About a year into the pandemic, inspired by a friend who had long before suggested I do a bit about it, I came up with a sketch- an unboxing video for War Paint.  If you haven’t heard of that, it’s cosmetics for men.  But everyone knows that Real Men don’t wear makeup, so this absolutely isn’t makeup, no.  It’s War Paint!  Yes, it’s a real thing.

In the sketch I would be a manly man and repeatedly insist it’s not makeup, but ask my daughter to help me apply the products.  In the end I’d look like the worst drag queen you’ve ever seen.  Thought it would be fun to do, especially since I hadn’t worked or performed in months and was bored senseless.  My kid thought it would be fun also.

Then I saw the price tag for the Ultimate Kit, 154 Euro, not including shipping.  “Sorry, but I think we should pause on doing that video,” I said to my daughter.  “Don’t really have that kind of disposable income to drop on cosmetics I’ll use just to make a video and never again.”

“Yeah,” she replied, “and it would suck to go through all that for a video no one watches.”

Harsh, but true.  She knows me too well.  This is a reason I’m my own worst enemy, that I do it for the Likes.

Not completely.  I’m very self-motivated when it comes to standup.  To perform at all, to come up with new material, to consistently improve, that drive definitely comes from within.  I think that’s fueled by observable change- I can look back at old clips and see positive changes since, I remember certain gigs as turning points and milestones.  My drive in standup is based solely on my own enjoyment.

Creative endeavors off stage, however, are another story.  When I see other people who have successful YouTube channels or podcasts or tens of thousands of Instagram followers, I know they aren’t overnight successes. They had to plug away and grind and consistently put out content to build to that point.  I’ve met several people who said they’d never try standup because they want to be great immediately and know that won’t happen, and I just shake my head, but I clearly have the same attitude about creating content.

Take Twitter, for example.  I’d been a comic for nearly a year before I joined, noticing all my peers were more active there than on Facebook (this is 2012 we’re talking about).  I liked being limited in how little space I had to write jokes, though I never really understood the whole hashtag thing (even then, at 37, I was old).  But it didn’t take long for me to notice the Silence.  “Twitter is, you tell someone a joke and then they turn and walk away without a word,” as a friend succinctly put it.

The vast majority of my tweets got nothing.  My wife got really into Twitter and amassed over 1000 followers before I hit 500.  Before too long, I’d think of something I could post and then not bother, because what was the fucking point?  Just logged in for the first time in several months and I see I’ve dropped to 499.  Might as well be zero, really.

Another inspired-by-covid-boredom creation was a video bashing Coming 2 America.  I was excited to see that movie only to find it was the worst movie I’d seen in years, so I spoiled the whole thing in a 14-min long video, including screen grabs from the movie and my own commentary.  Was fun to do, despite taking at least four hours to put together.  I posted it on Facebook and Instagram and got very little reaction.  As of this writing, it has 70 views on YouTube and one Like.  I have another video in mind where I bash Forrest Gump but, again, what’s the fucking point?

Just before covid hit I took a break from standup and went into self-imposed exile, only to find that I didn’t miss standup all that much.  The longer I was away, the less I felt drawn to the stage, and then the lockdown eliminated most chances for that anyway.  It gave me the idea to do a limited-series podcast where I’d talk to other comics who had quit standup completely or just quit the grind and were happy to perform a few times a year instead of a dozen times a month.  With this thing, at least, I went into it with eyes wide open- I was about to be the last person on Earth to put out a podcast and most of the people I’d talk to would be unknown to the majority of the current comedy community, much less the general public.  Also, since they were mostly, if not completely, out of the game, most of them never bothered to share the episodes to their own followers.

I posted the audio on all the major podcast services and made a point to not look at how much- or more likely little- traffic it was getting.  I did this podcast for me, because I didn’t want it to be just another idea that I never realized.  I posted video on YouTube, however, and the views there are harder to not notice.  As of this writing, of the ten episodes the most successful has 110 views and 5 Likes.  One episode has two views.  While that doesn’t affect my feelings about those ten episodes- I’m glad I did it and I clearly did it more for me than anyone else- it has affected my drive to continue the podcast.  I knew from the start that a good follow-up season could be interviewing comics who stayed active during the pandemic but, again, what’s the fucking point?

I could mention several other examples but the last one I’ll cover is this very blog.  Looking back at past entries, it’s clear to see periods where I was driven to write several posts, then gaps of several months or even over a year before I was motivated to write again.  I’m currently in, what I hope to be, an active period, but I have no idea how long it will last.  This is solely based on the fact that I don’t know how many- or more likely few- actually read anything I write.  When I post this on FB, my mother-in-law will click Like within thirty seconds, but I doubt she’s ever read anything (shoutout to Ylva, I do appreciate the support).  I don’t get many more Likes than that, but comics will occasionally tell me in person that they read a recent post, which is nice, and surprising, because I would’ve remembered if they clicked that Like button.  I have to be motivated by the idea that more people are reading this than I know, but that motivation tends to burn out too quickly.

I don’t want this to come across as a Pity Party, because I honestly get it.  There’s a ton of content out there and I’m sure others do to me what I do to them, whip through their posts on social media without ever listening to their podcast or watching their video.  And we’re talking about people I actually like, not to mention all the rest.  Who has that kind of time?

I’m also terrible at promotion.  When I do something, the only way I announce is on Instagram (300 followers, most of whom are also FB friends) and Facebook (950 friends, some of whom are dead).  Of all of them, how many ever see anything I post?  Of them, how many are interested in anything I have to say about anything?  Of them, how many actually engage?  Pretty small numbers.  I don’t pay to advertise, I don’t promote myself on stage, I don’t guest on popular podcasts (that one isn’t a choice), I don’t do anything that can get my message out to a larger group of people.  Part of it is just being lazy, but there’s always that thought that I’ll put more time, energy, and even money into promotion and still not move the needle.  If I don’t put myself out there, I don’t get rejected.  See, this is what happens when you don’t date in high school.

I’ll finish by answering the question I asked several times in this post- what’s the fucking point?  The point is to create for the sake of creating, not to get views and praise.  That lack of drive and ambition makes me my own worst enemy.  Maybe I will do that second season of the podcast and that video bashing Forrest Gump, but if I do I know it will be for me.