As much as I’d love to say that I don’t
care at all what others think of me, it wouldn’t be the truth.
Despite my tough guy image (sarcasm intended), I’m a pretty sensitive
guy, and my reputation is very important to me, especially in a
country where it’s so difficult to make friends. I’m happy that my
reputation seems to be positive, overall, and I hope it is driven by
the way I act and the choices I make.

However, like pretty much everything
else in life, a lot of what affects my reputation is out of my
control. It’s all well and good for me to say that the jokes I tell
shouldn’t be a factor, but of course they are. Onstage and off, my
sense of humor doesn’t have any limits, and now and then, off stage,
I have apologized for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.
It’s important to know one’s audience.

But I have never, nor will ever,
apologize for what I say on stage. When I say something the crowd
finds abhorrent, they let me know, and I pay the price. A favorite
bit of mine that almost never failed to kill in Sweden got me
literally booed from the stage in Berlin, for example (I say almost
never because a woman once threatened to throw my own beer in my face
after a set). If people judge me for who I really am based only on
how I am on stage, that isn’t my problem.

I’ve said before that one of the many
things I love about standup is that we can be whatever, whomever we
want up there. You can be a character completely unlike yourself if
you choose so, though just about every comic I’ve ever met is some
version of themselves on stage. Note the key phrase, some

Larry David said that when he’s on
stage, he’s “Superman.” He takes certain aspects of his
personality and exaggerates them into a persona. He’s himself, but
not himself. That’s what we do, we control the image of ourselves
that others see. We tell the truth, but not all of it, sometimes we
lie outright, and we keep other parts of ourselves a secret. It’s
pretty much what everyone does all the time, really, just more
refined than Facebook.

A few people have told me
they thought I was an asshole based on how they’d seen me on stage,
and were surprised to find out that I’m not. This is completely
dependent on the fact that I’m not really myself on stage, at least
not as three-dimensional as I am in real life. It’s a double-edged
sword of standup, that the crowd loves when we bare ourselves
(figuratively) and are natural, yet the more natural we make it seem,
the less the crowd sees how much work we put into it. “I could do
that, he/she is just talking up there.”

When I get an idea for a joke, it comes
from my id (the lizard part of my brain that often spews out thoughts
that shock even me). In my head, I can see myself delivering it on
stage, and I am PERFECT. It sounds great, I’m completely confident,
the crowd loves it. So I try saying it out loud and I am as far from
perfect as I can be. I mumble the words and it doesn’t sound funny
to me at all, doesn’t flow. So I write it down, edit it, get it as
close as I can to how it felt, and then try it onstage. It’s always
too wordy, so I keep working at it until it’s polished and I’m
finally satisfied with it. Every joke, bit, routine of mine are like
songs to me, and my primary quest in standup is to be as perfect
onstage as I am in my own head. I’m me, but not me.

I’d like to have a reputation as a nice
guy, someone who takes funny business seriously, works hard at it, is
passionate about it, and supports others. I never want to act
against any of those things and I don’t think I have, but I know I
plant my foot firmly in my mouth more often than I’d like, and it’s
usually women I piss off. One in particular, a co-worker, once told
me, “You are SUCH an asshole! And the worst part is, you think
you’re a nice guy!”

That stung. Then I just accepted the
fact that I am a nice guy who can be an asshole sometimes. I can
live with that. Better than an asshole who can sometimes be nice.

In any case, one thing I’ll never be
accused of being is cool. Never been cool, never going to be cool,
and that stopped bothering me long ago. One of the bigger comics to
visit Sweden once said of me, not knowing I was in earshot, “Nice
guy but he’s whiter than Jim Gaffigan’s knee.” I want that on a