At a dinner with – with one exception – strangers, having earned numerous laughs, I was asked,
“Why aren’t you a ‘Stand-up’ comedian?”
To which I smoothly replied,
“Because my childhood wasn’t quite terrible enough.”
Insightful and glib.
Though not entirely complete.
I’d had brief flirtations with “Stand-up” comedian, but I had never seriously jumped in.
Herein, offering a comparison, is why.
Recently, my older brother – whose avid enthusiasm for “Stand-up” betrays a more turbulent childhood – sent me an hour-long YouTube video about Rodney Dangerfield.
We learn early on that Rodney’s father was typically absent and his distant mother was cruelly withholding.
Boy, was he ready to be a comedian!
But, as they say in philosophy, though upsetting childhoods are helpfully “Necessary” for becoming a comedian, they are not finally “Sufficient.”
Though before that, this.
In my view, there are two ways to react to early negative circumstances:
One’s “I’ll show them!” (Hopefully opting for “Comedian” over “Notorious Mass Murderer.”)
And Two’s “They showed me!” (Where you curl up in a ball, and never ever get up.)
Rodney Dangerfield was the classic Poster Boy for “One.”
Which takes care of “Necessary.” Moving on to “Sufficient” (which Rodney fiercely displayed)…
Although failing for years and reluctantly giving up show business, (for an extended stint as an aluminum siding salesman), Rodney never surrendered his dream. During his “Civilian” period, he continued writing down jokes, carefully storing them away.
When he later returned to the “Comedy Circuit” – circa age forty – Rodney Dangerfield was ready!
Making two crucial adjustments along the way:
He changed his name (from already changed “Jack Roy”) to Rodney Dangerfield.
And – as comedians must – he found a focusing “hook”, marked by his signature “catch phrase”,
“I don’t get no respect.”
(Eventually), this took him straight to the top. (In the YouTube video, reverent comedians called him “The Best.”)
So you see, children, it takes two things:
A searing enthusiasm for settling old scores.
And a willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed.
You unquestionably have to have both.
If you have one, you’re an aluminum siding salesman, making customers laugh.
(If you have neither, you’re a contented person, enjoying their life. Gee, I wonder what that’s like.)