You Are Serious for a Comedian

Listen Papparazi, I'm not your trained monkey.

So I’m getting an eye exam today. Just like anyone else, when I’m filling out a form I have to give my profession. Listing comedian is something that stands out to people.  The person helping me get fitted mentioned when she was ringing me up that you’re really serious for being a comedian.  I’ve heard that before.  There are times when I’m feeling like using my talents to poke funny at others, but generally I’m focused on something else.

If you asked most comics what they hate most when people find out what they do it would be that someone would tell them a joke.  What bothers me most is when someone responds with, Oh you’re a comedian, say something funny.  I always say before I do that, I need you to do something for me.  Then when I find out what they do for a living, I ask them to do something from that job for me.  Most people aren’t really happy with this response, but I think they understand I’m not a trained monkey, because no one has ever on-the-spot, began to dry clean my clothes or given me a deep tissue massage.

Here’s another of the secrets that people outside the funny biz might be unaware of.  Most successful comics are not generally on off-stage.  A lot of stand-ups might have been the class clown (I was), but we were not the practical joker type, more the make fun of the teacher type.  From my experience most comics look at the world with contrarian glasses.  Our goal is not to shoot milk out our nostrils to elicit a laugh, we want to say something that makes you laugh so you shoot milk out your nostrils.  There are exceptions like Robin Williams, who always seem to be looking for a laugh, but that is a rare occurrence from my experience.  Most comics that have been successful for a long period have personalities that allow few to get close to them.  I know for example that I get most of the human validation I need from the stage and the part I like the most is that I get to do it on my own terms.

I know this isn’t the most romantic description of the standup world, but it’s the way I have found it to be.

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One thought on “You Are Serious for a Comedian

  1. I don’t get that response for my profession, but I do get it from the language I speak. “Oh, you speak Swedish? Say something in Swedish.” I really dislike being asked to improv like that, although if they’re more specific, “How do you say X?” I mind less. Sometimes when I’m really annoyed, I’ll go into my Swedish Chef imitation and see if they notice.

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