Every so often I stumble across a neatly folded red t-shirt tucked way back in my closet when I'm organizing or looking for something. I'm always compelled to unfurl it, and unfailingly get lost in memories. It's my two-thousand-dollar t-shirt. I've never worn it. I'm not even sure I've ever washed it, but I have considered having it framed because of the price.
In spite of the sage words of my grandma, I never liked to stand out, preferring a safe place huddled in the masses. It wasn't that I didn't know how to sparkle—intentionally or not—but that there was no expectation of it. I had developed a quick wit over time and by my mid-20s knew when—and when not—to use it.
I began hearing "you should do stand up comedy" around that time. Though I didn't have anything against the idea, I had no concept of how to begin. Besides that, it looked terrifying. Alone. On stage. Dying. Being heckled. Scary stuff that I wasn't ready for.
But I had the benefit of living in the home of The Second City. And as I heard the "stand up" comment more and more, I began to understand that it was misunderstood by many people to mean improv comedy. A couple of years later my bestie and I began to consider seriously signing up to take classes at the venerable improv comedy institution.
Once we had decided it was time to pony up the $2,000 fee, we reported to 1616 N. Wells on March 15, 1997 (and still it feels like only a couple of years ago). My nerves were atwitter and my IBS went beyond teasing me to blatant torture. It was a sensation that never let up as class approached each week. It was terrifying—in the way only something that exciting can be.