Splitsider - one of my favorite websites - recently re-blogged a long, but fantastically candid essay by Chris Gethard about comedy and failure that is really worth a read.
Most of the time when I’m in conversations with strangers at parties I rely solely on self-deprecating humor to get me by. Frequently the more uncomfortable I am, the funnier (and probably more intoxicated) I am. These things tend to be directly proportional. People sometimes ask me, “Are you in comedy?” and it is the best inadvertent compliment I could ever get. But no, I am not in comedy, because I don’t feel ok getting up on a stage and being judged by strangers. I am not in comedy because I rely quite heavily on self-deprecation to get me through the day, and watching someone who sort of hates herself and is really nervous is horrible for the audience. I enjoy being funny, writing funny, and admiring comedians who I just want to have dinner with, but probably will never meet. But actually doing that? For a living? It’s mostly a spectator sport for me.
I’m lucky to be related to a very talented guy who is friends with a lot of the comedians I’d go see on the weekends at UCB when I was in high school. Moving to NYC for college meant that sometimes I’d actually meet these comedians (and they’d be nice to me - read: bother to speak to me) when I hung out with him. One of these guys is fellow NJ-native and neurotic, Chris Gethard. He’s participated in some of the Talent Shows that my cousin’s wife used to produce, and when I met him he’d recently told a story on my cousin’s radio show about the rivalry between Rutgers and Princeton. My brother and I (who grew up in Princeton, and most of our best friends went to Rutgers) loved this story. So, I decided to go up to him and tell him that. I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy and awkward (I am, and was) but I figured if you like someone’s work, you should tell them. (#YOLO bitches, amirite?!)
Anyway, all these guys who were with him were definitely laughing at me, but I felt like I was part of some cool club of funny people for two seconds, and that was worth it. As it turns out, dude is a big proponent of trying. If you fail, so what? It’s reassuring to know that SNL writers and Daily Show guys also are afraid. I mean, I am so afraid all the time that I should probably become some sort of risk consultant instead of having aspirations of writing and self-employed freedom. But sometimes the regret of not doing something is worse than the fear before doing it. (For example,
that time I did blow on the roof of the Met with Jon Hamm talking to a comedian you admire.) Plus, if you fail that badly, you’ll definitely get a laugh or two out of it, it might be at you, but it still counts.