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.

The most popular thing I’ve ever written

Screenshot 2014-04-02 14.37.31A week ago, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced they were splitting up. The UK’s Daily Telegraph (their biggest broadsheet newspaper) emailed me out of the blue. I’d written for them in the past, but not for a few months. They asked if I could turn something around in an hour: they already had an American woman’s perspective on marrying a British man? Could I give them the opposite viewpoint? I bashed it out, happy with most of the jokes. I sent it, and promptly forgot about it. They ran it.

And it blew up. It hit their front page. Last time I checked, it had been shared over 19,000 times on Facebook. It didn’t change the world or anything, but it put me on the map with a few important people. That’s a big win for me.

There’s a weird lesson in here. Opportunity visits in strange ways, and at odd times. You may not recognize it when it arrives. But if you are always working hard, always honing your craft (pitching, thinking, meeting, performing, challenging, writing, and RE-writing), you will get your chance to shine in front of a large audience. If you are in a creative profession, it can seem like most of the time, you’re just WASTING your time: writing stuff no one reads, telling jokes no one hears. You are not. You are constantly improving. And when opportunity knocks, it will be the anonymous failures that prepared you to succeed.

Last night I screamed at a racist French magician

Last night I screamed at a racist French magician.

I was at an open mic at The Laughing Devil Comedy Club in Long Island City. The guy onstage before me was French: “Eric the Magician”. He told some “jokes”. One of them was about being happy to return to his village in France, because it contained no black people. Stop! My sides might split!

When I went up, we got to talking. I asked him who his favorite French comedian was. He said Dieudonné M’bala M’bala. Here’s a picture of him.

http://www.sott.net/image/image/s8/163809/full/134165_dieudonne_637x0_1.jpg

I lost it and called Eric the Magician a racist and other bad things (like unfunny). I’m a little ashamed of myself this morning for losing my cool. But I thought I’d share some information about this horrible French “comic”, who at least on paper has the exact same job title as me.

Not many Americans know Dieudonné. He’s a political comedian, in that he vocally supports the Palestinian cause, and opposes Zionism and many actions of the Israeli government. Fine. OK. Perfectly defensible views. But these days, he’s gone a bit fascist. He’s good friends with the leader of France far-right National Front Party (Jean-Marie Le Pen). Le Pen is the godfather of his third child. He has characterized “the Jews” as “slave traders”.He has called Holocaust commemorations “memorial pornography“. Last year, he was recorded onstage saying of prominent French Jewish journalist Patrick Cohen: “you see, when I hear Patrick Cohen speak, I think to myself: ‘Gas chambers… what a shame’.” Asked if he is an antisemite, he once replied “I’m not saying I’d never be one… I leave myself open to that possibility, but for the moment, no.” Well, that’s crystal clear. Thanks. Oh, he’s also an convicted tax cheat, fined over an unpaid tax bill of 800,000 euros ($1 million +) by the French government. Tragic, really. A Jewish accountant would never have let him down like that.

He has created his own hand-gesture, too. It’s called the quenelle. Some people call it an “inverted Nazi salute”. The comedian describes it as an “anti-authoritarian gesture”. It’s a gesture that some French people like doing, frequently near explicitly Jewish sites, and even at Holocaust memorials. No antisemitism there, of course. Here is a picture of some French teenagers doing the gesture, with no subtext at all in the background.

http://www.israellycool.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/Quenelle-Anne-Frank.jpeg

Urgh. His supporters are a populist mix of far right youth and members of Muslim immigrant communities. They like to see themselves as “against the system” in France. And there’s nothing wrong with that on principle. Except that a lot of them seem to think “the system” (the government, the state, the police etc.) is in league with a Zionist cabal, intent on doing harm to French people somehow. It’s the same old schtick: “the banking system and the media are all being manipulated by Jews and it’s evil blah blah blah because Israel.” About 64 million people live in France. Less than 500,000 of them are believed to be Jewish (hard to say exactly – the secular French government refuses to ask about faith on its census). Less than 1% of the population? Boy, these Jews must be very good and very busy at running conspiracies. They are seriously understaffed.

Why am I sharing this? I don’t know. To be honest, Dieudonné scares me. Comedy is a powerful thing. Make people laugh, and they’ll follow you, even to horrible places. I hate censorship of all kinds, and I don’t think the French government should be able to prosecute him for “hate speech” (which they have done and continue to do). Let him say whatever nonsense he wants. It’s everyone else’s job to use free speech right back, and tell him he’s a ridiculous, antisemitic idiot. So that’s what I’m doing now. I’m a ONE MAN ARMY. Thanks for reading.