I’m a road comic. Ok, I finally said it. I know in some standup circles that is seen as a negative, but if performing every week and not having to live some place where most of my profits are sucked up by high-rent and air travel has dubbed me this title, then size me up for the crown. All I know is after 5 minutes on the stage, no one in the audience really cares what credits I possess, they just want to feel something that connects them to me while they laugh their ass off.
I like the solitude of my car and 2 decades in I still haven’t become burn-out driving long-distances. While weather can be an issue for a road comic, it usually is just a minor inconvenience. That has changed this winter. If you thought your commute has sucked, try being someone who puts 35k on the road each year.
Today I’m dedicating a good portion of my day watching the weather channel (actually, weather nation, the shitty substitute Direct TV has replaced it with during their dispute with the former.) Another major snowstorm is hitting and even though I only have a 5 hour drive to my destination tomorrow, I’m concerned I will get snowed into my neighborhood tonight, so I have to contemplate leaving a day early.
I’m trying to weigh-out having to spend an extra 60 bucks on a hotel for the night, plus only seeing my kids for 1 night this week versus that I proudly wear my badge of honor which states never missed a gig because of weather and just as importantly I don’t want to irritate the booking agent with a call saying I can’t get through. So I will probably bite the money bullet and disappoint my kids because it’s the way I am. Hopefully someday my offspring will respect the work ethic example I demonstrated to them, instead of singing a heartfelt karaoke version of Cats in the Cradle. Sometimes it sucks to be such a dedicated fucking professional.
Just in the past 2 weeks I’ve faced 3 major weather events. Besides this upcoming one, I dealt with another major snow dump which had the local weather people claiming that you shouldn’t even open the door and look at your automobile because of the dangerous roads. Considering that the grocery stores were mostly wiped out from people preparing for it the night before, it did seem kind of crazy for me to drive right into the eye of hurri-blizzard to tell some jokes. I mean most people were so frightened by it that they didn’t think they could drive 3 blocks to their local Piggly Wiggly, but I was going to make a 8 hour roundtrip excursion in it, so the 40 people in some bar could get their laugh on. Yeah, that’s my life.
The worst driving I’ve done in over a decade happened 9 days ago, when I left LaCrosse, Wisconsin for a corporate event I was booked to do in Iowa. The first 2 hours of the trip were on a stretch on I-90 that doesn’t have a lot of traffic. During this time period, I saw over 40 cars that slid off the road. Remember, these are people that know how to drive in bad weather. I had to keep moving to get to the show in time, even though I knew it was a very bad idea trying to drive my Sonata on this frozen pond with road signs. I willed myself to stay on the road, though, as I needed to get the cash money ahead, plus I knew waiting in a ditch for a tow truck for many hours, while the bitter 30 below temps swirled outside, wasn’t something I had any interest in doing.
So I write this to speak of the real truth of being a standup comedian. If you are the type of person who has called in for your shift at Burger King because the weather was too bad to drive the 5 miles to get there, you should seriously reconsider wanting to be a comic. Most of us successful comics spend countless hours traveling to get to our gigs. This long-haul trucker part of my job is what I consider my pay is compensating me for. The shows are fun, which is why I spent my first few years doing it for free (or practically for free.)
So you want to be a standup comedian? Well before you get focused too much on writing a quality act you might want to answer these 2 questions first…
Am I a reliable person who has the drive to fulfill my commitments, in almost any situation?
Do I have a reliable car and am I a good driver who knows how to properly adjust my destination time to what kind of weather/traffic issues that might come up?
If you answer both of these in the affirmative than the next step is try to be funny and original enough that you can entertain audiences between the ages of 20 to 65. Hey, but what do I know, I’m a road comic.