Sustainable Comedy: The Pursuit Of Happiness

Dear Diary,

I’ve been avoiding you.

It’s not because I haven’t had anything to say, but because I didn’t know what to say, what not to say, never mind how to say it.

I haven’t been on stage since December 17.

Is My Heart Still In This?

After feverishly preparing for the December 17th show at Hard Rock Cafe, I was burnt out. Actually, it was much worse than that: I was proactively burning myself out. When I thought about the future, all I could see was a lifetime of painstakingly bombing over and over again in the pursuit of golden material.

I wasn’t looking forward to it. Eventually, I started to ask myself if comedy was I wanted to do. I came to the conclusion that I was a coward because I wasn’t going on stage. That explanation made sense to me. I was avoiding the spotlight because I wanted to protect my ego.

I then started to wonder whether I was slipping back into depression. But, in truth, I didn’t feel depressed. I was still coming up with jokes, jotting them down, and working on them from time to time. I was working out…sporadically. I was eating…fairly well. I felt like I was stuck at the bottom of the mountain, paralyzed, emotionally cutting my hands on the rocks that I knew were to follow when I started my journey.

Luckily, after watching a lot of Bill Burr and Reggie Watts, two guys who seemed to genuinely enjoy being on stage, I realized that I was avoiding comedy not because I wasn’t a comedian, but because I had unconsciously built a model of approaching comedy that wasn’t sustainable in the long run.

Sustainable ComedyComedy Cycle

Somewhere along the way I decided that I was going to treat my comedy career like an IT project with rigidly-defined milestones, completely disregarding my own happiness along the way.

For example, in preparation for my December 17th show, I put myself under so much stress that I stopped enjoying comedy altogether. Again, the outcome was amazing, but it just wasn’t worth the anxiety I was putting myself through.

I started thinking about why I got into comedy in the first place. It was more than just about making people laugh. For me, sharing ideas is an end in and of itself.

So, long story short, I’ve decided to expand the definition of success when it comes to comedy. I need to be able to have fun while simultaneously working on my act. Now, that doesn’t mean that I won’t have goals. Rather, I just want to keep in mind that subordinating my enjoyment of comedy in favour of doing well on stage (i.e. avoiding risks) isn’t worth it. If I don’t give the donkey a carrot on a regular basis, he’s gonna kick me in my fucking head.

And hey, in the end, you only bomb if you stay home.

PS – This is what part of the alphabet would look like if Q and R were eliminated – Mitch Hedberg

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About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for blogTO.com.
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8 Responses to Sustainable Comedy: The Pursuit Of Happiness

  1. Cindy Allingham says:

    Absolutely yeah!!!!!!!

    • Hey friend!

      It makes my heart happy whenever you stop by my neck of the interwoods. Seeing your enthusiasm tells me that I’m on the right track.

      Your encouragement means much more than you know,

      Jagdeo

  2. I was JUST thinking about you a few hours ago and wondering if I’d somehow unsubscribed again. And if I hadn’t, and you were just being quiet, I hoped you were okay.

    After reading your post – twice – I’m still unclear on where you are going next! Which is perhaps a good thing – less graphs and charts and planning it all out like a businessman and more DOING the fun shit.
    I wish I had a carrot for you! Maybe just knowing we strangers do care helps?

    • Ha!

      Yeah, you know me well. I usually make a point to set out – in no uncertain terms – exactly what my plan is.

      I have new material to work out on stage, and I want to open up my act to much more improv and crowd work, but I kind of want to leave the business plan on the backburner for a bit and remember what it’s like to play the game and have fun!

      Thanks again for thinking of me 🙂

      Jagdeo

  3. Sorry for the caps-lock emphasis, by the way – I wish I could use italics or bold in comments. I try like hell to type like I talk and it kinda looks moronic in retrospect 😉

    • Hey Dude!

      Me, too! I’m always amazed at how Powerpoints Smartcharts can make things look so slick!

      They say pics can tell a thousand words, and I finally understand what they meant. That graph really sums up what comedy was like for me.

      What’s missing from the post is a model for how I’m going to approach comedy from now on. Perhaps it’s just a bigger circle to represent the fact that it might take me longer to perfect material because I’m focusing on my own enjoyment. Heck, it might be the opposite (a smaller cycle) given that I’m thinking the more I enjoy myself, the more the audience will join me.

      For now, I’ll have to be content with pulverizing the vague test cases I have in the crucible of experience and see what comes out. God what a pretentious sentence that was…I gotta fall forward with a smile.

      Jagdeo

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