Where was I?


You guys.  I’m onstage.  In the middle of my one-man show. And I don’t know what my next line is.  

How is that even possible?


Wait.  What was I just saying? I had the thing in the dorm room with the girl, and then the scene with the British guy.  And then… the lights changed. So it’s one of the nighttime scenes…okay, then it must be the part where… uhhhhh…fuck.

This happens sometimes.  Even though I’ve performed this show dozens of times, I still will inexplicably go blank onstage.  It’s a storytelling show, so I try to hold my lines at arm’s-length to create the illusion that I’m “thinking on my feet”.  The danger of this is, of course, FORGETTING THE LINES.

Just going to have a sip from the ol’ waterbottle, here.  I wonder if the Tech is following along on her script…

Before the show, I always check in with my tech person.  I’ll always ask, “So. You have my script still, right? Okay. Aaaand you, like, follow along still, right? Cool cool cool. Yeah no reason. Just make sure you’re always following along. *ahem* Y’know. In case one of us gets lost. [awkward forced laugh]”

What am I going to call “Line”?!  C’mon.  That’s ridiculous. Seriously, though.  What the FUCK is THE NEXT LINE?!  I just had a long, indulgent sip of water and I’m still not talking – and I’m starting to think that the audience is noticing that nothing is happening.

What am I even doing here?  Why am I talking to these people?  This is a strange thing.  I’m talking about falling in love for the first time to a room full of paying customers?  Why does this exist?

Aw man.  When I had that sip of water, I think a drop landed on my crotch.  I wonder how many people look at my crotch when I perform.  I feel like I look at crotches.  It seems like a natural thing to do.  I feel like whenever anyone is onstage, I kind of objectify them.  And it’s not just women.  I feel like even if it’s a chubby, bald guy, I can’t help but wonder what kind of sex they have.  What kind of people they attract.  What they look like naked.  Not necessarily in a sexualized way.  Just.  I wonder what they look like when they’re in the locker room at the Y.  That’s a strange thought.  I wonder if people wonder that about me.  Maybe no one does.  Maybe I’m a creep.  A creep who doesn’t know the words to his own goddamned show.

Well. The good news about screwing up in a one-man show, is that you’re only ruining it for yourself.  It’s not like I’m letting down the team or anything. I’m just letting down myself.  Psh.  I do that all the time.

How’s the audience doing? Are they still with me? Let’s see. That woman is knitting. She’s fine. This couple over here look like newlyweds.  They keep exchanging knowing glances when I talk about falling in love.  This guy over here is uncomfortable.  He wishes my show was funnier.  He’s not so into the lovy-dovy stuff.  When I was flyer-ing him in the beer tent earlier, I might’ve let on that this show was just a straight-up comedy.  Because I knew that that would get him here.  I misled him.  I’m such a greasy, used-car salesman sometimes. But I have to be.  This is my livelihood.  Aw.  I’ll win him back. Some of funniest parts are coming up.  

The whole “out of body” thing is a real thing that happens onstage.  You just go into autopilot.  It’s like driving. Sometimes, your mind is a million miles away.  But you’re still driving.  And there are still innocent bystanders hanging in the balance. Your balance.

Alright.  This “thoughtful pause” I’ve been taking is officially off the rails.  It’s been 8 or 9 seconds of silence.  That might not sound bad, but go watch a clock tick 8-9 times and imagine you have 60 sets of eyes on you, and you don’t know words.  The room is so quiet, I can hear that man’s nose whistle when he breathes.  He’s a loud breather.  He makes me sad that James Gandolfini just died.

I wonder how much longer I can get away with not saying anything before people start rioting and setting things on fire..? Maybe 3 seconds tops.

The line.  The line the line the line…. 

I feel like such an amateur.  I honestly set a high standard for myself.  I work hard on the script. I try to write something that I would like. I try to say things in an interesting way.  I eat well.  I warm-up properly.  I run the lines to my show every morning while I drink my coffee.  And still.  Here we are.  At amateur hour.

Maybe this is why I’m a “Fringe” Artist.  Maybe that’s what I am.  Maybe I’m destined t–


And then I carry on.

And no one suspects a thing.

3 thoughts on “Where was I?

  1. This used to happen to me when I was a tour guide. Sometimes I would worry that I was repeating the same thing over again because I lost track of where I was on account of the auto-pilot.

    Interesting to read that it happens on stage too. I suppose it makes sense. Haven’t had it happen to my stand-up yet. Guess that means I’m not doing it enough! 😛

    Hope you have a great Toronto run! 🙂

  2. Ugh – I clenched everything reading this. It’s the worst feeling ever. You can kind of get away with it in stand-up – I just ask the audience: “What the hell was I just talking about?” but in storytelling/one person shows it’s a sickener.

    Good luck with your show, Sam – I’m hoping to get to see it. xoxo

  3. Nice post Sam! I can really relate to your description of the “oh shit” whats my next line moment? So true. By the way Adelaide, Australia has one of the biggest Fringe festivals in the Southern Hemisphere. I have some contacts with the Fringe festival here so get in touch if you might be interested in bringing your show to Australia.

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