Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Comedian Lost

In recent weeks, I haven't been able to pay much attention to my own life. I don't want a gold medal, but it's a matter of fact that I have been giving up some of my life for my family lately. I'm not mad at them for this, I wouldn't have it any other way - I want to do this and be here. It's hard to declare this without sounding dramatic and like I'm complaining - let's just make it very clear that I'm not.

But I am feeling something partly related to this experience, and partly related to the isolation that preceded my father's stroke - a month in europe, and the past year in grad school.

My first standup show was for my 3rd grade class, and my first character performances were daily characters of the day in my 2nd grade class (all I remember is that I was a California Raisin on Mondays). Life: gut feelings, the totality of my experiences - told me that being a comedian and storyteller is the life for me, and so I pursue that end.

You have to constantly put yourself out there to get ahead in comedy (and in much of the media world) unless you get really lucky and randomly discovered - but that's not the sort of thing anyone worthwhile should count on. I'd been putting myself out there in every way I could manage for years now, though I always made room for living (all artists must be more than just artists or they have nothing to express!). Grad school started less than a year ago, and in taking it seriously, I put a lot of things to the side.

And here I am, the next summer after performing on Comedy Death Ray and Sweet - two of the absolute best comedy shows in LA and NYC - and I feel like the comedy world has already started moving past me. If I go to a party I may know everybody, but sometimes the crop of performers and administrators/business folk is so fresh and new it's overwhelming. I have the NYC comedy scene deeply and richly woven into my personal history. It's been a part of my life for the past 15 years now, as I started visiting NYC around 1996 in high school. I always had something to aspire to, grip onto, target with lasers and say - there - that's where I need to be - that's the mountain I need to climb. But the mountain is changing.

And so I don't think I can approach a comedy career that way anymore. I have been ok with doing less comedy since day one of Grad Film School. The reason I did standup in the first place was because I wanted to be a comedy tv or film writer. I never really wanted to tour the country and perform at Chuckle Huts - though performing in other cities is a ton of fun - I just don't see standup as a sustainable career - or at least not an end. A means to an end.

So it definitely made me feel like crap when I got a cold hard no recently when asking to book a show at UCB NY. I've gotten no's before. Failure and rejection are inherent parts of comedy (you have to have to take risks to find the good stuff) - but just in this moment I felt - man, these people don't even know me anymore. They don't know my history here. They don't know how I embrace this community, and have invited its members to take part in the things that I create. Things move quickly, and I don't have a grip in this world anymore.

I may have comedy friends, famous connections, and folks who have noticed what I do along the way - but I'm not a headliner, not a seat filler, and not a cold hard Yes, yet. It seems the achievements of my past can't be rebuilt, piled up, or built higher higher, high enough. But I do feel good about what I am capable of. I feel great about it in fact. I really like what I do when I do standup. I really like what I can do when I do original sketches or characters. I know the shows I do go well - but they certainly haven't gotten me far yet. They have brought me unforgettable moments, so props to that.

At the end of the day I have to make something great, that's always been true. It's going to take true patience, and being ok with driving in the slow lane to get where I'm going as people pass me by. As long as I get there in the end, because if I don't, I will have to redefine who I am as a human being.

I am a comedian.

1 comment:

heather said...

Hi Heather. I'm a comic who's still relatively new to NY and far away from having the audience I had live here that i had in the city I came from.

There is an awful lot going on in NY and I understand how you feel. It's hard to have identified yourself and your path in a certain way and harder when you feel your own people don't know you anymore.

I really respect your writing vulnerably and honestly about it here. Follow your instincts. The most important thing is to give voice to what's inside of you. That's where you belong. And wherever people want you and really get you..that's where you belong too.

Feeling part of a "scene" is never as important as feeling yourself.

heather gold
@heathr