How to Stay Married as a Standup Comic

It's a journey.

When other comics ask me how have I stayed married all this time, considering the road lifestyle, my answer is that I have so much respect for my wife and what we’ve went through in our relationship that I can’t imagine her not being in my life.

I met Susan when I was 21 and in college. I was a doorman at a bar and she bought me a shot of tequila. She was the right one for me, just at the wrong time. Much of me wishes I had met her a decade later, so I could have sowed some oats. (I have enough in my grain silo to supply Nature Valley.) Didn’t work out that way, but I know I’m lucky that I met her at all, as my wife is a great balance for me. She’s structured, she’s focused, and I totally respect her work ethic and values. Those who believe that they can have everything in life are set on a path of disappointment.

Now I’m not going to say we haven’t had our struggles, but we’ve held together, despite the odds that it would fail. I don’t know any comic who is on the road as much as me who has stayed married as long. Here is what I know that works for us.

  • Neither one of us are the jealous type. We both have that emotion, but we aren’t playing detective all day and night. If even one of you is really jealous in nature, I can’t see it working since being gone 30 percent of the year is going to create too much stress for that person.
  • Don’t give the other person to be jealous. If you decide to be married, don’t go out after shows and party. Same goes for the non-comic. Sorry, but even if you are totally faithful, it will make the person feel like they are living a boring life in comparison, if you are at a bar night after night.
  • If either one of you have a problem with alcohol, I don’t see any chance of it working. Alcohol breaks down your logical reasoning. That is great when you are single, but not so good when you are on the road or at home wondering what your partner is doing.
  • We both appreciate our solitude. If you are someone who needs your partner around at all times, having a comedian as part of the relationship dynamic isn’t going to work. To be truthful, I enjoy my alone time so much that I’m not sure I could have stayed married this long without having a career like being a standup.
  • This is for comics. When you are home–you need to stay home. I rarely ever meet up with friends in town. I totally owe it to my wife that when I’m not on the road, I should spend my time with her (and my kids).
  • When you are at home, you should mainly follow the rules of your spouse. Since you, as a comic, are gone so much, spouse house rules should rule. You can’t come in and change things up much. You need to be as seamless as possible when you are back in town, especially if you have kids.
  • Call a lot. A couple times a day, at least. They don’t have to be long calls, but both of you have to stay in contact in some way.

I’m not going to pretend this is a great job for a relationship. There is a reason why so few comics have long-term marriages. When other comics ask me how I’ve been able to manage to stay with the same person for my whole career, I just say I can’t imagine meeting someone else who would be as great of a Mom for my kids and be someone I respect on so many levels. It doesn’t hurt that she’s as beautiful today as she has ever been. Now I’m not going to sell it as some type of Nicholas Sparks’ romance. It’s not. With 2 young twins and another daughter with special needs, we have spent the past few years working as a team to survive everything that entails. Sexy time is way down on the list, at this point. There are certain things you have to take care of by yourself, if you get what I’m saying. Nudge Nudge, wink wink, say no more, say no more.

While there are many reasons to argue for staying single as a standup, I will offer a couple things on the side of being married. Since your job is so unstable, it’s great to have someone at home to support you when you are going through an emotional or slide. It’s even more beneficial to have someone there who can support you financially.  When I began, my wife had a good job, which took some of the pressure off of me, when the paychecks were smaller and less consistent. My wife ended up quitting her job (for a myriad of reasons) only a couple of years after my first child was born. This added a ton of pressure on me, but at least at this point I was established enough in my career that I could handle a lot more of the fiscal burden. The best relationships are not a flat line, there are ebbs and flows and what keeps you going through these shifts in responsibility is mutual respect.

I’m done with the Dr. Phil blog piece. I just get asked a lot about the subject of marriage, so I hope it helped in some way.

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4 thoughts on “How to Stay Married as a Standup Comic

  1. This is actually a very useful piece. It’s definitely something that has held me back as a comedian, as I really value my relationship.

  2. I have been dating a comedian for almost 3 years now and we are both in touch like you recommend twice a day plus even though we live in different states, we see each other 3-4 days a week. I plan on sharing your article with him as he has used the ‘if I ever begin to travel more, it would not be fair to anyone to be married…’ rationale.
    He is headlining with you soon and I will get to be at that one so I will introduce myself. As a social worker in private practice, I admire your approach as a decent ‘stand-up’ man, husband and father. Thank you for sharing it with others on here and perhaps elsewhere? It is a courageous witness in this day of narcissistic, ‘it’s all about me and the moment’ behavior. God bless you, your wife and children.

    1. Thanks Gail for the kind words. It is a tough lifestyle to keep a relationship going in, but if both people take a rationale outlook on the life it brings, it can be done. What gig am I going to be meeting you guys?

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