Two years ago I went to see standup with a group of
civilians (read: non-comics/comedians).
The headliner was a comedian I’d not heard of before nor since, but
apparently a warm-up act for Letterman.
He was funny, did impressions, some of which were quite good, some of
which bordered on theft- an impression of Jim Carrey, sure, but doing Carrey’s
Fire Marshall Bill character, not so much.

I laughed, but he didn’t grab my attention until midway
throughout his set, when he began joking about his relationship with his
father. It was clear to me that, under
the jokes, there was some real pain there, but he moved on quickly and resumed
his impressions. That’s one of the
reasons few comedians have ever really affected me the way so many comics have,
because, with comedians, it’s all about the laughs.

Afterwards, one of the civilians asked me if I dreamed of
turning standup into a career. “I’d love
to, but it’s scary,” I said, “because so many comedy careers end in tragedy.”

“Oh, you’re just generalizing,”
another said. “Yeah, I am,” I replied,
and moved on. Some people just need to
believe the magic is real.


When I was seven years old, I moved to a new town. Being socially awkward and poor at sports
(some things never change), I made no friends and instead became a target. That was Second Grade and I was one of around
twenty students. I hoped things would
change in Seventh Grade when I began at Middle School and they did, but for the
worse. I went to a small school, but
being in a class of around a hundred brought me more tormentors and still no

By this point, though, I’d discovered standup. I learned that if I could laugh at myself,
insult myself worse than anyone else could, it took away all their power. I never did learn any method of defending
myself other than hoping, if I just ignored them, they’d get bored and leave me
alone. They finally did, in Tenth Grade. From ages 15 – 16 I was completely ignored
and I’d never been happier. I still had
no friends at school but I didn’t have enemies, either.

Having that break of a year gave me enough self-confidence
to begin running Cross Country and Track in my Junior Year. I was, by far, the slowest on the team, so I
didn’t matter, but I didn’t care. All I
cared about was getting better, doing better with each race. When I continued participating in my Senior
Year I made my first friends, all of them surprised to find that, after all
those years, I actually was a somewhat interesting person.

After high school and moving away to Boston for college, I
grew apart from and/or fell out with every single friend I’d made that
year. Thanks to Facebook I’ve managed to
stay in touch with a few people from those days, but I’d stayed in Boston after
college before making the move to Sweden, so close relationships are difficult
at best.

All of which makes reunions unattractive to me. I’ve been to a few and they are awkward
affairs; a room full of people, most of whom had nothing to do with me for
those years, some of whom were nasty to me throughout, and none of whom I’ve
had anything to do with in the years since, it’s worse than going to a party
full of strangers. Not to say I haven’t
had any interesting conversations or reconnected with anyone during them, but
still. We don’t have anything to reminisce
about, no fun War Stories, and I have no nostalgia. How can I have even the slightest longing for
the past when I’m happiest now?

“Jeez, let it go,” maybe you’re thinking. For the most part, I have, but spare a
thought for the fact that I was very, very unhappy and bullied during ten of my
most formative years. On the other hand,
that pain drove me, inevitably, to the stage.

So maybe I should go to my
30-year reunion and say, “Thanks! Today
I am, in large part, what you all made me!”
And then I’ll laugh, because that’s what I’ve always done, and I hope I
never stop laughing.


I don’t know when Robin Williams stopped laughing. I mentioned earlier that few comedians have
ever meant anything to me; he was, is, The Comedian to me. All the energy I could never approach, quick
on his feet, and never failed to be personal on stage. Sadly, it is much more shocking to me when a comic
or comedian dies happy of old age in his or her bed, surrounded by family and
loved ones. His end is all too common.

Comics and comedians have always been the most interesting
people to me and it is my honor and pleasure to know so many, both rookies and
pros. They are the most creative,
gifted, and giving people I have ever known.
They, we, are also the most self-destructive people I’ve ever known, in
the most pain, the most likely to keep repeating mistakes and spiral downwards. But if we’re doing our jobs right, you never
know this, because we keep smiling, keep laughing, until we don’t.

We’re broken people, in many ways. Of course everyone wants to be loved, but it
takes a special kind of broken to drive someone to the stage, to seek that
acceptance from total strangers. Even
when we get their love, we don’t believe it; a common pitfall in comedy is that
the performer begins to hate the audience.
“They love me, can’t they see I’m worthless? How fucking stupid are they?” one might

Sometimes, when I host a show, I’m confronted with an
audience that doesn’t want to give us much energy. When that happens, I say, “I’m going to let
you all in on a dark little secret about comedy: Every single person that comes up
on this stage has really low self-esteem and a big hole in their chest where a
soul should be, so we need you to give us much love as you can fake for two
hours. Okay?!”

I’m kidding! Comedy
really is magic. Pay no attention to
that man behind the curtain, Oz is Great and Powerful.