Overcoming the fear of public urination (a.k.a. Me doing stand-up comedy)

Welcome to Random Acts of Courage, Part Deux.

Next Monday I’m relaunching my online course that helps people become more courageous, and in the run up to that fine occasion I’m doing a whole bunch of things that push me out of my comfort zone. Like stand-up comedy!

Here’s video of my second ever attempt at stand-up, which happened last week at an open mic at Fred Zeppelins in Cork. I spoke about that lingering problem I have peeing in public restrooms when there are other dudes around :-/

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Truth be told, I was pretty happy with how my set went. Getting up in front of a room full of people (there were about thirty heads at Fred’s that night) and making them laugh is no small feat, and I have an immense amount of respect for anyone who gives it a lash.

My first attempt at stand-up comedy happened back in New Orleans in November, another open mic night. That didn’t go so well. It was just a three-minute set, but I was obviously nervous and pretty much sucked. I never could bring myself to watch the video of that performance, and the footage was lost forever when my laptop crashed in January.

A few things changed between that initial attempt and my attempt last week. First, I’m a lot more confident and self-assured now, having worked hard on building my courage these past few months. I really didn’t appreciate just how far I’d come until I got up on that stage at Fred’s and found myself completely at ease. All those challenges I did for the original Random Acts of Courage project obviously paid off. As such, I’ve never been more convinced of the potential of A Course In Courage to positively impact people’s lives.

Second, I’ve come to believe that the key to stand-up, at least when you’re starting out, is to forget about being funny and to simply focus on being comfortable. You might have the best material in the world to work with, but if you’re nervous delivering it, you’re screwed.

I was at a comedy gig a few weeks back and was inspired by a couple of the comics I saw there, one guy in particular. His material wasn’t especially great, but he was so at ease up on stage that everyone loved him. He was bantering back and forth with the audience, poking fun at his own botched jokes, not trying to be a superstar. It was as if he was lounging in a pub, telling stories to a few close friends.

I went with that same laid-back approach for my set at Fred’s. Whereas for my first attempt I had my whole spiel memorized word-for-word, this time I hadn’t learned anything off verbatim. I resolved instead to go with the flow. If I forgot the general gist of what I was trying to say, I figured I could just admit my dumbassness to the audience and make a joke of that, no need to get flustered. Worked out pretty well.

Third, it definitely helped having a lot of friendly faces in the audience. When I did stand-up back in New Orleans, I didn’t bring along a big posse. This time around, a whole bunch of my CouchSurfing friends came out to support me, so I didn’t have to face a room full of scary strangers with raised eyebrows.

Fourth, I did my routine at a venue not exactly known for comedy. The open mic at Fred’s is primarily for musicians, but they were cool with me bringing some humor to the mix. That took a bit of the pressure off; it wasn’t like the audience was expecting an evening of guaranteed hilarity. A few chuckles would have been more than they’d bargained for, and I was able to draw those out of them. Win!

Check back in tomorrow as RAoC2 rolls on. To make sure you don’t miss it, do the fan/follow thingy on the Facebook or Twitter machines.

Also, if you’re liking the sound of A Course In Courage, fill in the form below to get priority notice when registration opens for it again on April 18th, 2011.

[UPDATE: Mailing list closed, course open]

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    1. Good man Niall. I have the same problem, unable to piss at a urinal when others are around or even if there is the chance someone might come in half-way through. Can’t think of any childhood scars that may have caused this fear.

    2. I’m totally the same way. For me there is nothing worse than being at a public sporting event and having to go pee. I’ll literally sit there for like a minute before I can finally get some out. In the meantime, the urinal next to me has like 3 guys come and go. I’m sure nobody really notices me and how long it takes…but when I’m standing there is sure does feel like everybody is watching me.

      Anyway, thanks for the good stuff. Your honesty is refreshing and I’ve enjoyed reading your blog.