Well slap me with a happy paddle and call me Sally Salisbury, how the hell are we doing? Tickle my toes and blow my nose, it’s been a minute hasn’t it? I’ve been working a lot, so that’s exciting.
It’s not. It’s not exciting. But I’m saving up to go to America, South this summer for three months and that is exciting. I’m going to backpack around Columbia and Ecuador for about a month with two of my closest friends and then volunteer in the jungle helping out some animals for a couple months.
It should be a hell of an adventure, but I’m trying to stay present as much as possible. I do feel like I’m a bit in limbo for the next couple of months before this adventure begins. I went through a low with comedy about a month ago but it was exactly what I needed and I’ve made major breakthroughs on stage. I’m having a lot of fun and I’m crushing harder than I ever have.
I’ve gotten in touch with the parts of me that are funny, not just the part of me that can write funny. The most important thing is actually that I’m a lot funnier off stage now. Since I’ve been nice and sober and meditating every day, I’ve connecting with the purest humor inside of me that I was missing so dearly and didn’t even know it. The joyful and silly humor has reawakened.
I write a fair amount of “offensive,” edgy, and dark jokes, and when I wasn’t finding joy in my humor, I often came across on stage as kind of a dick. To me, I was just sharing what I thought was funny, but the audience doesn’t know that. The audience doesn’t know who the performer is. You have to show them who you are, and if you’re in a bad mood or you’re too nervous to have fun, they think that’s just who you are, and why would they want to laugh with someone in that type of mood? If you’re telling jokes that are already teetering on the edge of what the audience finds appropriate, it’s a tough sell; and that’s where I found myself, an inexperienced salesmen trying to sell a difficult program.
I have a habit of making things harder for myself than they need to be. It’s a blessing and a curse. I like that I seek out things that are difficult, because life can get too comfy and when we don’t challenge ourselves and push against what we’re comfortable with, we fail to grow and evolve.
I could have easily taken the path of little resistance. School was easy for me growing up, I was good at sports, I had a lot of friends, my family had money… I was in a position a lot of kids would have done anything to be in. It wasn’t until I was 16 or 17 that things started to go haywire for me, which I’m ultimately very thankful for. Things got hard for me and I had to learn how to cope with that.
I wasn’t a tough kid, I’m not gonna lie. Looking back I sometimes wonder what I could have achieved then if I had the strength I do now, but it’s not worth dwelling on. We all wish we could go back and do things differently with the knowledge and wisdom we have developed many years later. But that’s not how life works. We only have the present moment with our present set of skills and understanding.
Dealing with chronic health issues has toughened me up a lot, but it’s still something I continue to work on. I used to quit a lot when I was young, and sometimes that part of me creeps back up and I have to consciously tell it to go away because it’s a weak little bitch and I don’t need it around anymore.
That being said, sometimes I over-correct and choose to make something difficult when it really doesn’t need to be. I guess I’m always working on finding that balance between toughening up and accepting a free square when it’s given to me.
When it comes to comedy (and a lot of things now that I think of it) I always thought I had to do something spectacularly original or new, which is a lot to shoot for early on in a comedy career. It’s already hard enough. I would tell myself “I’m not going to do self-deprecating humor because it’s a cheap way to get the audience to like you and every comic knows that.” I went through a phase where I would talk too much about really personal stuff and then I realized it was just kind of depressing and not very funny. I also wrote a lot of jokes where I was trying to make some epic social criticism or some glorious point, which is a difficult thing to do.
It’s also just not my style. I’m a joke guy. I like to include some personal stuff and make some good points along the way, but my favorite comedy has always been very joke heavy, and my favorite thing is to write jokes. Mitch Hedberg was my favorite comedian growing up because he just told jokes. No message behind it, no philosophical twist, just jokes.
I think it’s a better time than ever to be that kind of comedian, too, because so many comedians are trying to do the philosophical thing. Comedy has evolved into being more than just jokes, which is great and fascinating, but you have to be really good at comedy to pull it off. Comics often glorify past comedians like Bill Hicks, who was great and unique and broke down the barriers of comedy like a cannonball to a castle, but he also straight up wasn’t funny for a decent portion of his career and lived a troubled life.
There’s countless stories of him clearing the room and bombing so hard that only a couple comedians in the back would laugh while everyone else looked on in terror. The stories seep into comedy folklore as we admire the courage he had to say the crazy shit he said on stage, but there’s another side to it, which is that almost nobody found his performance funny that night and a lot of nights.
The most prolific and consistent social-critique comedian is obviously George Carlin. I personally find him more interesting than funny, but I do also think he’s quite funny and acknowledge him as one of the greatest comedians of all time. And if that’s your prerogative as a comic, you should definitely go for it. We need those types of comics. We need diversity in comedic styles and we need people to be themselves.
We all grow and change, too, so I can’t say how my style will evolve over the years. Maybe that’s the type of comic I will become someday, I don’t know. Right now, I’ve come to the understanding that I’m best served as a joke-heavy comic because that’s what I enjoy and that’s what I’m best at. The comedy journey is one of ruthless self-discovery, and as comics we have to continually search within ourselves to find out who we really are and what we really are.
There’s always another downfall and breakthrough somewhere along the line, but I’m currently having a lot of fun writing and performing and I feel more inspired to get on stage than ever. Like I said, it’s kind of an awkward place to be in because I’m leaving the country for three months soon and won’t be doing comedy during that time, but all I can do is stay present and enjoy what life has to offer.
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