I’m working on a couple ideas for this blog right now. I’m trying to put together a lengthy, multi-part essay about the idea of “making it,” and what the hell that even means to any of us. And there’s one about the club scene vs. the open-mic scene, here in New York. But honestly, blogging is hard sometimes.
Writing sometimes feels like your thoughts are mashed potatoes, and your brain is the serving spoon they’re stuck on. Sometimes you have to almost violently fling them out. You gotta stop trying to look smooth, because you don’t even know if all the strength you have is going to be enough.
So I’ll keep trying to fling this stuff onto the screen.
I just had a conversation with two of my roommates. The one is Jason Saenz, a fellow comic up here. And the other is my ex from the past couple years, Vijaya.
I mentioned to Jason that it seems like things have been going well for him lately. Which is true - he’s been making a lot of things that are silly, dumb, and just really, really fun. I love this video he made last week. And he’s been doing a ton of stuff like that lately - just having a lot of fun doing sketch stuff with the UCB Theater, and writing and filming more and more projects.
And he said he totally agreed - he’s been having a really good 2012 so far. In fact, the past month or so has been great for all three of us. And we realized it’s pretty much because of the same reason: we all stopped trying to do what everyone said we’re “supposed to do,” and we just started doing what felt right.
For Jason, that meant shifting away from stand-up, and more toward writing and sketch opportunities. There can be a notion here in New York that if you’re not doing stand-up comedy, you’re not “really” doing comedy. There can be a good bit of snobbery about stand-up here, just like everywhere.
I’m sure it’s the same in every facet of life. There are day traders right now that are shitting on some other day trader because he decided he didn’t want to deal with crude-oil-futures anymore. You know? Because if you really give a shit about day-trading, then you’d deal with crude oil. Everything else would be nothing without oil, you know? So if you’re not trading that, then you’re not really doing it.
At some point, fuck the people that tell us what should feel “right” to us. At best, they’re just confused-ly trying to help us, because they think that whatever they feel, everyone else feels that exact same thing. More likely, they’re terrified that they’re making the wrong decisions, and so they try to make sure you’re doubting yourself, too.
The reality is, we’re all different. That’s some 2nd-grade-level shit, but we should have a re-test on that every week. Just because something feels right to you, or makes sense to you, doesn’t mean that’s what feels right to me.
That’s where bitterness comes from, I think. Because if I’m doing exactly what I want with my life, then I’m not bitter toward anyone else. Then, I’m happy that Jason does sketch comedy, and that Vijaya builds peace in Africa.
But if in my gut, I’m not sure I’m doing what I actually want to be doing, then I start wondering if I’d be happier doing something else. Should I get into sketch? Would I be better off living in a village in Africa?
And that’s when I start looking at other people that are doing other things, and start hating them, because I doubt myself.
When you’re willing to ask yourself “Am I doing what I want to be doing?” and the answer is “Yes,” - you see people doing something else and say “I hope they feel this way, too.” But when you’re just doing what other people say you’re supposed to be doing, you see people doing something else and say “I wonder if they’re actually happy.”
If they are actually happy, then that means you’re wrong, because you’re miserable when you don’t have to be. So in order to avoid questioning your own decisions, you have to make them feel as shitty about their choices as you do about yours. If you can prove they have as much fear and doubt as you, then you’ve destroyed the evidence that you could be way happier, and could be living a better life along the way.
I have no idea what this New York experience is going to bring me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be on TV, or if I’ll ever perform at the Cellar, or what will come of all this. But that’s one thing I want to bring to this scene here: I want to make people realize that we should all be doing whatever feels right to us. And that whatever feels right, that’s okay.
Take this blog. I talk a lot of bullshit on here about philosophy, and about “what comedy means,” and crap like that. And that’s okay, because it’s what I love doing. Some people get this blog, some people don’t get it, and a few people really get it. I’m cool with all three.
Right now, in New York, I’m safely at what I would call the “open-mic” level of the scene here. I don’t do any clubs, and I don’t do any prestigious alt-shows. And that’s where I should be right now. I’m trying to make a point of enjoying this phase here, whether it lasts another week, or another ten years.
You want to know something funny though? My favorite comics are not the ones most similar to me. Of all my open-mic peers, my favorite comics are the ones that do exactly whatever the hell they want onstage.
There’s a dude named Billy Stiteler that occasionally tells jokes and occasionally just quotes the shitty lyrics of delusional aspiring rappers from his high school. There’s a guy named Tony Zarat, who just tries to do the stupidest things possible, whether it’s have a conversation with a ghost heckler from the future, or think of how many different ways he can call the audience a bunch of chodes. There’s a comic named Michelle Wolf who loves performing so much, you almost feel like you’re interrupting her by being there to see it.
Those are three people that I’ve learned from, since I moved up here. Because I feel like no matter what happens to any of them in this silly comedy game - that we mistakenly think is so serious - they’re not going to be on their deathbed and say “I wish I’d done what made me happy.”
And that’s the trick. We all want to “succeed” at this comedy thing. So we do what we think we’re supposed to do. Because we think that will get us on TV, or it will get us Montreal, or it will get us on Whiplash, where Hannibal Buress will see us, put in a good word at ‘30 Rock,’ and then take us on the road with him.
But it’s backward logic. Why do we want all that? So we can make a living doing this, yeah. But largely, we want that “success” so that we can impress other people. We want that success so other people see us and say “Wow, I wish I were them.” Because we presume that if someone else wants to be us, that must mean we’ll want to be us.
But it won’t mean that. That’s what I realized today, talking to my roommates. Jason and Vijaya and I - and I’d guess Billy, Tony, and Michelle - are all fairly happy right now, because we’re doing exactly what we want to be doing. Six different lives, six happy people. Because we’re all different. And if you’re annoyed that you wasted 10 minutes reading a few-thousand words, just to hear a lesson from 2nd grade...then go write your own blog.
No, really. I actually mean that: Go write your own blog. Or write more sketches. Or move here to New York. Or quit comedy and become a teacher. Just do whatever you want to do. Fuck what I and everyone else says. Do what feels right to you.
Heavy-handedly, but with love,
A wink and a thumbs up? I really AM a great guy!