Day 279: The Stand-up Drug

Thinking in terms of achievement and legitimacy, instead of creativity and growth, earns any “artist” a one-way ticket on the bitter bus to Hacktown. Lately, I’ve wanted to be booked on shows for approval and acceptance, rather than the opportunity to perform. I’ve taken it as a sign to perhaps accept stand-up’s persistent pleas to change its role in my life to “hobby.”

If I strain-out the ambition, I’ll be more able to enjoy the juice, right? A mind focused only on the quality of its product can create things without the nagging influence of their marketability. Unfortunately, the reality is, I can write as much as I want, but without performing, the material sits lifeless on my hard-drive. People can consume some small parts of it on my blog, but it doesn’t become fully me until I recite it into the blank, confused faces of tourists in Times Square, or the floating wool hipster hats of dimly lit “alternative” comedy rooms.

Stand-up only comes with the pulp; a sludgy residue of duplicitous bookers and under-appreciative audiences. It’s bad enough at times that I think maybe, just maybe, I can kick this awful stand-up drug once and for all. Like most things that are ultimately bad for our health and sanity, the moment you think you’re done with them, they redeem themselves.

My phone rang and it was an old friend who runs a comedy variety show. I almost didn’t answer because, for one, I felt he should have texted, but also, I knew he wanted to offer me a gig; I would say yes, and then the night would come and I wouldn’t want to do it. I wouldn’t want to leave my wife alone with the kids so I could drive 45 minutes to disappoint myself by attempting, once again, to get a crowd to like me while being generally unlikeable.

He told me the show was at Joe’s Pub which is a great place for comedy. I harnessed any burgeoning excitement – it was probably still gonna suck. I arrived at the venue and was met by my friend who couldn’t have been more friendly and professional. He paid me up front, asked when I wanted to go on, and showed me to the dressing room where I was offered the beverages of my choice. All of this is intensely rare in comedy for me. I’m usually sitting in a corner trying to generate enough confidence to pester an already annoyed waitress for a half-price Diet Coke and the whereabouts of the person who has my payment for the evening.

The audience looked to be a nice mixture of age and hipness levels. In the back, I spotted Paul Giamatti. Is there a cooler mascot for a crowd than him? I felt a little nervous, which at this point is a good sign for me. Usually, I’m sighing on my way up to the stage muttering “Why do I do this?” under my breath.  This time, I really wanted to do well. I didn’t feel the need to impress people, or simply gas-up my tank of self esteem, I just wanted to have some fun. And I did. And so did they. We all had a good time, and I had forgotten that’s what it’s all about.

So my belief is restored a bit; my addiction reinvigorated. Not completely, but enough to stop thinking about quitting all the time. I’m dubious that  this small dose of faith will endure the onslaught of impending contradictions, but I’m also willing to just let it be for a while.

Create work you’re proud of, and capitalize on opportunities as they come. That’s all we can do. The rest is all pulp.

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adequatemom says:

"Create work you’re proud of, and capitalize on opportunities as they come. That’s all we can do. The rest is all pulp."

So true. What great insight, and a great post.

Donna says:

Every job is with a new family and there are times I wonder where the enthusiasm will come from, why do I put myself through this? what if this family hates me…etc…but you get there and have an amazing time and by the time you leave, love again what you do…

Okay, so standing up in a room of possible drunks or worse, people with no intelligent sense of humor…but…you also have a gift unusual in a comic. You can write it out and it's funny! I picked up the latest Ellen book, I mean she's funny in person or on TV so wouldn't her book be funny? Sadly no. she can't write standup, only perform it. Chelsea is another one whose books are just not "funny".

So if you have this amazing gift to write things that make us laugh, your video clips make me laugh…well, then you are addicted because it's a part of your passion that just needs to explode outward from time to time.

My job gets great when I get great clients. I know they can't all be fantastic and I've learned to appreciate "decent" but you go in with the hope they will be fantastic…So maybe your feelings are similar. Great location, great crowd, and it's glorious fun. Okay crowd where you feel half of them "get you" and also not a bad feeling. But sometimes…the place makes your skin crawl and the people make you want to run out screaming! Trouble is, we never know till we go…

Katester says:

Come to Houston. You'll have at least 3 fans you won't have to try hard for.

Kevin says:

The last paragraph is killer. Seriously good words to live by.

David Foster says:

i feel you. Every comic feels you. I mean, not like that – we're not a big community of gay comedians – some of us are, but probably not enough to constitute "community" (though what quantity finally qualifies as a community?). But we can all feel your words. But things that are "ultimately bad for our health and sanity" – cigarettes, heroin, sex with abusive ex-girlfriends that I can't get out of my head, do not ever truly redeem themselves the way our craft does when performed at its highest level to its most appreciative. Our addiction is not a pathological one to the craft. We love the craft, and have a pathological attitude towards our temporary status(es) in the biz. It's fuckin' brutal, i know, but what better metaphor for life… You're awesome, J. Always enjoyed watching your clips, and now reading your blog as well! Stay addicted!

Jason Good says:

David,

You make a great point. I like to think that the business is a side effect of the stand-up drug. It's the side effects that make you quit.

J

Jennifer says:

Yes please come to the south! We are building quite the following for your blog with all of these children we have!

Anonymous says:

New-ish reader, and as a mom of three, I usually love the ones about parenting best. But this one touched my heart, because I am a teacher. I teach high school and some (many) days I feel that burn-out. Then there are those days, where I really feel I helped a student. Thanks for reminding me that I love days like that, and maybe tomorrow can be one of them.

Anonymous says:

As a bagpiper, I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. He had no family or friends, so the service was to be at a pauper's cemetery in the Kentucky back-country.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods, I got lost and being a typical man I didn't stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late and saw the funeral guy had evidently gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight. There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch.

I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and the vault lid was already in place. I didn't know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I've never played before, for this homeless man. And as I played 'Amazing Grace,' the workers began to weep. They wept, I wept; we all wept together.

When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full. As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for 20 years."

Apparently I'm still lost.

Anonymous says:

great story!!

Anonymous says:

Wow, love that story, tears.

Katester says:

Beautiful.

Candace says:

Please dont stop what you do, i would LOVE to see your live show if you ever make it to the deep south!!!

Dustin says:

I've only been reading your blog for a few months, I adore it, I don't have kids so I can't relate to some of the stuff you write but I'd be more than happy to drag myself to the Improv after work buy a ticket and the 4 item minimum to watch you do stand up for 30 mins. I think you have a gift and the fact that you have no ego about your talent makes me like you even more…YOU ROCK!!!

Charlotte says:

What's funny is that can apply to so many professions. I've felt that way in real estate for a long, long time. When it finally got to the point where nothing was redeeming anymore, I went back to college to do something different and there I still am. You will know when it's no longer right for you. In the meantime, come to Houston!! I'd love to see you live!! Your sense of humor is rare and genuine. Do it until you don't love it anymore.

Heidi says:

You are an artist and a comedian to the core, and I would love to see a live show one day. :) :) Glad the most recent one went well because it would be a shame not to have your humor grace my days :)

Mark DeMayo says:

Hey Jason,

Great job. I really enjoyed your article. Im amazed at how similar our feelings/relationship with comedy is. I think most of us feel the same way. I posted a saying once (i forget where I heard it, but it so applies to us) it goes… "Just cause you love something, don't mean its gotta love you back". And Thats the thing with what we do. We LOVE it, but its rarely nice to us. Then every once in awhile you get a really good day. Three or four phone calls regarding your availability, a weekend full of shows in a great venue, a great crowd when least expected. Those days, be them far and few in between are what makes it worth it, I guess.

I wish we bumped into each other more often, like we did a few years ago, so we could complain to each other, lol… Most of the time Im suffering in silence because its just to much to explain to a civilian. Anyhoot keep up the good fight your a great comic and I look forward to working with you again my friend…

Jason Good says:

Me too Mark. It's always great seeing you. Thanks for the kind words