Brock About Town: Stage fright

Illustration by Lev Cantoral

Last weekend was Floodwater Comedy Festival, Iowa City’s annual celebration of all things funny and memento mori for its comedians. (“Oh my God, it’s February again. I should do one of my new routines, but I feel like I’ve barely written anything since last year. What am I doing with my life? If I don’t get my act together, I’m going to be a nursing home optometrist’s assistant forever.”) I love Floodwater because it gets the whole community involved in something that normally takes place only in seedy bar basements. It’s the perfect thing to invite your parents to.

Now, my parents are very supportive about my decision to throw my life away, and normally I’m not prone to stage fright, but there’s something about looking out into the audience and seeing the faces of the people who raised me that takes me right back to report card day. This year, I think I did a pretty good job of managing that anxiety. I didn’t puke or nothin’! So, for all my shameless attention hogs out there, here are my best tips for reducing performance anxiety:

Is there a little voice in the back of your head that keeps saying, “You’ll never be good enough?” #relatable! Play some soothing instrumental music — I like Ravi Shankar, but anything with wind chimes will do — and then slowly crank it up until you can no longer hear your negative internal monologue. Your ears might bleed a little, but it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Burn off some of that anxiety, and a few calories, by getting some exercise. Sure, you might feel kind of silly doing jumping jacks in the green room, but next to the lady who has a pre-show ritual involving healing crystals or the guy who keeps going outside “for some fresh air,” nobody’s even going to notice.

Take a few shots of the alcoholic beverage of your choice. Note: This is an emergency measure and I cannot guarantee that it won’t backfire on you. Last year, I had a gin and tonic before I went onstage at a competition and I ended up crying in the middle of my set because I remembered kittens. Self-medicate at your own risk.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 280.

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