Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why I Love Being A Comedian

After a decade of slinging jokes in virtually every conceivable venue and pushing myself to diligently strive for upward mobility in the biz, I am prone to losing perspective on the blessings of my life.  Like many of you, I stay busy focusing on career advancement and lamenting my lack of progress (Almost every comedian feels entitled to more opportunities than he/she has been given).  From my previous life working in the non-profit sector, I learned that it is important to pause for reflection and do a little introspection  (Generally, people who work in the non-profit world are much more emotionally healthy than comedians).

Since I have devoted an inordinate amount of time to being a comedian, I have decided to take time out to express what I enjoy about my life as a professional joke-teller, because comedy is not a business for those who don't love it enough to sacrifice the stability and benefits that other industries offer (In fact, I don't know if there is an industry that offers less stability or fewer benefits).  I don't have to remind myself why I love performing and making people laugh, so I shall be focusing on the 99% of my life which happens when I am not on a stage speaking into a microphone.  Perhaps the non-comedian folk will find this insightful, and I assume that much of what I am about to write will resonate with my comedian brethren.

As a person who has always abhorred authority, routine, and the status quo, comedy has given me no greater gift than that of freedom and independence.  Even though staying self-motivated can be a challenging task, every day I'm thankful that I don't have an asshole boss looking over my shoulder, pestering me with late-night calls/e-mails, or scolding me for his mistakes.  Every so often, I will take a Tuesday afternoon trip to the beach or a casino, just to give a metaphorical middle finger to "the man".

And I have the freedom to express myself in a way in which my "professional" friends are only capable of doing in the privacy of their own homes or among their non-work friends.  The average professional has to be vigilant about ensuring that his online presence does not contain anything "inappropriate".  No expletives.  No images of debauchery.  No controversial political statements.  Comedians tend to be encouraged to use expletives, detail their debauchery, and make controversial political statements, except by comedy bookers and club owners who do not understand why the average person enjoys going to see stand-up comedy.

Being part of the comedian fraternity is truly incredible, and I am grateful to be part of such an eclectic group.  I love that my comedian peers and co-workers are former lawyers and felons, and former lawyers who are felons.  Even though there are various cliques within the comedy community based on level of success and style of comedy, there is a bond between all working comics. Most comedians possess the ability to look past the superficial, and, when interacting with a fellow comic, only consider two things: "Is this person funny?", and sadly, "How can this person help my career?"  But, the latter question I'll ignore since we're keeping this post positive.  And, yes, stand-up comedy is mostly a boys' club, but in my experience, most female comics who are committed to the craft are treated as "one of the boys".

Even though I entered the world of comedy just as I was concluding my formal education, I have learned so much from my years as a comedian.  I thought that becoming a comic would steer me away from the world of business, but as a self-employed person, I've been forced to develop business acumen.  I have acquired entrepreneurial skills; I have learned how to take a creative idea and develop it as a vehicle for monetary gain.  I have learned about the importance of networking, self-promotion, and negotiating, even though I'm still trying to hone those skills ("still trying to hone those skills"= I still suck at those things).

Most importantly, I have gained empathy, and possess a more intimate understanding of people.  I have been able to bond with folks from all walks of life, and from all parts of the world.  Comedy has afforded me the opportunity to visit every part of the US, and learn about the various cultures, environments, cuisines, and pastimes of people throughout the country.  I've been able to visit other countries, and see destitution that surpasses that of any US "ghetto".  I've performed for the troops, and many of them vividly described their experiences in the military and in war, and a few surreptitiously provided me with their uncensored views of US foreign policy. From hosting events for Children's Hospital, I've befriended mothers whose children have battled cancer.  These women demonstrate true strength, selflessness, the importance of maintaining a sense of humor, and an unwillingness to accept the gravest of injustices.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned how much I enjoy writing or creating comedic content.  Personally, I thoroughly explore my mind and my heart to find the premises to my jokes, so that process can be a little exhausting.  I don't enjoy writing a joke nearly as much as I enjoy having a finished joke that I know is funny enough to elicit laughter from all the random people who come to my shows.

But I digress (I've always wanted to write "but I digress").  Thus far, my journey in the world of comedy has not led me to a life of opulence.  However, my journey has been enlightening and fun.  So, the next time I find myself alone in an Econolodge hotel room after doing a gig for 10 people, and I'm questioning my life decisions and wondering what went wrong, I can remember that a lot has gone right.  After all, I'll probably be eating pizza, drinking a Mountain Dew, and watching SportsCenter.  Nothing wrong with that.