"When doing online comedy, I had to issue a warning that if I start stammering, it’s not the wifi that’s playing up!"
I approached the microphone and opened with the usual joke for the audience to give me time to speak when I start stammering during my stand up. Then I didn’t stammer even once during the set, leaving the audience utterly confused.
Thankfully I wasn’t done for false advertising. But why do something that could potentially give a heart attack to most people, let alone those with a stammer?
I worked for a charity and after seeing volunteers living with cancer do a stand-up comedy course, decided to try it myself. Everyone on the course was encouraging and I developed a set based on someone living with a stammer going on dates, such as the time I met someone who didn’t realise I was stammering and almost dialled 999 thinking I was having a
fit (after that, the date went so bad I started to wish the emergency services had been called).
I was so nervous at the end-of-course gig, my stammer turned my ‘tight five’ set into a ‘loose ten’. But I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment afterwards so then attended various open-mic nights. Although the organisers can be strict about the timing on stage, each promoter I have met has been supportive and allowed me extra time if my stammer starts. Which is just as well.
Thanks to the unpredictability of stammering, there’s been times where I’ve smoothly sailed through sets and other times when I’ve been wondering if I’ll finish before closing time. Talking about stammering at the beginning minimises the occurrences but it can be a challenge to keep being creative with opening lines and segue ways. I’ve moved on from writing
sets about stammering onto other topics and found character stand-up difficult to do as this increased my stammer. When doing online comedy, I had to issue a warning that if I start stammering, it’s not the wifi that’s playing up so the viewers at home don’t start harassing their internet service provider helplines.
Overall, stand-up has helped me enormously. I’m now vocal in work meetings and not shy of speaking in front of large audiences at conferences. I’d encourage anyone living with a stammer to try a stand-up course.
At a recent Scottish Stammering Network workshop, we talked about ‘moving towards the fear’ – stand-up will help you not only move towards it but literally jump up and down all over it. The chances are you are not exactly short of material to write about either. Especially when dating.
Everyone has a different journey with their stammer. SSN could be your step in the right direction. Find out how to get involved with our support groups here.