by Cathy Allie
I recently interviewed a young person who wants to change careers. She is confident and well-trained and 100% certain she wants to do something different than what she is currently doing. She just doesn’t know exactly what that different thing is yet.
I envy her commitment to embrace change, and in addition to being just a little enamored with her skill set, which includes everything from number crunching to cake decorating, she has me considering alternate careers for myself as well.
I have eliminated some of my original career goals from childhood. Being a female astronaut is likely out since I now get carsick at any speed over about 40 if I am not the driver, and I can only imagine what G force would do to a weak bladder like mine.
Besides holding my hand in just the right way to make it look like I am removing a finger, which typically scares little kids, and downing coffee by the gallon, I have no marketable human tricks, so joining the circus is probably also a non-starter.
My forays into karaoke have confirmed I won’t be joining a band as the lead singer. I have, however, penned my list of contract perks for my hotel room in case I am on tour, like unlimited Apple Jacks cereal, only pink towels with a ruler standing by to measure their plush thickness level, and the episodes of Petty Coat Junction where Betty Jo runs the train playing on repeat.
I used to want to be an aerobics instructor. But now that leg warmers are no longer in style, I have just lost interest ...well, that and the fact that 20 minutes of consistent movement might leave me bedridden. Pardon me, Olivia, but I just don’t want to get physical.
Honestly, what’s left? I am surely too squeamish for anything in the medical field except possibly entering patients’ insurance information, and I don’t type fast enough for that job.
Plus, I have a nephew studying to be a doctor, and it would just make it so awkward if, as I undoubtedly breezed through medical school, we ended up on rotations together, and I was walking around telling people I know what he looks like in a diaper.
I can’t work as a barista, because I cannot even remember why I walked into a room, much less some really long coffee order with weird ingredients like partially hydrogenated coconut husk skinny milk with pulverized ice chips and cinnamon.
I did take a long look at coal mining but I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. See what I did there? So funny, right? And now you have my segue and the introduction into my new career as a standup comedienne.
I think I will be a natural fit for the comedy stage, despite the fact that my family once told me our dog is funnier than me. That nine-pound canine was chasing a laser pointer around the room at the time, and my husband and daughter were rolling on the floor in laughter, proof that both my family and the dog are easily amused, and that clearly my humor is too advanced for them.
As a starter into the whimsical world of comedy, I love to talk, so the five or ten minute set I would have as a fledgling laugh maker would be easy. And getting paid to engage in a one-sided chat? Nirvana.
I can talk for five minutes alone about the time I almost choked on a chicken bone and died, all because I was cheating on a diet my husband and I committed to together, and I caved in and snuck a fried snack in the form of a KFC wing box.
For those of you readers of an age, I have since referred to that day as the Mama Cass Medical Emergency. Hilarious, right? In sheer panic, and unable to breathe, I Heimlich maneuvered myself against my car’s side mirror, and that bone dislodged with such force it put out a bird’s eye.
Even though us comedians are somewhat prone to hyperbole, and the flying bone may only have abraded that wren’s cornea, I suppose I was kind of glad it nearly blinded the little fellow, as he was the only witness to the diet downfall.
And speaking of near death experiences--didn’t that transition sound just like a comedian?--I can talk about all my previous failed diet attempts and how a chicken wing is just the tip of the iceberg of snacks I snuck instead of eating the actual iceberg lettuce that was on most of those diets.
I am confident I can do a full 15 minute routine on things I have seen people do for their dogs, like build them man caves, dress them for holidays (guilty as charged, but who can pass up a cute madras Easter tie?), and feed them baby food with a spoon.
I’ve got at least another solid three to four minutes based on conversations I have had with toddlers which made much more sense than my daily interactions with adults.
Just like many folks working in stand up, I am thick-skinned enough to pretty easily deal with hecklers. My family alone qualifies for the Heckling Hall of Fame.
If you add to that the fact I survived being a media liaison who dealt daily with reporters and was also a high school teacher who encountered lots of teens who regularly let me know they knew more than me, my Heckle Response Expertise Level is off the charts.
Some comedians have an unusual appearance and over the top facial expressions as a part of their persona, and I can check off on those as well. I love a good pattern mix in my clothing for no discernable reason, and there are people who have legit asked me if my real, highly teased hair is a wig. I can raise only one eyebrow at a time with the best of them. Yep, I am a regular weirdo!
Most audiences expect a little irreverence from a comedian, perhaps a comment on modern politics or people in power, a ding at celebrity lifestyles, a jab at organized religion. On a scale of 1 to 10, I am a 25 on irreverence, even in daily conversation.
But in preparation for this new career launch, I have crafted several jokes that start with “The President, Kim Kardashian, and the Pope walk into a grocery store….” That should work, right?
I promise I won’t be full blown irreverent, remembering the need to connect with the more folksy members of my audiences as well. I can add an occasional bit to my gags about kids saying the funniest things, muse on why the ratio of chips to dip is never just right, and even deliver a spontaneous, but really hilarious monologue about things I found under my car seat on a hot day, and who I later gave those things to as Christmas gifts.
Lastly, a good comedienne is able to make fun of herself, in an endearing, self-effacing way. There is a lot of untapped potential in this area at an open mic night for me.
I could confess to my mispronunciation of common words, giggle about the fact that I cannot name all 50 states, much less capitals of said states…or correctly divide fractions…or remember my cousins’ birthdays without prompting, for that matter.
I have reached out to some agents to see about booking a set or two—see, I already know the lingo. Have not heard back from anyone yet, so I have continued to work on my alternate choice for a new career as a balloon animal artist. I hear things there are really popping. Ba dum tsss.