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18 Seconds

November 18, 2015


Eighteen seconds of laughter in one minute (at a MINIMUM), that’s what they say it takes to be a Headliner. 

I’ve filmed a majority of my sets since Summer of 2015 and today I sat down with my camera and a stopwatch to get down to the nitty gritty and see where I stand.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • On average, in a 7 minute set, I’ll hit 15 seconds of laughter per minute.
  • If the room is full of jaded comics who’ve seen my set 10 times before, it goes down to 4 seconds per minute.
  • If the room is overflowing with people who love me and are thrilled to be there, it goes up to 24 seconds per minute.

Huge disparity, huh?

This represents a small sample size (see, my graduate level Statistics class DID pay off!). I’d graph it for you, but would rather not waste too much time on incidentals (enough of that already went into the videos and the stopwatch).

What’s up?

Suddenly I have this need to check-in with my progress. In the beginning, it was enough just to be able to get to the club and sign up for a set. Now I’m looking for assurances that I’m moving in some kind of positive direction, some proof that all of this isn’t a waste.


I love what I’m doing — I love the writing, the stage, the other comics and their stories. Why am I concerning myself with a trajectory when I feel like this is something that I HAVE TO DO because I enjoy it, love it, am obsessed with it!!! Am I getting carried away? Does it even matter if there’s any chance for me?

Two weeks ago I wanted to fire Mrs. Robinson (my therapist). I’d been complaining about my job when she asked why I hadn’t tried to pursue any other avenues for a job change,  why I hadn’t found any other options while working with my career coach.

“Didn’t he tell you how hard it is to make money as a stand-up comic? Novelists, playwrights and stand up comics don’t make a living.”

What? I never said I was going to quit my job today to do comedy full-time. I have maybe 10 minutes of strong material. Comics are at this for at least five or ten years before “getting” anywhere, right?

All of this seems way too unrealistic.

INSERT: A flurry of self-criticism —–How could I  be so stupid not to keep banging my head to find a realistic job option? Why did I just waste money by hiring a career coach who was obviously a fraud?

Should I get a real-estate license? That sounds annoying as well. Other employment options ricocheted around my brain. Wall street trader, subway token taker (wait, that ended in the 90s), flight attendant, researcher, photographer, Sunday School Substitute Teacher (HELL NO!) Unceremoniously, I shot each of them down.

What’s the “Right” thing? What is everyone else doing?

What am I supposed to be?

I  wanted to curse at Mrs. R. and I wanted to call Geoff to ask him what the hell he was thinking when he encouraged me to put my energy into stand-up. Why wasn’t I reprimanded?

Then I realized that I’m an adult who has the ability to make her own decisions.

Oh, right.

My next meeting with Mrs. R, I told her that it hurt to have her spit on my dreams. She apologized, we talked, and then she rephrased herself.  She says it was something more like, “Novelists, playwrights and stand up comedians generally have to do other things to make a living.”

That little bit made a big difference to me. Ok, so it did help to talk rather than fire her.

These feelings are sooooooo old. Lets take a moment to go back to Nursing school.

The first time I had to bathe a patient, I came home and told my parents that I was going to quit Nursing and switch to Psychology.

My father flipped out. “You’ll never make a living. You’re not going into psychology!” In hindsight, it might have been appropriate to defy them, but they were paying for school, and at the time I was too docile (living with my parents in West Virginia–can you believe it?) to go against the grain. Besides, weren’t they supposed to know what was best for me?

This wasn’t the first time they ‘advised’ me to go back to the nursing.

Summer of 2000,  a few months after I was fired from my dot-com Producer job (mostly because I was a mess and couldn’t make it through the day without saying something inappropriate to our clients or staff), I called my father to ask for financial help, and he said something similar:”You need to get a FULL-TIME Nursing JOB!”

Yep, just a couple of reasons why my conversation with Mrs. R had lead weights attached.

More Later–


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