The People I Find: Comedian

It is not every day you meet a comedian. Last fall I attended a social media seminar put on by the well-known Thubten at Hotel 43 in Boise. I asked Megan what she did and she told me her usual response and followed with a comedian. She started telling me about a festival she was putting on, at the time, I had no idea how BIG of a festival she was putting together. She is a wonderful woman who gives women a good reputation in the comedian business. Take a minute to read her unknown story!

MeganMegan Bryant

(Photo cred: Boise Pro Photo)

I travel a lot. As expected on most flights, there are those friendly conversational types who generally kick things off with “traveling for work, or…?” The short answer is always “yes.” My favorite part is what comes next. “What do you do?”

“I’m a Project Manager of FEMA grants for volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention initiatives,”

“…and I’m also a comedian.” Then there is the inevitable pause and 9 times out of 10 they jump right to the comedian part of my answer. It’s always fun trying to explain what it really means, in my case, to be a comedian. First and foremost I am an improviser. I’ve performed with and managed my own comedy troupe, Chicks n’ Giggles Improv, since December 2009. I go on to explain the format of our short-form improv shows that include scenes and gimmick games that are based on suggested topics from the audience and improvised right then and there. Like “Whose Line is it Anyway?”

This is usually followed with “tell me one of your jokes.” Now, I’m also an amateur stand-up comedian so I can let them know the difference and remind them that what I just explained with improv means there are no prepared jokes. It always amazes me the perception that most people have about comedy. I feel it’s a special duty of mine to help educate them about the different types of comedy acts that are out there.

I often consider the lifestyle of a comedian. And just as often I question how I can fit into that group of people. Comedians are intense. Especially in the world of stand-up comedians, where quite often the goal is to expose your flaws and hardships (or those of others you may observe) in a way that brings people together because they can relate! Aren’t we all a little messed up? Well, the answer is YES, but I struggle with writing my material sometimes because my juiciest and most tragic life experiences aren’t really something I want to blab about. I like to LOOK like I’ve got my life all figured out. I can’t show any signs of weakness! The stereotypical comedy scene includes a lot of drinking, smoking, drugs, staying up late, and sleeping until 3pm the next day. Besides staying up late sometimes, I don’t do any of those other things.

I’ve worked in corporate America since I was 16, am actively involved with church, networking in the community, I’ve been married for 13 years, and I have 2 young children. Going out to open mics and hanging out in bars and clubs isn’t exactly my comfort zone, nor does it work well with my big-girl responsibilities.

During the past few years I have been learning how to bring my worlds together. My professional background and excellent hygiene help me to book corporate events for comedy shows and approach people for sponsorships for my events. I know my strengths and I play to them. I know I’m not the funniest person you’ll ever hear but I’m persistent, energetic, and highly ambitious.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have a special skill set that allows me to use comedy in many ways beyond the walls of a comedy club. I love to teach improv skills to youth groups and in corporate settings. Improv is my first passion. The simple rules of improvisation are uplifting and inspiring. When applied to your home and work life, these rules can provide a safe place to try new things, break through mental barriers, and get creative! As I’ve seen improv change my attitude and approach to problem solving in everyday life I’ve developed a desire to help others experience this same thing.

megan 2As an example, in early 2013 I created Hilarity for Charity to help raise money for local non-profits. Teaming up with organizations to put on a comedy show, coupled with a short educational presentation about their mission has proven to be a great success. Often times, charitable or non-profit groups are created to spread awareness about subject matters that aren’t easy to talk about. Cancer, child exploitation online, and an upcoming event focusing on suicide prevention are among the topics addressed. These comedy shows fill the room with laughter and build unity among the audience members, thus providing a platform for the sensitive subjects to be presented openly and comfortably. Laughter connects people and prepares them to be more receptive to important initiatives.

It comes naturally for me to get creative with ways to gather people together and get them laughing and feeling happy about life. Occasionally, I get a little too ambitious.

Enter, Idaho Laugh Fest.

I should start by making a confession. I did not WANT to put on a comedy festival. Not at first, anyway. I wanted there to BE a festival. I wanted to perform in a festival in my home town. I got tired of waiting and hoping one would happen. I went to a comedy festival in Wenatchee Washington in April 2012 and it was a fantastic community event. I realized then and there that if someone was going to put one on in Idaho, it may as well be me.

Some people thought I was crazy, and still do, but I had to give it a shot. I would rather try something awesome and fail spectacularly than float along in life quietly minding my own business. I’ve always believed you would go farther faster if you just start running and explore the path as you go. Putting on this festival was a lot like the time I decided to go for a run at night so no one would actually SEE me. Coincidentally, I also couldn’t see where I was going throughout the run, but I knew when it was over I’d feel good about myself. Earbuds in, power tunes blasting, sneakers laced, and I was off! Weaving around my neighborhood streets I tripped over a few things, got soaked by a sprinkler, and took a tree branch to the face. I learned some great lessons that night, including the fact that running at night is scary. More importantly, I didn’t die. I made it to my destination! I felt accomplished and now have this cherished memory.

Did I have a clear plan of how to put on a festival? Heck no. I had a vision in my mind of what I hoped it would look like on opening day and I just pieced it together from there.

For me, Idaho Laugh Fest is validation that you can take an idea and make it into a real thing. It was eye-opening, exciting, exhausting, and often an overwhelming process. Once it all came together I realized just how BIG it really was. From its inception I would regularly hear people say “wow, what an undertaking” accented by raised eyebrows and sounds of exasperation. I never thought of it that way. If I’d really considered how big of a project it was and how much work it would take I don’t know if I would have done it.

Putting on the festival was really no different from trying to make a career out of performing. It takes a ton of time and dedication. Most importantly it takes passion. I love to make people laugh and forget their cares even if it’s just for a few moments at a time. The physical benefits you feel when you are laughing and happy are so very satisfying to me. Having the drive to provide these good feelings for other people is what keeps me motivated.

So there we have it. A glimpse into the life of a overachieving wife, mom, Project Manager by day, comedian by night, Idahoan. Pretty glamorous.

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