Stand-up Comedy On So Many Levels

Where did the term “stand-up comedy” originate? It could refer to how some comedians deliver jokes on their feet, but restaurant jobs require a lot of standing and we don’t call anyone a “stand-up waiter” or a “stand-up cashier.” It could be that, at some talent show a hundred years ago, a guy told bad jokes and everyone kept yelling at him to sit down and the guy forged a career path out of his depression.

stand-up comedy austin
Comedy in a nutshell.

If you’ve been grappling with this question, I have an answer for you… just probably not the right one. Idiomatically, “standing [someone] up” means failing to meet someone as arranged. In a sentence: Lately as a form of self-care I’ve decided to attribute all the times I’ve been stood up this past year to necessary buildup for this post and not to my doormat personality.

Perhaps because I don’t know my audience and propose morning meets with college students, I’ve ofen found myself waiting at the agreed-upon location, reaching voicemail and realizing the other party’s overslept. Group project, hanging out, team meetings—the like. So I guess what happened Tuesday was a long time coming.

Around noon Tuesday, my friend texted me a free comedy showcase happening downtown at 8PM that night. I’d been up since 4:30 AM because I keep waking up at ungodly hours for no apparent reason and also because I’d eaten an 11” pizza by myself the night before. I agreed. It was a plan.

6:44 PM, I got back from a meeting and decided I was in no condition to have fun. I could afford a quick nap. I texted Friend asking what time she wanted to head out as I set three separate alarms. One online through my laptop for 7:30 PM. One a regular phone alarm for 7:30 PM. One alarm through the Sleep Cycle app for 7:20-7:50 PM. The app wakes you up when you’re in your lightest stage of sleep during your specified interval. For instance, maybe I’d wake up more rested at 7:20 than 7:30. I closed my eyes, feeling safe.


I woke up to chaos. Only my Sleep Cycle alarm was ringing. Friend was calling. Friend’s text bubbles were rapidly expanding down my screen. R u at ur apartment. NICOLE.

Me: Hello?

Friend: Where… are you?

Me: My apartment. I… took a nap.

Friend: I KNEW IT.

It was 7:50. Apologizing profusely, I called a Lyft, flew down the apartment complex stairs, and was in the car on the way to the stadium, where Friend was waiting, with an ETA of 7:58.

Lyft driver: How’re you?

Me: Well, I just woke up.

Lyft driver: Ah.

I told him I’d overslept and was meeting a friend for a comedy showcase at 8. Comedy events usually start late, I mentioned, but I still felt terrible nonetheless, having had so much experience being stood up myself. He promised he’d get me to the venue as soon as he could, and I decided it wasn’t worth clarifying that the stadium was not the venue; he was just dropping me off to meet Friend before we’d both ride downtown for the show.

Lyft Driver circled into the driveway of the stadium and wished me good luck as I leapt out of the car at 8:00PM, pounced on Friend, and frantically called a second Lyft.

To my relief, we matched almost immediately with a nearby car. I’d been worried not many drivers would be around the southeast side of campus. The Lyft was so close, it was…

… The same car that had dropped me off.

Lyft Driver: Well, hello again.

I wanted to die.

Lyft Driver: Funny how we already know all about each other. Weren’t you going to a show?

Friend: She came to meet me before we’d head over.

Friend, to me: Why didn’t you just add a second stop?

Me, still seeking death: I… did not know that was an option.

Friend: I shared my location with you.

Lyft Driver: At this point, you two go to the show and I’ll just circle around the block for an hour and then I can pick you up again. Might as well, right? What do you say?

The two of them cackled at my expense for much of the way there, and despite our still arriving a good half hour before the show actually started, I took the night’s events as penance for finally standing someone else up for a change. The show itself was relatively funny but not outrageously so, probably because it couldn’t live up to the preceding disaster.

That’s how I understand stand-up comedy, anyway. Sometimes you’re working on your feet, on a stage. Sometimes you’re a disappointment and let everyone down. Sometimes you just want people to like you and fail miserably and things aren’t as expected—horrifying and terrible and exciting and delightful and still, a great time.

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Last post: Valet Parking, or Why I Can’t Have Nice Things

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