This week sometime is my 10 year anniversary of doing standup comedy. I have done it every week since then. It is the second longest relationship I have ever had, basketball being the first. I know it was the second week of January but I do not know what day. I don’t know if I realized what it would turn into at the time and didn’t want to get ahead of myself by tattooing my standup birthday on my body. It has been the best decision I have ever made, even though it was scary at the time and very painful many subsequent days. The rewards and genuine joy I feel because of it will always outweigh the tough days, the doubt and the sacrifices that inherently come with doing something you truly dream.
How I Got Into Standup Comedy
If you ever become anything out of the ordinary choice of career paths people will forever ask you “how did you get into that?” Some are curious because it is something they might want to try. Some people are curious because they don’t quite understand how I could be doing what I’m doing. Some people are just curious and interested in other people’s lives, those are my favorite people. I’ll tell you the story.
I was an athlete, all the way through college. I played basketball. Up until I was 20 years old if someone asked me how I would identify myself I would have said ‘basketball player.’ I had a less than desirable Division I career and due to injury was forced to stop playing after my sophomore year. That changed my entire life.
I tend to leave this part out when people after shows look for a hopeful answer of how I started this seemingly glamorous career of performing in hotel bars. I started standup pretty soon after a full mental breakdown. I would say it was a combination of a pinch of clinical depression, dashes of unaddressed childhood trauma, a hefty pour of assault my freshman year and now losing the one thing in my life that I thought was good or I felt defined me. So, I broke completely which led to a month long stay in a recovery hospital.
Do I consider myself some sort of survivor because I was able to find something I love right after the worst time in my life? Yes, I also love the show Survivor. I mostly consider myself lucky.
I also keep that part of the story out normally because I refuse to buy into the sad clown stereotype. Standups are all depressed? Maybe we are depressed but we are not always sad. I also keep this part out because I don’t think that break is what led me to standup. I loved watching it my entire life and had been writing jokes for about two years before I ever got on stage.
Five months after this experience, I was ready to give it a try. I had searched ‘how to start standup’ so many times and I knew that in Seattle there were a couple of clubs that had a whole outline on how to do it. So I picked Giggles, yes the notorious Giggles. It was a Tuesday or Wednesday and I had planned to go and just watch. I heard an interview with Erin Foley about her first time and she said you should watch first.
I had a friend come with me and we parked and walked up and owner was outside putting stuff in a truck. We asked about the open mic and he informed us that the club was “rebranding” but would be back with open mics soon. That actually led to me pushing my start date back for another four months or so. It also led to infamous Jiggles days where that comedy club became a strip club. Don’t worry, it turned back into a comedy club and then closed. The space is now a different comedy club that hopefully comes back after this pandemic is over, in another 10 years.
Cut to the second week of January 2011, I had watched one open mic from the front row. The host had been talking to me afterwards and when I said I wanted to do standup he encouraged me to just come the next week. So I did. I had been practicing the same 3 minute set I thought I would do for a year. It was Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland, WA (at the time) and I did it. You were supposed to bring six people and I told him I brought four, really I brought zero. I was also not yet 21 and used a fake ID even though I didn’t have to for that establishment.
Lucky for me January is resolution-comic time. I did not consider myself one of these comics because of my intentions of starting earlier but this means great open mic audiences, full of people that aren’t waiting to go up and try their own dick jokes, real people. I had a great set. There were many nights after that I did not but that one was great. Sometimes I’m embarrassed, other times I’m proud that one of the jokes from that first night is on my album and on some of your underwear (I sold merch of a joke I told on my first open mic, years later). I wonder everyday what would have happened if that first night didn’t go well. I wonder if I had watched the Giggles open mic during the summer time if I would have been like ‘no way I’m doing that.’
I do think it all worked out the way it was supposed to, still waiting for some big, obvious, culminating sign but that’s my hopeless romantic side that is constantly waiting for pieces to click together and make sense. That’s how I got into standup comedy but that was very much just the beginning.
Years 2-8 of Standup Comedy
I have been told so many different things about the chronology of standup comedy. Here are some of the things I have heard:
- You don’t really find your voice until seven years in. You know what you’re doing at 11 and you make it at 15.
- There are different points where you feel like you know what you are doing and then you don’t really know until 11 years. At three and then again at seven you think you know what you’re doing but you don’t until 11.
- Move to New York or LA after one year.
I won’t tell you who said those things because you won’t know who they are.
The only thing I have truly learned in standup comedy and through this industry is that no one knows what they are doing, at all. We are all just making it up. We have these ideas as younger people that once you are on TV you are famous and working forever. Standups are told that if you ‘just keep writing’ you’ll be fine, it’ll happen, you need to take time and have the material. These are just things people say when they can’t help you or don’t want to. Don’t get me wrong, for the love of everything keep writing, BUT it very well may never correlate to whatever your goals are.
For as often as they warn you of how many no’s you have to collect, people in this industry are terrible at saying no. In fact they very rarely say no. They much more often say yes but most often say nothing. If you don’t get a response, you didn’t get it. I think that’s because everything has changed so much that the person you say no to this week could be selling out rooms from a TikTok video in a buffalo costume the next week. So if you didn’t say anything… you didn’t say no either.
My career through the middle times (so far) was a lot of travel and road work and honestly, I loved it. I felt it made me funnier and fearless of any type of crowd. Small, big, drunk, clean, nothing really scares me and moreover I have fun with pretty much every crowd. I have had this rekindled desire for it this year as well. I would trade a lot of things to perform COVID free for middle aged drunk people at an Elk’s lodge in rural Arkansas again and I mean that.
What I Fell In Love With in Years 8-10
Things will change, we are well aware of that now. When I started standup I said my goal was for standup to be all that I did. After four years I did that, I quit my day job, I went on tour for three months and I moved to LA. This was the time I learned the most, learned how much other people are just as insecure as we are, even if they have success. This led me to make my own stuff. I love standup for that reason, it’s what I wrote and I’m sharing it with you and we have fun together. There isn’t a middle person, there isn’t someone changing it, it’s just me and you and laughing. I thought maybe I could do that with other things.
The guided meditations were actually my first experience with this idea of making things myself. That very first comedic, dirty guided meditation I did… was not good. Well, the meditation was pretty good, it was funny and dirty but the video wasn’t. I think I just had photos flashing hahaha. But by just putting it up and seeing what happens, my friend and the future editor and collaborator of 80 For 80 (along with a much more impressive list of credits), Ruben Rodriguez contacted me and said he would make the videos for me and birth was given! We did them once a month and I honestly loved them. It was something else to focus on. The meditations, the podcast (HugLife) and everything after that made me trust myself more, understand I can take control and that people enjoy what I make and it really helped my standup as well.
Then 80 For 80, another idea I really felt strongly about and shared with Ruben and he suggested we try for a grant. We did and we got it. It was this validation that something I had thought of was worthy of someone giving me money to make it. It was difficult but probably the most rewarding thing I have done from idea to release. I was hooked.
This last year has been mostly that, building and making my own things because I know now that I can get them done and I feel good about it. Yes, I wish everyday more people would share those things and they would blow up but I still feel a sense of peace with making everything the way I wanted to with talented people who believe in what we are doing and who want to make funny shit.
I may be most proud of the meditation album, the one that not everyone quite understands. It is the funniest and most different thing I have made and it really was a “I want to do this, I’m going to make it happen” situation. Aligning with talented people and putting out quality is very important to me and I know that I have done that. Do I meditate on Lizzo coming across Chill and sharing it cause she loves the meditations so much? Yes, of course. Am I happy without that? Yes. We had two #1 comedy albums within a month of each other and the first meditation album to be #1 on a comedy chart, all during the collectively most difficult year of my lifetime. I am very proud of that.
I miss live standup, so much. I am trying to be as smart as I possibly can about all this but I want to be in front of people again, laughing and telling jokes. We did so much of what we could, developed livestream shows of all kinds, got my YouTube channel rolling, put out my debut standup album (a dream of 10 years) and put out my first comedic meditation album. If we fail, it is never because we weren’t trying.
I say ‘we’ all the time because there is none of this without you, without an audience, we are a team! I have learned so much more over this year that it is about you. It doesn’t matter which sexist booker I don’t want to deal with anymore, it doesn’t matter what cruise ship agency doesn’t want me, all that matters is us having fun and if you are enjoying what I’m doing and I’m enjoying what I’m doing, I think we can continue to make some really awesome, really funny stuff.
I say we also because I have finally let people I love help me and support me in these things and it has been so helpful. I’m learning to ask for help more. I couldn’t have done anything this last year without Aryn’s help and now we are engaged so she is stuck helping me write trivia questions and stopping our conversations to say “oh, I need write that down” forever. Another reason I don’t think artists have to be depressed to create.
After 10 years I love comedy more than I ever have, chomping at the bit to get on stage more than in my first year and finding ways to make that work. That is exciting to me, I watch people get discouraged or quit or burn out and I’m happy, in this moment, I’m not feeling like that. All I can say now is thank you.
Thank you for 10 years of coming to shows, buying underwear and shirts and magnets, helping me record a live album, supporting everything I have put out by watching, or downloading or buying. Thank you for following and sharing and liking. Thank you for the messages and comments that say you thought something was funny or that you liked the albums, it sustains my spirit for weeks! And a final pre-emptive thank you because I’m going to continue this for as long as I can and I’m so thankful for the chance to get to do standup for you live again, soon!
Thank you for 10 years, here’s to 50 more?
Interested in the projects I mentioned in the story? How about links???