18: The Chosen One

18: The Chosen One

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

The Chosen One

Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.

~Mark Twain

I stumbled into the kitchen in a bit of a daze.

“They picked me,” I mumbled.

My husband’s eyebrows crinkled in confusion. “What’s that?”

“They, uh, th-they picked me to, to, um, per-perform,” I stuttered slowly, my mind still processing the news.

“They, who?” Eric asked. “What are you talking about?”

“You know that writer’s workshop I’m attending in the spring?”

Eric nodded.

“Well, last month I got an e-mail from the director of the workshop. She said that anyone who was interested in doing a stand-up comedy routine during the last night of the conference should send in their name,” I explained.

“And you submitted yours?” Eric asked, befuddled. “That shocks me.”

“You’re not the only one,” I replied, my voice quivering. “I did it on a whim, knowing that tons of people would throw their hat in the ring. I never figured I’d be one of the twelve chosen at random to do it. Turns out, I was wrong.”

“And how do you feel about that?” Eric asked. “Excited? Anxious? Annoyed? Afraid?”

Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes. It was safe to say that my emotions were all over the map. When I first got the news, a surge of elation shot through me, immediately followed by a wave of terror. I wanted to celebrate by eating cookies, but I was pretty sure that I might toss said cookies.

There was a time when I wouldn’t have been drowning in this much trepidation over making people laugh. I once readily found the funny in life and flourished in its beauty. But ever since my mom’s tragic death three years earlier, I seemed to have lost my sense of humor. I longed to immerse myself in boisterous laughter, to relish joyful anticipation, and to throw myself into a scary adventure. In the past, on the occasions when I forced myself to engage in something that petrified me, I was always pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Auditioning for a lead role in the school play. Telling the cute guy in my college class that he smelled good. Asking a New York Times bestselling author if he would endorse my book. Every experience enriched my life in some way.

So, when I saw the opportunity to perform a stand-up comedy routine in front of a crowd of two hundred, I thought, Wow! That sounds terrifying. I should totally do it! And in a moment of blissful confidence, I wrote, “I’m interested,” and hit the “Send” button.

Then, when I learned I’d been selected, I panicked.

What have I done? I fretted. What if I throw up? Or fall down? What if I forget my material? Or pee my pants? What if I get a bad case of stage fright or a horrid case of the hiccups?

After thoroughly exhausting every possible what-if scenario, I sat down at my laptop and began crafting my routine.

“Last week, I found myself taking time out of my busy morning to take a quiz that told me what my chicken name was,” I wrote. “Now, why I felt compelled to find out this nugget of information is beyond me because I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be in the position of having to fill out medical paperwork or legal documents that will require me to divulge my official chicken name. But since I took the quiz, I can tell you all that you are looking at… Foxy Fluffybottom.”

My strength wasn’t in joke writing, but in storytelling. Therefore, I pulled from my life and hoped that the material would resonate with the crowd. I discussed everything from my preteen son’s inability to apply deodorant to my husband’s morning obsession with reading his iPhone while parked on the potty.

Over the next month, I wrote, revised, and finessed my three-minute routine, practicing it out loud any time I was in the shower, out for a run, or driving alone in my car. I worked on reflection, inflection, and projection, all while trying to push out of my frazzled mind the one thing I feared most: rejection.

Maybe this was a mistake, I mused one day during a low self-esteem moment. I rather like being comfortable.

I was on the verge of forfeiting my spot when an e-mail came through from the workshop director.

“I just wanted to wish you luck on your upcoming stand-up show,” she said. “Have fun! We will all be rooting for you on April 2nd.”

When I saw the date in black and white, the little hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. It hadn’t dawned on me until that very moment that I would be performing on the anniversary of my mom’s death. Clearly, this was Mom welcoming me back to laughter, joy, and adventure. I could practically hear her voice urging me, “Go on, Christy! You can do it!”

I couldn’t disappoint my mom. She had always been my biggest supporter.

When the night of the show arrived, Eric asked me if I was nervous.

“Yeah,” I said. “But mostly I’m excited.”

Finally, my name was called. I inhaled deeply and stepped up to the mic, straining to catch a glimpse of the audience as I squinted in the bright spotlight.

When I opened my mouth, my breath caught in my throat. But I continued.

As I began my set, I heard bursts of laughter as well as my husband’s soothing, distinctive chuckle down front. I felt the reverberation of clapping in my chest and cheeks.

My three minutes flew by in a flash. When it was over, professional comedienne Wendy Liebman, who emceed the show, extended her arms for a hug and whispered in my ear, “Was that really your first time? You’re a natural!”

As I exited the stage, members of the audience stood and applauded. Eric planted a kiss on my cheek.

“Congratulations! You did great!” he beamed. “I’m so glad you were the chosen one.”

“One of the chosen,” I corrected him.

“I don’t know,” Eric replied. “I think your mom would say otherwise.”

~Christy Heitger-Ewing

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