“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” – Peter Ustinov
One day last week, I made a cashier laugh.
I had made an offhanded observation about something she was bagging for me, and in the next moment, she was laughing. That hadn’t been my intention; I was just commenting on the situation, which is what I’ll do around my family in various settings. By accidentally doing that in front of a stranger, the outcome was rewarding.
It was in that moment that I realized stepping out of my comfort zone to make others laugh is insanely worth it.
Let’s go back several years for a moment.
Social anxiety became a reality for me when I began to believe that if some people thought I was stupid, then everyone else did, too.
I’ve met people who have, at times, made me feel dumb, unwanted, childish, and unworthy. I think we’ve all encountered individuals like that, but it only gets dangerous when we begin to think that their foolish actions or responses define us.
After too many incidents that hurt my feelings as a preteen, I began to build a box around myself – a secluded, isolated environment within my comfort zone that would not allow anyone to affect me negatively.
However, by creating this “shield” of sorts, I also blocked out all possibility of positive interaction.
I started experiencing severe anxiety when new people would try to strike up casual conversation with me. I no longer knew how to respond, and if I tried, I made a fool of myself. Throughout my teenage years, I was completely torn because I wanted friends at the same time I was pushing people away.
It has only been over the past year or so that I’ve started working on how I talk to people.
I began noticing the vast differences between how I interact with my family vs. new friends and strangers.
I saw that most people see the quiet side of me, the one who doesn’t say much, usually as little as possible. I saw the girl who gets startled by questions that require a long answer, the one who struggles to word her responses right. I saw the girl who drops her eyes when others make eye contact with her because looking someone straight on is too vulnerable. I saw how I can barely compliment people because they might think I’m weird for pointing out something about them.
On the flip side, I saw that the members of my immediate family are treated to an ongoing current of comedy from me, one that can barely stop flowing when situations get serious. They see a girl who has a convincing poker face in the least expected of circumstances, who can make a quip faster than they can even process an event.
I realized that the Maggie my family knows is one who reads books on comedians, who brings Pinterest humor to life, who can’t stop quoting movies/songs/characters that relate to what’s happening around them, the girl who watches hours of talk show footage that makes her laugh until her stomach hurts.
If you saw one of these sides individually, you’d scarcely be able to believe that the other side of me even exists.
When I was taking a break from blogging over the summer, I really began to experiment with being funny around other people.
I hadn’t tried it before then, so I didn’t know how it would make me feel.
One of the first times I attempted to make a joke around someone new, I suddenly lost all ability to talk. I felt like I was on a stage with just the microphone to support me, the audience lost in the shadows below.
Needless to say, I didn’t make that joke.
I analyzed the kinds of thoughts I had when that was going on, which consisted of things like: What if they don’t think it’s funny? What if they look at you like you’re crazy? You don’t know what their sense of humor’s like, if it even exists. You don’t want to be humiliated, do you?
No, I really didn’t.
But these internal thoughts unintentionally put me on the path to victory.
One thing I’ve started paying attention to is how other comedians respond when a joke goes wrong.
My first inclination when a joke goes wrong is to withdraw into myself and question my sense of humor. Not a pretty picture, right? And it certainly isn’t the right response! But I realized that I could see how others respond when their jokes don’t get the response they’d hope for, and do you know what I found? Comedians laugh at themselves and make jokes off of the failed jokes.
Comedy is about taking chances.
While I like the thought of always staying humorously safe, that will never be possible. Comedy in itself is experimental, because even the most planned-out of jokes will have a varied response. It’s easy to base the worth of a skit on those who hear it, but you really never know how people will respond!
Some of the best jokes I’ve ever told were the ones I thought wouldn’t make much sense. Have I mentioned that being pleasantly surprised by the acceptance of a joke you made is one of the most satisfying things in the world?
To wrap up this long-winded, thoughtful post, I want to shout-out to my family. I am eternally grateful that the Lord gave me a family who loves my sense of humor and encourages me to keep being funny. Having an ever-present audience who’s willing to be on the receiving end of my jokes (both in being around to hear them, as well as being the subject of them haha) is more than an aspiring comedian could ask for.
This is one of those doors that the Lord has opened up for me that I didn’t know to ask for. It’s a huge blessing that I’ll never take for granted, something that I’ll hold close to my heart for the rest of my life.