Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Starving the Devil

When I first started comedy, the only thing I had were my dreams. I was a kid from Pittsburgh. Having no idea what it really took to be a New York City comedian, I chased my dreams running on the hard pavement like Hussein Bolt. Of course I made friends with other young people chasing theirs as well. We saw each other at mics, grabbed pizza, and talked about how one day we wanted to be on TV in some capacity. We also traded punchlines and sob stories as we journeyed towards our pipe dream. We were going to be friends forever, right?

Time passes, and comedy is a vicious game. Being funny is part of the equation, along with the business and being at the right place at the right time. There were times I was acid tongued because I believed someone less talented advanced for no reason whatsoever. Of course there were other occasions where I was just bitter in general. We were all mice going for the same three pieces of cheese. There was going to be a little resentment over the fact there were so many spots, right?

Finally two and a half years ago my comedy luck began to turn. It seemed I was getting on TV quite a bit. Granted, I had a niche skill and was working for it. Not to mention that I branched out into music and was on my way to publishing a book. It looked like spending my twenties as a poor bohemian were finally starting to pay off. Sure, my high school and college mates were getting married, having kids, and starting their lives. I lived in a cramped apartment with no man and no money and a shitload of puppets and costumes most of the time. Yes, my bathroom looked like a drag queen vandalized it. However, I was also getting fans around the world. I was getting my music to chart on internet radio. My job as a talking head was fun and exposed me to even more folks in different reaches who saw me on TV. Oh and I published my book. My friends were going to be happy for me, right?


Suddenly it seemed I was public enemy number one. I was dissed on several blogs, and my so called friends from back in the day were the first to take shots at me. Some accused me of sleeping my way to TV time. Others said I lied and cheated my way to get things. Then there were those who called me an open mic hack. Meanwhile I was featuring and sometimes headlining. When they saw me in person they would be fake after slandering me online, which was even more painful because one idiot even left his name. Then there were some who decided to shun me all together. It was like we were friends who talked about our comedy dreams and then they couldn't say two words to me. Of course there were the brave idiots who took shots at me whether it was something backhanded or outright fought with me. Translated, I was being bullied and paying the price for seeing success. I couldn't get a break.

For a while I tried to tune it out, but it's hard to when people are nasty for no reason other than the fact they are jealous. I tried to keep in mind I earned these things: living off my laundry money and being so poor that sometimes I washed my clothes in my bathtub with my own shampoo. Soon I became nasty to counteract these people. Fighting back is the only thing a bully understands. Finally, as doors opened elsewhere my attitude became that I was too important to pay for stage time. I would show up if I liked the venue, was getting money, liked the producer, or if a fan was booking the show. Of course when any idiot started with me I would be quick to remind them that I was on TV in case they had forgotten. I thought I was showing them.

Instead I was only hurting myself. I felt alone more often than not, because I was also shutting people out who were my friends regardless of whether or not I was successful. Because I wasn't performing as much, that side of my personality was emerging in ways that weren't so good. I played a prank on a friend that I thought was funny. She thought it was mean and ended the friendship. I was increasingly glib to the point of being mean. The chip on my shoulder became uber magnified. I had been a woman slugging it out my entire youth and had faced so much sexism. When asked about all I had accomplished I came across as the biggest, most whiny victim in the world. At the times I wasn't sporting a bad attitude, I told everyone about the book I published and all I was doing with it. I claimed I was too tired to write jokes because I had written over 300 plus pages. Meanwhile it was all just a way to run from my bullies. In a way to fight the jerks I became one myself.

Finally I hit rock bottom. I found myself very depressed around the time I published my book. Some of it was the let down from a huge project. However a lot of it was because I wasn't writing new jokes. Standup had been the outlet for my rage and awkwardness back in the day. The stage had been my safe place. I no longer had that. Soon my urge to say the first thing that popped out of my head was getting me in trouble as well.I was turning into someone that no one liked, not even myself. One morning, as I felt the rage build up inside me I messaged a friend whom I will call Mr. Ed. To give you an idea, Mr. Ed is not a talking horse (irresistible hack joke), but an established comedian who has always been a friend that I admire. Positive and successful, Mr. Ed is one of those magical people who still loves to make people laugh.

Mr. Ed is somewhat psychic. We started the conversation about his headlining gig and he told me he killed in a whole new way because as he wrote in caps he HAD FUN. The universe was speaking to me. This was something I had not done in a while. Then I proceeded to pour my heart out and told him what I was going through. I asked Mr. Ed how he handled the jealousy and negativity. Mr. Ed said the only way to handle it was to starve it. I told him that would be hard for me. Like the blind karate master in the Kung Fu movies he had another move. Using the caps lock on his computer he typed it again in big letters. Now it made sense. By fighting back against these bullies I had been feeding into their negativity. They were just nasty people all around, and the only one I was hurting was myself.

I spoke to my mother about this who also had some good input. She said, "They had the same opportunities as you and didn't take them. That's not your fault."

Of course there was an old friend of mine who informed me that my attitude was becoming a problem. He also told me that the people bullying me were "shitheads" and I had to ignore them. Finally, he told me I was alienating people who could assist me. While it was harsh it was also the reality check I needed. Before my success was making people despise me. Now I was just doing it on my own.

Things steadily became easier, but I still had some hang ups. However as I strive to get this audition set ready, I am struck by how many people have come out of the wood work to help me. Some are old friends. One by the way is Mr. Ed. Some are new friends. This has enabled the walls to come down, and some of my old friends have reappeared. It turns out they still cared about me no matter where I am in my career, and are happy for me as long as I am happy. As a matter of fact I have never felt so much love coming my way in my life. It has been amazing, and it has made me love comedy in a whole new way. Since my energy is renewed, I am meeting others who perform simply because they love the art form of comedy and ultimately hunting the perfect punchline. Despite the fact comedy and I have had an abusive relationship as I run after the perfect clean set, I am more stoked than ever to get onstage.

I have also learned that while it is mean to be gossiped about, it is also mean to gossip about others. While sometimes all humans envy, it is important to be happy for others when they are successful. I am also seeing that while everyone is crazy in the beginning of the comedy race, everyone ultimately goes their own way. Some become performers, others writers, some club owners/bookers/managers, or go into TV production. However, those of us who finish end up working together which is kind of cool.

My pink cloud was a little bit obstructed yesterday. Someone who was an old friend back in the day who's second rate hack career has gone no where took a very public jab at me. This moron has no business critiquing anyone, especially since my second toe on my right foot with fungus has more talent. However it upset me because we were friends once upon a time. It was the same knife to the back piercing my heart. Yes, I did cry like a Goddamn woman. After calling a friend and sobbing wildly, I took a shower. I tried to brush it off but felt badly.

That is when I realized it was about him and not me. He had the same opportunities that I did. This man wasn't worth my tears let alone the paragraph above. That is when I threw on some clothes and got onstage.

I found out I was on Wendy Williams which was cool.

I also botched my clean set because I had wasted my energy. TV time is nice, but doing the work got me thus far. Don't stop the thing that makes it all possible, right? Plus in all that goes into show biz so much is beyond our control, so make what we can control good.

With that being said, haters make you famous. On that note, my clean set still needs a butt load of work

I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl

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