Julie's Open Mic Readings: Tonight at the Canadian-American Club, Watertown, MA

Last night’s reading at the Out of the Blue Gallery in Cambridge, MA hosted by Bob Gautreau was a smashing success!  I read well.  I must say, Puzzle and I do an entertaining read.  I excerpted from my chapter, “Pro Re Nata,” about the old Metropolitan State Hospital, which, by the way, closed down 20 years ago.  Hard to believe, folks, that it was that long ago.

And yet those state hospitals still exist.  These are not hospitals.  They are prisons for mental patients.

Come hear me read tonight.  Come meet my wonderful little Puzzle.  I think I will do the same text again.

Bob is a wonderful comedian hosting the shows at Out of the Blue until the end of 2012.  He invited me to read again and possibly participate in a video shoot he’s doing.  He needs someone to play a Jewish lesbian crazy character….

Well, Bob, I said, right up my alley.  I told him I was going to be in North Carolina in November, but come December, we’ll see to it.  Did I hear him say there’s an acting part for Puzzle as well?  Yeah, I think I heard that.  I think I did.

I will be performing again in Cambridge, MA

I will be performing again in Cambridge, MA, this time at Cormier’s Comedy Madness, at the All Asia, 334 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA, on MONDAY, DECEMBER 14.  The show starts at 6pm.  The All Asia is located right in Central Square on the bus and subway lines.  It is best to take public transportation, as parking is limited.  Admission is five dollars.

Stand-up, fall down–I WILL RISE!

I had another bad experience at stand-up class last night.  It wasn’t so much the class itself this time.  It is clear that I am progressing.  I actually got a few laughs, which didn’t happen last time, and Bob, our teacher, stated that I had improved considerably, so I was satisfied on that front.

What is happening that concerns me is basically a social thing: my classmates are the problem.  Of course I am taking a leap here, but I believe they see me as a loser.  When we are gathered before class, they disregard me and will not include me in their conversations.  They act as though I am not there.  They look through me and talk around me.

For instance, I was in the room with two of the fellows, who were conversing, and they started talking about getting together before class to try out ideas on each other.  I said, “Hey, I’d be interested in doing that!” and they looked at me like I was from Mars!  I don’t recall their response, but it was not a friendly one, and they abruptly changed the subject.

Another time I was in the hallway, and passed another student.  I was expecting a friendly nod and hello, and instead I got a hostile, nasty look.  I was shocked.

While I was performing, I looked up from my papers, and was shocked to see that two students were not even looking at me.  They were not paying full attention to my performance (stand-up comedy involves gestures and facial expressions that must be seen, as well as spoken words).

After class, the students and teacher were gathered outside, and I stood there, hoping someone would approach me and speak to me, and after everyone ignored me, I decided to approach a couple of students.  I did so, and after a very brief exchange, the two students hurried off into Harvard Square.  It was clear that they had no interest or desire to speak with me.

I have no allies in the class, no friends.  Perhaps there is one among them that is not like the others.  I have yet to make acquaintance with this person.  May he or she speak up soon.

Why is this happening?  Is it my age? I believe I am the oldest in the class, 51, and just about all the students are in their 20’s.   Is it that they know I have a mental illness?  Is it because my first performance flopped so badly? Is it because I don’t own a television set, and haven’t seen TV since 2004, and haven’t a clue what they’re talking about when they talk about TV?  A combination of the above?

I came home and cried.  This time, I know the fault is not mine.  I am NOT a loser.  I know if I keep on working at stand-up comedy, I will succeed, the other students be damned.  They will not stop me, and I will not drop the class and forfeit my education because of them.  I will keep trying, and I will keep taking the class again until I get it right.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed that next time, the milieu is friendlier.

Stand-up, fall down, stand up

I had a bad night at stand-up comedy class Tuesday.  When it came time for me to present my little act, not one person laughed!  It turned out that what I had written wasn’t funny at all.  It was yet another act about being a mental patient, but this one fell flat.  The other one that I did last term worked out fine–people were “in stitches”–but this act, for some reason, failed.

Bob, our teacher, told me that it simply wasn’t funny, and that if I didn’t think it was funny to begin with, then it probably wasn’t, and that I shouldn’t include anything that isn’t funny.  He said that I should choose a topic other than therapy, that I should write about the world.  Anything but therapy.  He said this over and over.  He seemed a little angry at me, and maybe I was just interpreting his demeanor this way because I felt so downtrodden.

I am listening to the tape of my performance and the feedback I received as I am writing this.  I am supposed to write and perform comedy not about therapy, but about life.  What life?  What life do I have?

I could hardly stay straight for the remainder of the class.  I tried to make chit chat with the other students, but nobody seemed to want to have anything to do with me after my poor performance.  I got on the bus and called my friend Lori, and wept.  I cried for the entire bus ride home, and as I was walking home from the bus, and then when I came into my apartment I was still crying.  I called my brother and sobbed miserably.  I cried all night and into the next day.

I went to see Dr. P that day.  And the whole time I kept telling myself, “I don’t have a life to write humor about.  I don’t have a life.”  Everything going on in the office seemed so fake and contrived.  She wanted to talk about my weight, as usual.  Fake.  She wants me to eat more.  Fake.  She wanted to know when I was going to be weighed next.  Fake.

That said, here is what I wrote in my food journal yesterday:

Dr. P seems to care so much about my weight now.  It is just so important to her.  If I am indeed underweight, it is only by a pound or two, not that much.  Why the fuss?  WHERE WAS DR. P WHEN I WEIGHED NEARLY 200 POUNDS??? WHERE WAS DR. P WHEN I SPENT 3 MONTHS IN A WHEELCHAIR BECAUSE MY KNEE GAVE OUT FROM RAPID WEIGHT GAIN FROM SEROQUEL?  WHY DIDN’T DR. P CARE?  WHY DIDN’T DR. P TAKE ME OFF SEROQUEL WHEN SHE SAW IT WAS MAKING ME GAIN WEIGHT?  WHY DID SHE INSIST THAT I STAY ON IT, EVEN WANT ME BACK ON IT, AFTER IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT IT WAS THE CAUSE OF WEIGHT GAIN?  WHERE WAS DR. P WHEN I SPENT 3 HOURS A DAY OVEREXERCISING AT THE GYM AND DIDN’T LOSE A POUND, ON SEROQUEL?  WHERE WAS DR. P WHEN I COLLAPSED IN THE STEET EVERY TIME MY STOMACH WAS EMPTY–SHE CLAIMED THIS WAS A HOT FLASH–I SAY IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF DIABETES–FROM SEROQUEL–?  WHY DIDN’T DR. P CARE WHEN I HUFFED AND PUFFED DOWN HER HALLWAY BECAUSE I COULDN’T WALK FAST DUE TO BEING GROSSLY OVERWEIGHT?  WHY DIDN’T SHE CARE WHEN I GAINED FIFTY POUNDS IN SIX MONTHS?   WHY DIDN’T DR. P BAT AN EYELASH WHEN I SHOWED UP AT HER OFFICE USING A WALKER, UNABLE TO PUT ANY WEIGHT ON MY RIGHT LEG BECAUSE MY KNEE WAS SO BADLY AFFECTED BY WEIGHT GAIN? WHY DIDN’T DR. P CARE WHEN I GAINED WEIGHT–AND WHY DOES SHE INSIST ON FATTENING ME UP NOW?  I HAVE NO INTENTION ON GAINING WEIGHT.  NO WAY, DOC.  YOU WILL NEVER, NEVER MAKE ME FAT AGAIN.

And then I looked back on what happened the night before, all the shame and anger and embarrassment after class, walking down the sidewalk with fists in my pockets, and all the tears and snots and kleenex and staying up late and wanting to disappear into the bowels of Harvard Square, and realized: THIS IS MY REAL LIFE.  It very well may have begun just then.

Standing Up

The truth is, I weathered the transition to post-Goddard very well.  I think I’m happy.  I know I’m happy.  I’m very busy, especially with my stand-up comedy class.  With stand-up, I’ve found a new identity for myself.

My stand-up comedy act pokes fun at family therapy.  I imitate my parents and act out a typical family therapy session with them.  That in itself is very funny.  Then I have this character Irene.  She’s based on a character out of my memoir, but by the time I got done writing my routine, she was very changed, of course.  I have a middle section about one of my adventures with Irene, loosely based on a real incident, and then return to family therapy.  And that’s it.  The entire act takes ten minutes.

The class instructor wants me to write more, and I intend to do so.  Much of stand-up involves writing.  I love the writing part.  I have already written a new act, and am planning out more jokes.

When I do stand-up, I’m a different person.  I’m loud.  I’m animated.  I’m a little bossy, and I am quick to poke fun at the audience.  Ordinarily (for those of you who have never met me) I am kind of mousy, quiet, restrained, and methodical.   I find this change incredibly exciting.