Over the weekend, I did something heroic, mind-blowing, but ultimately anticlimatic. Well, it was exciting for me but absolutely no one else. I competed in Funniest Reporter in Texas, and no, there is no video proof of it.
This happened because my editor — we'll call him Joe Pappalardo — forced me to do it. Yes, forced. I refuse to say "suggested" or "nudged." It's unclear if he chose me because (1) I'm newest on staff, (2) I'm the funniest on staff or (3) he knows I enjoy attention a lot. All kinds.
But Sunday night in Austin, I performed four and a half minutes of stand-up comedy alongside about 10 broadcast journalists, and somehow, by the grace of God, I was named the first runner-up, which means I am the second-funniest reporter in Texas — technically the funniest print reporter in Texas — and this hasn't gone to my head at all.
All of this was for Mainstream Mental Health, a nonprofit aiming to promote a better social attitude toward mental health.
Reporters telling jokes for mental health awareness. Seems odd. I would compare it to bakers playing in a charity softball game for diabetes prevention. (I hope you laughed at that. It was my opening joke. It doesn't take a lot to be the second-funniest reporter in Texas.)
I was first up for the night, and I don't know why that was. The event organizers simply said, "Paige is first," and there was no discussion afterward. As I waited behind the curtains leading up to the stage, I paced while listening to co-emcee Julie McCullough (former Playboy model and Kirk Cameron's ex-girlfriend) tell jokes about blow jobs and Cameron. But not together. The event organizer saw me pace and assured me no one is expecting Louis C.K.-level funny. This was for charity, and he was sure I would be fine.
McCullough introduced me, and I made my way to the stage. I wasn't really nervous about the jokes as much as I was concerned about looking fat onstage and what to do to greet and thank McCullough. Handshake? Hug? Double cheek kiss? One cheek kiss? Nothing? We landed on a handshake.
While practicing in my living room in front of my roommate's dog, I often spoke energetically and with a lot of confidence. When I began speaking into the microphone in front of a non-canine audience, I heard myself opting for a less confident, burnt-out persona. But the funny kind. Don't get me wrong. I was confident. I do not know why, but I was hella confident telling my jokes in a famous Austin comedy club.
My parents were sitting in the front row. Very close. Close enough that their table was touching the stage. This made me nervous for my third joke when I told the audience my initials are P.M.S. and asked, "What kind of assholes would do that to a kid?" The crowd laughed and my dad raised his hand. Apparently he enjoys attention as much as I do.
"I know what you're thinking," I continued. "They probably didn't do it on purpose. It was probably just a coincidence. But my middle name is Menstrual, so I'm not sure."
The crowd erupted. My parents gleamed with pride. I briefly considered stand-up comedy as a profession.
Halfway through my fourth joke, I realized I had forgotten a major part of it. I was supposed to ask if there were any Baylor Bears in the room at the beginning of the joke, but instead I forgot and had to interrupt my tale of receiving hate mail because of a story I wrote to ask.
"I wrote a story about Waco and received a lot of hate mail because of it. Apparently Waco locals really love their town," I said. The crowd giggled. I wasn't expecting that. Suddenly, I remembered I forgot the best part of the joke.
"Are there any Baylor Bears in the room," I asked. A table of young women began hollering. I quickly shut them down.
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"Oh, this isn't going to be good for you," I countered. The crowd laughed the hardest at that.
"Let's just get something straight," I began. "Waco is fine with the school that covered up rape, but it's mad at me because I think Joanna Gaines has terrible taste in home decor?" The crowd laughed. I felt satisfied.
All of this has done wonders for my confidence and nothing for my self-awareness. I'm tempted to add it to every bio under my name. I won't say that when I walked into the office Monday morning for our weekly editorial meeting, I was expecting a congratulations, cake and a raise — in that order. Instead I got a, "Nice!" proving that no matter what cool things you do over the weekend or how funny you think you are, your editor is always more concerned with how many page views it can garner.
Please share this with your friends so my editor is proud of me.