When Eva and I got married, we had a roast at the party. People wondered why we would do such a thing,
although roasts originated from Jewish weddings. People weren’t confused that we’d have a roast
despite not being Jewish, they wondered why we’d risk having awful things said
at our expense on a day that, traditionally, is a happy one. But we have thick skins and didn’t worry too
much about it.

For the most part, there really wasn’t anything to worry
about. It felt like the participants
pulled their punches, nervous about going too far. All of them except Elinor Svensson who went
out for blood and, as a result, was unanimously decided the best of the
evening. One joke in particular hit home
with the crowd, but it wasn’t the one that hit me the hardest. It was this one:

“The thing about Ryan is that there isn’t anything unique
about him, not even in his DNA.”

She had no way of knowing, at least consciously, that this
was my bane, the feeling that I’m not special, have little to
no value. To not stand out in stand up,
there’s nothing worse. Maybe people are
right, I’m just yet another English-speaking comic in Sweden talking about the
politics of laundry rooms in apartment buildings and the Swedish obsession with
coffee breaks.

It’s not something that gnaws at me constantly, but when it
does it really sinks its teeth into me.
I’ve known a lot of people who deal with manic depression and I would
never compare myself to them, but I do think I have a touch of it. For example, I’ve never been able to sit down cold and
write material, but when I get new ideas they come as a flood. Last week, within a few days I
had two all-new ten minute sets that I repeated over and over during long car
trips since I didn’t have any gigs booked.

At the other end of the spectrum, I can suddenly drop into a
funk so deep I just want to lie in bed with the cover over my head for days,
apparently without cause. Fortunately,
Eva is sensitive enough- and patient enough- to know when I just need time to
myself and hate everyone and everything.
It’s not something anyone can help end, yet I do tend to send out “woe
is me!” messages to friends. It’s a Pity
Party and everyone and no one is invited.
At some point it ends the same way it began, for no real reason at all.

I’m not seeking fame and fortune, not even aspiring to a
career in standup, even if I think it would be fantastic to make a living doing
something that I love. Certainly I’m
passionate about it. Mostly I just have a drive to perform as often as I can,
as long as I can, in as many different places as possible. I don’t get every opportunity and don’t
expect to, but I am happy, and proud, over my accomplishments.

That being said, I am competitive, and when I see others
succeeding where I have not, I can’t help but feel a twinge of jealously. When I’m feeling good, that is. When I’m feeling low, that twinge magnifies
into all-consuming angst. I’m happy to
say that, even at my lowest, I never feel, “Why does so-and-so get to do that,
I’m way better!” What I do feel, though,
is, “Of course they get to do that, they’re special and funny and I’m not.” Naturally, when I’m feeling low, it seems
like everyone is succeeding on a massive scale.
I sign onto Facebook and see someone I helped get started in comedy
performing at a prestigious club I’ve never been to, see comics being invited
onto podcasts, YouTube clips with thousands more views than I ever got, new
clubs with crowds larger than mine draws, etc etc etc. Why not me??

All of which leads to the inevitable feeling that I should
just take a break, or quit, and no one would miss me anyway. Which I say to a few friends who tell me I’m
being stupid because, let’s face it, it doesn’t take a genius to spot an empty
threat. At this point I wouldn’t even
know how to quit if I honestly wanted to, and I’m smart enough to have recognized,
long ago, that there’s a flow to this, ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Comedy is manic.

Albert Camus said that life is meaningless and the only
choice one can make that actually matters is whether or not to commit
suicide. The Rebel is one who recognizes
this but decides to live anyway. Replace
“life” with “standup” and you get me, the Rebel. There’s no meaning to what I do other than
what I decide, it’s just something I have to do. Maybe I’ll have some success or maybe I won’t. It’s all just dick jokes anyway.

Here’s the punchline- I met Elinor recently and told her the
impact that joke had made on me and she didn’t remember saying it.