The False Face

Thursday November 14th, 2013 – Richland, MI

One of the truly difficult aspects of being funny for a living – and there are almost too many to count – is having to do it when the mood just isn’t there. It’s great fun to the point of intoxication to be on stage when one is in a groove and ‘feeling it’, but that isn’t the case every single night.

I’m sure it’s that way for other professions too, but it’s more difficult for comedians. We create the environment of laughter completely by ourselves, and bring the audience along for the ride. It begins and ends with us, and therein lies the magic of standup comedy when it’s done correctly.

I have no doubt there are days when strippers aren’t feeling the least bit sexy, but they will pull it off – literally – anyway. They have a distinct advantage over a comedian in that they’re able to go through the motions – literally – and please their audience. What they do is much more visual.

A comedian has to bring it from within, and that’s a lot harder in my opinion. I’m sure it can be unpleasant for a stripper to have to show her wares to a room full of drunken sailors, but she grits her teeth and plows through anyway. Drugs and alcohol might help, but comedians can’t do that.

We need to be at the top of our mental game, or at least I do. I can’t think of any comedian that goes on stage drunk or high on a consistent basis and maintains any sort of consistency. I know a lot that get blasted beyond belief after their shows, but while they’re on stage they’re cold sober.

Tonight was one of those nights where I just wasn’t feeling it. I’ve had a lot of those over a lot of years, but one learns as a professional to suck it up and get through it. That can be as difficult as anything I’ve ever done, but too bad. If I want to get paid, I will keep my problems to myself.

This has been the ultimate challenge at times, especially for someone like me that tends to use how I’m feeling to shape my show on a given night. I had a booker once tell me early on that he could tell exactly how my day went by watching my set. Some shows were upbeat, others dark.

One stretch that really stands out even now was when I was going through the horror of having to testify against my former best friend for robbing a bank. It took years for the whole scenario to play out, but I had to block it out of my mind for that time I was on stage every night. It was hell.

But torture as it was, it helped to make me a professional. Audiences don’t care about problems that aren’t theirs, and in fact they’re at a comedy show to forget about theirs for a little while. My job is to entertain them, and nothing else. They don’t care that I’m more miserable than they are.

Tonight I was in Richland, MI working for my friend Phil Anglin. He’s a major fan of comedy, and runs shows at his two bars a few times a year. He treats all the comedians like big stars, and I love working for the guy. His staffs couldn’t be any nicer, and they feed us a delicious meal too.

On paper, it’s one of the sweetest gigs I’ve ever had. In reality, it was deer hunting season so it was half full tonight in a place that’s not that big to begin with. I had to fight a drunken lady that babbled the entire night, but I plowed through and gave my best. Everyone was raving afterward, but I was someplace else mentally. I strapped on the false face one more time, and nobody knew.

Some nights a comedian just isn't in the mood to be funny.

Some nights a comedian just isn’t in the mood to be funny. Too bad. We do it anyway.


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