It is a well known fact that mankind’s number one fear is death. The second greatest fear is public speaking. If one can overcome the second fear, they become one step closer to living a life without fear.
Last Friday night Kuwait witnessed an event like no other in its history – an open mic night. Normal every day people who believe in themselves enough to brave the stage before a crowd of strangers were each given 5 minute spots to showcase their talents. The venue was Argeela Bar in Salmiya (follow them on Twitter for updates here).
There were rappers, musicians, guitarists, poets and comedians (two – a pro and a first timer – me!)
I arrived at the venue right on time, managing to find myself a sweet parking spot directly in front of the place. My palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms heavy, like a scene out of 8 Mile. I had never done this before, EVER.
My public entertainment career can be summed up in two events:
1) Toastmasters – one time appearance. I cannot recall what I spoke about but, I was standing before a crowd and NOT picturing them in their underwear.
2) My now infamous terrible rendition of Psy’s Gangnam Style dance after the Kuwait Charity Run’s Half Marathon last November. The runner’s world recognizes me, just the other day as I was approaching two strangers to ask them to join my running initiative, one of them asked if I was the Gangnam runner!
So, there I was, walking into Argeela Bar. My first conundrum came when I could not find my name on “the list”, like it was a sign I should not be there. Later I found out I was checking the guest list, and I was there as a performer.
The venue started filling up quickly
I greeted the host who put this amazing ensemble evening together, the Master (or is it Mistress? I digress) of ceremonies, and by far the funniest woman I ever did meet, Alexis, a.k.a Lexi, freshly arrived in Kuwait and already mixing it up. She was extremely sweet and very supportive, she even gave me the green light to make fun of her in my act (maybe next time!). I was given the 7th spot (lucky number 7), just before intermission.
The greatest attraction of the evening – Lexi the MC!
As I took a seat I looked around and saw that I was surrounded by guitars, amplifiers and strangers. I was a nervous wreck but everyone around me was cool as a cucumber. I sat at a table with another talent, a poet named Lorenzo, who later would amaze everyone with his deep poetic insight.
I was furiously writing and rewriting my bit, adding new ideas, removing ones that I believed would not get a laugh out of the crowd. I must have seemed quite the nerd sitting there with a paper and pen, with everyone tapping away at their iPads and smart phones.
me: “I think I’m pretty funny”
The Rock: “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOU THINK!”
People started arriving in throngs, packing the place to capacity. I surveyed the room to get a feel of the crowd and realized that some of my material would not be understood, so again I took pen to paper and amended the ideas. Fortunately for me, I had a mentor in the crowd. George Tarabay, an established and professional comedian gave me valuable pointers, the best being to put down the pen and paper 5 minutes before my bit. I obliged, only sneaking a quick glance at my sheet every other 5 minutes!
Due to late arrivals, the show was delayed by half an hour, by then everyone had taken a seat and there was quite a crowd standing at the entrance. Lexi took the reins of the show and introduced the first act, a duo of rappers straight out of Kuwait.
O-Zone & Abstract (in blue) The Dynamic Rapping Duo
It was only at the end of the bit I was struck by the stark (say that 10 times fast, I dare you) realization that the majority of Kuwait’s talent happen to be in their Teenage years! I took a second look around the crowd and realized that quite a few were probably dropped off by their parents. That is an untapped resource of talent that only gets a chance to shine during school talent shows or band battles.
The countdown had begun with the cessation of the first act, I was one performance closer to my own. Fortunately, I had friends in the crowd that soothed my nerves, and promised to laugh out loud no matter what (cheating I know).
You gals are the best! =”)
A breath of fresh air swept over me when I heard Lexi mention that to many of the performers, this was their first time standing before a live audience. She never failed to admire the courage that the performers demonstrated by standing before a crowd. When you dare to step up before a group of strangers, to step out of your comfort zone, you discover the amazing ability you have within.
One woman shined above all others, with a heart provoking poem written for her unborn daughter, which you can read here.
The musicians took center stage and thrilled the crowd with both renditions as well as original pieces. The euphoria of witnessing their bravery was contagious, and pretty soon I was wondering why I ever felt nervous. Then it hit me, music covers the sound of people talking, whereas in my case, I would need to do so with laughter.
No pressure, no pressure.
The final bit, please ignore the table, I’m not THAT big a nerd, I was merely recycling paper
After what seemed an eternity, my bit had finally come up. Lexi set the mood for me by informing everyone that I was a comedian and not a pro, that this was my first time, and that should I fail to make them laugh that they would not heckle me, and instead just stare at me judgmentally.
No pressure. No pressure.
My first two jokes were greeted by icy silence. People did not see the humor in the moniker of Stand Up Comedy Kuwait (S.U.C.K) nor did they take kindly to me asking the laughers amongst them to tickle the silent ones. Fortunately for me, George took notice of my plight and applauded, which got everyone else applauding, which gave me my second wind.
Celebrating with my friends
The most amazing feeling afterward was having strangers come up to you and say, that was good, you really made me laugh. It was invigorating. The best thing about the whole event was that it can only go uphill from here. Once you break that first barrier of fear and uncertainty, everything will fall into place.
Refused to perform a solo piece lest his friend in the audience accept to be his valentine. Smooth
The rest of the evening was equally incredible. It was truly breathtaking to be made aware of all the musical talent available in Kuwait, from young Romeo’s who wrote ballads for their Valentines (albeit with a hint of inappropriateness given their young age) to Semi-Pro Rockers the likes of Ayle Noah. The singers (such as Bashayer) stole the show with an amazing set of pipes, and I made sure to let them know that.
Ras, a talented vocalist
Finally, with the last performance of the evening redefining people’s understanding of musical talent, the show drew to a close. Everyone was forever changed by their experience, both performers and audience alike.
These performers were not amateurs, they were enthusiasts. They were not practicing a hobby, they were following a passion. And that is the first step on the road to perfection.
May they all remain steadfast in their journey towards self discovery, and continue to enlighten those around them.
none can wipe the goofy smirk off my face!
Lexi in the house!