“In this world nothing can
be said to be certain,” said Benjamin Franklin, “except death and taxes.” That statement alone shows a third certainty:
comedy. As long as problems exist in the
world, comedy will be around as a defense mechanism to deal with them.

Stockholm is generous as far as standup is
concerned, with several open mics operating once or more each week. Once I got my foot in the door it was a great
feeling, to enter a community of comics hustling for stage time wherever and as
often as possible. Also, the levels of
talent and experience were, as they are now, diverse, so you have the
opportunity to talk to people just starting out and people who have done it way
too long (to crib a pretty standard emcee joke).

Over the years, I’ve seen more people come and go than I can
count. Sometimes comics go away for
a while and then come back, sometimes they get actual jobs and don’t have the
time for it anymore. Some move away,
some get tired of the grind and frustrated they didn’t “make it,” however they
would describe that. Sometimes they do
make it, land gigs on radio or TV, or gig far less often but in paying clubs,
or go on tour.

The fact that I can mark such
changes speaks volumes about a) how much time I spent in open mics and b) the
status of my own “career,” such as it is, but that’s ok. Slacker that I am, I am very ambitious but
not very specific with my goals; at 41, I still have no clue what I want to be
when I grow up. I do know that I love
performing, want to improve, want to try every stage and be up there as often
as I can. Making money would be nice.

It seems like there are phases when there is a flood of new
faces at the open mic, testing standup for the first time or tenth. Here I am guilty of doing something that,
while certainly not unique behavior, I still find pretty shitty. When I see someone for the first time,
waiting for their spot on the evening’s show, I rarely talk to them, despite
the fact that I want to be welcoming and encouraging to all. I might blame my lack of social skills, but
if they go on and do well (or, more importantly, I like them), then I will go
say hello, and they don’t do well, I don’t.

I’ve admitted this to other comics and they always react
with, “I’m the same way, don’t worry about it.”
It does seem shallow, but it’s not so hard to understand. If you see someone eat shit for three
minutes, chances are, you’ll never see them again, but if you do, they’re worth
your energy. (Someone recently told me
it reminds him of the “Replacements” episode of Band of Brothers, dealing with
the complete indifference veterans showed to new faces on the frontlines- the
newbies would very likely die right away, so why get close to them?)

Also, while I do want to
encourage everyone, I have a hard time lying to comics when they want my
feedback. I would hate to tell someone I
thought they had a shit gig, but I would equally hate trying to find a nice way
of telling them they had a shit gig. But
the absolute worst experience is when you see someone have a shit gig but they
bounce off the stage with glee feeling like they were the best comic in the
room, then look to you to validate that feeling.

There are all sorts of reasons for comics not being around
anymore, but here’s the simplest: sometimes, they die. It’s sad when it happens, and shocking, and
although I try to avoid making it all about me, I can’t help but wonder what
impact I’ve made in my time so far and how things would be after I was gone.

It’s a solid community, and supportive, but we’re also
competitive. Shit-talking is as common
and normal as it would be around any office, sometimes good-natured, often not. It’s rare that I hear a comic speaking
grandly about a fellow comic not present- alive, that is- but the amount of
reverence those comics receive after they die is uncanny. Not a bad word is shared, only fitting to
show respect for the dead, but it’s such a drastic change from how we spoke of
them in life I can’t help but notice it.

One comic in particular could be a bit of a dick sometimes. The operative word being sometimes, yet
that’s all we (yes, me included) talked about when he wasn’t around. The closest thing to praise I ever heard another comic
give him came at the end of a rant about him, “….and the worst part is
that he is very funny. Asshole.”
Now that he’s gone, it’s not just that only positive things are said
about him, the sheer weight of the praise is intense. I heard someone compare him to Bill Hicks,
which, had the comic been alive at the time, would’ve led to that person being
laughed out of the room. Instead, it was
met with solemn nods of approval.

All of this is not to say that the praise is unwarranted or
undeserved, it’s just a shame that we aren’t so generous with our goodwill
towards each other in life. I suppose
this is the point I’m trying to make: if you want to say that I’m very nice,
funny, talented, handsome and the Second Coming of Bill Hicks (despite the fact
that I was 17 when he died), I’d rather you didn’t wait to say it.