Top Reasons You May Be Cut Out for a Life in Comedy

  1. When you were little, you thought your Uncle Jeff was, in fact, the real Reggie Jackson. Didn’t every sport celebrity have a secret identity like that?
  2.  If you just neglect to wax your facial hair for a few weeks, and get up on a stage for a minute or so, people will likely laugh at you without your having to make an utterance. Or perhaps they’ll feel really uncomfortable about the fact that they want to laugh at the WereWoman, but don’t want to make her feel bad in case she’s unaware that she has one caterpillar living on her upper lip & two that are wrestling on her forehead.
  3. Because I’m okay with fascism, as long as I get my way.
  4. Growing up, you sometimes believed those stories your parents and sister were always telling about how they adopted you from the zoo’s monkey house. You found those pictures of you with a wild mane of newborn neck and back hair fairly convincing.
  5. Your real birth story—when your parents didn’t feel like foisting your origin story off on the zoo—may be amusing as well. The hospital sent your mother home and told her to take a bath, only for her to be rushed back there by a husband who needed to stop to make change (to make pay phone birth announcements later on), all the while he was quibbling: “Why couldn’t we just have waited for Columbo to be over?” Once back at the hospital, as your mother began crowning on a gurney being rushed down a hallway, the doctor relayed what happened at the end of that episode of Columbo to your dad. It was all dad could think about in that moment—Columbo, not you.
  6. When you were 4, you would sneak down the hall to hang out with your parents while they watched Richard Pryor, Steve Martin or Gallagher do stand-up on Showtime. You could understand only the physical comedy of Gallagher and Martin (who doesn’t love a well-smushed melon or an arrow through the head?), but loved the parts that you couldn’t quite understand as well (it was all about that storytelling and you wondered just how it enraptured an audience to laugh out loud). You began your own routine on your grandparents’ hearth one day, but didn’t get the laughs you thought you might get after you repeated some of the words that got the biggest laughs from Richard Pryor.
  7. Also at age 4, when your grandparents visited and gave your older sister a gift of paper dolls but nothing whatsoever for you, you promptly ran—stacked dolls in hand—to the toilet and flushed them all away. As your sister began to wail in a fit of tears, you heard your grandfather laugh harder than you ever had or would again in your life. (Had grandma visited without him, that laughter may have been replaced with a flyswatter.)
  8. On quite a comedic roll there at age 4, the same year you announced—while all your friends were saying teacher, doctor or princess—that you wanted to be a comedian (just like you’d heard all those men you’d seen telling those funny stories you didn’t truly get on Showtime being called), you tried to reenact a gag you saw performed by Robin Williams on Mork & Mindy. It led to your first full-blown panic attack when it didn’t work out like you saw on TV. It makes everyone in your family laugh to this day.
  9. You majored in English. (What else do you do with a degree like that when you don’t want to teach and you love the word and cunt and you want people to know how much you think Kanye sucks?) To clarify, you drool for word porn and you don’t like to censor yourself much. Not necessarily a prerequisite for a life as a humorist, but surely it wouldn’t hurt to have word porn lover in your toolbox, would it?
  10. Once, on a roll at party, you had your friends laughing so hard they coulda pissed themselves. You kept landing one zinger after another—inspiring you with the confidence to try this comic role out for real, perhaps—until your then boyfriend whisked you aside to warn you that you were “making an ass of yourself.” You weren’t sure whether or not you had just struck comedy gold or if your good pals were all merely humoring you. Plenty of comics “make asses” of themselves everyday. When we equate the court jester with the soothsayer, isn’t it worth the rawness of the self reveal?



I’m Still Here

Not-so-recently I viewed I’m Still Here, a 2010 mockumentary directed by Casey Affleck and starring Joaquin Phoenix. Unlike Sacha Baron Cohen, who punked us yanks just a few years prior in the sexy-time mockumentary Borat, Phoenix creates a mock character of his own identity–successfully fooling the media throughout the filming of this little-loved gem. Despite the movie’s lackluster reviews, I was eager to witness Phoenix punking America as “himself” and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Of course, I grew up with a weird fascination with the Phoenix clan. I wasn’t alone in my childlike curiosity; most of the girls in the neighborhood where I grew up were likewise intrigued by them. We watched them starring in movies and after-school specials. We sat huddled over magazines that featured the Phoenix siblings sitting together in an Elysian field on a too-perfect day–one big happy family with the most interesting names and an even more interesting upbringing. When we imagined ourselves not of our bucolic California valley roots, but as the children of world travelers who were mistakenly adopted into stagnation (girls gotta dream, right?), we were the long-lost Phoenix children.

Watching the film, I got choked up thinking of what it would be like to lose a sibling. After all the mocking antics, there were raw moments of genuine poignancy for Phoenix that made me want to call my sister. When his brother passed, I was in North Hollywood (visiting friends of my then boyfriend’s mother). I cried buckets on the inside–wanting to say a few words, to pay tribute somehow–while the rest of my company watched the news and mocked his passing repeatedly. Not a single sentiment of appreciation for the beauty of his life’s work was uttered. Nobody gave a shit that I was a fan, or that I thought they were all raving inconsiderate assholes. All that mattered to them was having something new to eviscerate that day.

Nearly two decades later, there I was in a flood of tears at the end of the film–a strange evocation from a mockumentary. I was given one last chance to take a glimpse into the lives of the family that had so enthralled me throughout my youth, and I was truly grateful. Thankfully there were no assholes around to spoil that for me.