Flirting with Death

An amateur comic goes for the big time and (just barely) lives to tell about it

It has all the makings of a classic anxiety dream. I am in a dark comedy club. The tiny stage is adorned with just a microphone and a stool. I recognize friends sipping drinks at a few tables in the crowded club. The emcee is making an introduction: "Give it up for our next performer. You read his column in USA Today. A big hand for Walter Shapiro!"

This is the moment of existential dread. Naked onstage, with no props, no scenery, no place to hide. The audience is rapacious in its demands: loosen our inhibitions; make us laugh. Onstage, life...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!