Verity Johnson: Stand-up comedy is scariest thing you can do

Performing stand-up comedy is the scariest thing you can do

OPINION: Performing stand-up comedy is the most nerve-racking, sweaty thing I've ever done - and I'm learning to drive in Auckland.

When I walked on stage, the lights were scorching, I was blind and I was stumbling towards the microphone like that drunk uncle who wants to tell a 25-minute anecdote at a wedding only he thinks is hilarious.

That's about when I thought to myself: "I'm not funny."

But it was too late.

My final thought before starting to speak was, "I wonder if I should call my boyfriend's penis his 'noodle' or 'pork sword'."

This whole ordeal started because I'd reached peak irritation with watching bad stand-up. I knew I could do it, and do it better.

More importantly, I knew I'd never forgive myself if I didn't try.

So I signed up for Raw night at the Classic, shanghaied my workmate into doing it too, and spent the next two weeks determinedly doing nothing at all comedy-related.

Eventually, I realised I couldn't just stroll on stage and gulp desperately, so I started to write.

I wrote about what I know, and what makes me angry.

I'd take the ball of rage, embellish it, add a few references to meerkats... It wasn't going to move people to tears of hilarity. But they wouldn't be crying in pain, either. Hopefully.

Then came the worst part of the experience - the three days before the show. When people know you're about to do comedy, they flock to you to reassure you "you're so brave!"

It does nothing to calm the overwhelming feeling that you're about to wrestle a rabid monkey. I hated the nauseous slide towards it.

And then there I was, three minutes before walking out of the green room, in full-on cardiac arrest mode.

All of my senses had shut down. It was quiet, still, colourless and noiseless.

I've been on stage since I was old enough to be strapped into a blue knitted ballet cardigan. I've debated, MCed, acted, danced, hosted national TV, hosted national radio and even once wrote and performed a rap song as Kate Middleton.

None of that made me nervous. But right before walking out, I was terrified.

And then I went on.

I don't remember anything from that point until I came out after and smelt my best friend's perfume. She told me I was funny. Naturally. She knows that she has to say that if she ever wants emojis in our texts again.

But I didn't die out there. Knowing that it was over, and that I had been okay, was all I needed to know. It was over. Like an exam or a break-up chat. Done.

I don't know if I'll do it again. I get a real high from being live on air or MCing. But with comedy, the nausea and the stress eclipsed the rush of endorphins from being onstage.

I'm sure the high was there somewhere though... and if I can find my memory of it beneath the nausea, then I'll do it.