Any time I voiced frustration with anything unjust during my childhood, my parents would say to me, “Pay attention to what YOU’RE doing. Not what other people are doing.” It made me stomp my foot while angrily grunting, because on one hand, I am stubborn, and on the other hand, they were right. Years ago, after lapping up every unrewarding comedy opportunity given to me by male gatekeepers, I decided I could not keep up the charade. I made the conscious decision that if Comedy (read: the business of comedy) is a game, I am not playing. If I have to be fake to navigate politics among folks I don’t care for or trust, I won’t participate. Instead, I concluded, I will be content with whatever corner of the comedy world I am able to carve out on my own while being honest with myself and my colleagues.
This process has come with a handful of personal evolutions and realizations. I still fight with myself about things like, “if I could just be more likeable or cooperative, would I be booked more?” I am proud of myself for filling holes in the comedy market for underrepresented audiences. I have gone from being desperate for stage time to demanding to be paid for my work to just wanting to make things I am proud of and treat people well. I am happy that I’ve gotten to do all of this with some incredible folks, some of whom have become friends, and one even became my life partner. I am thankful that through all of the work, I have learned and had fun.
That last part is the one that I really want to focus on: fun. Performing comedy is fun. When comedians tell their co-workers or acquaintances that we do comedy, they often light up and respond by saying something like, “that’s so cool!” Yeah! It is really effing cool. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the stuff that is not as cool, like whether enough people know your name, recognize you in public or have heard your jokes. If you want to be a professional comedian, I suppose those things are important. A lot of people I know aspire to be professional comedians and will become upset if you use the word “hobby” to describe their comedy careers.
When I first started doing comedy, I was so insecure in my worthiness of even holding the microphone that the label of “hobbiest” had the power to decimate my confidence. I pretended that I could see myself as a road comic (lol I’m a homebody). I purported to want to live life like Mike Birbiglia in Sleepwalk With Me, a both brutally honest and romanticized depiction of the life of a comic on the road. Even after I decided to stop playing “the game” of comedy, I was still pretending like being a traveling comic was an option for me. I can see doing short trips and maybe even a small tour here and there, but a professional comedian? Me? Chyeah right. Not only is the lifestyle completely unrealistic, but Momma wants early retirement!
I am realistic about how much coin my talents and my demeanor can make me. In fact, the one time I was hired to perform comedy for a large group of people (and a large amount of money), I learned an important lesson. If you are trying to be hired to do comedy in a full-time capacity, you have to learn to compromise your material for the masses. I think some folks find ways to be relatable to a large audience while staying true to themselves, but that's just a balance I don't wish to strike. I am happy with running my carefully curated shows, appealing to the specific crowd I appeal to and not making a profit.
If you’re funny, if you have a fresh perspective, work hard, show up on time, and stick up for others, I want to work with you… regardless of your long-term ambitions. My happy medium is being a comedy hobbiest who acts professionally. I take my hobby seriously. Some of my favorite people to work with are the most professional comedy hobbiests I know.
Now that I have accepted and embraced being a hobbiest, I am having a lot more fun on stage, which is the reason I started doing this in the first place. I woke up in 2020 feeling more lighthearted about comedy than I have in a long time. I don’t know if it’s my age or maybe my new baby nephew has melted my icy heart, but I’m feeling more focused on myself and my goals than ever. I’m not going to let a label or the opinions of others get in the way of creating what I want to see in the world.
So, because my parents are always right, here is a list of things I’ll be focusing on this year. In 2021, I am hoping to look back on this list and be proud of the work I did to accomplish these goals.
Make Columbus comedy accessible and fun for all audiences, especially underrepresented ones
I will do this by further integrating comedy and activism in my community. Our activist communities have some of the boldest babes with a fire in their heart, a sense of humor, and a story to tell. Reaching outside of the comedy community means that more perspectives are invited to the table, and in that way, I will further serve underrepresented audiences.
Continue to create opportunities for myself and other performers to step into their vulnerability
Good examples from 2019 are comedic storytelling shows including Puberty Problems, Terrible Twenties, and This Time With Feelings.
Bring touring female and queer comedians to Columbus
I plan to seek out opportunities to learn from those who are already doing this.
Set a good example for young comedians
I will do this by staying focused on making the things that only I can create the best they can be.
Being a comedy hobbiest shouldn’t be looked down upon, and neither should ambitions to go pro. They both have pros and cons, but you have to do what's right for you. Just keep your eyes on your own paper.
HMU if you want to work together at firstname.lastname@example.org.