I know “Adrenalize” is the title of a recent and less-than-mediocre Def Leppard album. That’s exactly why I used it: I’m not afraid to be awesome. I am, however, afraid to death of being bored, and I seek to be “adrenalized” as much as possible.
Given my weakness for anxiety and panic (I have The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook if you want to borrow it), it seems masochistic to crave something from which I derive such intense discomfort. Gambling, competitive pool, and stand-up comedy are all activities that a person with an overactive fight or flight instinct might avoid. I, however, seek out that risk and insecurity so I can control the release of the unstable brain nectar. My head is a balloon that slowly fills with anger, fear, and insecurities, and if I don’t let out a controlled leak every now and then, it will pop and I’ll disassociate. My voice on stage is the sound of air slowly creeping out of that balloon. I’m slowly deflating my brain (and usually ego) just enough to avoid that …
I’m tired of the balloon metaphor. Is this interesting? I hope so, because I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m imagining I’m in therapy and you’re all nodding and chuckling because I’m so witty and self-aware. I’m your most interesting patient aren’t I? AREN’T I? SAY IT! WHAT DO I PAY YOU FOR?!!?!
I think I speak for a lot of comics when I say that standup is a way for us to bleed our emotional output like a plumber bleeds radiators in the winter (that’s even worse than balloon). I’ve always hated the saying, “I do comedy because I have to” or “Comedy saved my life.” That’s annoyingly dramatic, and dramatic comics usually stink. There’s a common thread of truth to those sayings though, and it’s something you learn about most comics as you get to know them; they’re uncomfortable. I don’t like the idea that comics are unhappy, because most of them aren’t. I think we just like to pretend we are because it’s funnier than being happy. Most of us also find guilty pleasure in the carefully manicured facades of sadness erected by other comics. Spend 30 minutes on twitter and you’ll see it’s a competition over who can seem saddest in the fewest number of words (@Mrsrubertpupkin wins that hilarious game)
We’re all overflowing with something. That thing is different for all of us. For some it’s annoying energy (for most actually); for others it’s anger or resentment. Whatever it is, it wants out like 15 shots of Jagermeister in your stomach sitting on a bed of Kobe beef sliders. It’s coming up whether you want it to or not. The question is, are you going to gag yourself over the toilet, or wait until later and accidentally heave it all over your roommate’s dog?
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