I just finished reading Marc Maron’s Attempting Normal. I don’t want to get into book review mode because I’m not capable enough to extrapolate the layers and stories the book delves into for those who aren’t familiar with him. If you’re not a fan of his work, you probably won’t and don’t need to read it. If you’re a comic, even if you don’t like his work there’s an awful lot to learn from him. There are tonnes of stories and passages I want to tweet and talk about but I’ll choose just one – part of his keynote at the Just For Laughs Festival in 2011 – which somewhat fittingly ends this book.
There are very few people who make me spend such an awful amount of time just thinking through my own life and the role of comedy – and he’s right up there. Even if I never get to see, meet or talk to him there already is a connection – like with millions of others – simply through his voice on the podcast. That, in itself is extremely gratifying. 25 years after being a stand-up comic and having been left with nothing - talking to a room full of his peers and other comics whose lives he in some ways was a part of - I found this keynote extremely, extremely touching.
“I love comedians. I respect anyone who goes all in to do what I consider a noble profession and art form. Despite whatever drives us towards this profession i.e. insecurity, need for attention, megalomania, poor parenting, anger, a mixture of all of the above. Whatever it is, we comics are out there on the front lines of our sanity.
We risk all sense of security and the possibility of living stable lives to do comedy. We are out there in B rooms, dive bars, coffee shops, bookstores and comedy clubs trying to find the funny, trying to connect, trying to interpret our problems and the world around us and make it into jokes. We are out there dragging our friends and co-workers to comedy clubs at odd hours so we can get on stage. We are out there desperately tweeting, updating statuses and shooting silly videos. We are out there driving ten hours straight to feature in fill in blank city here. We are out there acting excited on local morning radio programs with hosts whose malignant egos are as big as their regional popularity. We are out there pretending we like club owners and listening to their ‘input’.
We are out there fighting the good fight against our own weaknesses: battling courageously with internet porn, booze, pills, weed, blow, hookers, hangers on, sad angry girls we can’t get out of our room, twitter trolls and broken relationships. We are out there on treadmills at Holiday Inn Expresses and Marriott suite hotels trying to balance out our self-destructive compulsions, sadness and fat. We are up making our own waffles at at 9:58 AM two minutes before the free buffet closes and thrilled about it. Do not underestimate the power of a lobby waffle to change your outlook.
All this for what? For the opportunity to be funny in front of as many people as possible and share our point of view, entertain, tell some jokes, crunch some truths, release some of the tension that builds up in people, in the culture and ourselves.
The amazing thing about being a comedian is that no one can tell us to stop even if we should. Delusion is necessary to do this. Some of you aren't that great. Some of you may get better. Some of you are great…now. Some of you may get opportunities even when you stink. Some of you will get them and they will go nowhere and then you have to figure out how to buffer that disappointment and because of that get funnier or fade away. Some of you may be perfectly happy with mediocrity. Some of you will get nothing but heartbreak. Some of you will he heralded as geniuses and become huge. Of course all of you think that one describes you….hence the delusion necessary to push on. Occasionally everything will synch up and you will find your place in this racket. There is a good chance it will be completely surprising and not anything like you expected.
I’m not sure if there is one point to this speech or any really. If you are a comic hang in there if you can because you never know what’s going to happen or how it is going to happen and there are a lot more ways and places for it to happen. I know my place in show business now. It’s in my garage. Who knows where yours is but there is truly nothing more important than comedy….well, that may be an overstatement. There are a few things more important than comedy but they aren’t funny……until we make them funny.”