Issue #98 – “Comedian” – October 23rd, 2006

-Stand-up has to be the only profession where people ask you if you’re working no matter where you go.  The week before I went to Spain on vacation earlier this year, about a dozen people asked me if I’d be performing there.  I was like, uh, actually I’m gonna be sitting on the beach the entire time sipping a drink with a little umbrella in it.  When tax attorneys go to Cabo no one asks if they’re gonna be filing W2s by the pool.  Alas, stand-up is an oft-misunderstood occupation – and we comedians like it that way.  Here’s a glimpse inside a job that requires balls of steel and deftly combines public speaking with mass alcohol consumption.  Hey, it’s a living.

-Frequently asked question: Do I get nervous before a show? Answer: Sometimes.  But there’s one thing that’s helped calm my nerves for years – the knowledge that I’m not gonna shit myself.  You see, when I step on stage, a shot of adrenaline courses through my body.  My hangover disappears, my hunger pangs subside, and most importantly, my bowels clench.  I usually drink on stage as well, which is both good for my nerves and gives me a head start on my hangover for tomorrow’s show.

-It amuses me when a comic asks the crowd how they’re doing, and upon receiving an unsatisfactory responses, exhorts, “Come on, you can do better than that!”  I always imagine audience members thinking to themselves, “Sure, I mean there are plenty of things in life we can all do better.  I can be a better person.  Read a book occasionally.  Volunteer.  Donate to Darfur.  Somehow yelling ‘Woooooo!’ even louder doesn’t really seem like a priority right now.”

-Frequently asked question: Have I ever bombed?  Answer: I’ve told some stinkers in my day, but that’s part of the journey.  I’ll never forget telling a usually reliable joke at Tulane about how much it sucks, when you’re in college, to brag to all your friends from home about how awesome your school is and how much you party, but when they finally come and visit…it’s the worst weekend ever.  I’ve never seen more confused faces.  Apparently there’s never been a slow weekend in the storied history of Tulane and they had no idea what I was talking about.  But that’s the nature of the beast.  One minute you’re golden, and the next you’re bombing worse than Dresden in World War II.

-At the end of last year, I proclaimed my goal for 2006 was to sign breasts after a show.  Almost anti-climactically, it happened at my very next performance.  Ten months later, with a bevy of breast-signings (and one ass-signing) under my belt, I’m thinking about adding another element to my shows, which already include a sea of chicks in wife-beaters and dudes so drunk they periodically yell out unintelligibly.  Here’s my new goal: streakers.  I want someone to fucking streak the stage during an upcoming show, right in the middle of my set.  I realize this stunt will most likely be performed by a guy rather than a girl, but I’ll take what I can get.  Just in case, no hugging allowed.

-Frequently asked question: Do I get drunk on stage?  Answer: I try.  I don’t think people understand how hard it is to get drunk when you’re walking back and forth for an hour with blindingly hot lights shining directly in your face.  Generally, I save my heavy drinking for after the show.  My fans on the other hand, don’t fuck around.  I once got an angry email from a reader before a show complaining that there was a two-drink minimum.  I initially figured he didn’t want to pony up the cash, but it turned out he was actually concerned that people might take “two drinks” as a suggestion rather than a minimum, and cut themselves off at two without drinking more.  My first thought was: Is this guy out of his fucking mind?  My second thought was: I love this job.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-If privacy on the Internet is such a big concern these days, why do web sites require you to answer the most personal questions in case you forget your password?  What was the model of my first car?  What is my mom’s maiden name?  I’m not telling you that shit!

-There is no reason to ever use the font “Comic Sans” unless you’re making a third-grader’s birthday card.

-Every year I wear the same thing for Halloween – my full high school soccer uniform.  Some say that’s dull and unimaginative.  I say, you try hooking up in shin guards.

-To me, the FedEx option that takes like five fucking business days to get there is like your friend who drives really slowly on purpose because he knows you have to pee.

-This quiz in Details magazine I saw recently showed you close-ups of faces writhing in ecstasy and you had to guess whether it was a porn star or a host on the Food Network.  I was a perfect 15 for 15.  I figure I either watch too much porn, or I watch too much Food Network.  Then I realized I don’t even get the Food Network.

-I don’t know one person who is not “crazy” at work.  When someone says to me, “Sorry, it’s just been crazy,” my instinctive response is always, “Yeah, it’s crazy over here too.”  But by “over here” I mean my apartment, and by “crazy” I mean I can’t find my shin guards.

-Election Day is coming up.  How can we be trusted to elect our leaders when fast food restaurants don’t even trust us enough to leave out the napkins?

-When a number pops up on my phone that I don’t recognize, I immediately Google the area code to determine where in the country the caller resides.  This knowledge allows me to not simply decline the call, but instead decline the call while exclaiming, “Who the fuck is calling me from [insert city]?”

-And, finally, performing tends to pervade every aspect of a comedian’s life.  We are expected to deliver whenever public speaking is required.  Sometimes, we go overboard.  Case in point: my never-ending, seventeen-minute Best Man “toast” at my buddy Brian’s wedding.  Sometimes, we lose perspective.  At my grandma’s funeral in April, my dad and I gave the only two eulogies.  When told I would go first, I protested, “Dad, I can’t open for you, I’m a headliner!”  But for the most part, us comedians aim to please, to elicit a response from you even when you don’t feel like laughing, and to receive instant feedback, good or bad.  No two audiences are the same and no two sets are ever identical.  Stand-up is inherently – and, wonderfully – unpredictable.  That’s why, every now again when I get off stage, I still check – just to make sure – that I haven’t shit myself.  Fuck me.