The Power of I

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I have been writing this blog for over seven years now.  During all of the ups and downs I’ve had in life since The Stand-Up Diaries started, a friend of mine, Jaime, commented that I have always stayed true to myself through it all.  She’s right.  I have built up a following to this blog, so when I write about a topic, it isn’t a rant, and it isn’t meant to be controversial either.  It’s simply me being me.  When things are good, which is rare, I cannot stay silent.  So, when things are bad, uncomfortable or just plain suck like they do now, I cannot stay silent.  That’s the worst thing to do.  So, what I am about to write may be uncomfortable for some to read, some may say I shouldn’t be writing what I am about to discuss, but if I couldn’t write about it, then I would stay silent and that’s the worst thing to do.  I need to communicate how I feel and what my life is like, regardless of how many of you truly and sincerely care.  So, without further ado……

As many of you may know, I got baptised last Friday night at my church.  What follows is a description of the service and how I felt before, during and after.  I am aware that virtually everyone else will not have the same viewpoint of the service.  This isn’t to discredit it at all, again, this is my interpretation of how I felt, how comedy played a role in it, and me being me.  I may come off as sounding selfish or unrealistic in my expectations, but again, if I wasn’t doing this blog for seven years, I could be taken to task for it.  But those of you who follow this would expect nothing less than the honest, unfiltered truth that is my life.  So here goes.

My pastor said it’s commanded of us, as believers to get baptised.  So I ran the idea by my life coach.  He is a Christian and a family man whose opinion I respect.  I wasn’t nearly ready in my life to be at the point where I felt comfortable wanting to do it, so I casually asked him if it’s worth doing.  He wholeheartedly endorsed it.  So I decided to inform the church of my decision.

What I did not expect were people commenting that they were going to attend to show their support.  My first mistake was to count on some of the important people in my life actually being there when they mentioned they wanted to be a part of this.  5 people did show up and that’s nice.  But there were more that said they would attend, and forgot or had something better to do than celebrate me for once.  Yes, one person was very ill and couldn’t attend, I do take that into account.

I was looking forward to seeing some friends who are Christians that were instrumental in my early church-going days to be a part of this.  But as it came to the day of the baptism, I started wondering to myself what I was getting myself into.  Should I be doing this?  With every paid show I have ever done, I never feel confident.  I always get a nagging feeling of failure and impending doom, regardless of whether my girlfriend attended (when I had one), regardless of any friends in the audience and regardless of what I got paid.  I always had a feeling that went to my core, down in the pit of my stomach, that told me I was going to fail.  And it never let me down.  I always failed.  (I did two guest spots at the professional comedy club and did rather well, and didn’t have that fear of failing, maybe because I wasn’t getting paid so I treated it like a regular Saskatoon comedy night where most of the times the performers don’t get paid).

I was told beforehand to expect to give a short testimony.  Me, be brief?  Is that even possible?  When I first started running scenarios in my head of what to say, I couldn’t stop crying.  Then after a couple days of that, I would try to write something down and could never get it to come out the same way twice.  I mean, how can you tell a story with the same theme about twenty different ways in only three minutes?

So I packed up my swim trunks and shirt my life coach gave me and walked to the church.  Yes, I walked because I have no job to pay for my plates or gas.  When the church moves I guess unless I get a job quickly I will have to hitchhike, bike or walk.  I’ll probably get left behind like I do with most things in my life.

The entire service was streamed live online for the world to see.  During the worship part of the service I got pulled aside for a chat with a leader in the church who was going to interview me.  He’s a reverend and this was the first time I got a glimpse of how seriously they treat God when God is the sole focus of their job.  So he starts talking to me about what I should say.  Honestly, I have no idea what I am going to say.  He starts telling me what I should say, then I said he should ask me leading questions to give him the answers that are relevant.  He laughs and said that’s what I am trying to do.

So, after worship and a brief sermon about baptism, all of us getting baptised are asked to go to the stage.  There wasn’t 7 of us as first reported.  Nope. try 23 of us, from little kids, to teenagers, to adults older than me.  What could possibly go wrong?  You’re about to find out.

They went through every person asking their name and why they were getting baptised, except three of us who were going to give a testimony at length.  They interviewed three of us.  The camera showed a straight forward shot of the person getting interviewed, which was good.

I was stage right, near the end when halfway through this persons testimony my legs began to shake, like noticeably.  I couldn’t stop the tears and was shaking.  The cameras I don’t think picked up on this, thankfully.  I was the only one on stage that was doing this.  I sensed that maybe it was the presence of God on that stage with all of us.  Regardless of what it was, I felt extremely uncomfortable and wanted to be anyplace else but on that stage with everyone watching me fall apart.  I had to put my glasses up on top of my head because I wasn’t sure if I would stop crying or not.  Then the reverend motioned to me to come forward.

I started shaking right away and everyone could tell.  I know I am not that handsome, even remotely, onstage, now with my curly afro that can’t afford a haircut, oh boy, this isn’t going to go well.  I first looked down at my legs and said it’s pretty sad that I am wearing black pants and you can still see my legs shaking.  Then I looked at the interviewer and said I would be way more comfortable if I was on stage doing material instead.  Then I started my testimony with these words….

my name is Trevor and we all know why I am here to get baptised tonight.  I’m here because I want to finally be invited to all the cool parties at church

I had an additional tag line to say after that, but I was so nervous I forgot it.  But I got two quick laughs, and that settled me down.  My legs stopped shaking after that.  A friend who messaged me after the service said it was good that I was cracking jokes.  Um, it wasn’t cracking jokes.  I needed those laughs to save myself from becoming more of an embarrassment and a spectacle than I already was.

So I managed to ramble for a couple minutes without saying anything that had any real substance.  I looked horrible on camera and couldn’t produce an intelligent sentence with the world watching live.  After that poor interview, I went and got my bag to head upstairs to get changed.

Now, when they said they won’t miss the stairs in this church they weren’t kidding.  It seemed like there were several flights of stairs.  The stairways were as narrow as the walls that bordered them on either side.  We all changed and went downstairs to where the fellowship would be after service.  We lined up against the wall from youngest to oldest.  I was asked if I wanted to be the last one to get baptised.  I thought that would be an honour.  Then we were told what do to when we entered the tank.  We were to hold our nose with the left hand and hold on to that elbow with the right hand, bend the knees slightly then we would go under and come up again.

I’m the last one in the line, and the usher is behind me, maybe making sure I don’t feint or try to run away.  I then hear this very aggressive worship song playing, aggressive in the sense that it was like a battle cry, going to war against the enemy.  You could hear this awesome guitar riff and I was like holy cow, this is serious business.  Then you start hearing splash…………splash…………splash.  Uh-oh

The splashes were coming at quick intervals and we slowly started moving our way up the stairs with each person that went under the water.  Then it was my turn.  The last person.  They didn’t announce I was the last one, but after 22 others and if you were keeping count, you could tell I was the last one.  So I get in the tank, my frizzy hair up-close on camera.  The camera was probably just a couple feet from my face with the music playing, so nobody could hear what was being said in the tank.  I look awkward to begin with, and wearing that green shirt with my afro like hair didn’t make it look any better.  One friend wanted to show me what it looked like and I couldn’t bear to watch.

A prayer was said, then I went under.  For some reason I thought that I’d go straight back into the water.  Nope.  I was lead into the water kind of on an angle towards the pastor, maybe to make it easier for him to bring me up out of the water.  I went in on an angle to my left and my first thought was uh, this isn’t normal to be on an angle, is it?

Then in the water, I can’t say anything of significance happened.  I stayed there for a brief moment, as if to remind me what I was supposed to be dying to.  Then I came up and felt the same as before I went in.

I got dried off, changed and went downstairs after the service, where we received our baptism certificates.  But it seemed like a regular fellowship time.  The same people talked to the same people they usually do.  There were no gifts, no cards, no pictures.  I saw babies get baptised and they took pictures.  I envisioned that we would take pictures too in church after, but when there are 23 of you getting dunked, I don’t know, maybe nobody thought it was important enough to take pictures or with that many getting it done, there wasn’t much time to want to make it personal, you know?

My friends all left and I was there, alone, once again.  Coming home to my reality didn’t change anything even though I was supposed to be this new creation in Christ.  I didn’t feel like it.  My empty four walls weren’t asking me what was I going to do next.  I couldn’t hear anything.  There was just silence, and too many new questions that had no immediate answers.  My family never celebrates me, neither do my friends, and the impersonal nature of the mass-baptism made it seem like I wasn’t celebrated by my church family either.  I went home feeling like nothing had changed, feeling defeated.  No cards, no gifts, none of my friends could be bothered to post anything on my wall or their own to celebrate the occasion of my baptism.  Nope, they did it through a message on Facebook.  How impersonal.  It certainly didn’t make me feel like I did anything worthwhile.  If I can’t get people out to a show, how could I then expect them to celebrate me just once.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask, since I do the same thing with my friends, posting messages on their wall to encourage them, leave gifts just because at their workplace, or send them a card.

Some of the people that were going to show up but didn’t, couldn’t be bothered to send a message at all.  If an adult baptism was supposed to make me a part of the same team as the congregation, it didn’t feel like it.  People said they enjoyed my testimony and watched online.  I felt about as ashamed and sheepish as if a church member told me they watched a video of mine through my website, when I performed unclean material.

After I got home it was then where I realized the importance of my comedy coaching and the multiple failures I had on stage that seemed like they would never end.  I got a new perspective on comedy and stage presence from that blabbering excuse for a testimony.  Normally on stage a comic gets a laugh at the beginning with something short and sweet, to establish themselves, to gain credibility and get laughs to give the start of their set a lift.  Well, it’s more than that.

Getting those laughs from the church that night felt different.  It saved me from making an ass of myself.  It steadied my legs and gave me confidence to continue.

I am a failure at life and do not take for granted the things that most of you do.  I have never had a career, my job record is crap, I can’t find a decent woman to pursue (although that may have changed as of recently), my family doesn’t support me, I can’t afford a haircut or a carton of milk from the store.  I will be receiving funding from social services soon for the TEA program (transitional employment allowance) for people who can work but can’t find work.  The amount I get is only $586 per month, and I can only spend 500 on rent, or 65% of what I normally pay.  Until I get a job, I don’t have the money to get plates or gas for my vehicle, with only $86 a month to live on for groceries.  But there are a couple things I do better than most of you reading this.

One is making an impact in my community.  I’ve been doing that for years, and I message my friends on a regular basis to keep in touch.  The other thing I do that 99.5% of the population cannot do, is I have the ability to manipulate an audience to get what I want.  I need to get laughs.

It isn’t to satisfy my ego because I’m not sure I have one with the way life has beaten me down more than anybody I know.  I need laughs because they give me confidence that I’m on the right track, that I am doing something right.  People can no longer tell me that I suck because it isn’t true.  I have the ability to set up a phrase or joke, with timing, to produce laughs.  All the money I’ve spent on my comedy coach certainly paid off that night because without my ability to get a laugh or two at the start, I would have been a crying mess and make myself more of a spectacle than I already was with my bad hairdo.  Even the people in church who don’t talk to me, when I say hello they nod their heads and just keep on walking, I got laughs from them.  In that moment I didn’t feel like a failure.  For once, I didn’t feel like a minority in church.  Instead I felt like a majority because there I was, a professional comedian, doing what he does best, making the best of an awkward situation.  My friends let me down, my family let me down, the comedy community lets me down, but in that moment when everyone else abandoned me, I was able to cling to the one thing that gave me life, that kept me from falling any further, that kept me from making more of an embarrassing scene than it could have been.

Getting those laughs when they were desperately needed, when I felt like my life depended on it gave me a new perspective on things.

I don’t care if my life falls further into the toilet than it already is.  I don’t care if I don’t get my first assistance cheque in another month and have to go hungry, my hair can grow another couple months before I can afford to get it cut, it may be til the summer when I get my vehicle plated and put gas in it to attend the new church location that I’m unsure that I am really a part of, I could be evicted with all my stuff thrown out onto the back lawn because I can’t afford storage, I can sleep under bridges and have to shower every day at a leisure services centre, my clothes could stink from not being able to wash them, but I will NEVER, EVER, EVER QUIT DOING STAND-UP.

My life is in the tank to begin with and you can get on your high moral horse and tell me what a lousy employee I have been and how I won’t amount to anything in my life, but I will always do comedy.  The headliners and people that run rooms in the city still refuse to have me as an advertised act on their shows, some comics can still thumb their nose at my comedy coach but I will never stop pursuing comedy, I will never stop writing more material in one month than most comics can write in a year.  I will also stop trying to help others that don’t seem appreciative or respectful of what I am trying to accomplish.  I’m not here to help anybody else get better.  I am here to write good, solid, clean, Christian material being the only act consistently that is clean.

I am not one of these Christians that can sit back and wait for God to tell them what to do.  Nope.  I seek out opportunity and make it happen.  This is the year to put the rest of you to shame.  It’s time for ME to march to the beat of my own drum, make bold statements, think big, talk big, dream big, and do big.  Just because the baptism experience left me unchanged and not feeling like I’m worth celebrating, I will go out and seek new opportunities in comedy where one day, I might be celebrated.  I might be the star of the show.  People might take time to recognize me and publicly show their support.

I am also not doing a testimony at church ever again.  Why should I?  Who really cares in the end when nobody in church can relate to my story anyhow?  If anything, the next time I’m going up on stage will be when I do material as a stand-up comedian.  That is what I am trained to do, am capable of doing and am successful at doing.  You can walk by me with your nose in the air, but I can manipulate my material to take advantage of audience psychology and make you laugh.  I guarantee it.

You may think I’m a loser, but at least I’m a professional at something the majority of people are too scared or not able to succeed at.  My friends, family and the church family can make me feel like I’m a nobody, but when I have the mic in my hand, and everyone is paying attention to me, I can get what I need from each and every one of you, and that’s for you to laugh.  It may last for a couple of minutes, but considering that the rest of my life is a joke, it’s a couple of minutes I will gladly take.

 

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