As my 3rd year of employment in the school district comes to a close, it has occurred to me that I may need to work this summer. This is something I haven’t done since 2010! I had initially planned to have my summer of 2014 booked with comedy shows, which is easier said than done. Did I put a lot of effort into booking shows? No. Did I think opportunities would just stumble upon my lap? Yes. As a part-time comedian, I have been spoiled. Hell, my whole start as a comedian is somewhat of a fluke! BUT, I have been paying my dues by traveling to open mics and some shows for little or no money these past 3 years. As a wide-eyed, optimisitic, young comedian, I was ready for my first HBO comedy special after my first paid show in 2010. I could’ve swore I was the next Eddie Murphy! But zee.
One of my favorite comedians to learn about is Louis C.K., who I’ve actually met in 2009 and called him the wrong name. What we see now is one of the most successful comedians in the world. He can do no wrong in the eyes of the world of comedy. His tours sell out everywhere he goes, his specials are well received, and his TV show is a critical darling with many Emmy wins. What he has accomplished is every comedian’s dream. We all want the glory of sold out shows, millions buying our specials on DVD, total creative control on our own critically acclaimed TV show and all the awards that go with it! We all want to be Louis C.K. We want the world to be ours!
The struggle to be successful in comedy is rarely seen. Prior to my first paid show, I had lunch with Vaughn EagleBear, Tatanka Means, Ryan McMahon, and Tito Ybarra. A conversation that stuck with me was about how, when at an open mic, an older comedian came to the green room, looked at all the young guys and told them, “In ten years, most of you will end up killilng yourself because you’ll never make it.” Now, I’m paraphrasing of course and don’t remember if it was Vaughn or Ryan that told us that. I still think of that today. Going back to Louis C.K., who has been doing comedy since he was in his late teens, despite all he has today, he struggled too, nearly giving it up in his 20s. But, after almost 30 years of work, he is on top of the world right now. I started thinking. I’m about 20 years behind him in this comedy game and have so much farther to go to reach that point, that point of being on top of the world. I’m 38 years old right now. I don’t have time to wait. I need this now.
I received a message today that a show I had looked forward to and was going to be a great start to my summer with a decent paycheck that I needed, was pushed back to July. I could feel the dream deflate right then and there. The self doubt was coming back stronger. The presence of failure is common around this place, but still not welcome.
I once heard at an open mic, “If you’re not failing at comedy, you’re not learning anything.”
It looks like failure and I have a lot of catching up to do.