This isn’t going to happen overnight. I know that.
It doesn’t change the fact that I want it to happen overnight. I hate waiting for things; if everything went as planned I would wake up famous on Monday, strung out on Tuesday, re-invigorated on Wednesday, revered on Thursday and retired on Friday. What I would do the following week is anybody’s guess.
Getting anywhere in this business is a tedious process. I know there are exceptions. For the thousands of comics grinding it out at open mics and bars for years there are few who explode to the top in months. I’m with the former group. Clearly.
I don’t mind the hard work, I really don’t. And I don’t mind a methodical approach as long as I am certain it’s going somewhere. In other words, I wouldn’t mind slumming at mid-afternoon Monday mics for four years if it meant I’d be on Letterman in the fifth. But sitting in dingy clubs while the sun is still out, buying beer for stage time, telling jokes to the same comics over and over – is really hard to do if you think it won’t lead to something more. It all seems so long, and I’m not a patient person. I’m afraid that if I’m stalled in a year, I’ll compulsively move out of New York City and rewrite my personal history to convince myself I’ve always wanted to be a magician.
I opened a show a few months back. The headliner for the evening was a hilarious woman, clearly on the way up. Before the show, we chatted for a while and she was wonderful. She was gregarious and casually funny, not the forced funny that so many comedians embrace when off stage (see: Quinn, Gregory R.) After watching her set, it was not hard to see why she was making great progress. Over neon-colored fancy drinks, I discussed the set with the booker, who remarked off-hand that it was incredible how far she came so fast.
“To think she is at this level after only ten years,” he said. “Comics would kill to be that good in ten years.”
I nearly vomited in my Margarita. Ten years?! Was I mistaken in believing that this was a considerable amount of time? I was under the impression that ten years from now I would be weighing the financing options on my second yacht. In ten years I will be whispers away from presidential eligibility, which I haven’t ruled out yet. If in 2020 I’m still working bars, please, find me and euthanize me immediately, or failing that, hand me a brochure for pharmacy school.
Apparently, ten years isn’t that long in comedy time. And if it takes me ten years to make it, I’m sure I’ll look back in forty years and remark how fast it all went by. But for now, it seems forever. Please forgive me 30-somethings who may be reading this, but 34 seems so old. I know, I know: I will scoff at the idea when I read this then, but consider that when you and I were 14, we looked at 24 years old like they were hopeless curmudgeons. I know I did. I have this complex where I always feel older then I am and that my best days are perpetually behind me. I remember swimming on Humarock beach as a child. I was hit by a monster wave and once submerged, noticed I could not pull myself from under the water. I distinctly remember thinking – at eight years old – that if I were to die I had lived a full life and it would be my time. I was a weird kid. Eventually my cousin pulled me from the water; leaving my submersion time at…oh I don’t know… 13 seconds.
My sense of urgency may be exaggerated, but I know I don’t want to wait ten years. But I will if I have to. I know I will.
I’ll go twenty, thirty years until I get there. I’ve never committed to anything in my life but for jokes, I’m a lifer.
I just want one moment. I want one undisputable accomplishment that I can look at and say “yeah, I made it.” As long as I get there it’s worth waiting for. It’s worth working for and paying for. Just one.
Because I really don’t want to be a pharmacist.