I’ve made the mistake of sleepwalking through my life. Who hasn’t? No, I don’t mean like Mike Birbiglia did. Or, does? What I mean is my focus had been fixed on the not-as-important things – career status, where I thought I’d be and might not be at this point, what other people are doing or getting – instead of what’s truly important and real, like my life and relationships– and the moment I’m IN and should be grateful for. It’s a process. But I’m working on being truly and honestly done with that.
I was on the road a lot last year. I did a tour for Funny or Die and Old Milwaukee, another in support of a book by my buddy Mike Burns (aka Dadboner) and many clubs and colleges. Like any other year, I’d honed the bits I liked (and worked), and abandoned certain others that didn’t hit with the audience and ones that I simply couldn’t get my head around. You know— like a comedian does. Then, I hit a wall.
A person very close to me hipped me to what it was, and advised me not to record the hour of comedy I had. I was miffed, partly because hey, it’s been two years since my last special and album! (and that one was two years after the one before it). Mostly, though, I was miffed because I knew she had a point. Is there anything more infuriating than when you know someone is right but you don’t want them to be? We only children hate that because we think, deep down, we shit gold.
It came down to this on stage: I wasn’t doing enough personal stuff. When I watch all of my favorite comedians – Pryor, Cosby, Lily Tomlin, Bill Burr, Louis C.K., even Maria Bamford (wonderfully weird as she is) – you know exactly who they are. You get where they are as people, at whatever stage of life they’re in. With me, not so much. To an extent, yes. But for me to grow I had to do more. It made me think about a lawyer’s quote I read once that said, “The truth in court just sounds different.” If you apply that to the stage, you’ll see my point. We’ve all seen a comic drop their wacky bit that isn’t going well on stage and just say something honest: “Ah, I hate my kids right now…” It’s an awesome moment, every time.
I should note that I’ve been something of a fool over the past two years. A knucklehead. A dummy. Somewhere along the way I got caught up in The Biz and forgot that The Biz doesn’t matter. Life matters. Where you are in your career is one thing, but it’s not the only thing, no matter what certain people tell you. When I made two pilots for the same show over the course of almost two years and the show got dumped, I was crushed. However, instead of going, “Well, that happened,” and going on to build the next sand castle for the powers that be to kick over (which is what showbiz projects are, let’s not kid each other), I put a chip on my shoulder.
Auditioning year after year while going on the road and seemingly “going nowhere” was wearing me down. I got angry a lot. I was prone to fits of sadness. Finally, I just went, “Hey, you make a living at this. This is WHAT YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED. Please, for the sake of your sanity, fuck off.” So I did. Therapy helped (you should try it). I still get disappointed, but I don’t let it rip me in half. Put it this way: this last pilot season I tested for three pilots and didn’t get any of them. My attitude this time? Look at the bright side. Two of them I lost to David Schwimmer and Malcolm Jamal Warner. Instead of going, “Ah, what the shit!” I thought, “Wow, I lost to Ross from Friends and Theo from The Cosby Show! I feel like Clyde Drexler in ’92! Ain’t no shame in that. I love Clyde the Glide.
So I put the original hour of comedy aside I had aside and started working on material about my life. I’d recently ended a relationship of two-and-a-half years with someone very special to me, I’d had some major disappointments in the past few years and I was approaching 40. I was a childless, single man— what they might call a “serial killer” in Iowa. There was plenty from which to mine comedy. I went to work, getting on stage a ton and taking chances— always trying to give the audience a good show, but also making a point to talk about things that mattered to me and were a genuine part of my life. This is not to say any other comedians should do what I’m doing, it’s just what I needed to do. I love silly, non-reality based comedy. Without it there’d be no Steve Martin, Ren, Stimpy or Anthony Jeselnik.
So, cut to now. I got offered the opportunity to do a new special next month and I’m taking it. Originally the plan was to wait until the fall or even winter, but I’ve got a nice chunk that I believe is ready to come out into the world and be born like a fat ugly baby that makes you laugh. I’ve been running it in bits-and-pieces this past week, and doing the whole hour and change while in Denver at the legendary Comedy Works (Hi, guys!). So, thanks to everybody who likes my stuff and for those who have told me it helps “let the steam out.” Ultimately I think that’s what comedy is for.
If you live near Brooklyn or will be there tonight, come see me record my new special at the legendary Bell House, for free! Tickets are here.
Kisses and hugs,