I AM QUITTING COMEDY – A blog title, not an announcement.
I am quitting comedy! If you are a comedian or vaguely know one, you have heard this four word speech. The words might be different in your case such as “I think I’m Done.” ” I’m looking for work.” Or the infamous “you’re a stupid c*nt”, but the message is the same. The mind reaches a breaking point because of some great injustice and the only recourse is to say “I QUIT.” I have stood in my living room and officially quit the comedy industry 11 times. That’s just in my living room. The reasons vary but in my experience it’s usually when three or more shitty things combine on the same night as a show. For example, I can deal with (1: a mean heckler) on the same night that (2: I have a flat tire) on the road with (3: a comedian I don’t get along with). But if you were to add (4: a shitty hotel experience) or (5: a fight with my wife), that would likely cause a quitting. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m in the path of one of these perfect storms and last night in Vaughan Ontario it started to get cloudy.
I was hosting a great night of comedians to a wonderful crowd in a well run club, but that didn’t matter because I was in a bad mood about things that had nothing to do with comedy. Despite my early attempts to punish the audience for stuff they didn’t do, they were a fun bunch of people out for a good time. A small party of twenty year old girls sat in the front and one of them was wearing a tiara. This is not how to spell tiara but I refuse to spend one second looking up that ridiculous, shit head word on google. I addressed her and asked what she was dressed up for and getting a reply was like pulling teeth. It always baffles me when people who dress up like idiots and sit in the front row of a stand up comedy show act surprised or offended if a comedian talks to them but this woman was particularly disgusted with the thought of speaking to me. I can’t remember the bride-to-be’s name so I will make up a fictional name for her based on some of her more apparent attributes. The rest of the crowd, including her friends were having a fabulous time. My mood quickly lightened and I honestly don’t feel as though I was in any way inappropriate when I spoke to Ms. Tubby White-Teeth McOrangeTan. I even made sure to tear myself down more so than her. I could tell that she didn’t like me though so I left Tubby with some positive words and moved on.
Ten minutes later and after getting a good sized laugh I remember thinking “good laugh…start the show” and realized that in my earlier self indulgent funk I had forgot to even mention who the other comedians on the show were. Luckily the headliner was Rob Pue who is a die hard fan of genuine anger and he sincerely didn’t care. I apologized on stage and told the crowd that they came out on a great night then said something to the effect of “Your headline act tonight is one of my personal favourites and I’ll be bringing him up shortly…”. But before I could say his name Tubby, who now had her arms folded and wore the distorted look of an under-appreciated brat said,”…thank God.” Now this may seem like nothing to you, but I heard thunder in the distance. There is NO QUESTION that this was a deliberate attempt by her to start some shit. This happens all the time with young women in the crowd who seek attention. They act shitty when you talk to them then they sulk when you don’t. And it can get ugly FAST.
I quickly did the math in my head of where it would lead if I fired back at her. A simple “Why would you say that?” or a friendly “I thought we were having a good time”, even the most sincere attempt at making her happy could easily lead to me MAMING the orange bride with my words. Just like the time I told two women hecklers at a clean, corporate fundraiser to go scissor bang each other in the coat room and I would come peel them apart after the show… it all started with me giving acknowledgement to something that most of the audience didn’t even hear or see. When I get into this mode and breath fire at an audience member, it can leave me with a very sour feeling and it consumes me for a few days. Add that shitty feeling to any other crap in my professional or personal life and it’s a lock that my living room would be witness to quit number 12 before the end of the week. So I decided to take a new approach.
A dear friend recently made a small gesture that has lead to me dealing with my anger problems so I knew that I had to try something different or I would end up in the exact place I was trying to avoid. At the same time, anyone who knows me at all knows that I don’t possess the human gene that gives one the ability to let something go. Anger management teaches breathing as an essential tool in venting negative emotions but I couldn’t exactly stop speaking and start deep breathing exercises during a comedy show. So, as silly as this is going to sound, I breathed out of my eyeballs. Not literally of course, but I focussed my anger into my eyes and as I listed the comedians on the show and their accomplishments I shot imaginary lasers at that ivory toothed bitch from my eyeballs.
The ability to have completely separate conversations in your head while talking to a crowd comes easily to most public speakers but the only thought that my brain put into my eye lasers as I shot them into this woman’s tiara covered skull was “You are not a real princess. You are not a real princess…” Over and over. Something must have become lost in the translation because according to the look of horror on Tubby, the message her eyes received from me was “I’m going to cut your face off and go as YOU next halloween.” Her reaction nearly made me stop talking about the show and about her again but I was committed. I continued talking about the show but looked only at her, the questionable choice in fiancee of some unfortunate young man. I spoke about other things but maintained the mantra: “You, my dear… are not in any way… a real fucking princess.”
The show went on, the other comics were great and for the rest of the night she and I did not make eye contact once.
Very rarely do I pat myself on the back in the stand up world but I feel I had a genuine breakthrough last night. Instead of rocketing toward an angry rant that ends with me pointing an empty scotch bottle at my basset hound while screaming, “I quit comedy! I’m going to work on a crab boat and you’re coming with me!!!” I arrived home confident and inspired enough to write for a few hours. Some people wear a badge of pride when they save a life at work or feed the hungry, but last night at my job I ignored the taunts of a twenty year old brat who was drunk on wine coolers and for that I hold my head up high and remain a professional stand up comedian instead of a 12 time quitter.