Even Stand-up Comics Hate Stand-up Comics or Why I Quit Comedy

Everything has a purpose. Everything happens for a reason. Your life has meaning.

But seriously, folks. Your life matters as much as the last Olympics. I should know. I was meant to be a stand-up comic. And for seven years, I was. Then it turned out I was meant to quit comedy. Why? I’ll tell you. If you’re thinking about being a comic, first read this list of reasons you shouldn’t.

1. You don’t really want to be a comic.

Out of college with a worthless degree in math and years of loving comedy, I knew it was my time to share my voice with the world. I left for New York to spend eight months and $8,000 at a comedy school, my first of many mistakes.

Many comics claim to want to share their voice. They’re lying. Like me, they want to be famous. I wanted immortality in memory, assuaging my fear of mediocrity and death simultaneously. But even that’s not accurate. In hindsight, I realize I wanted validation, which is much easier to get on OKCupid.

2. Comedy costs money.

The $8,000 comedy school was pretty worthless. I came out with nothing but a certificate on nice paper. I ended up learning everything at open mics.

Open mics (hereinafter “mics”) are “comedy” shows where anyone can perform. They usually cost five dollars and/or a drink, not to mention the travel cost and the cost of drinks to gain courage before performing and to wash away the hurt after. Multiply that by five times a week for five years and I have that CPA course I could have taken.

3. Amateur comedy feeds on happiness.

One of the monsters in Harry Potter is the Dementor, a creature that feeds on hope, happiness and souls. In comedy, we call this monster an open mic. On any given Wednesday night, I’d go to a mic, pay, then sit at a darkened table, working on my material until my name was called. The paradox is everyone else at the mic did the same. I was preparing jokes for an audience of only comics who were’t going to laugh at them even if they had listened to them. After all, I didn’t laugh at their jokes. New comics suck, and when they don’t, you’re too jealous to laugh.

4. Comics are bad people.

I’m friends with comedians because I’ve met hundreds. I was bound to get along with a couple. Most are incredibly awkward and worse, not interesting. Comics are either on — funny at every opportunity, constantly jostling for social position — or they’re off (depressed). So social interactions with comics tend to oscillate between battles of one-upmanship and suicide prevention.

a. “On” comics are intolerable.

Surely a funny friend is a good thing. He’ll be just like Donkey in Shrek! But there’s a reason Donkey isn’t in every scene in Shrek, and a reasonShrek only lasts two hours. People who are trying to be funny don’t listen, they simply wait until it’s their turn to talk, which means you can’t form a meaningful relationship.

b. “Off” comics are intolerable.

Comics are not happy people. There’s nothing funny about being happy. And when a comic lets down his defense mechanisms (joking), all that’s left is anger, bitterness and depression. It’s necessary, though. All good stand-up comes from sadness. Just ask me: I’ve been taking anti-depressants for 14 years now.

c. Comics form impenetrable cliques.

Instead of being helpful to everyone, comics like to exclude people, because they were excluded in high school. Worse, most of the people in cliques are those who book shows, the next step up from mics. Thus, you must break into the cliques. But, I might as well tell you to join the Illuminati while you’re at it. Acceptance rates are higher.

d. Comics judge.

Many of us use personal constructs for evaluating people. Is this person kind or cruel? Compassionate or selfish?

Comics, however, use one construct: funny or not funny? As soon as a comic gets his first few laughs, comics forget “funny” is subjective and learnable. Thus, if they don’t find you funny, they’ll never find you funny: they don’t want your association holding them back and they definitely don’t want to give you a second chance. It’s really an evil practice; I should know, I did it too.

e. Fuck comics.

All this adds up to bitter envy. I hated comics who started after I did, worked harder and got on better shows. I despised comics who aren’t as funny as me and were on TV (read: Anjela Johnson). It works both ways, though. I once got into a comedy festival and briefly felt happy until I realized some of my friends were jealous.

5. You won’t make money.

After five years in comedy, I thought it was time to make money. But how to make money was and remains somewhat of a mystery. There are several requirements: a half hour of incredible material (which I didn’t have), a car (which I didn’t have), self-promotion (which I didn’t have), work ethic (which I didn’t have) and luck (which I didn’t have). Even if I had all those things, I wouldn’t know what to do with them. Most of the people I know who have been paid did it by being selected to open for a friend who was already established. If everyone is getting money through people who already make money, who was the first guy to make money?

6. Even if you do get famous, the best-case scenario is suicide.

I spent years afraid to sell myself; I did comedy out of self-hatred. However, what would money and fame get me? Not happiness.

A working comedian can’t be happy. With the amount of work going into being a professional, you have no time to have close relationships or have a family that’s not dysfunctional. Are you really going to skip out on Kimmel to see your kid’s baseball game? Your kid ain’t putting hollandaise on the biscuits. The only thing to bring happiness is validation, but comics are forgettable. Once you’ve left the stage, people are already laughing at the next guy. And besides, at that point, anyone who laughs at your jokes is an idiot.

7. You’ll never be funny enough.

No matter how well I performed, it was never funny enough. It’s a paradox. I performed to gain validation and thus self-esteem. But, if I had self-esteem, I wouldn’t need the validation, so I wouldn’t perform. Now take this paradox and multiply it by hating your own jokes. Even your funniest jokes aren’t funny once you’ve told them eleven hundred times. And by the way, nobody laughs when coming up with their own jokes; you can’t surprise yourself and jokes are about surprise.

8. You hate comedy.

I used to watch and listen to comedy all the time, but now I can’t watch an episode of Alf without being jealous of whoever the fuck it was who played Alf (Paul Fusco). I should be the one trying to eat those cats! And it’s not just Alf. I wanted everything comedy related to suck so when I came along, I was good by comparison. I was the contra-positive of Mohammad Ali. Instead of “I am the greatest,” my mantra was “everyone else is the worst.”

Worse, when something was funny, I hated it out of jealously. Comedy was pain, a constant reminder of my limitations.

9. You hate yourself.

Why wasn’t I spending every waking moment writing jokes or performing? I knew the only way to get good was to do an unbelievable amount of comedy. I needed to forget my social life. Only do comedy. Only hang out with comedians. Then I realized that only doing comedy and only hanging out with comedians sounded fucking awful. My dream had become a nightmare. I was going to have to try half-heartedly forever or quit and cut my losses.

And that’s what I did. I quit comedy and cut my losses. Without the constant pressure on myself and trying to fill my need for validation, I’ve actually never been happier. No, not the HGTV/Mormon type of happy, but at least not wanting to slit my wrists. I don’t need to worry about comedy anymore. Besides, with enough articles, I’ll be a famous writer soon.
Evan Jacobs is a 30-year-old schlub who used to do stand-up comedy, excel academically and slay the ladies. These days, between the time he spends trying to publish his novel and teaching at a for-profit Manhattan college, he complains incessantly about nearly everything.

Image via Flickr/CC.

Reprinted from Hypervocal

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How to be Funny

Walking embarrassment Evan Jacobs tells you everything you need to know to alienate friends and irritate people.

How to be funny? There is no one less qualified to give out this information. I am not funny. I am crass, rude, and a complete jackass. More often than not, when I’m trying to get someone to laugh, I usually succeed only in getting that person to hate me. You might say there is a thin line between finding something funny and finding something offensive, and to that I say I hope you get herpes.

I am a stand-up comedian, and not a successful one. In fact, I’d say I’m less successful than most. Whether this is due to my lack of talent or lack of work ethic is anyone’s guess, but most likely, it’s a combination of the two. I suck at stand-up and I suck at trying not to suck. So for advice on humor you should really go somewhere else. Start with a book about the Rwandan genocide. Even that would be funnier than I am.

Still reading? I feel sorry for you. All right, here’s how to be funny.

♦◊♦

1. Shock humor. Farts. I’m serious. The more you fart, the more I laugh. This is for various reasons, and it hints at a larger issue: why do people think farts are funny? Because it’s bathroom humor. What is bathroom humor? It’s really not humor, it’s the true shit we do in the bathroom. It’s an accurate description of bodily functions, and we laugh only because it’s taboo. We aren’t supposed to talk about the things that go on in the bathroom, so things like poop and hemorrhoids are exciting and dangerous and make us nervous, so we laugh.

But taboo topics aren’t limited to poop. Here’s a list of stuff that’s too “serious” to make light of:

  • Video compilations of men ejaculating on things
  • Anal leakage
  • Your dad
  • Female ejaculation
  • Greg Louganis
  • JonBenét Ramsey
  • The ladies
  • Cancerbortion (Aborting a cancerous baby, or having cancer while having an abortion)
  • Sex addiction
  • That wacky Challenger space shuttle
  • The Pope
  • The miracle of birth
  • The miracle of SIDS
  • Child prodigies who also own guns
  • Huffing keyboard cleaner
  • Anal prolapse
  • Death of your parents
  • Testicular torsion
  • Video compilations of the Pope ejaculating on things

♦◊♦

2. Slapstick. Get seriously injured. Nothing makes me laugh harder than watching a middle-aged woman take a dive on some black ice. Why? Because it’s not me. The more you can hurt yourself in front of me the more joy I will experience. In fact, you should smash your face into your keyboard right now. I know I can’t see you, but just do it.

♦◊♦

3. Absurdity. Say random shit. Like, if you’re the best man at a wedding, and you have to give a toast, start talking about something weird and off the wall. For instance, something I would say: “I met the groom nearly 5,000 years ago when I was mummifying him. Few people know he was an Egyptian pharaoh. I know this, but I guess that’s why I’m his best man. The weird thing is that when I went to remove his brain, the only thing I found in his head was granny-porn DVDs. I asked him about this, and he told me that granny porn was the only thing one needed to make it to the afterlife. Not amphorae. Not cats. Not gold and jewels. Granny porn. Good old ancient-Egyptian granny porn.”

♦◊♦

4. Anger. Kill a whole bunch of people. Sure, this isn’t that funny, but people love seeing other people get angry. This is closely related to the schadenfreude of slapstick, but slightly different, because we laugh both at the source of the anger as much as the object of the anger. This works even better if the object of the anger is an 8-year-old child. Try it, it works. The next time you see an 8-year-old, take him aside, look him in the eyes, and say, “Get hit by a bus, you shit-eating ballsucker.” Make sure you have a firm grip on his neck as you say this. Then, obviously, kidnap him and raise him as a girl.

Listen, I know the point here may be nebulous, but all I am saying is that there aren’t enough people yelling at kids.

♦◊♦

5. Wordplay. Make puns, like a jerk. Everyone groans at a pun, because of the stimulation of their pun receptors. Puns are easy to make. Here, I’ll make one right now. (At this point in this article, you should pause and stare at the screen for a good four minutes, because that’s what I did.) I can’t do it. I must not be funny. If I could write a pun at will, I would be the world’s greatest pun star. I could go to pun shops, give 21-pun salutes, write upside-down with my space pun, and keep my room like a pig pun. It would be punderful. I would be the king of the puniverse. Unfortunately, I suck at puns.

♦◊♦

6. Satire. I don’t know what satire is.

♦◊♦

7. Impressions. Say shit in a funny voice. People love it. Especially if that funny voice sounds like the funny voice of a celebrity. Check this out. “Hey, I’m Christopher Walken.” Eerie, right? I can do another one. “Hey, I’m Slobodan Milosevic.” Wow, if I do that one in the wrong place, people are going to think I am Slobodan.

♦◊♦

8. Social dysfunction. Be depressed. Tell me about it. Embarrass yourself. Tell me about it. Say terrible things at terrible times, then tell me about it. Rampant social ineptness is funny to me and others because most of us are not socially inept. In this way, we can marvel at what we would be like if we didn’t know how to talk to people or had no sense of tact. Then you can laugh at that person because they aren’t you. “Haha, look at that jackass, writing stupid articles for the Internet and not being able to land an attractive date to save his life. I can’t even talk to this jerk he’s so weird. I wish he would just leave everyone alone, but then again, having him around makes me feel so much better about myself. Oh, he has man boobs too. Man boobs.” See? Who would want to be that loser?

♦◊♦

9. Miscellaneous. Have sex with me. Seriously. Again, this isn’t obviously hilarious, but when I remove my pants, you will surely get the joke. I’m kidding! But seriously, you should have sex with me. I mean, you might not understand now why this is important to being funny, but you will after we have sex. And if you still don’t, I don’t really give a fuck. This will be continued in my series of essays about dating. For now, you should just close down your computer (after clicking on all the ads on this site), find out where I live (Astoria, Queens), find out what I enjoy sexually (anything and anal), and do your best (please, I’m so lonely).

♦◊♦

It’s that simple. If you follow these nine rules (especially the ninth one) you will be funny and people will love you for it. More likely, people will be annoyed by you, resent you, and not want to hang out with you. That’s what happened to me and most other comedians I know. But don’t listen to them. Keep making jokes. Never stop. No matter what is going on or how serious the situation is, joke about it. You’ll quickly find you’re constructing jokes as if it were an innate talent. And that’s nothing to joke about. Oh, wait, it is.

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More stories by Evan Jacobs:

Chronicles of a Phone Sex Addict Part II

In college, Evan Jacobs—the ‘saddest egotist of all time’—stole his mother’s work phone and retreated to the seedy world of phone-sex party lines. His mom nearly lost her job. Evan got a shrink.

Hi. Uh … I’m Evan.

I’m just looking on here to … uh … huh … get off with someone. I’m touching myself.

Send me a message. Let’s have a fun time.

My loneliness, my lack of social skills, my low self-esteem, can, when left unchecked, completely run over my life and subsume nearly everything. At this point in my life, I’m not sure if I’ve solved any of my problems. But I’ve learned that fees for phone calls to Antigua tend to add up quickly, and it’s much cheaper—and less depressing—to try to pick up women at bars.

When I first discovered phone sex, I was much younger. The problem wasn’t nearly intense enough to be labeled an addiction. It was phone sex with a girl I loved; the long-distance fees were nothing a few months’ work at McDonalds couldn’t cover. I learned actual lessons from that experience: what it means to be a young man coming of age in an atmosphere teeming with sex, and how to prepare an Extra Value Meal.

And then I went to college, struck out with women, came home, got desperate, stole my mother’s work phone, and locked my door for an entire summer.

♦◊♦


♦◊♦

Welcome to Hot Talk, the sexiest party line on the planet. Here you’ll meet real, live, horny girls who can’t wait to talk to you. These girls are wet and hungry for your cock. Touch-tone phones only. International rates apply. Press 1 to accept.

Boop.

This is the main menu. If you are a man looking for a woman, press 1. If you are a—

Boop.

This is the Hot Talk mailbox. To listen to users’ greetings, press 1. To record your—

Boop.

Heavy breathing. Hi, this is Sheila. I’m sitting here … uh … uh … playing with myself … yeah … just looking for some of that big dick. Hit me up.

To hear this greeting again, press 1. To send this user a message, press 2. To listen to the next greeting, press 3.

Boop.

Hi, I’m Sarah. (It was actually a man with a deep voice, posing as a woman.) I just wanna hear some of you guys jerk off. I’m touching myself. I have huge tits. I’m blonde, blue-eyed. I love sucking guys off. Send me a—

Boop.

Hi, I’m Marjorie. How’d you like a—

Boop.

Hi, I’m, uh, just sitting here, huh … uh … touching myself … yeah. And I think that … you should send me … yeah … a message.

To hear this greeting again, press 1. To—

Boop.

Hi, I’m, uh, just sitting here, huh … uh … touching myself … yeah. And I think—

Boop.

To hear this greeting again, press 1. To send this user a message, press 2. To—

Boop.

Please record your message after the beep. BEEP.

“Hi. Uh … I’m Evan.”

♦◊♦

When I say I was desperate, I don’t mean joke-desperate, like, “Oh, my friend can’t get girls.” I mean a perverse, intense, obsessive variety of all-encompassing desperation.

I over-analyzed every interaction to the point of lunacy. Even eye contact—every girl who didn’t return a glance was a rejection, everyone who did was a missed opportunity—which made me the saddest egotist of all time. The thought never entered my consciousness that whatever girl I found in my crosshairs was preoccupied with something slightly more important than a random dude staring her down. Girls existed only to validate me, I thought, and they never did.

It’s not that I got zero attention. I did, in fact, sleep with one woman in the very beginning of freshman year—and then struck out about 30 weekends in a row after that. By the summer, my confidence had completely eroded to the point where it took the following year to recover—and jeopardized two otherwise half-decent relationships.

Back home near Philadelphia, my mom was kind enough and nepotistic enough to procure me a job at her company, a market-research firm for pharmaceuticals. At the time, cell phones were on the verge of becoming ubiquitous. I had a crappy Nokia (has anything changed?) with a black-and-white display and a battery that fell out if you brushed your pocket or had an errant heartbeat. My mother, on the other hand, had a StarTAC—the most advanced phone I had ever seen.

It quickly occurred to me that because the company was paying for my mom’s cell phone, they would probably approve all her charges without actually checking the records. Considering my long-distance problem from two years before, I was wary to use the house phone again, lest Mom find any large charges. But the company was paying me so much for so little, so I figured they probably didn’t care about large charges. They’d assume, because my mother was vice president, whatever she did was kosher.

I Googled “phone sex,” and after wading through pages of credit-card-only results, I found something intriguing: party lines. I’d be talking to real people—not people who were paid to talk to me, which wasn’t attractive. The crux of the issue wasn’t just orgasm—it was validation from another human being.

So late one night, I went downstairs, found my mother’s purse, and snatched the StarTAC. After the moment I came, I was hooked. I was stealing the phone every night and making calls. After two months, I went back to school and braced myself for the worst.

A month passed. No angry calls. I had gotten away with it. The StarTAC was safe in Mom’s purse and I was safe at the University of Chicago.

Wrong.

♦◊♦

The call came in October.

“Hello?”

“Evan, this is your mother.”

“I know, Mom. What’s up?”

“Evan, were you using my cell phone to call phone-sex lines.” It wasn’t a question.

“Um … what?”

“There’s a 3,000-dollar phone bill for June and July on my cell phone.”

“Really?”

“Yes, multiple calls to Antigua. Evan, do you know how much it costs to make international calls? This isn’t good. I found out about this at work. I had to explain myself.”

“You did?”

“I could have been fired, Evan. Did you call those numbers?”

“Well. I, uh … I … well … kind of.”

“Evan.”

“Mom, I’m really sorry. I was really lonely.”

“Evan. Your father and I are really disappointed in you.”

“I know. I can pay it back.”

“Damn right you’re going to pay it back. It was 3,500 dollars.”

“OK. Just take the money I made over the summer.”

“Your father and I think that maybe you should come home for this semester.”

“No! I don’t think that’s the best idea.”

“Then you need to see a psychiatrist.”

“OK. I can do that.”

I hung up the phone. Then I got really, really high.

♦◊♦

What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I just be involuntarily celibate like so many of my friends? Why couldn’t I just jerk off like a normal asshole? How did this lecherous old pervert take over my mind and personality? Were other guys like me? Was I a sex addict?

I didn’t know. I still don’t know. But I felt awful. I felt like a monster. I believed that a mother would be right to pull her child to her side when I passed by them on the street, I believed that any girl I saw covering up her cleavage was doing it because she knew the real me, I believed that with this in my history I would never find love, because no one would ever accept me. Searching for this kind of validation on the phone had had the opposite effect: my self-confidence was in a worse place than it was before.

The psychiatrist was a young, bald man working on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. I had seen psychiatrists before, but it had always been for my ADHD. This was the first time I had ever gone in for something more, well, problematic.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Denson,” he said. “Tell me why you’re here today.”

“Hi. Uh … I’m Evan. I’m here to … uh … huh. Well, I spent 3,500 dollars on phone sex this summer.”

♦◊♦

We talked about that. But quickly our sessions just turned into discussions about which of my medications were working and which were not. We never actually delved into the roots of my addiction issues. I’m working on these issues with my current therapist, but much work remains.

Still, I never called a phone sex line again. I don’t miss it—I didn’t even enjoy it when it was happening. My urge for human validation remains, though I now have different outlets for it—friendships, writing, stand-up shows, online dating—and it can have healthy results when focused with care. But to learn control, you have to experience losing control first, like I did, that summer in 2001.

—Photo @heylovedc/Flickr

Reprinted from The Good Men Project

5 Reasons to Read My Blog!

Why should you read this blog? I’ll tell you why, in five, succinct, easy-to-digest reasons.

Finally, I, Evan Jacobs, the god-come-to-earth that you all love so unconditionally, have a blog. Granted, it’s my third blog after www.esjacobs.blogspot.com and www.keithandevansblog.blogspot.com, but this is my first WordPress blog and my first real blog about comedy. Why should you read it? I’ll give you one reason. No, fuck that, I’ll give you five reasons.

Continue reading “5 Reasons to Read My Blog!”