Recently a lady was dead set on trying to embarrass me during one of my events.
“You seem uncomfortable,” she said, surrounded by a group of friends. “Are we making you uncomfortable?”
I wasn’t uncomfortable. I’d just finished my show and was standing calmly at the side of the bar waiting for the party to end. I wasn’t nervous or bored, I was just being patient until it was time to depart.
There’s always one person at a gig who is too cool for my entertainment. They’re defensive or confrontational. Typically they’re used to being the center of attention and don’t like that a new person might have the spotlight for a few moments.
There’s another person at my gigs. They’re the one that gets it - the type of person who just wants to enjoy the mystery and not ruin the entertainment for others. “Wow, you really know how to work a room,” they say, curious to learn more about my craft and how I ended up being at the party with them.
Those people are a joy to perform for. They’re engaged and intrigued and easy to talk to. They make my nights fun and memorable.
People like that woman, however, are quite the opposite.
I used to become defensive or upset when people would accost me. One person’s actions would lead to a minor confrontation and end up ruining my whole night.
It took me a while to realize that it didn’t have anything to do with me when people behaved that way. It’s not my fault they are being rude or negative. More than likely, it has something to do with their own insecurities. After years of talking with people at events, I get that now and choose to respond differently.
“You seem uncomfortable,” she said smugly, “Are we making you uncomfortable?”
In a flash, my mind went to the very beginning. I flipped through my mental rolodex, remembering how I’d ended up in front of that lady.
I remembered my early shows at schools and nursing homes and libraries and churches.
I thought of the plays and musicals and speeches and improv games.
I recalled the writing and acting classes, the rehearsing and practicing.
My years in theatre school flashed through my mind, along with every role I’d ever performed.
I remembered the two dozen TV appearances I’ve had, many live on air in front of millions of people.
I thought of my sold-out tours, my weekly shows, my corporate and college gigs, and everything else in between. There was the time I worked for 16 people on a rooftop under The Empire State Building and the time I got a standing ovation from 6,000 students on a college campus.
I remembered being in front of audiences around the world, sometimes using props as a shield and sometimes having nothing to hide behind at all.
I thought of writing and delivering my dad’s eulogy. Or speaking at my best friend’s funeral after he killed himself.
I thought of the gig I’d had the night before and what I was doing the night after.
I’d been here before - many, many times.
“No, I’m not uncomfortable.” I said. “This is what I do.”