What the fuck am I doing with my life?
It’s a common refrain these days. Sitting at a comedy club bar, sucking down another overpriced vodka soda. Goddamnit it’s probably Dubra, too. Fuck.
There’s nobody in this audience. Just other comics. And they’ve heard my shit jokes before. Not that they’re paying attention. They’re either smoking in the back or reciting lines from some show I haven’t seen.
Of course, even if they paid attention I’d probably collapse like a dying star here. Stands-ups aren’t easily impressed. And most of these people have been doing it longer than I have. And they’re better.
So fuck them.
But fuck me, too.
Cause even though hardly anybody’s here, my heart is racing and my palms glisten with sweat. My stomach lurches and I feel like I just ate a pile of Mexican food. But it’s just nerves. The alcohol barely touches them. They just slow me down and slur my speech. Great stuff when you’re trying to be articulate.
But it’s almost midnight and what the fuck else was I supposed to do sitting at the bar all night. Drink club sodas and moderate myself?
I still have no idea how to start a set. I should probably ask people how they’re doing (ugh) or make a joke about someone in the audience (ugh). Whatever. I just plow into the material.
A few chuckles here and there. I can barely make eye contact with the audience members. For all of my self-awareness, I may as well have blacked out. I have no idea what’s going on.
Some jokes hit. Some jokes don’t. You try to have a backup plan if it fails. “I guess I’ll put that in the ‘needs work’ pile, eh?” Sometimes it works. Other times… just the suffocating silence.
There are worse comics than me. I have no fucking idea how they keep doing it. They’re stronger than I am.
It’s over before I know it. Somehow, no matter how long I’m up there, it just burns through. No matter how rushed or uncomfortable I feel. The light is on, and it’s time. The crowd claps. Sometimes politely. Sometimes with vigor.
I need a drink.
The Dark Side.
When it’s bad, it’s so bad.
What the fuck am I doing with my life?
Why would I start doing comedy at 34? How little do I have figured out? And what made me think I was funny enough to do this shit?
This is just a vanity project. A narcissistic ploy to see how clever I can be. Come on, everyone, come watch me talk. What the fuck was I thinking?
Look how many smarter, younger, funnier people there are here than you. They’ve got a five year head start. And they’re out there hitting mics every night while you sit here, feeling sorry for yourself.
Nice job, dickhead.
It’s All Worth It.
When it’s good, though? It’s so good.
Walking off the stage, the adrenaline rushing through my veins. Other comics shake your hand, congratulating you on the set. You feel fucking alive.
Tonight, I will barely sleep. I can barely stop shaking. The exhilaration coming through in waves. My friends walk over, all smiles. Someone buys me a drink. I feel fucking great.
I’m not bad at this, not bad at all. There are better, of course, but I’ve been doing this for what, 16 months?
Give yourself a break. You’re doing fine. You’re getting more comfortable every time. Figuring out what works. Slowing down. Learning.
Who knows where this road leads? You’ve got less than a million in one shot of ever making it. Of ever really making something of this.
Comedy writing? Ha. Don’t quit your day job. But that’s okay. You have an alright day job. And this is fun, too. And some girls are even impressed. Cause they think you’re courageous.
They don’t really know, but that’s alright. You can pretend to be brave.
Where are we going?
I don’t know where this path leads. Is this a hobby? A passion project, as my sister says? Something else entirely?
I don’t know.
But I know that when the jokes hit, when the audience laughs… I feel something. Something that shakes me and terrifies me and wakes me up and drags me out of myself and my comfort zone.
The odds are against me. So many people think they’re good at this. There’s millions of us. All vying for that same spot.
Many are funnier. Or smarter. So many work harder to get ahead.
I just don’t know. Maybe next year, I’ll give up. I’ll have had enough.
But today, I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep pushing.
For now, that’s enough.