Calmedy Part Whatever (A Comic's Lament)
What do you do when you tell a joke? I'm not talking about a joke that your Uncle Bob told you at cousin Katie's wedding over the weekend and you're filtering through your own unique perspective Monday morning to your captive coworker audience. I mean a joke that you came up with from scratch. It developed, was nurtured, hatched and successfully born entirely in your cranium. Did you rewrite the set up? The punchline? How many times each? Did you obsess over the wording and placement of certain wordings? Did you entirely over think everything about the joke to the point where it wasn't even a joke to you anymore? It just became a collection of words that, if you didn't fail miserably, might elicit an approving grin from 1/10 people you tell it to. That is, if you summon the courage necessary to tell it in the first place.
No? Ok then.
"I heard a joke and I thought you could use it!" This is the worst thing that I hear on an almost daily basis. It's my fault for telling people that I do comedy. It made me a magnet for people's best intentions. I know that people are only trying to help me when they try to give me jokes that they either came up with or heard on the Tonight Show. But the thing is, it's insulting. On a few levels. The first and most obvious being that you're telling me that I can't write my own material. I can. And do. Exclusively. So does every other comic. The ones that have people write for them are the ones whose jokes you're trying to give me. They're incredibly famous and have earned that right.
The other level it insults me on is that you're telling me that you know what is funny and I don't. Again, I know you don't mean it that way. But you're basically saying "Hey, I've never performed or written comedy on any level, but I'm betting I'm just as good if not better than you are at it!" If I went to local restaurant (because, let's be honest, that's where I am right now) and said to the chef "Hey, I've never cooked professionally but here's some unsolicited advice!" he would have every right to tell me to go fuck myself. But I can't do that.
And therein lies our next problem. I have to accept everyone's advice/criticism with a good nature, lest I seem like I'm some stuck up know it all. I'm far from knowing it all. But I know way fucking more than you do. Because I do this. That's why I do it. So I can know things. That's why anyone does anything. But when people give me their pointers after a show, I'm tempted to ask them when the last time they did stand up was. Again, if I go to your job and start offering unsolicited critiques on the specifics of your performance, you'd be perfectly within your rights to tell me off. But I can't do that.
And the best part is, I knew this going into doing stand up. And the fact that I'm bitching about such a ridiculous thing should tell you what a great gig doing stand up is. I love it more than anything I've ever done. And if my ego having to take a couple lumps after each show is the price I pay for doing something I truly love, so be it. There's no gun next to my head, forcing me to stand on stage and tell jokes to people. I can quit anytime I want. I can also bitch about it when I want. But I can't bask in one aspect while ignoring the other. As many people that come up to me with criticisms, there are just as many, if not more, that tell me how great I was. Even when I wasn't great. And just one person saying that completely wipes out 10 people offering their advice. Being a comedian is all about finding your voice. And that means I can't please everyone. I can only please myself and hope it matches up to others' expectations.
I guess what I'm saying is thank you to everyone who's tried to make me a better comic. Whether it's from your unsolicited advice or encouragement. Thank you.
Hi, mom. Ditto.