Oct 13, 2017
Debbie Scheer is a successful Denver humorist with a penchant for telling the truth about her life, no matter how raw. Edgy but warm, she catches audiences off guard and then they fall in love with her. On this third episode of One More Shot, she tells the story of how she used the worst moment of her life to reinvent herself and become the courageous comedian she is today-- and how we can find courage in our darkest moments, too.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:00:07] Debbie Scheer was a stay-at-home mom with two small kids and a secret drawer full of jokes. Then her life fell apart and after she stopped crying she found a way to reinvent it.
Debbie Scheer: [00:00:19] I'm going through something so scary, I should probably find something else that's even scarier to take my mind off this really scary thing.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:00:31] And that's how Debbie Scheer became a standup comic. She is my guest on this episode of One More Shot, the show about taking a spark of an idea and making it real. This interview was taped before a live audience at Setting the Stage, a women's concert and networking event in Denver, Colorado.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:00:59] Debbie Scheer, Welcome to One More Shot. It's so great to have you here.
Debbie Scheer: [00:01:03] I'm so excited to be here.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:01:05] I should say also that I left my notes behind. And so forgive me -- I'm not actually taking phone calls. What I'm doing is looking at my notes so that I can introduce Debbie properly. She is a comedian. She's an auctioneer. She's an emcee and a public speaker and she's performed all over Denver and regionally and I have to say you've got to catch one of her shows because she's hysterically funny. She's also the single mom of two boys who are six and nine. And this is the kind of courage that Debbie has, and the kind of comedian Debbie is -- she's created several new shows, including one called Sex Com, the show -- a funny forum about sex in which the audience's questions fuel the show. So what I want to dive into right away, Debbie, first of all is the spark. So you said your spark was finding humor in places that people don't usually find it - Tell me again how you said that.
Debbie Scheer: [00:02:04] Right. I think finding that the nuggets of humor that sometimes live deep deep deep beneath the surface deep but they're always there and they might be microscopic, but they exist.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:02:17] And very very deep beneath the surface, and that's what I want to do is just talk about your story, and this spark for you becoming a comedian because you certainly haven't been a comedian, at least not, you know, outside of maybe your dining room table, all your life, right?
Debbie Scheer: [00:02:33] Correct. That's correct.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:02:34] So you came home from a trip a few years ago to some news that really jolted you.
Debbie Scheer: [00:02:43] Right. Right.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:02:44] Let's talk about that, what happened?
Debbie Scheer: [00:02:45] I had gone to visit a friend in California, and it was four years ago this past February, or a few months ago, last month. And I came home to my partner, at the time, telling me, "I'm not in love with you anymore." This was after almost 11 years and two children that we adopted and saying that she didn't want to go to couples counseling, she was moving out, and, and that was, that was it!
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:03:16] And you had quite the visual image when you told me this story before for how you felt. How did you feel?
Debbie Scheer: [00:03:22] It's not a, it's not an attractive image, but I felt like if you, if you walk into your kitchen and you round the corner and someone's standing there with the biggest cast-iron fry pan and they just hit you in the head, that is literally what it felt like. It was such a shocking gut punch.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:03:42] And the other thing about it was that you were a stay-at-home mom.
Debbie Scheer: [00:03:45] Correct.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:03:46] And so here you are, you're a stay-at-home mom, your kids are, at that time, how old? 5 and 1?
Debbie Scheer: [00:03:52] 5 and 2-ish.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:03:53] 5 and 2. And so you don't have an income of your own?
Debbie Scheer: [00:03:56] Correct.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:03:57] And you've got little kids?
Debbie Scheer: [00:03:58] Correct.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:03:59] And she left and you didn't expect it?
Debbie Scheer: [00:04:01] Correct.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:04:02] And so what was going through your head? What happened?
Debbie Scheer: [00:04:04] I -- I was terrified, because I felt so wildly out of control, like most people do when they're delivered news like that. And I just didn't know what to do. My identity had been wrapped up in being a mom and I had left a job that I loved at a nonprofit and I felt just like I was out so far out in the ocean and there was just nothing anchoring me.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:04:33] You know, I --I've been divorced like probably some other people in the room, and it, it jolts your whole life, you know, even if you're the one who chose it, I think the bottom drops out.
Debbie Scheer: [00:04:43] Correct.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:04:44] And you don't know who you are, some days. Some days you feel great. Other days you don't. You know the whole career thing. Everything has to get reinvented. Is that how you felt?
Debbie Scheer: [00:04:54] I did. I, well, for a while I felt like I'll just live in the fetal position and cry and allow my friends and your support system to come over and do what they do. Right? They nurture and take care of you but that only can last so long. And so I, I had this idea that I don't recommend people do, but at the time it seems logical, and I thought, "I'm going through something so scary, I should probably find something else that's even scarier to take my mind off this really scary thing." And it was stand-up comedy. Mostly because I'm terrified of heights, and so jumping out of a plane, I was a mom, I didn't want to get hurt. So I thought that's off the table. I'll try standup.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:05:47] OK. So.
Debbie Scheer: [00:05:47] I should have jumped out of the plane!
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:05:50] All right, so we don't have a ton of time, but I am curious, like how on earth did that idea come to you? I mean most people don't think, "I'm terrified; I'm in the fetal position; I'm crying. I don't know how to get to the next day. Oh wait a minute. Let me do something even scarier. Let me figure out what that could be." How did that come to you?
Debbie Scheer: [00:06:06] That idea or comedy itself?
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:06:09] The idea that I should do something scarier than I'm already in.
Debbie Scheer: [00:06:13] I think because I'm a person that loves to have control. And I had none of it. And so I was just clawing my way back to try and find something that, that would -- ground me. And once you had that idea you said, "Yeah, that's it. Let me go do...?"
Debbie Scheer: [00:06:30] Well, it was interesting. I love comedy. I've written comedy and never showed it to anybody because I was so insecure about it. And I I had a friend who owned a bar and they would do, they had a comedy showcase. And I went in to chat with her and I met the host and the host was so gracious and said, "Absolutely I'll give you five minutes," which was amazing. And it just took on a life of its own.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:06:54] So you have your first show.
Debbie Scheer: [00:06:56] Right.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:06:56] And you're walking out to the stage?
Debbie Scheer: [00:06:58] Yes.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:06:58] How do you feel?
Debbie Scheer: [00:06:59] I was actually walk -- I remember this. I don't remember my set but I do remember this. I was walking up the stairs and at one point I thought, "I'm going to throw up." And then I took another step and I thought, no, "I'm going to poop my pants." And then I thought, "No, but they're going to happen at the same time." And then I got on the stage, and it was the most frightening -- truly frightening and exhilarating experience of my life -- and after those five minutes I remember leaving and going back down the stairs and thinking, "I'm still here. I'm actually relatively OK.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:07:41] As in, you didn't die?
Debbie Scheer: [00:07:43] I didn't die or do either of the two things that I mentioned before.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:07:47] Right right right. Exactly. So from there, it wasn't like smooth sailing, right? You still have to make a living and you're still dealing with these two kids who are probably in some trauma themselves. And so so what was, what was the low point after that and how did you come out of it?
Debbie Scheer: [00:08:09] I think the low point was just this this, creating this new identity. Who am I? I had been a stay-at-home mom, prior to that I worked in non-profits, and now who was I going to become from this point forward? Which has its ups and, and, like most ups, has several downs. And so it was just trying to figure it out! Trying to, yeah, I don't know. I can't say there was a specific low point. There are many scary moments there. Yeah.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:08:41] But scary moments. And what do you think got you through -- toward this new life. I mean from, from nonprofit executive to stay-at-home mom. To being left, now you're a comedian, and more. And a lot more.
[00:08:55] Right. I think what got me through and I told you this and I'll make it so brief but I was doing standup one night and I was doing comedy about my divorce and I looked out into the audience and if you're a comedian you're picking up on the energy from the crowd and the facial expressions and hopefully the laughter and people were laughing but there was one woman who wasn't and she looked miserable, so that's of course who I focused on. That's how we operate. And I was so in my head about it. And then after the show I was standing there and I felt someone tap me on the shoulder and I turned around and it was that woman. And she said, with that same look on her face, I loved your set. And I, and I giggled, because that's what I do when I'm uncomfortable, and I said, "Truth be told by your body language, it seemed like you hated it. And I'm so sorry." And she said the one thing that kept me moving forward. She said, "I just want you to know that I -- I recently went through a terrible breakup. I feel like I'm in a similar position and I feel like I now know it's going to be OK." And I thought, "Oh, that's why I need to keep doing this." So that was the spark.
[00:10:04] So in that vein I want to talk to you about something that you have shared very publicly in a great forum you can talk about the name of that, talking about mental illness. And you have an anxiety disorder and she does a very hysterical monologue about this, I have to say. But it was also just incredibly, incredibly honest and out there. And, and so, she listed her skills.
[00:10:28] [VIDEO TAPE OF COMEDY SHOW] "I have these amazing skills, like really awesome. And I don't want to brag too much but if I could figure out a way to transfer these skills into a powerful resume I would land the most perfect job for me. Let me share with you some of these skills. I can walk into any environment, convention center, airport, restaurant, concert venue, Ikea, and within seconds I know where every single bathroom is. Thank you IBS. And every single exit. Because you always need an escape plan. I can travel down the rabbit hole faster than any rabbit you've ever seen and I can stay there and set up camp and really truly overstay my welcome. I can create scenarios in my head, images that are so dark, so intense and so very frightening, Stephen King would be jealous. I know, it's totally impressive. And many of you might also be familiar with these skills, if you live with anxiety.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:11:36] So I found that fascinating, because I have anxiety and also because when you have anxiety, the last thing you want to do is tell people that you have anxiety. So you're -- here you are telling the world about it. How do you do that and why?
Debbie Scheer: [00:11:52] I am transparent to a fault. If you ask my parents they'll give you a long history of that transparency. But I do feel like what connects us, is that ability to say, "I have this. Maybe some of you have this, and we're all going to be OK." And so it's like the story about that woman who came up to me after the show and talking about anxiety or whatever it is, it's a way to connect us all together. And that's why we're here. Ultimately I hope.
[00:12:25] Great. So tell us a little bit about your next show because it is next Wednesday at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret.
[00:12:32] Yes. So I started a show with my comedy wife -- I call her. She's an improv comic. I'm a standup comic. And it's called "Broadsided Comedy, an Estrogen-fueled Comedy Show." And our goal was to create a show that would peel back the layers and topics that society would rather have us not talk about. And we really wanted to talk about it. And so the show on Wednesday is about self-care and it's at the Clocktower Cabaret, and its sketch comedy and stand up and improv and all that yummy stuff.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:13:06] Debbie Scheer, thank you very much.
Debbie Scheer: [00:13:08] Thank you so much.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:13:14] So what I love about Debbie's story is that, you know, we all have one more shots at some point in our life where we decide to do something, some great idea we had, and sometimes it comes from a really positive place but sometimes it comes because we're forced. And a lot of us are forced because of a variety of things, divorce or an illness, or whatever. There's all kinds of stuff. And that sort of Phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes story is so helpful and so real and so positive and it's just really wonderful to see. So I was very inspired by it. I appreciate it.
Elaine Appleton Grant: [00:13:47] And I want to end the way I've ended before which is just to say to all of you, when you walk out of here tonight, think about that. What's your one more shot? And write to me and tell me the answer and that is Elaine@Onemoreshotpodcast.com. You can hear the last two episodes -- the first two episodes -- of the whole series also at onemoreshotpodcast.com. Eventually it will go up on iTunes. Well, thank you all for listening and being here.