Driving Myself Insane with Comedy

Comedy Driving

(Image courtesy of KVAL.com)

I've driven about 4200 miles since December. Some of that is book-related, but most of it is comedy. Madison to Milwaukee to seven different towns in Michigan to Indianapolis to points mysterious and bleak throughout the Great Lakes and Midwest regions.

Every single time, on the drive home - which typically falls between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m. (adjusting for time zones) - I have been caught in a snow storm. We're not talking gentle, friendly flakes floating down majestically while catching gossamer strains of moonlight to reaffirm my faith in natural beauty and order and meaning in all things. We're talking impenetrable clouds of solidified water vapor attacking my windshield and tires in a blitzkrieg assault designed to destroy any remaining vestiges of my desire to live north of the 35th parallel. We're talking six hours to drive one hundred miles, during which not even a speck of pavement is visible and plow drivers have all absconded with their trucks to Boca Raton.

On the one hand, I should be grateful that I haven't had an accident. Being alive is a good thing. On the other hand, my mind is now convinced that comedy doesn't happen without a death-defying, sleepless night afterward. I mean, I was convinced of that before, but not because of snow - just because of my own deep seated inadequacy issues.

I guess it's sort of a litmus test for people pursuing comedy. Go do some road gigs. If after three or four months of driving through weather that would turn back the Shackleton Expedition, performing at dive bars and Indian casinos for meth-head backcountry hillbilly yoopers with more beer than blood and gunpowder residue on their fingers, face, arms, and shirts - which are the finest pieces of realtree camo clothing they've got to coordinate with their NObama mesh-backed trucker's caps and double-woven blaze orange hunting bib overalls ordered seventeen years ago along with a pint of deer urine and three Rapala ice fishing jigs out of the Cabela's catalog, cash on delivery - you're still fresh faced and wide-eyed, looking forward to making your big break, comedy is where you should be. Keep at it. Repeat that every winter for about a decade. Build your collection of tobacco-spit-stained stage shoes and a library of tattered notebooks littered with premises and one good joke for every two hundred bad ones.

Those audiences, as it turns out, are great - or at least, you'll have to convince yourself they are. They'll shake your hand, tell you how good your show was, ask you when you're coming back, even after you've spent thirty to forty-five minutes wading through their utter silence interspersed with the worst possible heckling (here's a great example, courtesy of comedian Joe Matrese).

While you're driving home, wondering what sort of ridiculous mental illness you suffer from and dodging roving packs of Yeti on backroads because Google Maps is an asshole, and you're thinking about your next gig and to whom you can send your avails in order to fill up your calendar with more gigs just like these, realize you're in the right career. Because if you're like me, you live for this. You'd take this every single time if given the choice to keep struggling this way, or sit behind a desk.

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