One Of Those Mornings

I woke up in a horrible mood this morning.  I don’t know how it happened.  All I remember was becoming conscious, and my first thought of the day was, “I suck.  I’m a shitty comic.  I’m not funny.  My jokes aren’t funny.  Nobody likes me.  I can feel it emanating from them every time I’m onstage.  I can feel their hate.  Just ripping into my psyche like a freshly sharpened scythe of scorn.  Everyone wants me to quit.  Maybe I will quit.  Fuck it.  I’m no good.  Why should I keep wasting everyone else’s time with my bullshit?  I’d be doing THEM a favor.  Goddamnit.  I hate myself…What time is it?”

I certainly have a healthy sense of self-doubt—as do most performers and artists—but this was something deeper.  In that span of what was probably only thirty seconds, I completely dismantled my entire sense of creative self-worth.  It is true that you are oftentimes your own worst critic.  Plus, I’m kind of irritable right after I wake up, so it was a double-whammy for me.

But don’t you ever have those mornings (even if you’re not actively engaged in some kind of creative outlet, like stand-up comedy or writing)?  Those mornings where you just wake up and go, “Ah, fuck…do I have to do this again?” and the day just becomes another adversary, like God is challenging you: “LET’S SEE YOU MAKE IT THROUGH THIS DAY, MWAHAHAHAHA!” And then you feel like now you have to work extra hard just to get back to some kind of psychological equilibrium, otherwise it just rolls on over to the next day and it just keeps building and building while you keep trying to chip away at the black cloud of internal anxiety in order to maintain some sense of sanity, which causes you to end up walking around with some big, dumb, fake grin on your face that you force yourself to put on so that people don’t think anything is wrong, because you’re so emotionally fragile for practically no given reason that at any time you are roughly six seconds away from crying, all the while trying to do everything in your power to have a productive day regardless so that you go to sleep feeling like you did SOMETHING besides wallowing in your own misery.

And THEN you get out of bed to start your day.  You ever have those mornings?

I don’t mean to paint a bleak portrait—I find it more funny and amusing than anything else.  The idea that you can totally self-annihilate your day before it even fucking begins: that is hilarious to me.  Obviously, you sometimes have to step back and look at it in retrospect before you see the humor in it, but it’s there, in all its despondent glory.  It can be depressing comedy, but it’s still comedy (and in some ways, a more powerful form).

A great example of depressing comedy is the FML website, which has become one of my favorite websites over the last little while.  FML, which stands for Fuck My Life, is a website chronicling true stories from around the world based around often horrific, embarrassing, heartbreaking, and all-around sad events that happen in people’s lives every day.  All of them are structured to fit a particular formula (“Today, I [insert story]”), with all of the entries ending with the FML acronym.  These stories can be depressing to the point of inducing tears, but they can also be side-splittingly funny.  In some cases, they can be BOTH.  And depending on how sensitive you are or how your sense of humor is wired, you may react differently to each blurb.

This kind of depressing comedy is very powerful to me, because the people who post these stories display amazing amounts of courage (though, granted, they are submitted anonymously) to essentially gut themselves and let everything spill out over their tales of life gone wrong; of getting fucked by life.  All for the sake of a hearty belly-laugh.  There’s a beauty in it that I find painfully appealing (pun intent coincidental, but effective anyway).

It provides a release; a catharsis that isn’t common in a lot of what passes for entertainment.  And I love that about it.  It’s something I’ve been trying to explore within my own comedy, with varying amounts of both success and failure.  I know I’m not alone in having such feelings like what I was enduring at the beginning of this post, and I want to take these inherently negative experiences and turn them into something worth laughing at, because for other people who have had those thoughts: that’s their release–to know that they are also not alone.

Who knows—before reading this, they could have had one of those mornings.

Until next time,

–Riley

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6 responses to “One Of Those Mornings

  1. Randomly came across your post as I was sitting at home feeling like a complete loser and having a really shitty and self-deprecating day! Glad to know, I’m not alone…
    Thanks for cheering me up, and I love the way you write!

  2. I used to have those morning, oh yes.

    I still, in fact, get the feeling that I am in fact a con man and eventually someone will notice I’m not any good at writing at all.

    I actually hate almost everything I write as soon as I’m done— and still peope think it’s brilliant.

    I also used to wake up dreading the thought of having to write, having to edit, having to go over whatever stupid words I wrote the day before.

    I used to wake up around 10-11am.

    These days I’m up at 6, writing by 8 and I love, love, LOVE writing. I even like editing now— there is a good feeling in editing something you’ve written.

    I don’t know where this change has come from. I woke up at the beginning of the week feeling like a new man. My shoulders feel high, insteadof the usual slouch.

    Also now believe that I never had enough self doubt to be a comic. Don’t most comedians hate themselves in private.

    In other news: you are a an incredibly engaging writer. Well done with that.

    • Thanks, man. I really appreciate that.

      Believe me: comics are the most self-critical people—maybe even worse than writers, I dunno. When I bomb at open mics, I have the same dialogue at the top of my original post on the drive home from the show. But when I have good sets, I drive home thinking, “I’m amazing! I know what I’m doing! I’m hysterical!” Stand-up comedy apparently resembles a professional form of bipolar disorder.

      I’m with you on hating what I write: 90% of the jokes I write, I end up hating as soon as I write them. The only time I stop hating them is when I tell them onstage and they get laughs. But then one night I’ll tell a working joke again and it bombs, and then I start hating it again. Comedy is fuckin’ weird, man. Again, bipolar.

      I need to work more on editing. When it comes to jokes, editing has more to do with stuff like making a set-up more concise or coming up with a funnier line than fixing grammatical stuff. (Ain’t ain’t a word, unless it gets a laugh.) Every so often I’ll go thru old jokes from several months ago and rewrite them completely. Sometimes that means writing them from a whole new perspective; other times it’s just refining the perspective already present—either way, it’s fun to do because jokes are constantly evolving.

      This comment is stupidly long. I’m a jackass!

      –Riley

  3. Hey, I’m the crown prince of excessively long comments!

    Groucho Marx never threw a joke away, he just kept working on it until it *did* become funny.

    Joke editing is hard, harder than writing. And I’m not that self critical— more and more I even like what I’ve written! Twice this week that happened.

    Writing editing is just a case of making sure it reads right and is phrased the way you wanted.

    Joke editing is the same, except you have to make it as funny as possible.

    Also, comedy is more subjective, what one audience love another might hate. Writing is more fixed in what is good and what is bad. And then my audience never really changes either, so there’s that…

  4. Beautiful piece, Riley. I’ve really been impressed with your writing in these blog entries. It IS incredibly engaging, as James says. I loved your comment about stand-up comedy being like professional bi-polar disorder. That’s hilarious!

    As your mother, it pains me to think that you are having to fend off that mental sabbotage that I am very familiar with. Only with me, it’s always been about being a terrible singer, songwriter, blah, blah, blah. At times, it’s been about being a terrible mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend…so I don’t think that anyone is immune, however, creative people have extremely active minds so maybe we are bombarded more than the average person.

    I DO believe in turning off the negative tapes in your head when they start playing because, that’s exactly what they are. I believe our minds are going to go there from time to time but we really have the power to put our foot down and say, “No, I won’t listen to this crap today.” In fact, you can take it a step further and place a positive statement on top of the negative and if you do it enough, you’ve programmed your mind to stop mouthing off because you’ve basically short circuited it. It’s difficult at first, and you have to stay on guard, but if you do it, it works.

    Having said all of this, if you hadn’t had that attack of self doubt, you would have never written this post which inspired this discussion. This is the bottom line to me. You are a writer, Riley. I’ve known this since you were four years old. If you make it in stand-up comedy, that will just be a bonus as far as I’m concerned because you’re already incredibly good at something that’s creative, fulfilling, and has infinite possibilities for growth and success. With writing, you can make people angry, sad, and excited. You can make them think and provoke them into taking action. And yes, you can make them laugh out loud.

    So…the waking up grumpy, the self doubt, the self consciousness, the over active mind, the taking life way too seriously sometimes…I’m sorry because I guess you have me to thank for all that. Must be in the genes. So sue me.

    • Hahaha, HI MOM! :-D

      I try to fight off the negative stuff as much as I can, although there are times when I think it’s necessary to embrace it in a constructive way, i.e., motivation to do better. Or inspiration, as you pointed out.

      Obviously, there are times when we don’t deflect it fast enough and we end up being depressed, but that’s just human nature. (This comedian named Marc Maron has a FANTASTIC bit about depressed people vs. happy people.)

      So in the end, I don’t blame ya. Besides, in a weird way, it’s nice to have some variety. Being happy all the time might be great emotionally, but not so great creatively. After all, if not for pain and heartbreak, 95% of all songs would never have been written. :-)

      Thanks for the comment. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer, ha.

      –Riley

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