By: Jen Kirkman
How To Talk To The Comedian In Your Life
We are coming up on the most popular travel week of the year. That means many comedians from all over America are returning to their home-towns to break cranberry sauce with their families ‘on Thanksgiving ‘and get shitfaced with their high school friends the night before.
This is often a hard time for comedians – seeing extended family members and long-lost friends because it seems no one knows how to talk to comedians. I learned the hard way, not to do gigs in Boston when I go home for the holidays. There is no need to combine distant family members, alcohol and your dreams on ‘a cold winter night.
Let me give you some examples. Don't ask the comedian in your life why they are not on Saturday Night Live. This is like asking a man why he doesn't have wings or asking a woman why she doesn't fit the personality type of one of the four women from Sex&The City. Not every comedian wants to be on SNL, especially comedians who do stand-up only and not characters. Not every comedian wants to disrupt her happy life in L.A. and leave her fiancee to live in NYC or force her fiancee to end his career to go with her. Assume that the comedian in your life, if she's been doing it more than a decade and has worked in television for many years, probably knows people associated with SNL and doesn't need your advice on how to contact the powers that be at SNL. It's great that your next door neighbors nephew is an assitant to a producer of some kind in NYC. Don't give me his email address.
Don't ask the comedian in your life if they are influenced by Jerry Seinfeld or some other giant staple of the American comedy landscape. We will answer that we like Jerry. He's like ice cream. Everyone likes ice cream. Even the lactose intolerant cheat now and then. But we probably know comedians that you've never heard of because we swim with those schools of fish every night doing thankless shows for free. When we tell you the comedians you've never heard of that we like, ‘don't tell us that they are not famous. Artists and famous are two different things. The comedians you don't think are famous have huge houses from all the voiceover work they do even though they have to do morning radio to sell tickets when they come to your town.
Don't tell the comedian in your life, that you daughter's best friends babysitter lives in Los Angeles, and works in show business and then say, “She lives in Palo Alto.” That is not Los Angeles. That is 6 hours away and only a masochist would commute 12 hours a day for show business.
Don't tell the comedian in your life that you don't have cable TV therefore you can't see the shows that she is on or writes for. Don't then ask her, “So what else do you do for money?” If the comedian in your life writes and performs on cable TV that is a living. Just because you don't have cable TV doesn't mean an entire generation who is our demographic doesn't.
Don't tell the comedian in your life jokes that she can use in her act. Comedians don't do street jokes. And for God's sakes, even hacks aren't doing Monica Lewinsky jokes anymore. Don't assume that the comedian in your life is racist and homophobic like you. Most comedians working in the business live in either NYC or L.A. – the cities in America that have all the gays and blacks. Chances are we've slept with them.
Don't attend the comedian in your life's show and say things like, “You looked confident up there.” That is not a compliment. On the other hand, don't not say anything at all. It's awkward to not acknowledge that the comedian in your life didn't just bare their soul on stage for 30 minutes while an audience laughed.
And finally, don't ask the comedian in your life when they are getting famous. Not every terrorist is as high profile as Osama Bin Laden but some are making some damn fine homemade explosives. Not every comedian is as famous as Chris Rock. But some comedians, like the one in your life, makes a living at it, which last time we comedians checked, is not incredibly easy to do without a lot of guts, determination and oh yes, talent.
This holiday season let's all stop accusing the comedians in your life that they are talking to you because they are mining you for material for their act. Sometimes jokers have feelings and they want to just hear about how you are doing and they don't want to be examined about why they aren't famous as if that's all that matters in a career. How often have YOU been on TV Uncle Johnny? Why weren't your parenting skills featured on Martha Stewart? You must be terrible at it!