I recently took a break from stand-up comedy. It wasn’t on purpose, per se. It wasn’t something I decided to do. But it happened.
There are things we take for granted all the time.
Someone a while ago figured out that there is a small window of acceptable step heights and that steps on a staircase should be consistent. That person was some sort of engineer or something and people don’t know about him or her unless they’ve studied stairs or whatever (I’m not going to try to be smart right now). I heard about that from an engineer buddy who said something about a whole list of “regulation” heights for building a house.
We assume that the stairs on a staircase are all going to be the same height.
Mostly we’re right.
This week, I tripped down the final step of a staircase on my way to the bathroom in a restaurant. I didn’t fall down, but I did stumble. I looked back and noticed the last step was waaaaay higher than the others.
That’s when I realized that I had not performed in weeks. And I felt like shit.
Then my brain also stumbled, but instead of into a small moment of embarrassment, it stumbled into a spiral of a self-nagging questions:
“Will I remember how to perform?”
“Am I still funny?”
“Will show runners still book me?”
“Why haven’t I written anything for stand-up lately?”
and most importantly “Why haven’t I booked anything?”
I just thought:
There was a period last year where I booked spots and then showed up at other shows in hopes that there would be even a three-minute window to climb through.
And as of writing this, no spots hit in weeks. I feel like I’m going through a withdrawal period. Performing stand-up is a drug. When people react in the most positive way to your thoughts and persona, that most definitely becomes worth chasing.
But it’s not about the people reacting. Not all of it anyway. During the period away from the stage, I had a chance to listen to lot of my old stuff and some of my more recent material and I heard a lot of growth. Whether it be in my writing ability, my intuition/quickness of response, or my performance ability, I had achieved some progress. Which is good and expected if you’ve been doing something for a few years (coming up on four for me. yikes.), but is not a given.
I have been given the greatest privilege of being able to speak to and watch some of the greatest comedians to ever grace this city over that past few years at Just For Laughs. I have also been extremely lucky to be part of a solid comedy scene where everybody works hard and is supportive. In both the cases of the great comedians and the local comedians, I know of several who have had to take breaks and others who just never stop working.
And it’s okay to take a break if you need it. Whether it be from the stage or from the craft entirely, sometimes we need to take the time to drain a pool before it’s ready to be filled up again.
But it is never okay to take improvement in a craft for granted.
So. To rephrase: I recently took a break from performing stand-up comedy. I never took a break from stand-up entirely. I did some listening and some research, maybe.
That made me feel way better.
Then I walked into the bathroom and took a piss in the most awkwardly low urinal I’ve ever had to use.
Mike “Chipmunk Eating Monk’s Chips” Carrozza
Follow Mike on Twitter @mikecarrozza and come to Theatre Ste-Catherine on November 21 for a very special show. More information to come, but mark your calendars.