I never intended for this blog to become a humor column. I was looking to do something personal without being narcissistic. Unfortunately, I find that very difficult. So, at risk of being self-indulgent, I’d like to provide a glimpse into the psychology involved in my development as a stand-up comic. Shit, this is already narcissistic since I said “a glimpse” which suggests that you’ll probably want to hear more. Ugh
I’m in my 9th year of performing, and most of the time, I still have no idea what I’m doing. I know that, for me, the most important ingredient to my success is likability (gross, I know.) If I try too hard it seems like I’m selling you a used car or begging for an early parole. It’s pathetic, needy, fake and everyone feels it, including me. So, whether I’m likable on stage depends on me being in a good mood. As you might know by now, that’s a fleeting thing which I spent many years drinking my way into. Most good comics can turn on the charm whenever they want. It’s why they find it so easy to get laid (even the uglier ones.) There’s an innate charisma most of them have or else they wouldn’t have become comics. Others have to learn it.
When I use the term likable, I don’t mean cheery. You can like someone because they are angry, depressed or weird. Take Lewis Black, Steven Wright, and Norm MacDonald as examples. The difference here is that I’m often not able to do my challenging and often confrontational material in a way that makes people feel comfortable agreeing with me or accepting what I’ve just said or done. I have to tell the crowd that I gave my 3 yr-old son the finger behind his back, but do so in a way that makes them like me because I’m being honest and real. It’s tricky. And no, I can’t just write cute jokes. I’m incapable. So forget about that.
“Just be yourself up there.” That’s what people tell me. Unfortunately, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. I can feel it when it happens though. I stop thinking, my internal dialogue falls silent, I start enjoying myself, and glide effortlessly through my material. When I used to play a lot of pool, I would run multiple 9-ball racks without even remembering the individual shots. The greatest comics always SEEM to be in this state. Ironically, it’s the “thinking” that gets in the way. My wife has been saying for years, “when you really start being totally comfortable with yourself on stage, everything is going to change for you.” I believe her, I just don’t know how to do it. I’ve been practicing for 9 years now. It’s getting better but I still have a long way to go. The key is to be confident while also accessible and vulnerable. I can analyze it to death, but I can’t seem to live it consistently. There’s a certain “live in the moment” zen feeling to all this. I’m sure it’s also a popular topic for sports psychologists. They call it “trusting your muscle memory.” Don’t think about hitting the ball, just hit the ball. Yea, yea, we know all that, but how do you actually do it? I don’t think that’s a teachable skill. Maybe it’s not a skill at all. Maybe it actually requires a profound lack of skill. Maybe I just took acid. I’m deeply confused.
I’m gonna try to have fun tonight and not think about what I’m doing. Can you think your way into not thinking? Stay tuned. Ok, now that I’ve written this post, I’m glad this blog became a humor column, because what I just wrote made me feel indulgent and dirty.