September 12, 2002

10259294_792996077377577_8034247668049405665_o12 years ago tonight, I did stand up comedy for the first time.

I never intended to do stand up comedy…but it started out when I was visiting my parents in Ohio.  My mother wanted to see a show called Tony & Tina’s Wedding.  We went, and it turned out several of my friends from high school and college were in the show.  I LOVED the show, particularly the Maid of Honor, Connie Mocogni.  8 months pregnant, smoking and drinking, not sure who the father of her baby was.  Might have been the best man, maybe not.  In any event, I promised myself if the show ever came to Bradenton, Florida, I would be in that show.  And the answer to my performance prayers arrived about 6 months later in a community theater audition.

Tony & Tina’s Wedding is an improvisational show.  There is a script, but most of the play is character and event driven.  You have a timeline and you need to follow it, while staying in character, while interacting with the audience in ways that you might or might not expect them to interact with you.  To prepare the would-be performers for the show, an improv class was offered by the director.  I signed up, and met other would be actors and comedians in that class.  I remember one of my assignments in the improv class was to portray a bank teller…with Tourette’s.  I did some funny faces with it, and several members of the class said I should try stand up comedy.   I filed that thought away…as I auditioned for the part of Connie Mocogni and got it.

Mindy Sterling and Traci Kanaan 2002
with Mindy Sterling at Judy Carter’s Comedy Conference, in November of 2002

After the shows ended in July of 2002, I began reading about stand up comedy and joke writing.  Our little group of would-be comedians met once a week to go over each other’s jokes, and on September 12th, we performed outside a vacant store front on Old Main Street, downtown Bradenton.  Each of us did 5 minutes of comedy, and then finished out “the show” with improv games.  It was a real thrill, and I got hooked and started writing and performing as much as I could.  Stand up comedy suited my life in 2002.  I chose it because it was less demanding than community theater, which had intense rehearsals for 6-8 weeks, 3 weeks of shows…then nothing.  I could write comedy and perform around my schedule and as a business owner, so I did.

And here I am…12 years later…still in the game.

Since 2002…I have driven thousands of hours across the country, often making below minimum wage, and staying in hotels that make even the most seasoned crack whores nervous.

I have endured rejection from a few haters, and relished in the hugs and emails from many.

I have experienced what seemed like hours of silence when a joke didn’t hit, to what seemed like years of laughter when a random off the cuff remark hit home.

I have enjoyed thousands of hours of what I call “pro bono” comedy.  This includes everywhere from making the Publix check out lady laugh, to sharing funny stories with several hundred people at funerals, including my father’s funeral.  Traci & Weight Loss

I made a conscious choice to silence the voices that said “You really should ____________.”  And I finally heard the little voice in my heart that said “If you do it your way, you’ll be happy.”  And I am.

As I look back over the last 12 years, I am proud because I have transformed myself from a 32 year old, severely depressed and overweight woman on anti-depressants, to a 44 year old vision of sexy, curvaceous fun and LOVE.  I went from hating myself and hating others, to forgiving myself and loving others.  I went from feeling that I was unworthy, to being a fountain of making others feel good about themselves.

What a wonderful 12 years it has been.  I’m so blessed to be able to do what I do, but I definitely have much more to accomplish!  So stay tuned…

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