The Comic Gotham (Barely) Needs, Not the Comic They Deserve

Guys – today has been one of the BEST days and that’s saying a lot because one time I MET JOHN STAMOS. And he tickled my neck. It was weird. Also, I had a wedding one time. So it’s a big deal.

Didn't bel
Didn’t believe me about John Stamos       DID YOU?

I had my Manhattan Comedy School graduation on Monday. The classes were more of a workshop than a class. Everyone prepared something and read it. The first day, my teacher Karen Bergreen said, “I know this might be hard to believe but you all will become really good friends by the end of this class.” And in my head I went, “I hate everyone here with the passion of a billion burning suns.”

But you know what? She was (partially) right. I did bond with (some) people. (Other people can still go die in a million burning suns). We went to open mics as newbies. We exchanged emails about our lives. We got beers at the end of shows. We cheered each other on at our show. It was worth the million dollars we paid and Monday nights spent sitting in a cold studio listening to Book Of Mormon rehearsing next door. We were all in it together. So I guess stop judging everyone you meet is what my lesson is.


6:15 p.m.:  My classmate Kim and I got to Gotham an hour early. It was snowing and freezing out, so not such a huge crowd was expected. I had never been to Gotham before and we explored the stage. It was smaller than I expected but surrounded by TVs playing Kat Williams, Louis CK, Wanda Sykes on a loop. Intimidating. We put our stuff down in the back and thought of ways to sneak our material onto the stage in case we blanked – Kim wrote hers on her hand. I wrote mine one a piece of paper and stuffed it in my bra (I guess because pulling it out in the middle of the show would be less surreptitious than reading it off my hand??).

6:22 p.m.:  The man filming our show came over to talk to us, his name was Michael. He was telling us about how he had met everyone back in the day when he was still a comic as well: Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Amy Poehler (“Yeah, she’s as nice as everyone says she is.”) I forgot what someone said but Michael goes “That’s a lie. Everyone lies in show business, I could be lying to you right now. You should know that. Everyone lies in show business.” I gestured to Kim and myself and jokingly said that some day we’ll be on Conan and say that at our very first stand-up, our only piece of advice was that everyone lies in comedy.

“No you won’t,” Michael said. At first I was taken aback. I thought he meant that we’ll never be successful enough to be on a late night show. But he followed up with “You won’t remember me. Do you know how many people I’ve met here? You’re gonna meet a lot of people too. You think you’ll remember but you won’t.” So I am making it a point to write about it here to ALWAYS REMEMBER SO I CAN TRACK HIM DOWN IN 10 YEARS AND SHOVE IT IN HIS FACE MICHAEL. Remind to talk about it in 10 years OK?

7:04 p.m.: My parents, their friends, Ari, my brother, our friend Ben, my friend Jessie are all here front row. They are reasonably about 40% of the audience. The show was supposed to start at 7 p.m. and they are still playing Uptown Funk. WHY MUST THEY TOY WITH MY ALREADY RACING HEART?

7:04-8:13 p.m: They have a MC and some pros mixed in with the students. It’s a small crowd and it’s a little rough for even the pros to rouse people, which makes me feel a bit better if not because of a little schadenfreude, “They’ve been doing this for YEARS and it’s still a little hard for them!” It may have also been rough because they decided to riff with my parents’ friends asking them stuff like “So yo man, you even heard of sexting??”

8:15 p.m.: I’m go after Kevin. My heart is beating so fast. I casually hold my drink and napkin (that I’ve written all my jokes on just in case too). All I can think of is West Side Story. Not just because it’s a classic play and movie but because when I was 18 I played A-Rab, a forgettable Jet, in my senior year production of the show (aka 30 white Jewish kids producing the most racist shit you will ever not see). I didn’t have many lines – I was mainly background and singing but there was one scene that was just me and another boy. We were running from the cops and it was just me and him on stage. His line was something like “What do we do now?!” and I forgot what I supposed to say. Like really, I forgot what i supposed to say. So I just pretended to still be out of breath from running. Much longer than was believable. It was just blank blank blankety blank. Until the boy playing Officer Krupke just came on stage and saved my ass.

Why my brain decided to bring up nightmares such as this one right before I went on stage is just another reason that proves your own brain HATES you and sabotages you whenever it can. But soon, as I was ccasssuaalllyyy leaning on the wall waiting, the MC goes “Now, a very funny girl AVIVA WOOLF.”

I wish i could give you more insight about my 4 min on stage but it’s fuzzy. I remember looking at my own hand and going STOP SHAKING YOU IDIOT. I had my material down pat but I hadn’t practiced what to do with my hands while I was rehearsing in the shower or on the subway. I gripped that pole like I had just realized I was allergic to gravity and didn’t want to float away. Unlike my  improv shows, where everything was up in the air and you relied on your teammates to help, I was alone up there. And it was just a totally different experience. Better or worse I haven’t decided yet. Just different. Like going to a restaurant vs cooking at home. I didn’t pay attention to what people were laughing at until I watched the tape they sent me today. I just thought “keep talking keep talking keep talking.”


I watched it when I got the e-mail and thought “What the fuck is happening with my hair?” and “WHY DID I SAY MARCH INSTEAD OF FEBRUARY?”

But I didn’t think “Well that was a disaster so let’s pack it up and relegate this time of my life to the back of my closet along with those overalls I always think I can pull off and I can’t.”

I thought “I can do better. This is OK and I can do better.” And I will.

After I put my video on Facebook (with the disclaimer that I absolutely didn’t want any criticism, just praise), people were SO sweet. They asked when they can see me perform. I think it won’t be for a while. This is a new craft and it’s going to take a looonngg long long time getting really good at open mics before I’ll be paid to do anything anywhere. Time for me to fade back into the shadows until I can get up in front of an audience without feeling like I wanna throw up.

I was never a public speaker. I was always the kid who muttered observations under her breath, never broadcasting them for the whole class. Time for me to fix that.

And as always, I’ll be here documenting it 🙂

(And here it is FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT)


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