If I ever run low on ideas for this blog, I could spend weeks on my pet peeves alone. For fuck’s sake, never ask a crowd if it’s “okay” to tell a joke you’re planning to tell anyway. Sorry, I’ll stay on topic today- I want to write about comics becoming entitled, a condition that drives me batshit and of which I’m becoming increasingly aware in my peers. I’m not sure if it’s always been around and I’m just seeing it more, or if it’s actually increasing in the Stockholm community, but either way it does no one any good.

I’ve written before about the early days of one’s comedy career, when we’re wide-eyed and optimistic in the clubs, look up with awe at the veterans around us, and generally feel lucky to get a minute of stage time, let alone five. I love to still see that when I meet rookie comics but it’s bittersweet; it reminds me of how I used to be and I know it’s a fleeting emotion. Cynicism usually sets in around six months to a year and sets in hard.

I’ve always felt, when I walk into a comedy club for a gig, that I’m a guest in the club owner’s house. I won’t claim to jump for joy when I’m put first on the lineup or asked to censor my material, but when I’m under someone else’s roof, I play by their rules. Plus, I’m an unknown comic- if one person shows up thanks to me sharing the event on social media, that’s quite a coup for me. Whatever audience fills the room that night, they aren’t there to see me, specifically. And while I certainly appreciate being paid to joke about my penis, it’s not something I take for granted. More often than not I’ll perform for free because I want to perform, although I’m far less likely to travel for hours to do so.

As a people, comics are… special. And by special, I mean broken. Everyone wants to be loved and accepted, but it takes a special kind of broken to get on a stage and expect it from drunk strangers. We all have luggage filled with insecurities and that manifests in many ways, usually by overcompensation- for example, I’ve met many comics over the years, especially rookies, who overcompensate for their lack of confidence by wearing an aura of false confidence like a ten gallon hat.

Insecurity leads to anger and anger leads to the Dark Side. I don’t deserve to be first on the lineup! … do I? Why am I not headlining, I deserve it! … don’t I? Why am I not being offered gigs, why don’t they say yes when I ask, I deserve to be booked! … don’t I? All that anger and insecurity needs a target or the damage will be self-inflicted, so it’s much more satisfying to bash club owners.

Over the last decade I’ve seen comics come and go, I’ve seen many of my peers achieve higher success than I have, at least so far, and might not ever achieve. Many of them are more ambitious than me, more prolific, while others are more social than me, play the game better than me. I don’t mind either way, I just run my own race and try hard to avoid becoming bitter. That, unfortunately, is a trap I’ve seen too many fall into. Comics who feel they haven’t achieved the success they deserve, that compare themselves to others who passed them by, who treat clubs like they’re doing the place a favor by being there.

I’m not going to name names- see the title of this blog- but one such comic changed the way I host shows. I was at a club, hosting a sold-out night, and I said to the crowd, “Tonight your headliner is —–! Who’s here to see them?” There was a moment of absolute silence, followed by a nervous giggle that rippled through the crowd. I’d had the same reaction during previous shows and decided to never ask again.

Thing is, this is someone I like. I went to a show they had produced themselves for an audience half the size of the night in question and felt they deserved a bigger turnout. Unfortunately, this comic would later complain openly about not being paid enough to headline, which just makes me wonder- how much money should we demand when a show is sold out, yet not one person bought a ticket to see us, specifically?

I’ve heard it said that club owners take advantage of comics. After all, without comics there’d be no show. Fair enough, but for the 99.98% of comics who can’t sell tickets on their names alone, we’re performing to crowds who bought tickets based on the name of the club. I’d say our relationship with the clubs is symbiotic. Perhaps symbiotically parasitic, if that was a thing.

I don’t mean to say that there’s a pandemic of entitlement, because that’s far from the truth. I think it’s more that I’m seeing it in comics I’ve known for years, and, as Yoda said, once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. I’ve also written about this before, that at some point you’re either at peace with the success of others, or every new instance drives you deeper into a bitter hole. I saw the best minds of my generation caught in that sinkhole and, to date, I’ve never seen anyone climb out.

All of this affects my enjoyment, or lack thereof, out in the clubs. I try instead to focus on positive energy, both from new faces and veterans who’ve remained easy-going. It absolutely affects my drive to open a new club; I’ve been out of that game for nearly three years now and while I have a bit of an itch to start something new, I’m not in any hurry. I know exactly what I’d do, combining the best elements of the three clubs I’ve run in the past to various levels of non-success, into a new venue that would be open to all. I’m sure it would be a welcome addition to the scene in Stockholm, especially in this allegedly post-covid world, but that would mean dealing with comics like myself. To quote Gene Wilder from Blazing Saddles, “You know… assholes.”

It would just be nice to see comics happy to be in clubs and promoting their gigs on social media and not being dicks. But hey, if we had healthy attitudes and stable emotions, we wouldn’t be comics.