In order to be a full time comedian you need to love doing comedy. Or at least have loved it at some point in your life. Comedy is one of those things that is very hard to fake. Although, like sex, even if you are not good but you tried somebody will most likely come up to you and say good job. Even if it wasn’t.
Relationships are not as forgiving. If you are not good at your relationship the person who is in it will not be polite and tell you good job. They will be brutally honest and tell you to raise your game or you are getting fired.
I started doing comedy shortly after I started dating my now wife. She did not know she was signing up to spend her life with a comedian. She thought she was getting a lawyer…at least that is what I was training for. My wife is a very private person. She does not want the spotlight. She wants what goes on in our relationship to stay between us. That is what a normal well adjusted person would want. The thing is when you are a comedian the world is your muse. When you have somebody in your life who you love, often they unwittingly become your greatest inspiration to create. I remember many a battle over what I was allowed to include in my act. I pretty much included whatever I wanted. Maybe it was selfish on my part but my reasoning was the audience doesn’t know you and if they do I will tell them it was all exaggeration and lies. Can you imagine living with & loving somebody who is willing to take your most intimate and treasured moments and share them with the world? It has to be unnerving to say the least.
My wife (girlfriend at the time) did not see my first show although she was with me when I inquired about doing an open mic. In the beginning she went to a lot of shows. A lot of bad performances with a lot of equally poor comics on the show in some completely terrible venues. She either took great pleasure in watching the train wreck or was very supportive. I think it was a bit of both.
I was so excited about doing comedy back then. I would run new jokes by her all the time. The running joke was if she liked the joke it would bomb and if she hated it, it would do well. She still does not really “appreciate” my increasingly dark sense of humor. Being a comedian will make you look at things in a very dark way. She does love a good fart joke. She won’t admit it but those jokes get the biggest laughs from her. I really don’t have any fart jokes anymore. I think she is happy about that. I think she thinks it is cool if somebody else is talking about farts but it is far less appealing for her husband to be talking about it.
I believe she does not get my act in a lot of ways. I also believe that she realizes I must be pretty good at this to make a living at it. She does not come to shows very often anymore. She use to run a lot of my shows for Side Splitting Productions and I think that soured her on the business. That and she has seen all the struggles I have endured and all the nonsense I wade through. She has gotten by proxy cynical to the business. Still she helps me create flyers, burn CDs, and a lot of other things. This after dealing with her full time job and our daughter. It takes a special type of love to do all of that.
I wish she would come to more shows. It is nice to have a friendly face but it just can’t be I guess. I do remember two times in the beginning of my career where she was there for me in spades. The first time I was hosting for my very first time. I thought this was a big break. I thought it would lead to paid work. I had never hosted before and was not taught how to host. I was told to do my best material up top. It was an older crowd. I opened with some gimmick to have them make noise. Then I went into who here masturbates. I then proceeded to use the state’s year long allotment of the word fuck. It was brutal. It was so bad the booker did not have me finish the show. But my girl was there for me. And that was important because at that point I wouldn’t have blamed her if she ran for the hills.
The second time was when I did the talent show at my law school. Again, I was very new and at the time I fancied myself a Jewish Dice Clay. But wait isn’t Dice? Yes he is. Shhh. I was following a cross dressing singer. I guess it was good training for Vegas. Anyway I hit the stage and the audience is digging it. It is all going very well…until the woman running it ordered me off the stage because I was too dirty. She then inserted herself into the show so she could sing. I was shaken by this. Students were coming up to me and telling me how great I was and what total BS this was. They meant it too. While I was soaking in the adulation my girl went up to that woman who yanked me and verbally tore her a new one. It was quite the spectacle. She was protecting me.
In fact her love has protected me from a lot of pitfalls of stand up comedy. See, I have been with her before I was a comic. When I hit the road I was never out trying to get laid. I was back in my hotel room talking to her. I wasn’t out doing coke with the club owner or banging a waitress. These were common things back in the day. They still might be. But these things lead to comics getting fired. And because of our love I avoided all of those missteps. Now I just get banned over breakfast buffets. Because we had the relationship I could just focus on the business of comedy and getting better as an act.
Still I know it was not easy for her with me being away. Before my daughter was born I would be away for a month at a time. Even when my daughter was less than a year old I was away for a whole summer. As a performer I could keep my mind busy with the road although those long car rides were emotionally brutal at times. When you have 14 hours of highway in your windshield and you are missing somebody…well those are not the best parts of being a comic. Still at least I had the shows to keep me busy. She did not have that. She just had to trust that I was doing the right thing.
Comedy even infiltrated my wedding. We had a beautiful wedding with a great band and great food. My new bride was stunning. It was a great day. Until at my father’s behest my comedian friends attempted an impromptu roast in the middle of the wedding. You can’t expect a comedian to pass up a mic with 200 people in the “audience.” You also should not expect comedians with access to an open bar to make good decisions. It was brutal. My mother-in-law was shooting death rays from her eyes across the dance floor to my wife. My wife was right next to me giving me a look of the apocalypse. At least that is what I believe the look was…I never really turned completely to her to see for sure. You have never seen so many Jews leave a room with free delicious food.
It is harder being married to a comic then being a comic. A comic will get sort of morose pleasure in the missteps and misdeeds along the way. Especially of his comedian friends. A normal non damaged person just sees that your comedy friends have ruined the one day that was suppose to be about her. Still she forgave my father, them, and me. That really is something.
I have two wives. One I have to be with because at this point it is all I know. The other I want to be with because I have no desire to know another.
Alissa, Happy Tenth Anniversary. I love you and thank you for taking the journey with me. Can’t wait to tackle the world together for the rest of our lives. I love you.