Stepping Out

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Laughter is fifteen-year-old Paige Larsson’s currency in life. It takes the sting out of life’s tough stuff. It eases the pain of nasty comments, agonizing moments in gym classes and awkward pauses at parties. Paige likes it even more when others laugh with her, so she’s become a YouTube comedy vlogger. Now Paige is about to step out of her comfort zone and compete in the prestigious International Teens in Comedy festival. But Paige has always used her humor to mask the pain of her disability, and in the world of stand-up comedy, that won’t cut it anymore.

What People Are Saying

Langston packs a lot into this quick-moving novella. An entertaining and effective glimpse into stand-up.
– Kirkus Reviews

The messages of courage and being comfortable in your own skin are ones that any teen or pre-teen could benefit from. Highly Recommended.
– CM Magazine


Carly has to be kidding. My eye twitch spreads to my cheek. Isn’t this the first sign of a stroke? My two best friends are trying to kill me. “No way,” I manage.

“Yes, way.” Hunter smiles. “They’ll be sending you the official letter soon.”

Blood thumps in my ears. This is crazy. “I got shortlisted for the ICTF?”

“I know! Isn’t it unreal!” Carly’s voice is one decibel below a screech. “You’ve been working so hard and doing all these amazing videos and you’re finally getting the recognition you deserve.”

I have been working hard. Doing the vlogs. Networking with other YouTubers. Comedy is what I want to do with my life. Making people laugh comes as easy to me as breathing. Although right now the breathing part is a problem since I feel like I have an elephant on my chest. Me, shortlisted.

I crash back to earth. “I can’t go to Portland.”

“What?” Carly frowns. “Why? You’re banned from the city? Allergic to the air down there? What’s the deal?”

“That’s stand up,” I tell them. “You know I don’t do that.” I love the idea of stand up, I do. It’s a thrill hearing somebody laugh at something I’ve said especially if I’m in drama class or hanging out with friends. It’s my kind of high. But being funny with friends is way different than being on stage in front of strangers.

Strangers who may not find me funny at all.

“They have a new category this year,” Carly says. “For on-line comedy.” She taps the paper in front of me.

I start to read. The International Teens in Comedy Festival is pleased to announce a new category this year–video comedy. We’re looking for the mega stars of the future in this growing area of performance art. To qualify, interested participants must submit three videos for consideration by February 28th.

I look up. “I can’t believe you submitted three of my vlogs without telling me.”

Carly grins like she’s won the lottery. “Would you have submitted them?”


“My point exactly.”

“Keep reading,” Hunter says.

I look back down. Those who make the shortlist must travel to Portland for the final elimination round. At that time, they must be prepared to submit two previously unseen comedy videos, and they must compete with other shortlisted video contestants and do a series of stand-up routines in front of a live audience.

I suck in a breath. A live audience? Walking across a stage. No way. “I can’t do that.”

“Yes, you can,” Carly says. “We’ve talked about this, Paige. You can’t hide in your room forever. If you’re going to have the comedy career you want, you need to demonstrate range. You need to be way more versatile.”

As far as Carly’s concerned, I should charge after everything I want in life: A career in comedy. Hunter. Straight hair. “I’m working on it,” I tell her. “Look at all the vlogs I’ve done. On everything from how to kiss a guy with facial hair to dating a toaster. And it’s not like I just sit there and talk into the camera either. I do stuff. How about that one where I demonstrated fifty uses for popcorn? And don’t forget my driving video.”

Until today, that was my most popular video ever. I did it from my car on ways to fake out your driving instructor. I got five hundred subscribers in two days with that one. Two weeks later I also got a nasty letter from an uptight guy at the Washington State Department of Licencing but I didn’t care because (a) I’d gotten my license the week before and (b) you haven’t arrived until you start getting hate mail.

“You need to learn other forms of comedy. Like improv and stand-up,” she says.

Could I go to Portland? Get up on stage in front of a bunch of strangers? It’s the kind of thing I’ve always dreamed of. But in my dreams I glide out effortlessly, graceful and sure. I don’t limp across the stage with a twisted foot. Or frizzy red hair.

“There’s more,” Hunter says.

I start reading again.

Winners will receive $10,000 for themselves and $10,000 for their school drama or video department. Ten grand? Whoa! They will also receive a one year contract with the Endless Field Agency and a one month intensive with Kids Zone Comedy Troupe in New York.

Oh my God. I feel like all the air has been punched out of my chest. Endless Field represents Ellen DeGeneres and Amy Poehler. Kids Zone Comedy turns teen comic wannabes into stars.

Winners must be available to travel to New York City at least once during the twelve months following the win. Judging for this category will be led by Raven Prest.

Raven Prest? She’s up there with Sarah Silverman and Jenna Marbles. Rumor has it she’ll be hosting the Academy Awards next year. “I can’t afford to pass this up.”