”It really puts perspective on things, doesn’t it?”
“Too much. There’s too much fucking perspective now.”

Spinal Tap’s Nigel and David nail my mindset during the pandemic. I’d decided to take a break from standup at the end of 2019 and right when I was ready to dip my toes back into the scene, just about every club shut down due to covid. I wasn’t working, either, so for over a year my routine was sleep late, gym, grocery shopping, couch until 2 AM or later, lather, rinse, repeat. I had a lot of time to think. Entirely too much time.

One reason I’d decided to step away was recognizing that I needed a better way to deal with anger. Probably the biggest thing about me that few understand and far fewer have actually witnessed (thank goodness) is that I’m fully capable of Hulking out with rage, minus the green skin and muscles. People sometimes wonder if I’m mad at them but the fact is, no one really has to ever wonder if I’m mad at them. If I’m mad at them, they’ll know.

I decided to finally talk to a therapist for the first time in my life, not that I really had the disposable income for it. And with the pandemic in full swing, the session was digital. I told her my problems, she recommended that I act like a grownup, which was shockingly good advice. I thanked her for her time and never had another session. I don’t think I’m cured, mind you, I just thought I’d said all I was going to say and further sessions would just mean repeating myself. I repeat myself on stage and in conversations with friends already, I don’t need to pay someone for the same opportunity.

I had a lot of time to think about what’s wrong with me and why I do standup, which I believe are related. Unlike more comics than I can count, I don’t have an official diagnosis of mental illness. The only official diagnosis I have, so far, is eczema, and if God existed He wouldn’t make me look good in black and also make my skin flake off, but I digress. Given that I have family members that are mentally ill and I have days or even weeks when I just want to stay in bed with the covers over my head, it’s likely that I’ve got something going on, but having been this way for so long I don’t see much need to take medical action against it. Besides, it doesn’t stop me from being somewhat functional in life.

Not to pooh-pooh mental illness, but I’ve met people who assign every mistake, every shitty thing said or done, to their diagnosis. “I did [x] because of [y],” as if they’d be flawless saints if it wasn’t for that damned chemical imbalance. I can envy that, to be honest, as I have to attribute mistakes to flaws in my character instead, but I certainly don’t envy a daily regimen of medication.

One thing I don’t wonder about is the origin of my antisocial nature. I despise mingling, I have a hard time talking to people I don’t know, I hate small talk because I can’t get invested in asking questions when I don’t care about the answers. I often get uncomfortable in social situations as I’m acutely aware of my own awkwardness; come into the club where I host just about every weekend and you’ll likely find me standing alone, away from everyone. I know I’ve given others a terrible first impression of me and it’s rough considering how much being social can help comics get opportunities.

This aspect became aggravated in recent years by me being away from the scene for so long, but it was always a part of me. My parents split when I was very young and my daily routine after school was, go straight home and let myself in, no friends allowed to visit, wait for my mom to get home from work. Eventually a stepdad was added to the mix and then, at age 10, I wasn’t an only child anymore, but the routine was the same. As a result, I spent a lot of time alone.

Not that I had to disappoint friends who wanted to hang but weren’t allowed. After my mom met the man who would become my stepdad, we moved to his town and I instantly became an object of ridicule in school. That was in Second Grade. I tried the “ignore your bullies until they get bored” method and it worked! By Tenth Grade. Ages 15 to 16 I was absolutely, completely ignored in school and I could not have been happier. It gave me the breathing room I needed to finally make a few friends! In Twelve Grade.

Well, you don’t need a degree to understand why I’m socially retarded to this day. Maybe there’s a pill for it, I don’t know. Fortunately/unfortunately, I’ve found that alcohol helps me get out of my own way in social situations. Give me a few vodka cranberries and I’m everyone’s friend. In any case, I have no plans to sue my parents for raising an introvert. They did the same thing I’m doing now as a father- the best they could. Looking around at others, I’d say their best was pretty damn good.

What does all of this have to do with why I do standup? I’m not exactly sure. I know someone who thinks that every comic ever was driven to the stage by troubled relationships with their fathers, and I’ve said on stage that male and female comics have Daddy Issues in common, but I don’t really believe that. Yeah, my parents split up, I only saw my dad weekends, and my relationship with my stepdad got pretty combative when I was a teenager, but none of that seems abnormal and we all get along fine today. Another theory is that we’re all seeking love and approval we didn’t get growing up but, again, I never felt neglected by family.

There is one thing I can think of that might be key. As I said, by Twelfth Grade I’d made a few friends and finally came out of my shell. I went to a small school and my class was made up of a hundred students who, by that point, had known me for six to ten years without actually knowing me. That year, over and over and over again, I’d be talking to someone and it was a revelation to them- “Holy Shit! You have a personality and something to say!” Maybe I’m still chasing that, to walk out of the shadow when it’s my time on stage, surprise everyone by doing well, then retreat to the dark, waiting for someone to want to talk to me. The 47-year-old wallflower.