a priori/a posteriori

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Comedy - WITHIN Life

I haven’t written on here for two weeks. I’m going to be writing on here a lot in the next few weeks.

A lot of what I write won’t be about comedy. Or at least some of it probably won’t be.

I don’t think that’s doing a disservice to this blog, or to its readers. Because comedy isn’t life. Comedy is some shit that happens in a life. Comedy is what I do, not what I am.

Wait, scratch that - it sounds douchey, and it’s not reality.

More realistically: Comedy is what I’m trying to do - not what I’m trying to be.

But comedy is not life. And this is not a comedy blog. It’s a life blog.

No, scratch that too. It is a comedy blog. But it’s a chicken and the egg thing. Comedy is nothing without the everything else that surrounds it. Comedy can’t survive on a diet of itself. It’s like everything else: pretty soon, it needs something else to keep going.

I know people that live and die with every set. Their lives are pretty sad, honestly. From my vantage point, they’re missing out on a huge part of life. Specifically, everything that isn’t comedy.

I love comedy. I love getting to do stand-up. But my life is more than that.

Some comics believe that previous line takes away from my comedy. I, personally, think it adds to it. And it raises the ceiling of what my comedy can become.

I hope I never throw life under the bus for the sake of comedy. I have no problem getting consumed by comedy. I have no problem with comedy “owning” me for stretches of my life. As long as I remember that nothing can own me unless I let it. I’m a person. And as a person, nothing can own me unless I let that person - or thing - own me.

I will let comedy own me. But I hope that I never let comedy own me against my will. That’s something different. That’s when it becomes an addiction. That’s when I’m not in control anymore.

I see comics like that. But it’s not just comics. It’s people. I see people like that. I see people owned by money all the time. And it’s sad. I want to have money. I want to be comfortable. But I never want to be owned by money. I never want money to be the force that directs my decisions. Because at that point, I’m no longer making the decisions - money is. Do you see the difference?

So this point - it's not really about comedy. It’s about attitude. It’s about my “philosophy” toward life. What is my philosophy?

If I let chasing-comedy make my life decisions for me, then I’m no better than someone who lets chasing-money make the decisions for them: neither of us are in control of ourselves. Neither of us are thinking, really. We’re just following a script, at that point.

I don’t know what I want to do with comedy. But I want to do it within a life lived well.

I don’t know what that means, either. But that’s part of why I’m doing comedy in the first place. I feel like if I can be funny enough - if me and other comics can find a funny that no one has found yet - then it could be a clue about how to live a life better.

Carlin did that. He didn’t decide what was funny. He was more humble than that. He searched for funny.

What did he find? He realized the funniest thing in the world was that some people cared more about which words we’re saying than which countries we’re bombing.

He wasn’t trying to be funny. He was pointing out things that were so not funny -- it was funny.

Some of the funniest things I’ve ever heard? Are the things that are the least funny. Pryor’s points about race. More recently, David Cross’ thoughts on 9/11, and our response to it. Louis C.K.’s points about love and divorce.

Go back hundreds of years. I know this is giving myself away as a nerd, but I swear to God, Henry David Thoreau had some hilarious points about what a bunch of shitty hypocrites our Founding Fathers were. They started a bloody, murderous revolution because the English were mistreating us by taxing our tea, but then when we started our “more perfect union,” we kept their policy of owning other human beings as property.

Really? The tea was their deal breaker?

That’s what funny is. Something is so wrong, it’s funny. And something is so funny, it makes us realize we’re wrong.

It may sound like I’m dismissing comedy that’s just silly, or stupid, or doesn’t seem to have a “point” to it. I’m not. Sometimes, the best point a comic can make is just that we’re taking everything way too fucking seriously.

A comedian should never feel bad about being silly or stupid, if that’s what feels right to them. They’re probably making a way better point - by doing what feels right - than the comic that goes up next and tells a joke about labor unions, with no joy behind it, just because that’s what they’re “supposed” to do.

Here’s the thing: I can act cocky all I want, but I have no idea what I’m fucking doing in this life. I really don’t. I can probably convince some people that I have my shit more together than them, but I don’t. I just don’t. I might be doing this whole thing all wrong.

But I’m going to try. And since I have no way of knowing one way or the other, I’m going to do my absolute, very best - to have a fucking blast along the way. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll try to help others, and try to encourage other people to be happy, too. But I’m going to really try to have a fucking blast.

More soon. I’ve been in Pittsburgh, with my family, the past ten days. I can’t wait to get back to New York, and back to comedy. I love it, and I love what I’m doing with my life.
I wrote this on the 2nd floor balcony of my brother’s new home. It’s a little cool, but nice enough to write outside. I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of an old car he used to own. It’s slightly reclined. Life is good.


  1. Are you sitting in a car seat? Looks like you're driving a house. And having a blast doing it.

  2. Yes! i AM sitting in a car seat!! My brother took the two car seats out of his old Volkswagon Jetta, and he uses them as portable recliners in his new house. They’re ridiculously comfortable. And they recline!

    I am half excited at the thought of the chair, and half excited because somebody noticed. Very astute, Mr. Phelps.

    (though not astute enough to notice the text below the picture, where i briefly reference said car seat. but the important thing is to notice i was having a blast driving that house).