Comedy

 

My oldest daughter, Selah, came to me last month and said she wanted to be a stand-up comedian. I suggested some comics who I thought she’d like, and told her about a youth open mic event downtown.  She had about a month to write her routine. Her first few drafts were AWFUL, but she kept at it. She practiced in front of a mirror and recorded herself. I refused to help with her writing, but I did help with her timing.

When the event came, she was a little nervous, but just a little. I asked the organizer, a friend of mine, to give her some advice, and he gave her some quick pointers. When she was called, she decided to do it without her notes.

She killed! She was comfortable, and though she’ll  be more polished with more time, she seemed in her element.

I’m very proud of her. She was able to turn her personal experiences into something relatable and funny.

So now it’s my turn. I’ve been a fan of comedy going back to when I first watched Eddie Murphy’s Raw way too young. I love Eddie Izzard, Hannibal Burress, Robin Williams, Zach Galifianakis, John Mulaney, Maria Bamford, Hari Kondabolu, Jim Gaffigan, Mitch Hedberg, LaVell Crawford, Margaret Cho, and Chris Rock, just to name a few. I’ve been listening to comedy podcasts, reading comedy blogs, dissecting routines, and writing for years. i’ve also been following the career of Jonah Ray. It hasn’t been an all-consuming compassion, but it’s been on my mind a lot. I accepted long ago I was going to try my hand at comedy.  I’m researching open mic nights in Albuquerque, and doing what Selah did. I’m going to try, and it’s likely I will suck. That’s okay. We’re not supposed to be masters of something the first time we try it. I’m going to do it, and I’m going to have fun, and I’m going to tell you guys all about it.

Robin Williams

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Robin Williams died on August 11th, 2014. It affected me deeply, to include being the catalyst which pushed me taking my mental health seriously.

It seems silly to be profoundly shaken by a stranger’s death, but it floored me. I had to work that day, a Monday. I cried at my desk. I closed the door and I cried. I would start crying at random moments. I wanted to dig a hole and lie down in it. I floated around in a grey, numb haze for a few days, haunting my own spaces. I eventually mustered enough fear I might perhaps go down a similar path to Robin’s, and called a mental health hotline. I was afraid to tell anyone how hurt I was, I was afraid of being dismissed, judged, or ostracized; I already felt so alone, unmoored and drifting.

I’d been a fan of his work as long as I could remember. I started being interested in comedy around age 11, when I’d listen to comedy albums from the library and soak up all the Evening at the Improv, SCTV, Kids I the Hall, and SNL I could. When I flipped channels, I’d stop every time I saw someone with a bad haircut and a worse suit before a brick wall. I’d stay up late on Friday to watch Leno or Letterman (when Johnny Carson was on the air I was too young to care or stay up that late). I got deep into The Simpsons and Conan, and went through a protracted “Monty Python” phase, which many label as “being a dude”.

Through it all was the work of Robin Williams.

Only recently I’ve been able to listen to his albums and watch his movies again. I had the pleasure of watching “Hook” with my kids, their first time seeing it. If I were to recommend any one piece of his work which summed up his essence, talent, and humanity, it would be his appearance on “Inside The Actor’s Studio”.

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Damn, he was funny. It seems could not be human if he wasn’t being funny. Also, James Beard’s makeup stopping abruptly at his chinstrap beard is kinda funny, yoo.

It feels funny to celebrate the life of someone who didn’t/couldn’t be alive. I’m not using “funny” so much because I am running out of words. It’s intentional; where I felt only a great deal of pain, I can now find a little ironic nugget of humor, which comes from a place of hope. It’s my slow-growing resilience showing up and flexing a little. I am stronger than I was a year ago, and in an odd way, have Robin Williams to thank for that.

Please get help if you are feeling signs of depression and having thoughts of hurting yourself or others. Do not take your light out of my or anyone else’s life.

RIP, Robin. And again, thank you for everything.

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