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Dear Gail: Never Picture the Audience Naked

Comedian Gail Forrest confronts fears: She offers advice for public speaking and explores her own fear of cosplay

Never Picture the Audience Naked

Dear Gail,
I’ve been a librarian for close to 50 years in a small town library. I’ve loved every minute of it, but now I have a problem — a new library has been built, and as the senior librarian I have to give the dedication speech.  I’m a wreck, as the last time I spoke publicly was junior year in high school and I was so nervous, shaky and sweaty I could barely talk.

Statistics cite more people fear public speaking than death. You’re a stand-up comedian, Gail, you must have some tips for me on how to get through this without having heart failure. A few jokes would be helpful also.

Thank you dearly,
Ms Nervous Wreck

Dear Nervous Wreck:
First and foremost, fear death more. Second of all, do not picture everyone in the auditorium naked or in their underwear. Whoever thought of that anyway? Depending on your audience that might actually cause you to have a heart attack or go blind. I’ve never tried that mind trick but am certain I would be more focused on how many folks needed to exercise, lose weight, or shave their legs than my set.   

The most important thing is to write your speech and practice, practice, practice. I like to take a walk and keep repeating my routine out loud. I get stares but no laughs. You can also rehearse in front of a mirror except that always reminded me I needed Botox, filler and my teeth cleaned. One of my friends does his best rehearsing in the bathtub where I don’t want to picture him, but he is funny. Put a brief version on note cards and bring it up with you as a security blanket. Keep the speech short, however, as the average human attention span these days is probably measured in nanoseconds. 

Start with something amusing or self-deprecating. I begin by asking for a round of applause because I’m the oldest person in the room (always). Then I take a deep breath and hope I’m funny. Here’s a possible opener for you —

“I’ve read 10,350 books since I last stood up and gave a speech but won’t tell you how many of them I never returned to the library.” 

Ms Nervous Wreck, my best advice now is don’t buy Crypto with the money you saved on unreturned books.

Are You a Costume Loser? I Am

Dear Gail,
As you probably know, “cosplay” is the act of dressing up as a character from a movie or book and making a social event of it. It’s what we used to call a “masquerade” party. 

I decided to start a cosplay group. We held our first “convention” but attendance was slight at 7: 3 Captain Kirks, 2 Darth Vaders, one Super Woman (me), and one Wonder Woman.  We hope for more people and costume diversity next time. 

Do you want to come to the next event and who would you dress as?

Brenda T

Dear Brenda:
I did not know about “cosplay” but glad to hear it isn’t a new Bill Cosby game show for all ages. Aside from that, the idea of having to dress up is harrowing to me. I am a costume loser. I do, however, have a picture of me in sixth grade at a school Halloween party dressed as a Veterinarian. I was donned in my Dad’s stethoscope, medical bag and white coat while my friend Susan played a sick cat. She lived. That was my last burst of originality. I also vaguely remember in third grade trick or treating as Peter Pan. The plastic mask was suffocating and the costume flammable. I could have burst into flames but wanted the candy.

I am jealous of the “costume people” and their ingenuity with wigs, dresses, make-up, and props. Dressing as a Marvel character would require a cape and I hate all capes. Stuffing myself into an itchy skin tight spandex body suit and praying I could still breathe would be death defying. I could be a Von Trapp family singer but don’t know where to buy lederhosen and would have to shave my legs. Princess Leia in the gold bikini is a possibility yet, no it isn’t. My best bet would be to go as Marge from Fargo because I could just pick something to wear from my closet. 

Brenda I love your fun idea but won’t be coming to your next “cosplay” as I had to take a Valium just thinking about it. Maybe you could wear the gold bikini.

Need advice? Gail wants to hear from you. Send your letters, questions, and quandaries to: newsletter@weareageist.com

See medical disclaimer below. ↓


  1. Here’s an idea for Ms. Nervous Wreck.

    Share with your audience how nervous you are, along with the knowledge that you are aware of the tactic of thinking about all of them being naked.

    They will empathize with your frail psyche and try their darndest to understand, especially if you are the only naked person in the room.

  2. 😂👍

    Good library joke, I bet Ms. NW uses it. She could also add “Let’s just say if the fines for my overdue books were collected, they’d name this new library after me”.

    OK, well, I’m not a comic ….

  3. Ditch the jokes for any speech you have to do–you are not a comic. Find out EXACTLY how long of a time slot you have to fill, do not go over your time. Learn some history of who built your library–those kind of facts are often never shared. These are some ideas I have as a former Toastmaster, 18 years. You are always less nervous when you know the audience and the topic.

    • Thanks and that is some good advice. Definitely do not go over the time I agree. It’s not always possible to know the audience but in her case it probably is. Knowledge of topic is critical.


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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

Gail Forresthttp://www.gailforrest.com
Gail Forrest is a comedy writer and stand up comic. She studied at Second City in Chicago and has performed at Pretty Funny Women and Flappers in LA, as well as Second City to name a few. She has a published book Gonepausal on Amazon about women in midlife and is working on a new book which includes men and promises to be just as funny with even more insights on aging.


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