Standing Up for Myself

I love a good challenge. Whether it be running a half-marathon, surviving on only flour and water for a week (I was a poor uni student okay, this was a challenge I didn’t choose but accepted nonetheless) or writing and performing a one-woman show – if something seems a little impossible, my natural instinct is to make that thing mine. As a writer, I’m a little bit addicted to throwing things up in the air and seeing where it all lands. I’m addicted to doing things for the sake of a good story. I call it research, other people call it recklessness.

I don’t know why, but for the twenty-six years that I’ve been meandering around the planet I’ve never been satisfied with security. In fact, the very idea of it makes my claustrophobia (shout out to my siblings for locking me in a wardrobe during a game of hide and seek in 1995) kick in like crazy. So, when I saw there was a Stand-up Comedy course coming up at NIDA, a course that would make me feel COMPLETELY insecure and challenged and out of my depth, I couldn’t help but enroll.

Performing stand-up comedy is something I NEVER thought I’d be able to do which is exactly why I wanted to do this course. We started out by telling stories from our childhood – they didn’t have to be funny, they just had to be something that we could retell to a group of strangers. I told a story about the time I was chased by a cassowary before school one day. Something that was pretty normal for me but, you know, when you tell this kind of story to a group of people that didn’t grow up in Far North Queensland, the absurdity of your childhood is swiftly revealed. You realise that just because your life is normal to you doesn’t mean that it is normal to everyone (or anyone) else. You realise that your stories are, in fact, interesting. And you realise that, with a little consideration, your stories can be funny.

Our teacher, a working stand-up comedian, set us the challenge of actually getting up at an open mic night that he was hosting the week after the course finished. At first, I was terrified because I’d only really thought about getting up in the safe and supportive environment of a classroom. I hadn’t really considered using what I would learn in class in a real world situation – even though it made perfect sense. But my fear quickly turned into determination as I began to see the open mic night as just another hill I had to run up the same way I would in my running training. I just had to keep moving myself toward the top of the incline, remembering to breathe, feeling my heart rate increase and reminding myself that this moment is only temporary and will have an incredible payoff.

The week after the course finished, I went to the open mic night – terrified, excited and wearing my favourite scrunchie for good luck. They called my name, the crowd cheered (these people don’t even know me?!) and I moved myself toward the mic. I remembered to breathe. I acknowledged the fear. And I reminded myself that this moment was fleeting.

The whole set was kind of an out-of-body experience. It was exhilarating and incredible and stupidly fun. PEOPLE LAUGHED. I felt alive. Afterward, I couldn’t stop smiling. The adrenaline was mental and I was really happy I didn’t combust.

So now that’s done, what will my next challenge be? And, more importantly, what will yours be?

This story was originally published on The General Public blog.

About the author:

Courtney Ammenhauser is a NIDA Open tutor, specialising in devised performance. In addition to working at NIDA, she is the Artistic Director of The General Public, a Sydney-based female creative collective.

Our next 8-week Stand-up Comedy course (for Adults 18+) will run from Tuesday 2 May–Tuesday 20 June from 6.30pm–9.30pm. For more information and to book click here.