Heartbreak

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There is heartbreak at every level of this life.

I’m grateful that I’ve found my life’s calling. My calling is “funny”. My purpose on earth is to make people laugh as often as possible, in as many different and interesting ways, until I die. That’s it. I’m lucky. Most people don’t find their calling. And my calling is mostly benign for other people. Some people have a bad calling: “kill all the prostitutes in the Tri-state area who resemble my mother” would be one. I’m thankful I avoided that.

It’s pointless to pretend that the meaning of my life is altruistic. I’m not doing it to “bring laughter to the people”. I’m doing it entirely for me. It’s as selfish as anything else. I want to be seen. And heard. And validated as a smart, compelling person that everybody likes. My desperation to be liked is a problem. That is the realization I am currently dealing with. My whole life is a quest to NOT be hated. And my brain has discovered that you cannot make a person laugh AND be hated by them simultaneously. They can hate you before they laugh. They can resume hating you afterwards. But while they’re laughing, you cannot be hated. So I chase that moment of laughter. It’s about relief. It’s about reprieve from doubt that I’m likeable.

Where does the heartbreak come in?

It’s never enough. You chase bigger and better laughs. You chase them from (what your ape brain considers) bigger and better groups of people. You want everyone to love you. And yet the bigger the crowd, the more you’re exposed to the reality that some people still don’t care for you. The guy in the third row, two seats from the aisle? He wasn’t laughing. Maybe he hates you. Now that’s a problem. And truthfully? Most people have no idea who you are. Most people aren’t at this performance, or any performance of yours. My brain interprets their non-awareness of me as a kind of contempt. Like the world is ignoring me. I don’t think that’s uncommon. A lot of performers take lack of notoriety extremely personally. So you set out to win everybody over. Most successful performers you meet (and I do not consider myself in that club) seem strangely haunted. They are haunted by the idea that they have not won over enough people to feel existentially safe.

And THAT is heartbreaking.

For me, that’s the truth behind the stereotype of the “sad clown”. The clown is not sad because he believes the world to be tragic and fallen. He’s sad because the laugh he’s chasing is always slightly bigger than the one he is getting.

Public transportation etiquette

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We need a simple way to communicate this sentiment:
“I saw you on public transportation today and I very much wanted to say hi. But I didn’t want to bother you, so I didn’t say hello. I’m concerned you think that I noticed you BUT avoided you because I don’t like you. I definitely do like you, but wanted to respect your space.”
Is there a word we can invent that does all that work?

I hate Gawker

Urgh. Gawker. This “site” exudes the same kind of inner evil that seeps out of UK tabloids. They are so quick to claim the “we’re muckrakers, we’re independent, we speak truth to power” mantle. But they’re the worst sort of chimp-mind bullies, tearing people down for no other reason than to justify their own misanthropy. Also, if they spoke truth to power, they’d write about prison reform or the drug war. Not hideous clickbait about Angelina Jolie’s busted tits.

Dostoyevsky

notesfromtheundergroundI overheard a security guard in my office building discussing Dostoyevsky. He was chatting with someone in the lobby, telling them “you HAVE to read The Brothers Karamazov“. It made me think a lot of things, most of which I’m not proud of. My first thought was to judge him negatively. You’re the kind of well-read, sensitive soul who appreciates Dostoyevsky? Yet you’re just a security guard? What the fuck went wrong? You must be a loser. You should be in publishing. Or non-profit management. Or some other kind of “respectable” job. Not wearing a cheap suit with a dumb badge embroidered on the on the pocket and asking people for I.D. Immediately, I became aware that this is a kind of snobbery that’s baked deep into me. It felt shameful.

So I tried to empathize. Maybe he likes being a security guard, precisely because it gives him the free time to read a lot of Dostoyevsky. Maybe he’s actually very enlightened. He’s seen through the rat race. He understands the fundamental meaninglessness of the business world. Maybe he’s a writer. Maybe he’s the next Dostoyevsky! That’s what my brain does. It’s binary. This guy is either a self-sabotaging schmuck, or a secret genius. He can’t be just a guy who likes a book.

Then I felt doubly ashamed, because… I’ve never read any Dostoyevsky. I think I tried to read Crime and Punishment once, but stopped after 20 pages. I’ve had an expensive, formal literary education, but still, this guy is topping me. No one told him to read Dostoyevsky, but he did anyway. It was embarrassing. I wasn’t even angry. It made me want to go and check The Brothers Karamazov out of the library and read it during my morning commute. But that thing has got to be 900 pages long – I’m never going to carry that around in my bag, let alone finish it. Plus it will cut into my podcast listening time. I listen to a lot of podcasts with comedians making dick jokes. And that’s important.