I love it when I realize I’m a numbskull, because it means I’ve discovered something about myself that I can fix. It means I can be better. I started stand-up in 2000, and even though I took a hiatus from 2009-2014, I’ve still been a comedian for 15 years. I’ve still had to field the same questions and hear the same comments, like, “Oh, come on, you’re a comedian. You’re supposed to have a sense of humor,” which tends to follow someone saying or doing something rather rude.
And people love to tell comedians jokes. Not the style that we use in our act – not bits. But street jokes. Tired old stories that take a five-minute setup to get to a big finale. They are so absolutely certain that comedians are not only avid producers of comedy, but avid consumers of comedy. (Following this logic, one may say dentists love having root canals.)
So for 15 years, people have asked me who my favorite comedian is. I do have a couple favorites, but when I reply, my answer somewhere held a comment about how I don’t watch comedy. “I’ve done over 600 shows, so I’ve seen thousands of other acts. I know how the magic trick works. I don’t like watching comedy.”
What an ignorant and pretentious numbskull I was. And I’ve still said this very recently.
But at last, I figured out that I was being a numbskull.
Besides being a numbskull, the reason I never watched comedy was that I wanted to be original. I wanted to do something totally fresh, totally uncorrupted by other influence. So I didn’t watch comedy.
Except I did. Thousands of acts. And looking back, I know they influenced me, and they influenced me for the better.
My original and forever passion is writing, and any great writer will insist that if you want to be a great writer, you need to read and read and read. I agree with this. I know that when I read, the part of my brain that manages the arrangement of words fires up and is then just as capable of producing as it is consuming. When I read poetry, I’m inspired and can turn out some fine verse immediately following. And many times I’ve sat in the back of a room at a show, frantically jotting down a bit, not because I’m stealing it from the guy onstage, or even that it’s inspired by the guy onstage, but because my brain has made that shift. It is hearing the cadence of comedy and can therefore beat out a tune of its own.
I am at my comedy renaissance now, and it’s incredibly exciting. It’s exciting to approach this new beginning with everything I’ve learned before, but even more so, it’s exciting to be different, smarter, and less of a numbskull. All I want to do is watch comedy now. Ask me again who my favorite comedian is. Who knows whom I’ll discover next?
– Christina Irene