Why are Comedians so Depressed?
Nothing can be as disappointing then meeting a comedian. You saw them on stage, lighting up a room, pacing frantically, waving their hands with the confidence that so many lack. “Man, I bet that guy is fun in real life!” you think.
Then you meet them and realize that this “professional funny man” can’t go a second without apologizing or saying something tragic. They are literally sucking the joy out of you. “Why are they so sad?” you ask. “That can’t already be his fifth drink.” you notice. And “why can’t he lock eyes for more than a second or two? Did he just get back from the war?” you think as looking for an exit.
Nope! That’s comedy folks, and most of us are self hating pits of sadness.
Welcome to hell.
I can’t tell you how many times during an interview the very sweet journalist will give me a little wink and say “so tell me, were you the class clown?” And I have to tell them…. no. The class clown was the one who beat the shit out of me while calling me gay and leaving me to cry alone in the hall. Also making me late for class. The class clown wasn’t funny. The sad kids were funny. The class clown was usually a hack or a bully. The comics on the other hand were the losers writing down our quips in a corner somewhere cause we were too afraid to say them to your face. The ones who eventually would get up on stage to say them, cause fuck it, we’ve got nothing else to lose.
This week on The Jamie Kilstein Podcast (http://jamiekilstein.com or on ITUNES https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fu-k-up-pod-with-jamie-kilstein/id1334886108 me and Steve Rannazzisi (The Leauge) talk about comedy and why comics are such self hating monsters. Do we come up with any answers? Not really, cause we are both too busy being self hating. But its something I think about a lot plus I got to plug my podcast. Anyyyyway. Moving on.
This year I took off from comedy. I focused on my health, teaching and training jiujitsu, boxing, and MMA. I was meditating at 6am. I read self improvement books, I journaled, I traded in podcasts with only dick jokes for Tim Ferriss, and Gary Vaynerchuk. I went from the kid who was too stoned to remember his gym clothes in high school to confident, stable, and technically a professional athlete.
Then I decided to get back into comedy. I questioned the motivational speakers wondering if they were con artists (they aren’t), I wondered if people would make fun of my journaling (they might), I got home late, I drank more, I wondered if I needed to smoke pot to be funny, I smoked too much pot, I didn’t get funny, I slept later, went to the gym less, and so on.
What. The. Fuck.
Was this me looking for an out? Was I ever this athlete happy person? Did that Jamie just kidnapping the real Jamie and the real Jamie was too fat and drunk to do anything about it? Or was I using comedy as an excuse to be sad? Was I just trained to think comedians had to be miserable? OR OR OR….was I just miserable as a comedian?
Good comedy comes from hardship. Its very rare you meet someone funny who’s backstory was trust funds, skilled athletic feats, and high up network connections. They would be the literal worst. My comedy came as a defense mechanism. If I was laughing I wouldn’t realize how sad I was. If something was overwhelming, I would usually freeze up until someone made a joke, and then it was like all of the tension was released.
I love who I’ve become. I love teaching, and helping people. I love being positive, and not waking up hungover. I also don’t want to become the person who suppresses his emotions so he can walk around Los Angeles with a weird Scientology smile. The first week I started reading about positive thinking I couldn’t do it. I kept thinking about Ex’s and getting pissed at myself. Then I would get pissed at myself again for not being positive. I was literally saying to myself “be positive you piece of shit.”
Who the fuck does that?
I decided to let the meditation do it’s thing and just be. Just do the shows. Stop overthinking. Stop judging. Stop fucking up.
What came first, the depressed comic, or the depressed person who does comedy to cope? It doesn’t matter.
I did a spot last night and got to hang out with a few of the old school Comedy Store comics and listen to them tell stories about Mitzi Shore (who they lost recently) and just comedy in general, the way it used to be, and is today.
My friend Cynthia pointed out something that i’ve known deep down which is that when I was demonizing comedy it was just fear and ego. If I can’t have comedy NO ONE can have comedy, so I would shit all over it! The thing is, I wasn’t wrong. About comedy being dark, depressing, and full of crazy people. It is. It REALLY is. What I left out though… were those moments in those rooms, when a group of strangers are laughing like zen children at a stranger ranting and cursing into a microphone…those moments are when we can all feel less crazy together. Thats what comedy is about. Looking straight into the darkness and not giving a fuck.
We are depressed. All of us. Comics, athletes, CEO’s, rich people and poor. It’s how we deal with it that matters. How honest can we be with ourselves? Thats where comedians thrive, and I’m lucky to be around such self aware maniacs.
I love you guys a lot. To another year of being crazy and laughing like idiots together.