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 and angry grunt, 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, realizations and sacrifices. I still fight with myself about things like, “if I could just be more likeable or cooperative, would I be booked more?” I know that my unyielding attitude toward doing this comedy thing MY way has limited my bookability, and that's something I've had to reconcile personally. As I've come to terms with that, my attitude toward what I expect in return from comedy has changed, too. 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, but 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, in fact, 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. I came to understand this 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 that day: if you are trying to be hired to do comedy in a full-time capacity, you probably have to compromise your material to please the masses. I think some folks find ways to be relatable to a large audience while staying true to themselves, but that's 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:
*Editor's note*: This space once held goals for 2021, but since this post remains relevant, I'm updating it with 2023-2024 goals.
Continue to cultivate spaces where comedians treat each other and audiences well.
I continue to pour my heart into two monthly shows: Rough Drafts open mic, every last tuesday at Two Dollar Radio Headquarters and What the Fuzz, monthly, saturdays, co-produced by Bridjet Mendy at Fuzz Nail Salon. These shows serve as a vehicle for bringing folks together to take a deep breath, laugh and be in community with one another. I've intentionally created these spaces as places for comics to get their reps in while feeling supported by their peers. For audiences, I want them to show up, bring their friends, have a laugh and connect. As hobbiests, we don't need to compete, and the most important person in the room is every audience member. Come see a show or sign up for a 5 minute spot on the mic on the second-to-last tuesday of the month via my Instagram DM's @baberoar.
Perform in MY voice
Ever since performing my solo-ish show, Tough Baby, a show that incorporates elements of stand-up, Drunk Powerpoint, TED talks, and collaboration with friends, I simply cannot go back to performing straightforward stand-up comedy. I'm not sure that the medium was ever right for me, although, like I learned in my first marriage: surviving something that's wrong makes the thing that's right so much sweeter. So, catch me doing some Frankensteined version of whatever kind of performance I'm doing these days... with varying degrees of success! Regardless, it's right for me, audiences seem to enjoy it, and that's perfect.
Set a good example for young comedians (This is a 2021 goal that can stay)
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 email@example.com.