While I was babysitting my four year-old niece, she happened to catch sight of my notebook a.k.a. every comic’s best friend. Being an inquisitive child, she asked me what it was, what I use it for, and of course her favorite question: why? Her first two questions were simple enough, but I struggled for a moment to put into words why I write jokes to make people laugh. I went with a simple answer: because it’s fun and thankfully she was appeased enough to go back to eating her string cheese. We spent the rest of the day playing, but in the back of my mind the question of why I find it fun to write jokes and make people laugh was playing on a loop. I thought, “Man, this would make a great topic for a blog entry. I’m going to have to pay this kid royalties. I hope she accepts string cheese.”
My funny was born on July 6, 1982. My due date wasn’t until a week later, but I decided in utero that arriving early would be the first of many pranks I would play on my parents. The way my mother tells it, I entered the world with a “Ta daaaaaaaaaa!,” instead of with the standard loud baby cry. I was a very entertaining child. I was involved in the choir all through school and involved with the school plays in high school.
My genetic line lends itself to comedy. Sarcasm is hereditary in my family. My grandfather would teach me naughty limericks and have me recite them at holiday dinners much to my mother’s chagrin and his amusement. My grandmother had absolutely no filter. A typical conversation with her would go something like this:
Me: Grammy, what do you think of how the Phillies are playing this year?
Grammy: They’re playing like a bunch of girls.
There’s an excellent chance that I’ve survived to adulthood or a reasonable facsimile thereof due in large part to my sense of humor. I’ve always been able to use humor to cope with nearly any situation. My adult height is 5’1 and I’ve always been the smallest among my peers. Combine that with my choir involvement, braces, glasses, and honor student status and you can guess who the easy target for bullying was. Spoiler alert: it was me. I decided that it was inefficient to let others make fun of me, so I began making fun of myself not just to decrease the bullies’ workload, but to take back control. If I was the one making the joke, then I had ownership of it. I took away their power to hurt me.
I’ve always been an extrovert, which is a nice way of saying I have no shame. Even though I’ve been the butt of a lot of people’s jokes, my dad taught me early on that I shouldn’t let others define me. It may have taken a while to sink in, but I’ve reached a point where and I’m finally comfortable enough in my own skin to live authentically and unapologetically. Pro tip: Your struggle can be funny. We all wade through the same crap in life. If I can come out the other side okay, anybody can.
There isn’t a lot that I take too seriously including myself. Look at the size of me. If I took myself too seriously I’d just get ridiculous. Look what happened to Napoleon! The dude had zero chill and ended up getting himself exiled to Elba. That’s not to say that I don’t take things seriously when I should. I’m not a complete ass after all (Seriously I’m not. Stop laughing), but I do tend to see humor in situations where it’s not exactly jumping out at you. To me life is one big joke and I think it’s damned funny.
I love what comedy does for me and for others. Working in a business environment can be a challenge. Comedy gives me a way to say all the funny stuff I want to say at work but can’t. I’m entertaining myself as much as I’m entertaining others. Something magical happens when people laugh together. I’ve witnessed two people who absolutely can’t stand each other start to feel differently when they laugh together. Comedy breaks down barriers by giving a room full of strangers something that they all relate to and laugh at together. I love being a part of that process.
One could easily say that everything in my life has led me to comedy, but here’s where the rubber meets the road. Last year a coworker or as I call her, my homegirl (Shout out to Caress. Yes that’s her real name and yes, she’s awesome. Recognize.) asked if I did stand up and said I’d be good at it. She’s a very entertaining individual herself, so I took that as pretty high praise. I thought and talked about it for a while but never took any action.Then Robin Williams died and that changed everything.
I grew up laughing at him in Mork and Mindy reruns, his movies, and his stand-up specials. The way he brought the Genie in Aladdin to life gave him a special place in my heart. I wanted to put myself out there as a positive influence. I needed to pay it forward. I talked to a friend of mine who does stand up (Kurt Zimmerman. Check out his stuff. He’s funny) and he invited me out to a show at Take 5 Gourmet in Robbinsville, NJ and he threw me up on stage without much warning. I took hold of the mic and just ran with it. I got solid laughs and the rest is a history I’m still writing and yes, it will be funny. Now I must purchase large quantities of string cheese. I’ve got royalties to pay, after all.