I’ve been a full time Comedian for exactly one year. And based on what I’ve learned in the last year… I should quit. The odds of “making it” are so slim and so minute. I need to face reality.
I’m 37 which, it seems, is a dinosaur in this business. I’m white at a time when every major network is embracing diversity (finally). I’m trying to establish myself in a market that has 10 times as many comedians as the previous one in which I lived. Oh and I’m competing against some of the greatest comedians in the world. I don’t have “abs” I have a really big “ab” and this mole on my lip is actually starting to eat the rest of my face and I’ve only been on 2 commercial auditions in a year.
I’m in my peak earning years and should be making, given my experience and knowledge in sales, upwards of $200,000 a year back in the corporate world. I should be looking at vacation homes. I should be thinking about getting a boat. I should be contributing to my 401k and taking vacations in the Greek islands and “forecasting my stretch goals for the 4th quarter”. I should be evaluating my client’s needs and positioning solutions that will help me maximize my “comp plan”.
How am I going to “make it” if I can’t even get a room with 6 comedians to laugh at 2 in the morning? I wasn’t on Last Comic Standing or America’s Got Talent this year. Chelsea’s leaving. The Tonight Show moved to New York. Letterman is leaving, Ferguson is leaving. And we’re smack dab in the middle of the age of the alt comic and I put all my chips into being a club comic. Nobody in the business knows who I am. I’m not on anyone’s “radar”. I don’t have any “heat” on me. I’m working on a new comedy album which is the most painful thing a Comedian can do because you bomb more than you succeed which hurts your soul and makes you want to die.
I’m living in a tiny one bedroom apartment in Burbank which isn’t even in the “cool” part of LA apparently. I see 3-4 Comedians every week that are so good that they make me want to quit comedy all together forever. I learned very quickly that no one here can really help you that much especially the ones that said they would. Nobody seems to be in charge. I don’t even know how to write a spec script or even put together a writing packet. I don’t have a feature written. I haven’t written a pilot. I’m too old for NACA and I don’t have any corporate work. I’m not out there “rubbing elbows” with industry. I haven’t even been invited to a rooftop pool party yet. I have no idea idea what I’m doing. I miss my family, I miss my dog, I miss my Lexus and my girlfriend dumped me and moved back to Chicago.
No one will fault me for having tried. No one will blame me for throwing in the towel. I did my best. I gave it my all. I took a chance on following my dreams. It’s a hell of a story to tell at my next job interview. “The balls it took to give it a shot. Here’s your desk. We have a meeting every Monday morning. Bring your forecast.”
But as I reflect on the last year I can’t help but think of all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had. Driving across the country with fellow comedian, Vince Carone to watch him crush it at the Asheville Comedy Festival. (I did ok too.) Doing a set every night in a different city as I made my way to LA. The college bar in Omaha, The Comedy Works in Denver, Loonees in Colorado Springs, The MGM Grand in Las Vegas, my first show in LA where I had to follow Damon Wayans. My first time at the Comedy Store and immediately understanding why it’s the mecca of all things Comedy. My first open mic at the Improv in Hollywood. Getting passed at the Icehouse. My showcase at the Laugh Factory. My first paid gig at Jon Lovitz. Playing Vegas twice in the same year. Opening for people I have long admired like Brad Garrett, Bob Zany, Loni Love, Damon Wayans, Chris Kattan, Gallagher, Butch Bradley and Tommy Davidson. Going home to the Improv in Chicago and being welcomed back with open arms. Mikey O throwing me up in front of 400 people at Joe’s on Weed St. The Hoo Ha girls giving me stage time. Lia Berman saying stop by whenever. Bobby Hill vouching for me. People fucking getting what I’m trying to do here.
The greatest thing about LIVING your dream is that you don’t have to do it alone. Living the dream is not just doing what makes you happy but truly appreciating the people in your life that make it possible for you to do so. Whether its giving you a couch to sleep on or helping you move your shit all across the city or spending hours with me on the phone and talking me off the ledge a hundred times. Letting me use your car for two weeks and putting a thousand miles on it. Buying me lunch. Coming to my shows when you’ve already heard this shit a dozen times along with a thousand other acts of kindness.
When I moved out to LA I immediately gave up on the idea of “making it”. No one ever really makes it. You hustle and you grind and you create and you express and you do the work you love. And one day maybe you get lucky and someone hands you some money to do it. Who knows? Who cares? Everyday I’m doing what I love and no one can take that from me. Whether I’m trying to get 6 comics sitting in the back of a room to laugh or 600 at a theater, I’m trying to provide a break from life. I’m trying to help them have a better day, week or month and letting them forget about the seriousness and drama that consumes our lives. I’m doing what I know I do best and I’ve never been happier in my life.
So maybe I’ll stick it out another year and see what happens because after all… I love my fucking job.