope that she was so shitfaced that night, that she was in a blackout and won’t remember a thing.

Her name is called. She gets on stage. Her voice is strong and loud. She starts with the self-deprecating humor that affords many comedians leniency when it comes to their act. She moves around, she’s animated, she’s wearing mismatched clothing so she certainly entertaining but her material… was shitty. It was really too bad because I knew, if she’d had anything even remotely funny to say, she would’ve been a hit!

Each performer gets three minutes. That’s it. At 2:30, a solid red light comes on. At 2:50, the light begins to flash. That’s your cue to get off the stage. It’s written in at least one place that those who go over their time, will NOT get time again.

Miss Sunshine is still onstage, seemingly unaware of the gigantic red light. The light starts to flash and she ignores it. THEY TURN OFF HER MICROPHONE AND SHE CONTINUES TO TALK! The audience, from what I can tell, is split down the middle. Half of us are frozen in horror over the blatant disregard for the rules, while the other half are sitting on the edge of their seats, smiling and waiting to see what the club will do next… They turned off the lights. A booming voice from out of nowhere stated “MA’AM YOU NEED TO GET OFF THE STAGE, NOW!” She sort of stumbles off the stage and ironically, this is when the crowd erupts with laughter while I dread my new worst nightmare.

But that was Monday night. Practice night. Tuesday was the big day. I worked for a few hours and crammed again, with new material.

More specifically, “the Natalie jokes”. The jokes I’d agonized over telling or not for weeks. I decided to tell them for three reasons. One, after the open mic, I went out to smoke. There was a man already smoking. “You did good up there” he said to me. “Thanks. I think I did alright I guess.”

“Comedy is hard” he said.

I nodded and said “I have a few jokes I’m debating on telling tomorrow, my sister died of an overdose and while I feel like if I can laugh about it -anyone should be able to, I don’t want to scare people away or alienate anyone…”

“My son was on stage tonight too. The guy joking about his crazy aunt? Sometimes tragedy is gold. It can work. His aunt he was talking about? That’s my sister, Natalie.

So, I kinda took that as a thumbs up from her that it was okay to do those jokes.

The second reason was because while talking to Shar, she told me a white dove was out in front of her house. Just sitting on the sidewalk. She looked it up and one of the meanings is to let go of inner turmoil over a subject. Ok, DONE.

And the last reason? Lots of people told me Natalie would be with me on stage, I figured she’d want to be in the spotlight.

So, I opened with my Natalie jokes. They went over well, I thought. No crickets on their end, no tears on mine…

Then I went into my main joke, which was more of a story about THE ONE TIME I had my eyebrows waxed.

I felt good about the job I did. The people who came to see me agreed that it was between me and one (of 5) other guy.

The other guy won. Sorry other guy, I don’t remember your name… I didn’t even get to hear your set but I could tell by the way you were NOT at the open mic/practice night and the way you were actually reading a book instead of pacing the floors or constantly looking at and resetting the timer on your phone that you were much more prepared, rehearsed and deserving of the win.

Saturday the top 25 scores of the summer will be posted and I may or may not advance to the semi-final rounds. Either way, I’m really glad I went up and did it. It’s important for me to keep some balance and even if I only made my friends laugh? That’s good enough for me.

 

Fooled You

Grief is a horrible tormentor. It mimics dementia, insanity, depression and at times, serenity.

Friday was the 19th. Three months since my sister’s passing. I’d had several days without crying. Without too many painful memories. Without too much emotion… This is where the serenity came from. It was the three month marker and the final writing group for two very talented writers. The prompt was “goodbye”. I cried silently as the gel ink flowed across the paper, as the tears slipped from my eyes, dripped from my face. It was quiet. And quick.

I wrote about Natalie, of course. And about losing these  two dear writing women to the promise of bigger, better and brighter futures. I wrote about seeing my brother less and less as he grows into the role of business man, promoting his livelihood, planning his life. I even wrote about my therapist, as he took a couple of days off to travel out of state (WI) to watch a football game with his wife.

I felt abandoned. Silly, I know. Irrational, I could feel it. I couldn’t help it. And, it was over quickly. I felt relieved… and like I was getting a handle on things.

These were a normal part of life. It was ok to be sad… and I know you “get to go there, you just don’t get to stay there”. I felt my “visit” was an appropriate amount of time and that I was really getting the hang of grieving.

Jessica called me after an out of the ordinary Friday shift at work. I’d just gotten home and was looking forward to staring blankly at the walls. I saw her name come up with a photo of her and Natalie. I reflexively pushed the phone away from me. After a few seconds of debate, I answered.

She came and picked us up, Tayla and I. We got to walk in the rain and play with her adorable puppy. We had good food and better conversation.

She also had the memory cards from Nats phone that the investigator FINALLY returned. (Three months they had it and did jack shit.) I spent the rest of the night pouring over 1,000 plus photos she’d taken, committing them to my memory before falling asleep.

I made it. I’d gotten through The Day, survived it with very little hysteria.

Saturday I worked on some comedy and managed to get to the pharmacy to set up “convince packaging” on my meds. Shar came over and we had great time, just sitting on the deck, talking.

Today was fairly productive. Unril late afternoon. I don’t know what triggered it, talking about the new found photos with Don I guess… but I cried. In the car, as I hugged the steering wheel close to my chest. My body shook with grief but even this lasted only a few minutes before I was able to calm down and go into the store for a quick for the necessities.

At home, Don made dinner. I turned on some music and smiled when I heard Natalie’s voice fill the kitchen.

“I’ll be there, I’ll be EVERYWHERE…”

The tears started, as they usually do and it got a little harder to swallow. Memories of her last text to me, “whatever you need my darling, just call, I’ll be there. I love you” filled the empty space inside me until I shook with uncontrollable sobs. I chucked the phone and grabbed a handful of tissues before running into my bedroom and crumpling to the floor on the side of the bed.

I grabbed “Noah” and cried into his tiny chest.

“How could she do this?” I wailed

“I don’t have the answer” Don replied

After what felt like hours, the cries subsided into a whimper.

Until I thought of Noah.

I clutched the replica tight to my body and rode another wave before pushing the lifeless, dead weight from my arms to the floor.

“He” lie there, face up and because I’d held him so close to me, my tears were in his eyes.

Then the screaming started.

The moving pictures in my mind danced in a collage.

Gone. They are both gone. GONE.

I briefly thought of suicide. Not so much the act of it but the longing to be out of pain. To be with my sister and baby. And grandparents and friends…

It was more of a fantasy than an actual thought. I couldn’t inflict this kind of pain on the people I loved. Neither Natalie or Noah did that intentionally…

The phone went off.

“Reminding you to send me the info on your comedy dates and times”.

I’ve been debating on if I’m actually ready for this. I have material written out but haven’t been able to concentrate on memorizing it or becoming familiar with it as to pull off a smooth routine.

At this point, I’m not ready. I don’t want to do it. It’s not funny, nothing is funny.

I took the day off of work tomorrow (now today) to give myself enough(?) time to prepare but I don’t know if it’ll do any good…

I’m caught between healing/growing and just wanting to pull the covers over my head, waiting for life to be done.

I don’t mean to end on such a heavy note but this is my life right now. It won’t always feel like this (I’m told) and I look forward to those days as I go through these days, looking for the gifts they too must hold.