Career-wise, this past year has been inarguably huge for me. There isn’t a bit of arrogance in that statement—I like to store up my arrogance for the stage and for debates over Christopher Nolan movies and wouldn’t waste it on something like an opening sentence to what will certainly be another amazing column.
I’ve had other huge years: The year that I was born was pretty big for me (1981), as was the year my little sister was born (1989), the year I came out (2002), and the year I joined the circus and traveled the United States in a van alongside seven female acrobats (2009). In terms of career stuff, though, these past 12 months have been different. There has been a shift.
I started writing this column this year, was on television a bit more often this year, released a new album, and headlined my first theater/rock club tour. I made a few videos with Buzzfeed that did exceptionally well, played a few festivals I’d really hoped to someday play, and was positively written up by the dang New York Times. The dang Times!
It’s been a weird year, a great year.
It’s been one of those years when things started to roll a bit. You know that dude Sisyphus with the boulder and the mountain and such? This was one of those Red Bull (don’t drink that stuff; it’ll kill you) years when I got all jazzed for like a minute and was able to move the boulder a small extra amount comparative to my usual boulder/mountain trajectory.
Though I’m certainly still most of the way down the mountain, I’ve made it to a new basecamp filled with rad comics who are my closest friends and who would all kill and eat me in an Alive situation because comics are the loveliest, most competitive people I know. I would eat them too.
Which brings me to that joyous, food-centered football party: Thanksgiving.
Certainly every bit of forward progress I have made this year may come apart any moment—as it will at several points during any lifelong career. I’ll bomb during a show when I needed to not bomb or I’ll accidentally show my ass to the wrong person or some photo of my ass will get out somewhere or I’ll just make an ass of myself entirely.
Whenever it is that one or all of those things happen, I’ll be shaken and devastated and then start to push that rock again. Really, there’s nothing more to life than continuing to push that rock. Well, that and noticing the folks pushing it along with you. I would like to recognize some of the people who have pushed next to me.
In this field, any increase in visibility or familiarity is huge—and that’s generally what I’ve been describing here about this last year. It’s means touring more often or selling a special or developing a television show. In general, it means making a more stable living, like $250 bucks a year instead of $8! And visibility has an interesting side effect: Folks don’t know where you came from. A new comic pops up and they’re like, “Who’s this Sarah Silverman character who was so great on SNL and won an Emmy and everything? It’s almost like I don’t know too much about stand-up comedy!”
If this is the first you are hearing of me—this particular column or reading one of my past columns for The A.V. Club—no stress! I totally get it. If I wasn’t supremely committed to the field of stand-up comedy, I wouldn’t have heard of me yet either. Of course, I’m also a time traveler so I know it’s going to be fairly embarrassing in a few years that there was ever a time you didn’t recognize my ethnically ambiguous name.
But I haven’t sprung from the void this year and I didn’t start doing comedy when I sat down to write this column which isn’t even funny but instead serious so who the fuck do I think I am anyway and why aren’t my columns funny if I’m a stand-up like I say I am and don’t I just joke all the time like how accountants never stop doing taxes? AM I RIGHT?!
I’ve been doing comedy for the past 15 years and stand-up for eight. That’s not forever, but it’s long enough that I have many people to thank this year especially, since it’s one of those rolling years (I’m talking about ecstasy) and my head is out of my ass long enough to see them.
Here are just a few of the thank yous I owe:
- Thank you, my elementary school, for not casting me as Snoopy in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown when I auditioned in fifth grade. I really wanted the part but I’m certain I would have been too capable at musical theater to ever try stand-up. Broadway would really have gotten in the way of this column.
- Thank you, college rugby team, for breaking my ankle so I finally stopped playing sports. And thank you, Facebook, for helping me years later to home in on which of my teammates were gay the whole time (surprisingly, not most of them).
- Thank you, my parents, for coming to that show right after I dropped out of grad school and pretending that you didn’t hear that other comic tell that joke about pooping in his girlfriend’s mouth. I really didn’t want to talk about that joke with you.
- Thank you, Kamala, my first boss, for allowing me to work 7-4 at an 8-5 job so that I could do improv in the evenings. No comic can start her career without a reliable day job and you helped me keep one that I loved.
- Thank you, my big sister Allyson, for helping me bake 70 cupcakes every week when I produced my first weekly show in Chicago and for some reason thought audiences required cupcakes. Thank you for eating most of the remaining cupcakes during the weeks when nobody came to the show, and also for running lights and sound during the weeks when 10 people came, even though you are a lawyer and shouldn’t be running lights or sound ever at anything.
- Thank you, my little sister Britton, for pretending to be my manager that one time when I had no manager and was nervous to attend that event. And thanks for insisting that cheese popcorn was in my rider and for waking up at 5 a.m. the first time I did a morning talk show so you could do my makeup for me in my car outside your apartment.
- Thank you for all my friends and family whose weddings I have not attended because I was on the road—especially that one wedding when I was still allowed to be the Maid Of Honor. It’s cool of you to still be friends with me even though I was in Bloomington/Ft. Lauderdale/Raleigh etc. on your big day.
- Thank you, Maria Bamford, for being the first comic to take me along as a road opener. There are few things that boost the spirit like that sort of booking high-five from a personal hero.
- Thank you, the UCB Theatre and Ryan McManemin for taking me seriously when I blew into town and suggested that I should host a show at your theater/for your record label. That was arrogant of me, wasn’t it? Sure it was. And it worked because I keep my arrogance stored up.
- Thank you, Rhea Butcher, for raising our dog when he was a puppy because I was gone the whole time and never had to deal with his pee. I promise to stay home and wipe up pee at some point for you, too.
- And finally, thank you, audiences, for coming out to a show or nine and mostly not grabbing my butt afterward. (Special note to butt-grabbers: Stop it.)
Thank you. And goodnight.