Well, I’m trying to think of a more eloquent way to put it, but all that comes to mind is, “we did it!”
By “it,” I mean performing for 10,000 women at The Women of Joy Conference in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee last weekend. I was told there’d be 9,000 women at the event, which was already enough to make me squirm a little, but upon arrival I was corrected, “it’s actually about 10,000 women, only about a 1,000 more, so no big deal!” 😂.
When I first walked in and saw the venue space, I could not wrap my head around it, the chairs spread so far and so wide that not even a picture could capture it all. Surely the whole place won’t be full, I thought, but I thought wrong. The whole place packed out, women from all over the southeast and midwest, hungry for a girls’ weekend, a spiritual encounter and hopefully, a few laughs.
So that’s the “it” that we did: a show that size, for an hour, laughing all the way. And when I say “we,” I mean I absolutely could not have done it alone. We did it. First, my husband, Josh, who was with me every step of the way from the booking process to the week leading up to as I tried to prepare mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. After all, it takes a lot of work to make it look easy on stage!
Along with Josh goes a handful of people like my sister, Betsy, who joined us for the whole weekend, helped at the merch table and provided an overall sense of fun in the midst of what felt like a lot of pressure. She loved meeting all the ladies and by the end of the night she was signing copies of my book 🤣.
I’d never seen anything like it before, women and girls of all ages waited in line to get a copy of my book signed, grab a picture or just thank me for the laughter. Some waited more than an hour, many of whom met Josh and Betsy and enjoyed their company while waiting. By the time women reached me for a signature, Betsy and Josh had both signed the inside front cover… it was like signing a yearbook with some of my favorite people.
People kept thanking me for staying around, but I was the one who was grateful people would even want to wait to talk to me, let alone get a picture with me. My middle school self was thriving! “See kiddo,” I whispered back to her, “you’ll be alright, middle school is tough, hang in there!” The show ended at 9:30pm and we didn’t leave the venue until 11:45pm when the last person left. I was absolutely floored.
We went back the next day to sell more books and meet more people, we spent another four hours just talking with women and girls from all over, each with their own stories; some of struggle, some of triumph, all grateful to have had a break from it all just to laugh. “You inspire me to be myself,” one girl said, and that right there was worth it all.
Along with Betsy and Josh was my mom, who had been praying for me everyday since she first found out about me performing at Women of Joy. “I’m praying twice a day now, and so are my girls,” she said the week of the show (her girls are the ladies she prays with), “see, it’s not so bad to be on a southern lady’s prayer chain!” It was a clever jab at one of my jokes about prayer chains being a righteous way to gossip.
Other friends and family members joined in with encouragement and prayer as well. My dad and my mother-in-law often sent messages of encouragement or GIFS of love. Friends sent me voice memos and videos with words of support. Debbie, the woman who booked me and organized the whole weekend encouraged me like no other event planner/booker I’ve encountered. She cared, and she wanted me there, which made all the difference in the world for any amount of anxiety or nerves I might have felt leading up to it… I belonged there, and starting from a place of belonging versus trying to fit in is a game changer.
It’s not to say other comedy shows, producers and organizers haven’t been great, many have, but the spiritual piece is not something I’ve often encountered in the comedy world. I am neither a church comedian nor a club comic. I enjoy parts of both, but don’t fully resonate with either. I’m still in the middle of both my spiritual journey and my comedy journey. Social Media traps people into thinking they can’t grow any more, at least not in a public space. People think they need to find their audience and present their stance on everything they’ve “figured out.” While Comedy requires an audience, my goal in life is not to have an audience, and I certainly don’t have it all figured out. It’s an odd place to be… to still be growing, especially in public.
In some ways I still have a lot of healing to do from the church, unfortunately many people do, but unlike a number of “90s Christians” who’ve had some kind of awakening and decide to throw the baby out with the bath water, I simply can’t throw it all out. The church is still a wound for me, but I also still ache for the heart of Jesus and how He loves us. I still look for Him… in clubs, in churches, in theaters and bars… I’ve seen Him in all of the above, sometimes in the most unassuming of places. I’ve also wondered where He was, sometimes especially in the church.
I’ve been welcomed into churches and welcomed into clubs. I’ve also been “not a favorite” at churches and “not a favorite” at clubs. That’s life, some people will get ya, and some people won’t, and it’s okay. Even in my attempts to look for one, I’ve always had a hard time “finding my audience,” I just enjoy making people laugh, I don’t care who they are (I am a marketer’s worst nightmare). But, whether making fun of my own insecurities, oddities about the church, or just overall awkwardness of life, it’s like my sister Betsy said after my weekend with Women of Joy, “well, looks like you found your audience: 10,000 recovering Baptist women!”
The best part was I never went looking for that particular audience. Through the ebb and flow of life we all just found ourselves there, relating to each other, perhaps not about everything, but enough to see the good and enjoy each other’s company.
And so, another part of the “we” would have to be all the women who were there at Women of Joy (not all of whom were Baptist, I loved hearing one woman claim her Catholicism while able to jokingly add, “who else was going to bring the crippling guilt?” 🤣🤣. People who can laugh at themselves, I guess that’s my audience.
Hearing that many women laugh in unison was electric, almost unworldly. It was the first time it ever occurred to me that I hope Heaven has a comedy club. Maybe I will actually get to see Robin Williams perform one day, Gilda Radner too. I’m still unlearning a lot about church and relearning a lot about God, so I can’t claim to know much, but I do know that God has a sense of humor, and I think He gave me a dash of it, or at least lets me use it from time to time.
Even if I never get to experience anything like this past weekend again, I will forever be grateful that I got to experience it on this side of life.
“Thank you, God,” is something I mutter from time to time, whether as a sigh of relief or finally finding a parking spot. But as the last (not least) part of my “we,” I mean it sincerely when I say, thank you, God, that I did not go it alone, nor did I lose my sense of self, in the vastness of it all.
WOW Life happens fast! I’m actually a week behind in keeping this updated! This is last week’s episode of The Stay in Saturday Show, so feel free to read no more if you already caught it! (And if you did, thank you!!)
(This week’s is still uploading, so I’ll be back with another post soon).
Until then, incase anyone missed it…
“Piece by Peace”
Whether you’re going out or staying in, I hope you’ve had a great week!
I’m not gonna lie, this was a tough week for me, I waited a little too long to feel better in order to put my show together, but then I realized, maybe I could just include the reality of how I feel instead of pretend it’s not a real side of me.
There’s a bunch of pieces to all of us. This week may be a liiiiiittle different, but it’s made with the same heart and desire to make people laugh, as well as connect to our own emotions, whatever they may be!
I sometimes feel like I am two different people, protesting my own thoughts and emotion throughout a given day, this episode allows there to be room for all sides of each of us, differences of opinions and all.
I hope everyone is safe, sane, healthy and happy(ish) out there!
We got into Santa Barbara around 4pm yesterday. We flew in from Nashville, leaving the house around 4:30am to catch a 6am flight that routed us through Seattle, then Portland, then finally home after all direct flights were cancelled. Needless to say, I was exhausted. We got home in time to shower and start doing laundry, except I passed out before I could even get the clothes from my bag to the laundry basket.
I awoke to my husband coming in the room to change clothes in a bit of a hurry, “I’m gonna run to the grocery store just to pick up a few things.” After traveling for two weeks we didn’t have much food in the house, I figured we’d go tomorrow but he said the governor had just ordered a lockdown on California— no one was to leave their house except to exercise, walk their dog or go to the grocery store. All businesses except health care providers were closing. “Stay home!” was the message.
Truth be told, after the stress of traveling in the middle of the Corona Virus spreading, I was looking forward to having to stay at home for a while without the pressure or expectation of having to be somewhere or be someone.
In our travels we had made it to Michigan when things weren’t totally crazy yet, rumors of Corona spreading to California and Washington were starting to take place, but mostly we were just on the receiving end of text messages from concerned family members. I was aware that things were happening, but knowing my own self and need to remain mentally strong, I filtered what news I let in. Anxiety, panic, fear— All things I’ve spent years and thousands of dollars on therapy working through so they would not have a grip on me, crippling me from living my life. Mental strength will not make me immune to a virus, this I know… I still have to do my part to practice daily routines like washing my hands and taking my vitamins.
While mental strength will not spare me, it will keep me thriving and engaging in those daily routines that matter to get me through the tough times– to call loved ones, write letters, move my body and actually do the things that are being suggested we do to take care of ourselves during this weird time in history.
I had two shows in Michigan, packed crowds and everything still seemed normal— a little panic around the globe, but it seemed far away and the audiences in front me seemed ready to laugh and not at all like they had to rush off to the grocery store to buy toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
The hoarding had not yet begun, that I knew of. My last show was on a Thursday night. I woke up Friday morning to the headlines: “The NBA is canceled. Broadway’s gone dark. Disneyland is closed.” I had one simple thought, “Oh crap.” That was the moment I felt the severity of it. I read a few things and checked my email, the rest of the comedy festival I had been a part of was canceling the rest of their shows. People were complaining they weren’t notified ahead of time, “how come the festival wasn’t more organized?” I’m sorry but what company, organization or hospital was totally prepared for a pandemic to hit in 2020, really? A few psychics claimed they predicted it, and who the heck knows, maybe they did, but I don’t think you’re going to find a comedy festival relying on a psychic to help them prepare for what to do in case of a disaster.
“Grace, grace, grace,” I tell myself. We all need to extend more grace, or at least I do, hard as it is. Grace to the hoarders, they’re scared. Grace to ourselves as we figure out how much to eat, where to get soap, and how to be nice to people when we feel stuck and exhausted. And grace to the underprepared companies and organizations who are finding themselves in this type of a situation for the first time and are also trying to figure out how to navigate it. We all have a bunch of feelings right now. Minimal facts and lots of feelings makes for a scary combination– an “us versus them” mentality and that isn’t going to help anyone. I don’t have answers, but I have grace for the people who are also getting on my nerves as they spread anger, panic, fear and anxiety faster than the virus itself.
We left Michigan and proceeded with our trip. We arrived in Nashville where I was meeting up with my potential manager. “Meeting up” turned into being quarantined at he and his wife’s house as more news reports broke that businesses were to close and people were highly urged to stay home. Prior to arriving we had plans to stay with a friend but she had gotten the flu, saying it was “just the flu,” and I thought to myself only right now would people be saying “JUST the flu,” as if it was no big deal. Even still, we did not want to risk getting sick in the midst of traveling, and again I had to mentally navigate what was no big deal and what was a harsh reality.
We arrived in Nashville on a Saturday and things were still a little on the normal side. We went out to dinner the first night and brunch the next morning. Not a lot of people were out, but places were still open, people were still active. The air seemed different, but not yet eerie. By Monday morning the atmosphere shifted. Shops were closing, restaurants were on a to-go order only system. My friend texted me that she went to Chipotle and a guy ran to the door, dropped her order outside and quickly shut the door. It sounded like a drug transaction.
We spent days talking shop, sharing our stories and getting to know each other in a way we maybe wouldn’t have been able to otherwise given our situation. Tuesday night, Josh and I debated going downtown, just to get out of the house. Not everything was totally closed yet and one of our friends had wanted to meet up with us, the one who had the flu but was now better. I did not want to go, I didn’t feel comfortable going out knowing we might bring something back with us, especially when it’s something you can’t even see. Maybe if it had just been us, but staying in someone else’s home, who were older than us, not to mention, someone I wanted to manage me so I didn’t want to be the cause of his death before we even signed. I mean, I didn’t want to be the cause of anyone’s death at all (yes, my mind went there), but I was definitely looking forward to working with him in the long run. I also didn’t want to disappoint my husband or our friend, both who seemed eager to meet up in the midst of this chaos, and I struggled internally as we got in the car to make our way downtown. We weren’t even five minutes into the drive before the silence broke. We pulled the car over, talked it through and turned the car around.
By Wednesday we at least needed to go for a walk, but with it raining outside we felt a little trapped. We finally decided on going to the mall just to walk around. “NO ONE TOUCH ANYTHING” was the rule. Almost every store inside the mall was closed except for the arcade and Chick-Fli-A. The arcade? Gross. Of all the places to be open, the arcade is germ central! Chick-Fil-A? Praise God. Waffle fries, please. And some of those anti-bacterial hand wipes. The mall was almost silent, save a few noises from the arcade, making it the perfect setting for a horror movie.
We peeked in a grocery store on the way home just to see the empty shelves— no meat, cheese, bread, toilet paper, soap— entire aisles cleared out. The eerie feeling was in full effect. I had Lysol wipes in my pocket so if I had to touch a door or anything I was fully prepared. That was when it hit me, maybe Bob Wiley wasn’t so crazy after all, he was just before his time. (For reference, see movie “What About Bob?” with Bill Murray— a must watch during quarantine).
Wednesday night we sat around the dinner table, sharing jokes and memes we’d come across throughout the chaos of everything. At first I thought the jokes were hilarious, but by day four I just wanted to hear a joke that wasn’t about Corona. They all started to sound the same, and who came up with what first? Did that even matter? I would think of a joke or write a thought down and then I’d see it on someone’s Twitter or Facebook account. Dang it.
It makes sense, we’re all experiencing the same thing, and comedians are always looking for the punchline in a given situation, so everyone is coming up with the same stuff. “I feel like for comedians, once this whole thing is over it’s gonna be a race to see who can get to the stage first with all these jokes,” I said.
Almost every show I had booked up through April has been cancelled so far. I don’t mind if someone else gets to the stage first with the jokes, honestly, I’m already tired of hearing them. And yet still, I am a walking contradiction who in her exhaustion still thinks she needs to share her own jokes, or maybe fears she won’t be seen as having skin in the game if she doesn’t. Honestly, it’s a relief to know we all have to rest for a second. The stage can wait.
By the end of the night we had gone over the rest of our business matters. My husband poured us a drink and we toasted as I signed with my new manager. The world felt like it was falling apart, and here we were planning our future, clinging to the hope that despite our current circumstances, our future would be bright and full, with plenty of toilet paper for the taking.
Josh and I woke up at 4am the next morning to pack our bags and head to the airport, which brings us back to where I started— after a long journey with two layovers and an attempt to do laundry, me waking up to my husband getting ready to go to the grocery store because the state of California was going into lockdown. “Do you want to come with me or do you want to text me what you need?” He asked.
I was still a little groggy, “I’m confused, why do you have to go right now? I’m so tired. Can’t we go tomorrow?” He said it would probably be worse by tomorrow and we just needed to get a few things. My husband is never chomping at the bit to go to the grocery store, so it seemed important. I said I would text him what I needed. “You don’t want to go with me?” He asked. I laughed, “do you want me to go with you?” He paused and smiled, “well, yea. I don’t know what to get, I’ll get lost in the cracker aisle and we’ll end up with cookies and crackers for meals.” I love him.
As soon as we walked into the store I wanted to leave— the lines, the empty shelves, the sense of panic, I felt it all and I wanted to get away from it. I told myself to remain calm and walk slowly. Wait my turn, just breathe, I’ll be home soon. I’m not gonna lie, as a true introvert, I LOVE this whole social distancing thing. We saw two people we knew in the grocery store. My automatic response when I see someone I know in the grocery store— pretend I don’t see them. My husband’s automatic response— “HEY GUYS!!” Sure enough, he flagged down the people we knew. My only relief was that we did not have to hug hello and it was FINALLY socially acceptable! It was the rare feeling of “this is amazing” while out in public.
Yes, I love to entertain people and I feel alive when I am on stage, that is very real, but functioning in everyday life is a much harder story for me. Sometimes my biggest fear when people meet me is that they’ll be disappointed that I’m not like what they see on stage or on screen. Which goes back to what I was saying prior to all this— anxiety, panic, fear are things I already struggle with, I have to work hard to push through them. I’m sure this narrative is true for a lot of people, I’m not unique in that way. That said, Introverts, now is our time! Stay home, don’t touch, limit contact— we’ve so got this! I suspect the extroverts will now get a dose of what it’s like for us to function on a daily basis in an extroverted world. Grace, grace, grace.
Today we cleaned our house and then I called Richard, my 80-year-old (former) neighbor who lives in Ocean Beach, San Diego. Once a neighbor, always a neighbor. “Oh I’m so happy to hear from you,” he said, “you know I been worried about you— how are you? Are you feeling okay?” I told him I was great, mostly just tired from traveling. He kept telling me I needed to take care of myself, I told him the same thing. “What about you Richard, how are you doing?” I asked, “You need to be taking care of yourself!” I didn’t want to add anything about his age, knowing the elderly are some of the most vulnerable, they already hear that enough and I didn’t want to add to the weight of it.
Staying mentally strong is just as important for the elderly, or as I have recently learned, they like being referred to as “the older.” “Oh I’m fine, I’m doing great, don’t you worry about me. I’m still cancer free and it’s the best I’ve been in years. Plus I know what they’re saying about this thing and I don’t need to be worrying about me… I’m in my golden years, I can’t be thinking about how can I make it last longer, I’m gonna let someone else do that thinking. It’s you I’m worried about, you have a whole life ahead of you!”
I called to check on Richard because I was worried about him and here he was worried about me. I had to assure him multiple times that I was feeling great. He asked about my family and my husband. “I bet you sure are glad you got someone to be with during all this,” he said, and I agreed that it was such a gift. “Yea, it does make it better,” he said and he was quiet. I thought of him being alone and even though I knew he was “fine,” I worried about how and when he would get out to get food. I’d ask and he’d keep saying not to worry, he was doing fine and had enough. To my friends in Ocean Beach, please check on Richard.
Before we got off the phone he said “You know, there was this coach from North Carolina, Jimmy V., he had this quote ‘don’t give up. Don’t ever give up,’ and that’s what I want you to hear right now. Of course he died from cancer shortly after saying that, but that’s not the point.” We both laughed a little, not at him dying, but just the delivery of trying to motivate someone with “don’t give up” followed by “he died.” Maybe leave that part out in the delivery.
“But he didn’t give up,” Richard said, “and that’s what we gotta think, not to give up.”
What does it look like to not give up right now? With so many businesses closing, people begging people to support their company, their career, their art, their music— we’re all in the same boat. Most people are trying to figure out how to make this work, how to get financial support while they aren’t working. And honestly, I don’t know. I don’t know what the answers are. I know that truck drivers, delivery workers and health care providers are some of the most important people in the world right now, more so than any celebrity, artist or musician. We NEED this over looked population of people. At the same time, people are connecting through music, movies and comedy, things to keep their minds clear in the midst of the struggle. I see people giving away free content online to keep people motivated— free yoga classes and couch concerts. The online community has become an important part of staying connected while social distancing. What gets created in these dark times has the potential to be very powerful.
After Richard and I got off the phone I googled Jimmy V. and found the speech he gave before he died. He said something very profound while battling cancer, “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. But it cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul, and those three things are gonna carry on forever.” We cannot control a lot of what is happening right now, but we can control how it affects our minds, hearts and souls, which will greatly affect how we function and treat other people in the midst of this.
As we continue to quarantine, while appreciating the connection of the online community and social media, may we leave time and space to just be present. I think this was one of the greatest things Coach Jimmy V. had to say, and so I’ll end my processing with this…
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
It may be so hard right now, but here’s to having something really special at the end of it.
When you move to a new city and have to figure out how to introduce yourself to people and promise them you really are a comedian and you have no connections to the few venues there are but they should trust you and book you anyway, but they’ve never heard of you, which is fair… so you just start making introduction videos and asking people to share them and hope for the best.
Next up, resume videos if the comic thing doesn’t work out.
Hello Santa Barbara, I’m your new resident!
I also emcee weddings, host shows, speak at various events, paint murals, edit videos, write writings, bake goods, and if I don’t already do it, I’ll figure it out!
In December of 2016 I was pretty depressed. This isn’t one of those, “and then I did this and now it’s all better” stories, but I did do something and I have better days in the middle of the tough ones.
I started going to a Stand Up Comedy course. My way of getting “over” depression is to find something I like and something that terrifies me and do that. As much as I hate feeling nervous, it makes me feel alive.
I’ve always loved comedy. Other than T.G.I.F every Friday night and Saved by the Bell every Saturday morning, I grew up on Robin Williams (my heart still breaks), Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Lily Tomlin and Bette Middler, as well as Happy Days reruns so I was quite the Henry Winkler fan. Later in life I discovered Gilda Radner and I thought she was the greatest. There’s more too, but that’s good for now.
It’s not that I’m “over” depression. It never really goes away, even when it does disappear for a bit, it lurks or hides near by. I used to go through these really dark, heavy seasons and come out of it saying “and now I’m finally all better,” each time thinking I was over it, naive to the fact that life goes on and so tough times do too.
By December of 2016 I was 4 months into my depression, some days physically unable to get out of bed. I called a therapist and prayed and pouted and for 4 months nothing lifted.
I dreaded the beginning of the new year, I didn’t want to start it that way, I wanted an ending more than I wanted a new beginning.
I watched a lot of Netflix, unable to laugh but aware that what I was watching was funny. I’d say things to myself about wishing I could do that, frustrated I couldn’t, unsure if it was because of how depressed I felt or because I never really believed in myself enough to try.
I don’t even know what it was, other than knowing something had to change, as I had every reason in the world to be happy but wasn’t. I decided to do something I always wanted to do but was too afraid to do. I decided to sign up for Improv classes, except they were full. I noticed a Stand Up class, terrified of the notion, but feeling terrified at least made me feel something. Depression thrives in our comfort zones.
Desperate for change and in need of something to make me feel, I signed up for classes in January of 2017. I almost dropped out day one because everyone was funny and I was intimidated. But I made myself go back the next week. My teacher told me I had something special, which oddly enough, terrified me.
I realized I tend to want to just get by, do enough to make it look like I’m doing a lot, but not enough to actually take big risks, try hard things or even allow myself to be really good at them. People wouldn’t know, but I know. I tend to tone down JJ for the sake of making people comfortable, or at least to keep any expectation off my back of being better than I was before. Maybe it’s me I’m trying to keep comfortable. It’s lame, but it’s true.
I almost didn’t go back the third week because I didn’t know if I could be as good as I was the second week, but I began to learn it wasn’t so much about being good as it was just being true to yourself and having fun.
I began to just enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it instead of trying to become the next Gilda Radner. I think depression creeps in when I’m trying to be someone I’m not, when I’m hiding in my comfort zone, or when I forget that the little things matter, like doing something just because it makes me laugh. Or eating the cookie dough before you bake it.
And then, there was this…
After a few weeks into my second session of classes, I got to be an opener at The Comedy Store in La Jolla.
I’m not saying life is all better now and the dark days are gone. Truth be told, today is Good Friday and it has a reputation of being a really dark day, which was the case for me. But it doesn’t mean there aren’t still good moments, ones that make me feel really alive, even if only for 10 minutes… it’s totally worth it.
The little things matter, so does each little minute, and that’s enough to keep me going.