A tourist in NYC gets lost and asks several people for directions. Finally, he walks up to a cop and says, “Hi, can you tell me how to get to Times Square, or should I just go fuck myself?”

(Lately I’ve had a bunch of old jokes running through my mind and I think I’ll open each blog post with one, until I get bored or forget.)

So, last weekend, four of my new co-workers saw me perform for the first time, for what turned out to be, once again, a thoroughly okay gig. The weather is just too nice for crowds to spend time in basements. They had a blast anyway, possibly due more with their pre-gaming and staying out after, doing shots until 3 AM. Hopefully they’ll spread the word and I can get more of them to come on an even better night.

There is video, though I haven’t seen it yet. Maybe I should cut together clips from several of these recent gigs for my next special, “Ryan Bussell: Thoroughly Okay”.

A few weeks ago, after I’d told another co-worker that I do standup as a somewhat professional hobby (I tell people this as easily and as often as I would if I was a vegan or did cross-fit; other than being an American in Sweden it’s the only interesting thing about me), she asked me why I don’t simply make my living doing standup.

Oh, you sweet summer child, I thought, if you’d seen my act you’d never ask that. Out loud, I said it is very difficult to achieve a level of fame high enough to make a consistent living as a comic, particularly in Sweden.

“That’s not true!” she said. “My favorite comic comes from the south of Sweden, he’s so funny, his name is…. uh…. he’s blonde….”

“You’re kinda proving my point here.”

“Wait,” she said, turning to Google. “Oh yeah, Johan Glans!”

Right, arguably the single most famous and successful Swedish comic in this country’s history. Why can’t I just do what he’s doing? Well, where to begin?

I’ve heard it said that no comic ever became successful by keeping their day job and grinding at night. That they had to abandon financial safety and focus all their attention on gigging and writing and so on. I bet that’s true. I also bet that, for every comic that found success that way, there are a hundred who failed and limped back to civilian life. In my case, pushing fifty with a family and a not inconsiderable amount of debt already, I don’t really have the standing to say, “You know what? I’m not going to work anymore, just pursue my art of dick jokes and Down Syndrome punchlines, because I am an artist.” Not particularly responsible. Besides, I’ve already exhausted my unemployment benefits.

On the other hand, being a starving artist would be a motivator. As it is now, I have a hard time maintaining enough discipline to put this blog out on time each week (in fact, this entry is late), or putting out any other content at all, because of the inner voice that whines that few will see it and less care. With no safety net, I couldn’t afford to surrender to self-pity. I’d have to keep generating content regardless, with the hope that something would hit, someday I’d be in the right place at the right time.

On the other, other hand, that would mean I’d have to take this shit seriously, and I really don’t want to do that. It’s counter-intuitive to think you have to take standup seriously anyway. Over the years, I’ve seen many comics start after me and then whiz past me like I’m on a skateboard on the highway and they’re in a Tesla. Setting aside the argument of talent level, not one of them matches my level of slackitude. Even those who don’t put out a lot of content, at least they rub elbows and make an effort to get gigs, not just wait for opportunities to come out of nowhere.

A slacker I may be, but I am a slacker with a remarkable amount of mileage. I’ve done a lot and I can say one thing that many I’ve met over the years can’t claim- I’m still around. I know many who quit after three years, five years, felt like they were getting nowhere and what was the point of continuing? I think that’s the inherent risk of taking this seriously: if you go all-in and it still doesn’t work and you see people constantly pass you, it’s no wonder why so many of my peers end up wallowing in anger and resentment.

Me, I’ll just keep trudging along, perfoming as often as I can, in as many places as I can. That was always my one and only ambition anyway. Those opportunities may be few these days, but I appreciate them. Who knows what the future holds?

A year or so ago I met a former comic I hadn’t seen since the pandemic and he asked me flat out why I still perform. My answer was simple. Spite.