As good as another? If I’m being honest with myself, I do not wish to sleep my way through the show inside a robot suit of my own making. I remember seeing Les Misérables with my family as a kid. My boyfriend Chris and I celebrated around the corner at Via Carota and then flew back to L.A. Whatever that something is, it’s been asleep for a year, but as I prepare to get back onstage, it thumps in the belly, familiar as ever. The old fear was, Am I good enough? All of the cells in our body are completely turned over every seven years, is it? And the show was like a swimming pool: scary to get into, but once I’m in the water, it feels like I’ll be colder if I get out. That tinkering I thought I could do in a month, and then decided to spend a year on? I puttered around inside during quarantine, not thinking about the show. Because I had those weeks before the tour started, I thought it’d be fun to do a bit of tinkering with the show. As tour dates started getting canceled because of COVID, I realized I had more time than I thought to tinker. A thought about my show would come to mind, and I’d text myself a note. The task upon me was to keep doing what I was doing, keep doing the show. That woman who did the show last year isn’t here — can I fill in? Now it’s, Am I as good as myself? I built trellises for bougainvilleas, hung plastic curtains on my balcony to block my neighbor’s aerosols, and shaved fennel with a weak knife in a desperate attempt to re-create a salad from Altro Paradiso I’d enjoyed immensely during GOYK’s first New York run. Little Gavroche is sick, and the understudy too. I was disoriented by what I saw: a selfie of two smiling audience members in the crowd, wearing matching Get on Your Knees sweatshirts. Despite performing my show Get on Your Knees over 138 times in New York City, a full year has passed. I don’t think the sweatshirt duo would enjoy the show as much, or certainly not any more, that way. Jacqueline Novak performing Get on Your Knees in New York prior to the pandemic. I put the project aside for a few days … and then I forgot about it for a year. Is it a vestigial organ, or is it doing something? When I took the stage that night, I was relieved to see they were far enough back to be invisible to me beyond the wall of light, because I wasn’t sure if their appreciation of me would help or hurt the show. I imported the audio from every performance into GarageBand and spliced it up, joke by joke. While waiting for it to start, my dad, returning from the concessions stand, joked, “The director stopped me. Because the run was a success previously, I now have something to live up to. So I find myself approaching this next run, feeling that same feeling as I did as a kid. That did not happen. After years of chasing stand-up success, I am used to seeing the audience not as fans, but as doubters — necessary adversaries who challenge me to win them over. Suddenly, I find myself less than two weeks from my first post-quarantine performance. The show was in me, as they say; I wasn’t afraid of anything other than whether I could find decent Airbnbs. My phone alerted me that I had been tagged in an Instagram post, and I opened it up without thinking. After arriving back home, I had a few weeks to prepare for my first big tour — a series of theater runs and comedy-festival performances of the show in Boston, Chicago, London, and more. Tags: That means I’m one-seventh new. Get on Your Knees was nominated for a 2020 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. Now that quarantine is coming to a close, I’ve decided to mount the show in New York again. It’s incredible that self-doubt is this adaptable. What did happen was more, let’s say, organic. Nerves, fear, and doubt have been a part of my stand-up for so long that I’ve made a home for them, and now I’m not sure I can do it without them. Then I could listen all at once, note which was the best version, and lock it in. I took a bow and really milked it. Then I created a track for each joke. I smoothed my eyebrows with my middle fingers, gulped down espresso, tugged my pants up and my T-shirt down. Related
Wherefore Art Thou, Penis? I’d love to blame my inertia on quarantine, but I prefer to believe that some part of me recognized that the show is native to me, by definition a whole that can’t be endlessly optimized piece by piece. The classical house music and casual chatter of audience members floated backstage as I tinkered with my appearance. where we had moved not long before. That track would feature a back-to-back collage of every night’s iteration of that joke. Tickets for New York and Boston tour dates are now on sale via Novak’s website. This time, however, I am not just the little girl in the theater, but I’m also the original Gavroche. My last performance of Get on Your Knees in New York was on February 16, 2020, after four extensions. The fantasy is that I could optimize the show to such a degree that it would function like a suit of armor, a robotic one that moves on its own, so I could sleep my way through it. I imagined that kind of thorough tweaking would be immensely satisfying and comforting. Photo: Monique Carboni
One night in early 2020, toward the end of the New York run of Get on Your Knees, I was in my dressing room doing a preshow routine. Those notes were then stuck in a doc called “GOYKSHOW NOTES.” Simple shit. They want to know if you can fill in?” Even though I knew it was a joke, I still felt the swell of nerves: Can I do the job of Little Gavroche? And that’s fine. Not thorough.