Naive No More

Monday January 9th, 2012 – Chicago, IL

Boy, am I feeling my age. It seems like just a few minutes ago I was that young buck all full of hopes and dreams, ready to make my mark on the comedy business. I was cocksure and brimming with bravado, thinking I was bullet proof and the big time was my destiny.

How naïve that was, straddling the border of stupidity. Even stupider was assuming I’d be able to retain that limitless supply of energy and remain hungry and willing to keep up that hectic pace indefinitely until I made it. Hollywood would eventually discover what a hidden gem I was, and send a Learjet for me to assume my place as top banana in town.

I distinctly remember how several headliners I worked with seemed to be jaded and not nearly as enthusiastic as I thought they should be. They were living the life I badly wanted to make for myself, yet they didn’t seem to be enjoying it nearly as much as I would have.

Somewhere between then and now, I have switched teams to become one of those jaded old grumpy frustrated temperamental constantly complaining whiny bastards I swore that I‘d never be. I can clearly see now how and why it happens, and I have a lot more respect for those in the generation before me. This business grinds up souls. I’m aware of it now.

Very few if any I’ve ever seen in the comedy or any other business are actually satisfied with where they are. Everyone wants more, or thinks they’ve been cheated or looked past in some way. It’s probably true to a certain degree, but the clock and the calendar roll on.

I talked to my friend Joey Callahan from Philadelphia today. Joey is another one of my very favorites both as a comedian and a person, and he can totally relate to everything I’m feeling. He’s sacrificed his whole life for comedy just like I did, and he’s not any closer to being rich or famous now than when he started. It’s a cruel slap in the face most of us get.

Joey is one of the elder statesmen in the Philadelphia comedy scene just as I am in both  Chicago and Milwaukee. There’s a new generation coming up and they’re looking at guys like Joey and myself like we looked at the headliners in our day. I’m sure they’re thinking the same things we did. “Why aren’t these old guys famous? When will I get MY shot?”

Well, most of them will get some kind of a shot at some point if they stay with it. There are all kinds of variables as to why someone does or doesn’t ‘make it’ in comedy, and that doesn’t include the fact the definition itself of what making it is is different for everyone.

I hosted the Rising Star Showcase at Zanies in Chicago tonight, and watched the newer generation cutting their teeth just like I had to and everyone else who’s ever made standup comedy their life pursuit. Watching it brought back memories and made me feel ancient.

There wasn’t anyone on the stage or in the audience over 40. I know, I asked. I watched as comics used pop culture references I had no clue of, and it scared me. I’m obviously no ‘up and comer’ anymore, even though I’ve never arrived. Reality can pack a hard punch.


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