I had played the Rite Spot the week before. I did terribly. I tried to work “new” jokes to a sleepy, sparse audience. The next comedian, super smooth Gary Anderson, had the set of the night. I felt horrible.
Good thing I had a contingency show. My farewell show.
Comedy years are like dog years. After six months you feel like pro, after two years you feel grizzled. That grizzle refreshes. It’s a license to complain, to spat, to tell tired jokes, to side-eye newbies and hope-eye clouted colleagues. You can burn yourself out on that. Not me. I went bonkers. I was ubiquitous. I was jubilant. A sprinting, spewing, evangelizing, all-encompassing embodiment of my absolute desire.
Like all great things, something changed. A lot of things changed. Hard comedy living was my post-collegial grad school (where I basically did all the things I should have done as an undergrad). I laugh at the idea of “maturing” through the most juvenile time in my life, but I did. In the midst of growing, I felt a shift, a push. I fell in love. I dove. I cannonballed.
I don’t know who I am anymore. When you elect to lose yourself in somebody, you indeed, by my experience, lose yourself. It’s amazing.
It’s also frightening. My identity as a comedian was forged longer and spoke truer than any other ideology in my life. After a while I became less and less (less mics, less supporters), changed more and more (new job, new apartment) and then, BOOM: I’m not the comedian I want to be, not the comedian that puts in the work, not the comedian touring on planes, trains and automobiles, not the comedian hanging in the back, hanging at the bar, hanging at the house party, not the comedian producing shows, or hosting mics, not the comedian spreading the most accurate information (shouts to Matt Gubser). Most of the aesthetics I covet as a comedian requires a lifestyle I no longer have (or, arguably, no longer need). So, in order to claim my chaos, to protest my irrelevancy, to break the cycle of weekend warrior compromise, I said goodbye.
I quit comedy on July 7th 2014. It is liberating. I love telling people that I quit. It bums a lot of fellow comedians out. I love seeing them squirm at a maniacal reflection of their creative mortality. No, I will not covet your stage time! No, I will not do your show! No, I will not cover for your mic! No, I will not roast you! No, I will not be rejected by your comedy club or your festival or whatever else inspires semiprofessional jealousy. No, I will not be the characteristic laugh during the awkward folly! I will not! I will not! I will not! I’m dead!
Three things makes “quitting” the funniest thing in the world. One, fuck me, right? Who gives a shit—in a macro sense—about San Francisco comedy as a lifestyle. Two, in comedy, you HAVE to quit. Most people fade out, few make a show of, and those who do are (usually) using a false finish as a promotional stunt (shouts to Justin Scales). Three, it’s a legitimate satire. The great times were good, but the good times weren’t that great. Comedy is self-righteous suicide. I killed myself thrice over to chase the dream, but, in a city with little industry, having no transportation, little capital and less business sense, I got as far as I could professionally/financially. Maybe that’s good enough.
I’m committed to this. I’m prepared to be the Sammy Obeid of burying my talents in the backyard. 1001 Days of Tragedy. Still, I miss it; miss more than the stage, or the rush, or the definition. Comedians are my family, my tribe. They speak my language, I’m understood. Maybe I should get therapy, do yoga, start a hobby. Maybe I should find a balance, figure out a cure for my innate tunnel vision. Maybe you’ll see me around, maybe not, maybe later, maybe tomorrow.