Earlier this month, someone posted on an expat Facebook forum, “What’s an American thing but Americans think everyone outside of America does it?”  While I rarely interact with anyone on social media these days, especially total strangers, I felt an urge to do so in this case.  I wrote, “Caring about America.”

Americans believe that everyone around the world loves us and that everyone around the world hates us.  We hold these beliefs simultaneously, unaware that they cancel each other out, since irony has never been our strong suit. I’m sure I felt the same way until I left the US and met people from all over.  Now, I did meet a Kurd from Iraq who had a passionate opinion about America, quite the opposite of positive, but the truth is, most people neither love nor hate the US.  They have their own lives, their own cultures, and America isn’t as top of mind as we think is.  The opinion of most is ambivalence, when we come to mind at all.

It’s time for my 2023 year in review!  (The reason I opened the way I did will become clear.)  I meant to write this a few weeks ago, but I was feeling a bit melancholy after canceling Thanksgiving.  The reason to do so is too long and boring to write here but suffice it to say I was bummed.  It’s one of the few times of the year I get truly homesick, and I didn’t want to write this while in a blue frame of mind.

I said in my review of 2022 that it was an interesting year.  Well, I certainly understand why, “May you live in interesting times,” is a curse, as I’d describe 2023 the same way.  I’ve seen some positive changes, some negative, and feel that I’ve made progress and also none at all.  A strange feeling, to say the least.

Let’s start with the negative.  I’ve said, over and over again, that comics reach a point, early on, where they begrudge other comics their success.  That we either let it go and enjoy our own success, or remain bitter and angry forever, and that I was happy to be amongst the former.  That’s still true, but I find myself increasingly angry at other comics, not for their success, but for their bullshit.  My Lord, there is so much bullshit.  Much more than I care to detail here, but it’s everything from hypocrisy to inane clips.

Two things at play here.  First, I’m aware of the bullshit because of social media.  For a brief, shining moment, I stayed away from it and felt much better about my life.  But as I’ve increased my standup activity, I’ve increased the amount of time I spend on Facebook and Instagram.  Even if the amount of my interactions are still miniscule compared to years ago, I’m seeing more, and not liking what I see.  The second thing is that big bullshit and minor bullshit seem to affect me the same, which is to say too much.

If anything positive can be said for jealousy, it would be that it can be a motivator.  Jealous a comic got booked at a club but you didn’t?  Maybe that will fire you up and you’ll try harder to get that gig!  So if I have to waste energy caring about other comics, I’d prefer jealousy.  Unfortunately, there’s nothing motivational about being too aware of the bullshit and nonsense out there.  The opposite, in fact.  I still love standup, of course, but any minute spent thinking of nonsense – for no good reason – is a minute not spent on new material, grinding for gigs, planning a new club of my own.  I said last year that I had an urge to open a club and I still do, except it’s even less likely now.

On a positive note, I think I’ve reached a Zen level when it comes to ego.  I didn’t mention it in my 2022 review, but I struggled quite a bit with how others think of me.  Since then, I’ve gone from worrying how others think of me, to not caring what they think of me, to accepting that they don’t think of me as much as I thought.  I’m like America that way.  (See?  Told you the opening would pay off.)  Some people have passionate feelings about me, one way or the other, but most people have too much on their minds to make room for little old me.  And I’m no more visible this year than I was last year.

That being said, 2023 gave me my first corporate gig in many years, and while I think I can count the clubs I performed at on one hand, I performed in Norway, again for the first time in years.  I believe that gig turned a profit of $10, but I didn’t do it for the money!  I did make a fair amount of that, though, throughout the year, not enough to live on but enough to make life easier, so I appreciate that.

I even got off my ass long enough to record new episodes for my podcast!  Well, kind of.  I wanted to bank a bunch before I started releasing them and ended up banking and not releasing.  With January looming, however, I’ll have lots of sober time on my hands to finally get those out.  Hopefully it will motivate me to think of a topic for a third season, so it isn’t another two years before that comes out, but one thing at a time.

2023 was also a year that saw my daughter begin working with me at Maffia Comedy Club.  Not that I think comedy clubs ever held any mystique with her, but I do love that she’s seeing the business side of entertainment.  Getting to know that better means getting to know me better.  Plus it makes it even less likely she’ll ever get on stage herself, so just wins all around.

Speaking of Maffia, while I’ve been a steady fixture there damn near every night, I’ve been hosting less often, giving someone else the job while I do a regular spot.  Even if my material is almost completely the same, it’s nice to feel I’ve more freedom, to feel like an actual comic.  I’ll continue to do so this year.

What will 2024 bring?  No idea.  Ambition remains low, but I did apply for the Lund Comedy Festival, because why not?  I doubt I’ll get in but I like the idea I pitched.  I’ll tell you about it after I get my rejection letter.  Speaking of which, I definitely need a job.