Until recently, I’ve been afraid to write in this blog. I was embarrassed of where I was in terms of comedic accomplishments. I’m ashamed to use “accomplishments” as a defining value for my writing, but 2013 has been a challenge. Comedy feels different moving from Boston, where it’s easy to get shows and even get paid, to NY, where I’ll often pay to do an open mic. It’s like losing a mansion to move into an apartment: you’re still fine, but you can’t help but remember how easy your life used to be. How you could mostly get what you wanted. It’s hard to fight off the demons of entitlement that tell you, “I’m better than this! I deserve more.”
2013 was a very up-and-down year for me. That said, I’m happy to have lived it in New York. For the first time in years I experienced moments near-clinical depression. For the first time in years, I also experienced exuberant glee. Here’s my year: It’s the tale of New York City. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
January: Moved to NY! Having a wonderful time! Doing improv during the day and stand up at night. Being paid as an “actor” to pretend to be sick for medical students on weekends. Doing 15-20 mics and several hours of improv per week. Dream come true!
February: Same as Jan, except I’m starting to run out of practiced material, and not coming up with new material as quickly as I’d like. Also, I assumed other comics would put me on their shows by virtue of doing well, which is barely happening. I did get myself booked on Kabin(!), which is a big deal for comics coming up around here.
March: Things are getting more difficult now. I’m 2 or 3 months from being out of money, and putting too much pressure on myself to do well on the Kabin set. I’m trying to practice my 7-10, but it’s not going as well as it should. I’m not getting many shows so I’m practicing mostly in from of people who’ve already heard it, and I’m clearly desperate for it to go well. Starting to have some mild mental breakdowns onstage at mics, which doesn’t help me relax at all.
April: I do Kabin! It goes well, but was not hugely fun because I was so nervous. One day after it’s over I get a fever, but have to travel to Rhode Island to host the Comedy Zone. The Monday I get back, I get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night with a bad fever and end up fainting. I’m outta money, sleeping on a living room futon, and unable to leave the house for the next 10 days. I’m still on and off too sick to go out the next 20 days. For the first time in my life, I wear the same pair of underwear nine days in a row. The underwear part turns out to be not that bad.
May: Out of money and still sick, I somehow find a dog-walking job, which is a big reason I stayed sick for so long. I’d get close to being healthy, and then become sicker and sicker as I walked dogs from 8am-5pm all week, get a little better over the weekend, and then repeat. I’m rarely doing stand up the whole month. Only really go out for work and the few improv classes I’d already paid for. Once I finally get over the illness, I immediately injure my knee and hip from going straight from being bed-ridden to constant dragging around obstinate beasts all day.
June: Now unable to go out at night because of injury, I start furiously teaching myself computer programming, vowing I’ll never be so sick or injured again without having the ability to go to a doctor. Only fate knows if this was a giant waste of time. I kind of like programming as a hobby. I applied to a programming boot camp, and was on the path and was on the path to gaining acceptance before coming back to my senses.
July: I’m finally close enough to full health to do comedy every day again. It’s difficult to feel funny though, because I’m very poor and constantly exhausted. I was under the impression my job would be paying me between $500-700 per week, and I end up getting paid much less than that because most families bring their dogs on vacation for the summer. I can’t afford to pay for the mikes I used to, and am mostly living on coffee and peanut butter bagels that I carry around in backpack so I don’t buy anything. I’m not getting much sleep from a mix of getting up early, worry, and constant construction every day DIRECTLY outside my window. Like after not getting sleep all week, jackhammers would wake me up at 7:45am on weekends, which were eventually replaced with electric saws, hammers, and reggaeton.
August: See July. And I decide I’m gonna do everything I can to make a Magnet Theater Musical improv team. I really enjoy it, and more than that, I just need to accomplish a goal. Any goal. I need to not feel like I’m drowning in a city that almost seems like it’s conspiring against me at this point. I need someone to tell me I’m capable at something (if you can’t tell, I’m super demoralized at this point). One of the dogs I walk pees all over my backpack.
September: Finally, the dogs are back and I can start saving money. Wrong. Because of the strange way my company pays us, they actually overpaid me by over $1000 in the month of August (because of their pay system, it was hard to realize how little I was actually making). Therefore, my company is going to take that money back out of my Sept and Oct paychecks. While all this sounds super sketchy, it was the result more of miscommunication than them taking advantage of me. That said, I had paid for the improv classes that I didn’t know I couldn’t afford, and have to borrow money from my parents to stay afloat. I’m ashamed of borrowing from them, even though everyone does it at some point. I also tell my boss I’m gonna quit eventually if I have to keep getting up so early. He says he’ll see what he can do.
October: I make a Magnet Musical team! Thank sweet Jesus! I can still do something! My teammates are great, and the shows are fun. I can’t tell you how badly I needed this. I was going to move to San Francisco if I didn’t make a team, just so I could be around audiences with more excitement than dry wall. I’ve even been mentioned in the “Musical Highlights” a few times (Yes, we have highlights for ourselves, my disgusted stand up friends…and they’re NICE. We’re all allowed to feel good about ourselves on occasion (Who am I talking to? (ME!!!))!).
November: A separate musical improv team I was on got accepted into Rochester’s Fall Back Comedy Festival. We get up there, and the pianist they promise will play with us doesn’t show! We do a well-received acapella musical (none of us have ever performed without music before), with a story that discovers McDonald’s french fries are pre-cooked in baby fat. There’s also a dance break to no music. After the show, one of our cast says, “That was my personal Vietnam!” To which I respond, “Yes. That war was a lot like singing without a piano.” We were together for about 36 hours, and I laughed every time I wasn’t asleep.
December: I have to be vague about this, because I was asked to, but…
A comedian who’s been on tv and in movies found me through Twitter, and invited me to write a web series pilot with him. He took me backstage to the SNL’s season finale, where I watched the cast enter and exit along with guests Paul McCartney, Jimmy Fallon, Justin Timberlake, Barry Gibbs, ex-Mayor Bloomberg, and Madonna (Madonna’s security team is larger than Mayor Bloomberg’s). Then I went to the after-party and the after-after-party, where I got to shake Jimmy Fallon’s hand and sit at his table. The most interesting parts of all of this (to me) cannot be mentioned at this time.
Again, I wish I didn’t need accomplishments to feel like I’m doing alright, but dear God do they help!
2014: My boss is getting rid of my early morning dog walks!!! For the first time in months, life doesn’t feel like a constant struggle. That said, those months have helped me realize how I have to let go of a lot of my worries, and stop taking comedy so seriously. It’s not worth it. None of my fears come true the way I expect them, and typically I make it through after a while.
2013 was a very up-and-down year. I was depressed, joyous, and grateful to have learned from both emotions. The older you get, statistically you become happier from improved perspective, but the giddy, child-like surprise of unanticipated joy gets rarer and rarer. Elation and despair both result from risk-taking. We’re saddened by failure, but we eternally regret what was never tried. Here’s to hoping all our 2014’s are the best of times, the worst of times, and the we’re-proud-to-look-back-on of times.