How to Manage the Pre-show Jitters

Even people who have been doing stand-up comedy for decades still get nervous and jittery before a show. It’s normal and by no means unexpected. It doesn’t mean you’re not funny or that you should give up the mic for good. It’s completely okay. However, it can be a road block to you performing at the top of your comedic game, so it’s important that you learn to manage your pre-show nervousness.

I’m by no means claiming to be any kind of expert what with the fact that I’m a comedy toddler. I have certain things that I do that help me and if telling people about them helps one person, I’ll be happy just like if I go up and I make one person laugh I’m happy.

  1. Breathe. I know it sounds ridiculous to the point of being annoying but it actually does help. Close your eyes and take a few long, slow, and deep breaths in for your nose and out through your mouth. People tend to breathe in short, shallow breaths so breathing this way will get more oxygen to your brain and that can help you feel more relaxed and think more clearly.
  2. Prepare. I come up with my set list at least five days before a show. Why so far in advance? To give me time to memorize it so that I can go up without notes. I prefer to go up without notes because it looks more professional. It’s also more comfortable for me because I can connect with the audience better because I’m making eye contact with them instead of a notebook sitting on a table or stool behind me.
  3. Rehearse. This makes performing less intimidating for me. That big scary thing you want to do isn’t so big or scary if you’ve done it before, so I rehearse my set at least once if not twice. There was a time when I was rehearsing up to five times, but I started to sound robotic in my delivery. There’s a balance and you need to find what works for you. I’ve found my first rehearsal is always a hot mess, so it feels good to get all that out before you actually take the stage.
  4. Hydrate. Yeah this is pretty common-sense-y, but when your mind is traveling in several different directions at one time it’s easy to forget the simple things. If you’re dehydrated you’re not going to feel your best and if you don’t feel your best you’re not going to perform your best.
  5. Eat something. A lot of people have issues with their stomachs when they get nervous. I know someone who absolutely refuses to eat before he’s finished performing. This isn’t a good idea. The last thing you want to do is have your blood sugar crash and end up either puking or passing out in the middle of your set. If you don’t want to eat a big meal, that’s fine but eat something even if it’s something small and light.
  6. Remember that the audience is rooting for you. Nobody comes out to a comedy show determined not to laugh. Most people don’t like to see others fail. When your mind races and you imagine every possible way you could fail, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of that. The audience wants to see you succeed and they want to laugh. Don’t forget that.
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The People You Meet Doing Stand-up

You meet some incredible people doing stand-up. For better or worse, when you do stand-up you become part of a community. Like any good community, we all come together to help each other. I met my comedy mentor when I joined Eastern Star (if you want to know more about Eastern Star and Masonic organizations, read My Life: Built by Masonry here.). Through him, I met my comedy cohorts and the family that runs hamiltonradio.net. I’ve met published authors, talented musicians, and a lot of damn nice people.

As much as I enjoy meeting other comics, I enjoy connecting with the crowd. We have a group of regulars that come to the shows at Take 5 and I always enjoy talking to them before, during, and after the show. When I meet people who tell me they’ve been thinking of trying stand-up for ages, I always tell them the same thing: do it! I say that not just because of the experiences I’ve had or the places I’ve been on this stand-up journey. My biggest reason for telling people who want to try comedy to do it, is the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and the community I’m blessed to be a part of.