Stand-up Comedian the Hardest Job in the World?
Whenever I tell someone that I was a stand-up comic, quite often they say, “That’s got to be the hardest thing in the world to do.” First off, there are quite a few professions they certainly didn’t include in their analysis: crime scene cleaners, porn theater janitors, a bomb disposer (especially near retirement age), animal inseminator, snake milker, and odor tester to name a few (these are all real jobs). Ok, I realize their statements are exaggerations, but I also see the truth in their declarations, which are based on who they are as individuals. I’m sure there are some out there who are natural pet food tasters, or garbage bin archivists or even livestock masturbators. For me, even in the entertainment field, there are so many scarier jobs. Being an actor frightens me–having to recite other people’s words under the watchful eye of writers, directors and producers, hoping that you have interpreted the lines correctly without bruising any ripe egos. As a stand-up comedian I get to say my own words, my own way, in front of an audience that judges me by instinct. After my set, I looked forward to receiving how-to advice from fellow comics, even musician friends (musicians naturally have sick senses of humor). I’ve never had to ask a fellow worm picker: “If a worm breaks should I, throw it out, or keep both halves and do they count as two?”
Sure, having no prior performing experience made my early sets scary, fearing the audience’s hatred or their vocal taunting, but after awhile, getting past the nastiness just becomes part of a process. It’s no more fearful than making mistakes in other professions like having hiccups if you’re a knife throwers assistant. I’ve never worried about removing the wrong lung because I was operating from the wrong side of the body. As a stand-up comedian, a poor performance, no matter how bad (even on TV), does not do physical harm to your self (except in the case of Larry David, but that’s another hundred stories, ones he didn’t use on Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm) or put other people’s lives at risk. The point I’m trying to make is: what we fear is relative to who and what we are. Disarming a bomb to someone is less frightening than just bombing on stage. I will always be a stand-up comic at heart, although my thirst to get laughs has subsided to a level of near sanity. Going on stage in front of 300 people is far less scary than being a body farm caretaker, who has to drag bodies out of grave and remove the insects from the remaining flesh (sounds like something Gilbert Gottfried might act out on stage). I once spotted a pretty girl in the audience, who I knew off stage I wouldn’t be able to talk to, so rather than get rejected face to face, I stopped in the middle of my set and asked her out. Of course, she rejected me, but I made it into a joke, protecting me from the pain of rejection—I got turned down of by a pretty woman on stage in a night club, an environment that felt natural to me. I am a comic; see me get humiliated and then see me make you laugh your head off.