(The cover for my comedy album. Drops May 2037.)
(This is going to be a sappy one, so bite down on a stick or something.)
Last night was my one year comedy anniversary. One year! I performed at an all-girls show with some of my favorite comedians, some of whom are intimidatingly good, like, "quit comedy forever because I'll never be that funny" good. Unfortunately, the headliner was ill and unable to make the show (her appendix apparently didn't get my Save the Date card) so there was some extra time to fill. I asked (okay, begged and pestered) the guy in charge to see if I could go past my scheduled 20 minutes. I did 29 minutes, just one minute shy of a feature set. I was really happy with my performance, I felt like it was pretty strong. I got into a groove, and could have probably gone another 10, but guy-in-charge started waving his phone at me and mouthing something that looked an awful lot like "Get off the stage, you grandiose famewhore".
I have never loved anything like I love standup comedy. (Obligatory "except for my children, lights of my life, yada yada".) It has taught me so many important lessons, life lessons, things other people probably got from their parents, teachers, or, at the very least, therapy, but I somehow missed. Maybe I could only absorb wisdom and truth while surrounded by other skeptical smartasses, I don't know. But it didn't take very long for me to figure out that the same practices that allowed me to have a good set could be applied to my life, as well.
Comedy has taught me to stay hungry, work hard, and respect myself. To be honest about where I'm at, that trying to be further along than I actually am robs me of the lessons I need to learn along the way. I'm learning patience, to not to rush, to accept that anything worth doing takes time to build. Comedy and instant-gratification don't mix, it's not something you can skip steps on, there are no short cuts. I'm learning to forgive my mistakes. That when I fuck up, the best thing to do is acknowledge my mess, apologize if necessary (e.g. "I'm sorry I made the audience really sad before your feature set by talking about my divorce in a really unfunny way"), and move on. One of my favorite Boise comedians once told me, "Don't beat yourself up, the crowd will do that plenty."
I've learned that a four minute set on hamster thievery is exactly four minutes too long. I've learned not to yell, "Fuck you, this is funny!" at the audience when a joke doesn't work. I've learned to trust my intuition, to go with my gut, and if my gut says, "DO THE GERIATRIC FORESKIN STORY" even though it's not part if my plan, part of my neurotic little comedy itinerary, to just be flexible and tell the goddamn thing. More than anything, comedy has taught me the value of being present and letting go of control. Letting go of expectations and competition, letting go of perfection. It is what it is, every time. It only works if I'm true to the moment, if I'm having fun. I've learned to not try to be something or somebody else, that it works best when I'm my weird, giggly, slightly daft self, that the crowd connects with ME. To quote the great Eddie Izzard, I'm learning to "Do something nobody else can do, and be proud of it."
Comedians are the most broken, sincere people in the world. I adore them. I have received an astounding amount of support and encouragement from old hacks and fresh meats alike. I've made friends, good friends, the kind I can honestly answer when they ask "How are you?" The kind who don't flinch when I say, "I'm in two different twelve step programs and I haven't shaved my armpits in a month. High five." I can count on them to mock me mercilessly for my faults, to force me to take myself less seriously, and to be so hilariously fun, I forget to be an anxiety-ridden sack of uptight crybaby every time I get on stage. I feel like I finally found a home. And that home is a riot.
I might not ever be famous. I might not make any money. I might never get my own HBO special with Maria Bamford and Tig Notaro. Don't freak out, but there's a distinct possibility that Louis CK won't ever come up to me after a show and tell me he's a huge fan of my work, that he won't get all flustered and nervous talking to me, that I won't get to put my hand on his arm and tip my head back to laugh at something he says, and then suddenly we're making love and I have all of his hilarious, not-super-attractive, soulless ginger babies. That might not happen, guys. I might fumble around at open mics for the next forty years, showing up to Liquid with new material on my nursing home. ("What is the deal with elder abuse?") I don't care. I finally found something that brings me joy and feeds my soul. If comedy helps me become a better person, the best version of myself, that, for me, is enough.