Go Home Happy: The Serious Side of Comedy
“You’re a comedian? That must be awesome!”
It’s a familiar response from people who’ve just met someone that calls comedy their full-time job.
On the surface, it’s glamorous: laughter, bright spotlights, and traveling the world. But like sausage-making, the real action is far from pretty. What goes unseen is the struggle undertaken by comedians to perform on that stage.
In his new mini-eBook, Go Home Happy, stand-up veteran and Rooftop contributing blogger Nathan Timmel leads the reader through a funny, pride-swallowing journey navigating the minefield of club owners, booking agents, drunken hecklers, and unexpected friends.
Part fun and games, part sobering insight, Go Home Happy takes the stand-up comedy fan behind Oz’s curtain to reveal the tedious struggles—and rewarding moments—that come with this spotlighted territory.
Here’s an excerpt:
When people cannot handle a particular performer or joke, they sometimes feel the need to offer their opinions loudly, and in the middle of a show. Hecklers, as they are known. These people are instant critics. Hecklers have something to say, and in an age of Twitter and Facebook updates they can share feelings instantly and constantly. They forget what discretion is and demand their opinion be heard, even if it is in direct opposition to the 200 audience members surrounding them, people who happen to be enjoying themselves.
The most odd moments of my act bring out objection in people. Three of the strangest events are:
- Upon the birth of my daughter, I commented on the fact I’d rather have a gay child than one with a food allergy. I happen to love peanut butter, and I’ve always been a friend to the gay community, so I’d rather my daughter be attracted to the same gender than have to give up my vice. Because of that statement, a woman handed in a note stating their son had a food allergy and that she didn’t find my thoughts on the subject funny in the slightest.
- After visiting Iraq and performing for American soldiers stationed in a dangerous war zone, I made the suggestion that to keep the people we care about safe—our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters in uniform—we should bring them home and use prisoners and gang members to fight our wars. My specific punchline was: “If they win, great. If they lose, fuck it, great! Either way, no one we care about gets hurt.” From the back of one comedy club, “Prisoners have rights too, asshole!” was shouted and an angry man stormed out. The crowd was stunned; someone was defending murderers and rapists at the expense of the American military?
- While in the middle of a pro-immigration joke, I was interrupted by a Hispanic woman who began shouting that immigrants were hard-working people, and didn’t deserve to be made fun of. When I pointed out that I had just said exactly that, and that I was making fun of racists who believed otherwise, she went on a five-minute tirade about how wrong it was of me to be talking about immigration when immigrants built America. We were on the same side of the issue, yet she was too drunk (or dim) to understand that. I could barely get a word in edgewise as she babbled on incoherently.
The worst thing about people who cry “Offensive!” at any given topic, is they are generally only offended by their one, personal pet fetish. A comedian can say what they want about any subject, as long as it isn’t the one that “hits too close to home.”
Look at the movie Ted, for example. If you are unfamiliar, it’s a film by Seth MacFarlane, creator of the television show Family Guy. The humor is politically incorrect to say the least, and lewd, rude, and crude to say the most. I loved the movie and laughed to the point of tears throughout it. The film contained jokes about religion, gender roles, drug use, 9/11, and of course, one line involving Lou Gehrig’s disease. In a complaint that made national news, a patron with ALS stated he was enjoying himself up to the point Marky Mark’s character wished the disease upon Joel McHale, but that particular line went “too far.”
Examine that thought process: the man wasn’t upset by jokes about race, religion, 9/11, or homosexuality, because they didn’t apply to him. But when a joke invaded his personal space it was suddenly over the line. Hypocritical? Absolutely. But rarely do people take a moment to scrutinize the whole of any situation; they only understand what angers them, because that’s all that matters.
(It’s only 99-cents)