DEAR HARRIETTE: I am an aspiring comedian and have finally mustered up the courage to sign up for an open mic night. I haven't told my friends or family because I want to see if I can make strangers laugh, not just those who love me. Now I'm the most nervous I've ever been to perform, and I think it's because I won't have my support group there. Should I invite my friends and family, or is this worth going alone? -- Open Mic Jitters, Philadelphia
DEAR OPEN MIC JITTERS: By all means, invite your support group. If they help you to relax, welcome them to your first open mic. Trust that they cannot make the crowd react in a particular way, so the chances that they will sway the audience are limited. What they can do, which you clearly need and will appreciate right now, is help you feel comfortable and up for the job.
Other ways you can prepare for this debut include visiting the venue in advance so that you can be familiar with the layout; practicing your jokes until they seem second nature; remembering to breathe when you get nervous (something many people forget to do and which only makes you feel more uncomfortable); and trusting that you can do it.