I sought out one more adviser, Jeff Newelt, a social media/PR consultant to artists, graphic novelists, writers, and other types of weirdos who might not be as comfortable talking about their work as Ms. Kargman (for example, he helped Harvey Pekar manage his Twitter feed, and is editing a book of the late comic legend’s work). Mr. Newelt also advised me to drink before the show. “One or two shots, never three,” he said. By his own estimate, he’s onstage at roughly 20 events per year, including moderating Comic-Con panels, teaching classes on public speaking, and performing at freestyle reggae shows.
He told me not to memorize, but instead to create modules or “key words” that would trigger my brain to remember what it wanted to talk about. “So let’s say you are doing this interview, and you wanted to talk about sex in comic books. All you have to remember is the world ‘sex.'”
That seemed doable.
“Also, breathe. Take big breaths, and that will slow you down and give you time to think,” he went on. “Remember that the interviewer isn’t an interrogator, and you don’t have to answer any questions you don’t want to.”
I took Mr. Newfelt’s advice and wrote down my modules: Mark Wahlberg 9/11; Scarlett Johansson’s breasts; giant rat Footlocker; human cues.
I realized all my topics sounded like the opening of a Jay Leno monologue. But as I dutifully downed two pre-show shots of whiskey, I got some of that old middle school courage back. People wanted to hear me talk! I was funny! My thoughts were valid, important, and most of all, should be stated at the loudest volume possible.
The whiskey did the trick. When it was time for me to get up on that stage, I wasn’t nervous at all. I was feeling great.
I had taken Ms. Kargman’s advice and come with a good opener. Since it was Mr. DeGiglio’s birthday, I had stopped off at the nearest convenience store and bought one of those five-hour energy drinks, marshmallow teddy bears bearing Valentine’s hearts, and a 7-11 mug.
“I just want you to know that I spent a lot of time on this gift…I didn’t just go into a 7-11 and grab the closest things to the checkout counter,” I said. People laughed. More important, I’d established myself as someone with a good rapport with the host. I felt at ease. The rest of the night was kind of a blur, except that I noticed that I kept getting bigger and bigger laughs from the audience. Even when I didn’t intend to.
“So your latest Menace to Society column was about you getting dressed up for a party,” Mr. DeGiglio began, gesturing at a copy of a recent Observer.
“Actually it was a memorial service,” I replied. The audience went into hysterics. Okay! This wasn’t hard at all!
Sure, I made a couple mistakes. I may have said that nowhere in the Constitution did it state that people couldn’t be persecuted for their political beliefs. But since when did a budding socialite need to memorize the Constitution?
Besides, at least now I’ll have a little more confidence that when my time does come for a stint on Letterman, I’ll blow Paris Hilton and Lauren Conrad out of the water. Which shouldn’t be too hard, but, you know, baby steps.