Comedy Set List

I just finished Jessica Pan’s book “Sorry I’m late, I Didn’t Want To Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes,” while surviving the COVID-19 quarantine. In retrospect, reading this right now was a bit ill-timed. The author’s journey inspires the reader to be more outgoing and meet new people, however, currently all of us are actively trying to not go out at all and avoid contact with everyone.

Regardless, I was entertained by her stories of getting out of her comfort zone and trying new things (my favorite!), especially the bits about her attempt at improv and stand-up comedy. It inspired me to also attempt  writing and performing a stand-up comedy set, as being stuck at home has forced me to get creative to prevent insanity and boredom.

A tiny bit of backstory before I share my set

I am perhaps a confusing, outgoing introvert. I have no problem putting myself out there, meeting new people, and trying new things, but consequently need large amounts of alone time. I figured if this painfully shy, introvert author Jessica Pan (who has very little comedic talent) can do it, why couldn’t I? How hard could it be? With very little googling, I found a few sites on how to write a comedic set. I chose an exercise that began with listing things I hate, then going back and writing out why I hate them.

I tried reading my list out loud. I was way too embarrassed to let even my family hear this nonsense, so I locked myself in the bathroom and did a hair brush iphone video. What ensued was terrible, and full of awkward, minute(s)-long pauses. I found myself trying on voices and idiosyncrasies of my favorite stand up comics (I’m sorry Angela Johnson and Ali Wong. I know I am neither a sassy Latina nor a snarky, tiny Asian woman and only sully your amazing talent and hard work).

I did rewrites while listening to my soon-to-be-deleted stand-up video, and found myself just wanting to write a comedic essay, like my favorite comedic writers ( Tina Fey and Mindy Kaling). While I don’t see them doing Netflix stand-up comedy specials, I do see them performing on TV shows that they wrote and holding gleaming, golden awards afterwards. That realization felt more like me and my INFJ (i.e. Meyer’s Briggs personality profiles) proclivities of feeling like I express myself best through writing, and also showcases my love of a long, passionate rant.

Here we go.

My comedic essay attempt

I’ve lived in the Northeast (which to me, does not include New England or any state below the city of DC) for most of my life, and we Northeasterners are survivors. Not only are we amazing at adapting to volatile change, but we know how to survive better than the Doomsday Preppers. These preppers swear they’re better than those of us who, you know, reasonably buy just what we need for like, a week or two into our future.

Doomsday Preppers prepare for social collapse like the apocalypse could happen at any time. They stockpile food all intensely intentional and diligent, like serial killers, with their underground bunkers and knowledge of how to eat earthworms to survive. I mean…I wouldn’t say no to being friends with them (because what if, you guys), or to every once in a while sharing a glass of their funky moonshine or the weird barrel wine they’ve been aging since they were in diapers. 

In the Northeast, you have to be prepared inside and out just to leave the safety of your home, especially in the winter. You’ll know you’re good when you see the snowflake crystals all over your car in the morning and know that means it’s not going to start today. You have prepared for this with so many layers of clothing that you’d have to turn the steering wheel like a stiff-armed zombie who can’t feel their frozen face, never mind touch it before your nose falls off.

Layers are our only chance for survival here. Ladies start out with their bra as a base layer. You pick the soft one, that not only isn’t sexy at all, but doesn’t chafe, dig, or excavate the shit out of your delicate, winter-dry baby skin, nor does slice it with with metal wires and sharp hooks like a paper shredder. On top of that you add a sports bra for protection, or more for in case you have to randomly sprint for that last cronut and you don’t want your boobies bouncing around like they’re trying to save themselves and can’t figure out which way is up from down to escape. 

A tank top goes next, with tiny, useless spaghetti straps, that will pop off the minute you bend over to get your cronut off the floor. Because in this part of the country, if we have 3 seconds to choose between a broken spaghetti strap or a delicious pastry, sacrifices will be made for our daily dose of carbs.

On top of that nonsense, you throw on an office appropriate, sweat-absorbing t-shirt. This layer is to prepare for Jessica, that twenty year old, tiny-ass grandma in your office that feels a sudden “chill” everywhere and cranks the temperature up to tropical. “It’s my hypothyroidism.”

No, Jessica. It’s the ghost of your horrible college choices relentlessly haunting you now and forevermore. While Jessica shivers and pulls on her knit shawl, the equatorial office heat causes you to literally die of thirst. On your deathbed you pray your ghost isn’t as basic as Jessica’s, and at least has a badass toolbox of torture techniques other than lame goosebumps and cold drafts.

You are now sweating in February and forced to head back out to the cronut store to get an iced coffee to revive yourself, running with titties all in a tizzy again, wishing Jessica had just been a good little nerd who spent her weekends studying and getting straight A’s instead of a becoming an iron-deficient, murdering psychopath you now have to share a Caribbean office with. Love you, girl. 

Next up in this lasagna of layers, you have a long-sleeved shirt that says “Go Eagles.” It’s thin enough you can fit a turtle-neck over it, the kind that keeps you warm and chokes the shit out of you but, again – and I can’t stress this enough – not in a sexy way.

Then on top of that, you throw on a faded Old Navy hoodie that has a greasy, lo mein noodle stain on it kinda shaped like Jesus’s face so of course you can’t wash it. Instead, you zip up a thick, puffy vest over it, because how dare you neglect the warmth of your nipples and belly button. The absurdity. Your arms are totally fine dangling out in the cold, fending for their damn selves. 

Lastly, the most important item of all: a king-sized, alternative-down stuffed, puffy jacket that reminds your of your bed and makes you feel like a real idiot for ever leaving it’s warmth and joining the world’s arctic temperatures. Yes, it has to be alternative down, for two reasons:

First, because East Coast allergies prove that nature is trying to slowly kill each and every one of us with its high pollen count. Not only will you not be able to see out of your itchy eyes or breathe out of your runny nose holes, the allergens will try to slowly suffocate you by inflaming your lungs. Nature’s hatred runs deep out here.

Second, the alternative-down choice is definitely not to save any geese and their fancy feathers. We are clearly not on nature’s side, nor is the goose considered our majestic friend. We have no love for our visiting geese from Canada and their green and white poops you can’t avoid in any single, random square foot of grass.  “Geese Management” is a proper vocation out here. Single girls be like, “ Oh, you’re a doctor, and your side hustle is Geese Management? Nioce.” We hate these geese the way we hate the Spotted Lantern Fly that ate our trees last summer. Men, women, and children of all ages banned together as a coast-like Gaston and the angry mob that wanted to kill the Beast-to stomp and murder all of them immediately upon sight. It was a collective massacre and we’re proud as hell of it. 

Except, we can’t do that with geese. Geese are terrifying. They will attack you and chase your toddlers. They will honk at you until you let their whole damn family of 50 slowly waddle across the road. They will breed like bunnies and it will be adorably, horribly awful. 

Evil nature with its allergens, geese, and spotted lantern flies aside, the perfect, North Eastern winter jacket has to be a floor length gown, that can be converted into a -55 degree-proof sleeping bag. You do not want snow that is yellow, black, (or any colored snow, honestly) touching your delicate ankles or soaking into your boots while you waddle-run like a burnt burrito down the street to the cronut store. To avoid dirty looks or spit in your food, buy it in black to match our dark, sunshine-less souls, (plus the dark color hides the dirt longer) thus proving you are one of us. 

Once you’re all geared up and wearing as many items of clothing as a college kid in an airport, it’s time to look yourself in the mirror and go over the next three important things before you step foot outside your home. No, my dear, vain-ass West Coasters, it’s not to check your nose, teeth, and hair to make sure they’re perfect. That is not a thing here. You crazy. 

First, you need to check your smiling ass at the door. Get that happy-go-lucky attitude out of your system, and make sure you have none of it left before you walk out. If you show up to the cronut store with a smile on your face, you will not be trusted. At a minimum, you will get an eye roll and whatever paper-bagged item they decide to give you other than the one you wanted. You will not be seen as normal member of this society, and if we as good citizens see something, we will say something. Most likely to the police and our friends about your weird happy ass. 

Second, remind yourself that you aren’t going out to make friends, and that realistically, no one will like you nor will they pretend to like you. Boost your own confidence now. Go ahead and do a quick tally of friends, family, and people that actually seem like you. We have no love for geese, and we have no love for strangers. We will not like you, nor feel a need to be liked by you. That is off the table, and if you try to put it back on, we will smell that mess a mile away and you will regret ever leaving the house. Which leads me to our final survival checkpoint…

Third, and perhaps most important of all, look in the mirror to make sure that you are not actually invisible. No one will randomly wave or smile at you, they won’t see your car when they cut in front of you, no one will make eye contact with you on the subway, and no one in the service industry will immediately serve or acknowledge you. You are no one outside of your own home. Prepare to be very patient, or better yet, prepare your mental toolkit of obscene gestures and things you are comfortable shouting to get attention.

Here in the Northeast, passivity will get you nothing, while aggression will at least get you a cronut.  

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