You Never Forget the First Time


I know better. When I hear someone say; “I am funny, I always crack my friends up…I could be a stand-up comic,” I think, “then do it.” It isn’t easy to stand up on a stage and bring the funny on so an audience full of expectant customers can get their laugh on. It took me years to feel comfortable on stage; but I often still get butterflies when a joke bombs. Good thing the years have taught me how to survive the inner aftershocks of joke failure. Usually a person doesn’t do so well the first time. Comedy is like sex, it is satisfying, fun… if the performance is good. Oh, and this is comic truth: You are only as good as your last time on stage.

I had always wanted to be a performer since the Cowsill incident. It isn’t good to not live your dreams. It is constipating. If you don’t exercise who you are suppose to be you get fat, bloated, unhappy and hard to live with. Whenever anything was wrong with me, the first question my parents would always without fail ask me, “When was the last time you went to the restroom?” It was their answer to all of my maladies- go flush it out and then you will feel better. Thinking funny thoughts is kind of a curse. I would blurt out lines in meetings (timing is everything) in class, during Bible study. People would call me up and tell me to hurry up and get to their party- I guess I was the clown energy the rooms needed.

I was given the gift of comedy lessons from an old boyfriend turned friend for life. I don’t know how much he had to pay, but it was the most life-changing gift I ever received. I went to my first class run by Sam Cox from Austin. When I went into the room I was anxious. This was the beginning of living out my dream. In my high school classes I always tell my students that whatever dream they have that makes their adrenaline flow it the one they should make a reality.  I tell them it is them knocking on the door saying, “Do this! This is me and would bring me happiness in this life. This is what I am suppose to do!” That is how I felt and still feel about performing.

Sam Cox had me write a biography which we, meaning me, the class and Sam, would “punch up” and develop five minutes of comedy for the big reveal at the end of six weeks in the form of a real comedy show, with a real audience with real tickets. I was stoked. I wrote my biography, we punched it up and my first five minutes were born.

The night of the show fell on my 36th birthday. I gave out tickets for the show; I ‘papered the room.’ That is show business lingo for giving out free tickets so people will fill the seats. I wore a leather dress given to me by my friend Becky who used to sing in a rock and roll band. It was a mid-thigh number that zipped up the front. My hair was long and reached my bottom. I felt I certainly had ‘the look!’ The comedy club was packed that night. Quite a few of my friends showed up and my brother drove over two hours to witness my debut. There were about 20 people going up that night, comedy jargon for performing. When I looked at the list, I was shocked and bothered by the fact I was scheduled in the last slot. I was last. Dead last. I know now why Sam did that. A very large number of people there that night were my friends. The ploy of putting me last may cause them to A. Stay and B. Buy more drinks; B being more important than A for the club and A being more important than B for the comics.

I watched the show. Slowly, I began to feel terror. I went to the restroom. I decided to walk out of the club, get into my car and drive away. I had my purse, pulled out the keys and headed out the bathroom and toward the Exit sign. I was already figuring out ways to apologize to my friends who came out- I would just tell them- I was afraid I would fail so I bolted. I would explain to them that my dream of performing was silly…what was I thinking?

I stood t the door of the club and put my head against the glass. I felt my heart beating. I wanted to cry. What if I fail?

When I heard my scardy-cat self say fail my I-will-show-you self took over. Once my brother told me that if someone say I will fail at something, to try extra hard and show them who I am! Here I was, proving to myself I could do it. Proving to myself that I can live the dream and bring out this other part of me.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, not only is this her first time on stage, it is also her birthday! Give it up for Kim Kerley!” With that I walked on stage and performed my five minutes of  material. I heard my brother ‘s laugh the loudest. That was comforting. I paced the stage and had a choppy delivery, but I got laughs where I was suppose to get them. I did well for my first time, well enough to try again; because comedy is like sex: once you experience it you want it again and again.  

Performing is a part me; as much a part of me as my heart, or arms and legs. Now when I feel bad, the question is, “When was the last time you were on stage?” Now that is the answer to my maladies- nothing like a good laugh to flush out the stuff inside my head that isn’t good for me!

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3 thoughts on “You Never Forget the First Time

  1. Okay, Kim! This brings me back to my first workshop showcase–when I, too, had to go up last. You were the emcee that night, and in introducing me, you said more than once “your headliner!” I was mortified, terrified–but I did it! And I don’t regret it! I will do it again! Glad to know I am not alone! Bless you, Kim. I am loving the blog. You are an inspiration!

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