Don’t Laugh: Stories in Comedy and Embarrassment

I acknowledge I am in college to learn. There’s times when I’m more willing to accept that fact than others, though. It’s fine when I don’t know the answer in my stats class, because we’re all on the same level. It’s the performance ensembles that I’m in where I feel self conscious and afraid to make a mistake.

I currently play 3rd trombone in Big Band, Capital University’s highest level jazz ensemble, and a day has not gone by where I don’t immediately tense up at the idea of going to rehearsal. Our lead trumpet player, Rachel, has been in the ensemble for four years, while I’ve only been playing the trombone for three and a half. No normal person could expect me to play on anywhere near the same level as her. Yet, that’s exactly what is expected.

This blog post wasn’t sparked by the constant numbness I feel regarding Big Band. If you would like to hear that rant, find me any day of the week at 3 in the afternoon, I’d be happy to tell you about it. This blog post was inspired instead by my involvement in a production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”

Throughout my high school career, my theater and choir director insisted that I was a brilliant character actress and loved to put me in roles accordingly. Upon coming to college and having a resume filled with comedy roles, that’s immediately what I was thrown into again. There’s just one problem: I suck at keeping a straight face.

Which is really interesting, because I love comedy. I’m probably one of the only people who can say they’ve seen every episode of Whose Line is it Anyway?. I’m in the Fat Tuesday Debutantes, Capital’s improv comedy club. Yet, I really am terrible at improv. I tend to only be involved in “all plays” during Fat Tuesday Debs because I know that everyone else is going to come up with better scenarios and jokes during the small group games, and I’m more than happy to sit, watch, and laugh in the audience. And then there’s my problem in live theater. I have a very random sense of humor, so I tend to laugh at things other people don’t find funny (Or, if you ask Michael, I’m just laughing at his face). This is kind of a problem when playing a character who makes most of the jokes, though, because I tend to crack myself up.

I feel like I should clarify, for any future casting directors reading this, that I can hold a straight face with a little bit of practice. It just kind of makes me feel terrible that the first impression that a new cast gets of me is that I’m someone who is terrible at acting in comedies.

In a perfect world, my dream roles are bratty, wealthy royals who have a broken childhood. In Peter, I play a bratty wealthy royal who has a broken childhood. Oh, but I forgot to mention something. That character’s a tropical island king that speaks mostly in Italian cooking terms. My history of trap acting is a story for another time (they don’t call me the “trap queen” for no reason), but it’s surprisingly this character that gives me the most trouble in the show. I suppose that’s fair, as it is the biggest role of the four I double, but being so close to my ideal role, it’s quite frustrating. My character speaks mostly fluent English, but the aforementioned Michael, who plays my son, speaks very broken English on several occasions throughout the play. He delivers these lines with such a sincere face that I can’t help but burst out laughing (This is probably why Michael is a theater major and I am not).

I know, provided I get over the giggles before show night, that it’s not really anything to be embarrassed about. I know not being as good at playing an instrument that you’ve been playing for less than four years as someone who’s been playing for over ten isn’t something to be embarrassed about either. In high school, I was expected to be on top of everything in the music suite, being a darling in both the band and choir director’s eyes, but college is a new start, a new beginning and a chance to be embarrassed.

~Kelsey

Image from the public domain.

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