I figured it was classier to have “Self-Pleasure” in the title instead of “Masturbation.”

On the eve of my fortieth birthday, I decided to produce my first special. Some guys grow a ponytail and buy a convertible, I did a special. I’d been performing for four years, I was booked to headline a club on a Friday and Saturday, I had friends in film production, I figured the time was right.

Growing up, the HBO Comedy Hour specials had made quite an impact on me, and I wanted my special to follow the same format. I wrote a sketch for the start and cast a bunch of other comics and friends. I walked around the block from the venue, speaking to the camera about myself and the show, then came the standup. I wore the same outfit both nights so we could edit the footage together, making it look like one set.

Looking back, a mistake I made was preparing two different 35-min sets, one for each night. I figured I’d take the best from both shows and edit them together into one show, but what I should’ve done was one set, twice. I can only name hubris as my motivation here; I wanted to show off to other comics – who were used to seeing me do 5–10 min of material at a time – that I had that much material. Well, I know what to do differently if there’s ever a next time.

Friday night went off without a hitch. Although the venue was only half-full, the crowd was very giving. I was excited to headline, excited to film, and I knew Saturday night was sold out. It was a fun night!

Saturday night ended up being oversold, standing-room only for late arrivals. The place was absolutely packed and the energy in the room was fantastic. I went into my set, different from the night before, but cocksure…

…. and began to bomb.

I think I knew already then what I’d done wrong, besides deciding to film a special as an unknown comic with four years’ experience. While Swedes love being made fun of, this set, unlike the night before, had me bashing Swedes from the start and then again and again. I started strong but the law of diminishing returns was in full effect. As the laughter died down, people in the crowd started talking to each other instead. I can’t blame them for looking for entertainment elsewhere since they weren’t getting it from me.

While one part of my brain handled my performance outwardly, another handled things inwardly. I thought, “Holy Fuck I’m bombing AND I’m headlining AND I’m filming!” My back was dripping wet with flop sweat. Despite our best efforts, everyone bombs at some point or another, but this was the worst possible time. At this point in my “career,” I had a tried-and-true strategy for dealing with this exact situation: leave the stage early. Hey, if they didn’t like me, why waste their time and my own?

However, this wasn’t the time for that. I was ten minutes into a headline set, cameras were rolling, I was determined to pull out of the nosedive. I rearranged the planned material, cutting most of it in favor of repeating jokes from Friday night’s set that were more crowd-friendly, and I’m happy and proud to say that I got them back on my side. While a lot of dead air did not make it into the finished special, the conclusion is from Saturday night.

I’d rather not say how much money I spent on the damned thing. Honestly, I don’t even remember. It was an expensive present I bought myself. I put it out on Vimeo for $5 to see what would happen and I believe I sold two, maybe three copies. Not that I was expecting it to sell like gangbusters, but it was a little disappointing. I thought that maybe all the people I knew on Facebook who had only seen me perform a few times, if at all, might be interested, but I think their interest could’ve measured by the fact that they’d only seen me perform a few times, if at all.

Several months later, I decided to just post it on YouTube and, to date, it’s generated 431 views! Oh, you kids today, complaining that your TikToks and whatnots only get 10K views.

I’m cool with it, though, because I knew going into it that the target audience was me. I had no more business putting out a special then than I do now, nearly eight years later. But it was fun to do and I’m glad I did it. If nothing else, it’s a time-capsule, capturing a moment when I was performing five to ten times a week and thought that number would only increase from there, when I was much closer to the start of the Dunning-Kruger bell curve than I am now (Google that if you’re not familiar).

If you’re so inclined, you can find my special here. Titled, appropriately enough, Simply Resistible.