a priori/a posteriori

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why I Quit Comedy (for now)

I decided to stop doing stand-up. Not forever. But for a while. And I'm going to be honest: it's been amazing.

I recorded two shows back in June, and the plan was to edit them down and release my first special.

That remains the plan. However, it's November now. It's been over 5 full months since those shows, and thee is still no special to speak of. It remains incomplete. Almost complete. But still incomplete.

I don't know exactly what has taken so long. It's a combination of things, of course. As things always are.

I've had a bunch of ups and downs since I left St. Marks Theater the night of June 9th. I went around the corner, to a bar, and watched LeBron James defeat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. And I understood, fully, that I was LeBron James of comedy. That I wasn't a supporting cast member. That I was historic.

That lasted a week or two, I think. Then I saw the footage, and loved it. Then I saw the footage, and hated it. Then I started editing it with Andrew, and I hated it again. Then we edited some more, and I loved it. Then we took a month off for some reason. Then I was intimidated by the idea of building a website to sell it on, so I hid from everything relating to the special for a while. Then I freaked out because I thought the end product was going to be a massive failure. Then I decided that was okay.

I've lost count of the times that I wish I didn't have to deal with this recorded show, and this special, and this website.

Where was I? Oh yeah. I quit comedy. Well, not exactly. I didn't quit comedy. I just quit doing comedy. I've stopped performing live, not only on shows, but also at any open-mics. This week alone, I've turned down a show, and an invitation to start working at a club, and a couple offers to hop up at open-mics that I've gone to. I'm not a comedian right now.

Why not? Because it finally occurred to me why I wasn't finishing my special: because I didn't have to. With or without the special completed, and with or without my website to sell it on, my life felt exactly the same as it has for most of the past 7 years. I try to avoid doing anything during the day, and then I go perform at night. I feel connected to the world – no matter how unproductive my day was – by getting on a stage every night, and talking to a roomful of people. That's where I get my self-worth from. That's the thing that let's me say “How dare you say I'm not being productive! I'M A COMIC!!!”

And that allowed me to stay on a high horse, inside my head. Sure, I wasn't finishing this special. Sure, I wasn't producing anything. But why should I have to? I'm a comic. That should be enough. People listen to me every night. Fellow comics respect me. We meet up every night, pat each other on the back, and say “we're not wasting our time.” Why should I have to make a website? I'm not a techy start-up nerd person. I'm a comic. I shouldn't have to do any of that. That's not fair.

Well, life isn't fair.

And at some point, it occurred to me: the only way I was going to do anything else – and actually finish it – was if I didn't allow myself to do stand-up until it was done. I fully trust and understand that I am a comic – which is why I am not doing comedy right now. Because I understand myself well enough, that I know I will do anything to be a comic again. I will happily jump through hoops of fire, if there's a mic and a stage on the other side of it.

And even scarier, I'll write down time codes. Dozens and dozens of them. I'll call strangers, and pitch the idea for my website. I'll have meetings that feel like bombing, where 30 seconds in, I know it's already gone all wrong. And that I'm not going to get them, not this crowd, not this person, not today. I'll bomb meetings, and have tech people look at me like I'm a child.

I'll ask people for help that I haven't talked to in ten years. I'll ask people for help that I've met twice, ever. I'll do everything I can to fight through this difficult, get-it-off-the-ground stage. And I'll do it fairly happily, if I know it means I'm going to be able to tell people about the thought I had – the one about which type of slave all of us would have been. And then the one about me looking good, but in a way that it makes sense I also have a good personality.

I haven't told a joke in over 3 weeks now. But I'm more a comic now than I've ever been. I'm treating it like it's my job. I'm treating it like I want it to be my source of income, for the rest of my life.

I'm kicking ass. I really am. But for the record, it doesn't feel like it, most days. This process feels slow, and frustrating, and terrifying. I have a feeling in my gut that I'm going to look back on this time and think I was a badass for doing all of this. But right now it's just humbling, and embarrassing at times, and a part of me wants to apologize to the tech people I'm working with.

I've been writing this from a bus, as it travels from New York City to Hartford, Connecticut. It is Thanksgiving, 2012. I have roughly a month left in this year. It has been one of growth, and one with some very cool moments. But part of me won't feel good about it until this special is done, and available to the world. Part of me won't rest well until this project of mine is complete.

God, I can't wait to start doing stand-up again. How easy it will be.

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