My First Time

stand up

My First Time

I had wanted to be a comedian since I was five years-old, but to get myself to do it for the first time, I needed a push. And so, I played a little trick on myself.

I was nineteen. I was one year out of high school and I stilled lived at home with my parents in the suburbs of New Jersey. For a social life, I hung around with all my high school buddies, cruising around town with Springsteen on the tape player, from no place to no place, waiting for something wonderful to happen. Also, I had my first serious girlfriend, a high school senior named Janey. We’d been intimate  a bunch of times, always at my house when my parents were out. The first time we did it was like inventing the wheel and I was sure I was a sex God – I think it’s a safe bet I wasn’t. We never did it at her house because she was afraid that her folks – mostly her dad –  would somehow find out.

My trick to get myself to perform was simply to tell all my buds, “I’m going to go to the Improvisation Comedy Club in New York City and perform.” I would explain – and I must have told them this a hundred times – that Monday night was amateur night and I’d be taking the jokes I’d been writing to audition. “If you got enough laughs, they make you a ‘regular’ at the club!” Eventually, my buds started saying, “Hey, I thought you were going to do stand up. What happened? When are you going to? Huh, huh?” This forced my hand.

So one a Monday afternoon not telling anyone in case I chickened out, I drove to NYC. The forty-five minute trip on the reeking New Jersey Turnpike felt like it took a week.

When I got to the Improv I joined a line of would-be comedians that eventually stretched around the block. At six P.M. on the dot, the club’s manager came out and all of us hopefuls picked numbers out of Mets baseball cap. Some people got a piece of paper that was a blank, but my paper had a “7” on it – I had my ticket to do a “set” at the legendary club. With my stomach jumping up and down, I wandered around the city until night time and the show.

At 10:35 PM, in front of a crowd or more than one hundred people, I performed. My first time. I was terrible, barely any laughs – I still have a tape of the show so I know this is accurate. But the thing was, I felt like I killed – as comedians say. I had invented the wheel once again. I was a comedy God! A bunch of years later I did the Late Show with David Letterman several times, had a job VJing on MTV, hosted a kid’s show on NBC, opened for big name music acts in front of thousands of screaming fans. (Mostly screaming for me to “Get off the stage!” – No one wants to see the comedian when they are waiting for their favorite band.) But none of those milestones felt as cool as doing that first set. I didn’t even “pass” the audition, but, as I say, I thought I killed.

I got in the car and drove home just completely buzzed.  (The forty-five minute drive on the reeking New Jersey Turnpike felt like it took three minutes and I didn’t notice the smell.) Back home I went straight to Janey’s house and started whispering up to her bedroom window from the driveway below.

Janey heard me and went to the back door and let me in. And I tell her I finally performed. And now she’s totally buzzed.

And we stay up talking – whispering – with her asking questions about the night’s adventure and me only to happy to answer. “Were you nervous? Why didn’t you tell me? What was it like to make people laugh?” And then one thing lead to another and we end up in her bedroom.  The end to a perfect night.

And then suddenly, a sliver of light beams down upon us, then door to her room opens wide, and we looked up, and her father, in pin-striped pajamas, is standing there in doorway, with this murderous look on his face. And Janey says, “But you don’t understand Dad,  Jonathan did comedy tonight!!”

Jonathan Solomon About Jonathan Solomon

Jonathan Solomon began his career as a New York based comic, making regular appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman. From there he went on to host MTV’s Awake on the Wild Side, Kid’sTV for NBC, and Short Attention Span Theater Late Night for Comedy Central. Writing for television he was on staff with the Emmy Award winning sit-com, Mad About You, Michael Moore’sTVNation, Payne, Saturday Night Special, Bachelor Life and Conspiracy Zone, among other programs. Jonathan writes humorous essays for the Huffington Post and Politico.Com and can be heard sharing semi-serious political punditry, sports prognostications, observations on stand up comedy, and generally spouting off, at stops on your radio dial from NPR to Sean Hannity to FOXSports Radio, and on podcasts from one end of iTunes to the other. He teaches stand-up and humor writing through Santa Monica College, the Writer’s Store and SAG Conservatory. For more visit SchoolforStandUp.Com

Jonathan Solomon About Jonathan Solomon

Jonathan Solomon began his career as a New York based comic, making regular appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman. From there he went on to host MTV’s Awake on the Wild Side, Kid’sTV for NBC, and Short Attention Span Theater Late Night for Comedy Central. Writing for television he was on staff with the Emmy Award winning sit-com, Mad About You, Michael Moore’sTVNation, Payne, Saturday Night Special, Bachelor Life and Conspiracy Zone, among other programs. Jonathan writes humorous essays for the Huffington Post and Politico.Com and can be heard sharing semi-serious political punditry, sports prognostications, observations on stand up comedy, and generally spouting off, at stops on your radio dial from NPR to Sean Hannity to FOXSports Radio, and on podcasts from one end of iTunes to the other. He teaches stand-up and humor writing through Santa Monica College, the Writer’s Store and SAG Conservatory. For more visit SchoolforStandUp.Com

  • Kyle T.

    This is fun!

Smiles For All