WRITTEN BY LISA ALLEN
Frankie’s confidence had taken a nose-dive, but was going this far out of her comfort zone really the answer?
Stepping up to the mic Frankie’s nerves crackled with fear. The audience receded into darkness, a dazzling white spotlight fell across her shoulders, and welcoming applause faded to baited breath. This was it. The moment Frankie had been building up to for weeks: Open Mic Night.
She’d rehearsed in secret a hundred times – in the mirror, on the bus, even in the shower – but now, as clouds of dry ice drifted low across an actual stage, an actual stage Frankie stood front and centre of, her head turned dizzyingly foggy. Frankie opened her mouth to speak, but the only words she could hear screamed silently in her head: Frankie you idiot! What are you doing here?
“But what if everyone laughs at me?”
It was Friday night. Frankie and her sister Laura were sharing a pizza and bottle of wine, slumped on the sofa in front of their favourite TV show.
Laura spluttered on a mouthful of pizza.
Frankie, that’s the whole point of comedy nights – making people laugh!
“You know I can’t tell a joke without getting the punch line wrong.”
Laura snorted. “Yeah, but you’re funny. You are! Remember that story about tripping over your own foot and sliding halfway down the bowling alley lane in front of your new boss at the work’s team do? It was hilarious.”
So many embarrassing memories. Frankie wished she’d never mentioned her lack of confidence to her younger sister now. Frankie hadn’t always been so down on herself. A decade ago she had a great social circle, a handsome boyfriend, and a career she enjoyed – but as friends paired off and set up home, she and her boyfriend called it quits.
A rollercoaster of ups and downs had spun Frankie around until she’d felt quite lost on life’s path. It was only lately, spending so much time alone, she realised she’d become a shadow of her younger self, but it just felt too difficult to get out of the rut.
Laura persisted. “The only way you’re going to build up your confidence is to push yourself out of your comfort zone.”
Frankie arched an eyebrow. “Yeah, because embarrassing myself on stage in front of a hundred strangers is going to do wonders for my self-esteem.”
“It won’t be a hundred strangers,” said Laura, grinning, “I’ll be there.”
Frankie shot her a look. “Oh, well if it’s only ninety-nine, then sign me up!”
Laura laughed. “A quiet guy from my office performed at an open-mic comedy gig and said it was brilliant.”
“He was obviously good at telling jokes,” said Frankie.
“Oh, no!” Laura waved a hand. “He was terrible – got booed off stage and everything. It was totally cringeworthy!”
Frankie’s eyes widened, horrified.
“But he said, just having the courage to give it a go massively boosted his confidence. After that, everyday challenges like speaking up in work meetings were a doddle.”
Laura’s voice softened. “You should give it a go, Frankie – when we were kids you were always being silly and entertaining us. Be that girl you used to be.”
Frankie couldn’t remember a single word of her performance and the last ten seconds on stage had felt like hours.
“Getting bored now!” A voice heckled from the crowd prompting a ripple of laughter around the theatre.
Frankie stared helplessly into the audience, her heart hammering. It was mortifying. As the onlookers grew restless Frankie’s cheeks burned beneath the spotlight. She turned to walk away feeling utterly humiliated when a second voice heckled, “Don’t fall over!”
Frankie halted, a smile unravelling across her face. Laura! Her own sister was heckling her! Laura wasn’t being mean. She was reminding Frankie that she could do this.
Spotting Laura waving her on from the audience, Frankie stepped back to the mic, hesitating, before saying, “You probably won’t believe this, but I’m not actually a professional comedian.” A murmur of bemused chuckles relaxed Frankie’s shoulders. “But sometimes my life definitely feels like a joke,” continued Frankie, the audience warming to her now. “So let me start at the beginning…”
Frankie finished her story to a roar of laughter, her heart thumping with happiness. She felt her heart glow as she soaked up their applause.
Frankie wouldn’t be receiving a comedy award anytime soon, but tonight her confidence had finally returned, and that was the biggest prize she could ever have asked for.