The other day I put a picture on my Facebook page of me in my work uniform goofing off with a pair of safety glasses. I often take and post obscure pictures on my page as a reminder of something I saw that was funny to me and I might wanna write about later. Well, one comedian that often comments on my post asked a question on the picture I posted. “So are you just a weekend comedian?” It kinda raised something in me and my nostril flared. Personally, I don’t believe the question was meant to be mean or ill-flavored. Yet, it caught me in the left jaw because that was something I said that I did not want to become or be known as a few years ago.
Let me explain. To me the title “Weekend Comic” was someone that just told jokes on the weekend here and there. He or she did not travel much, if they did it was maybe across town or maybe to a neighboring state to do a few minutes of comedy. I use to think that anyone that was just doing this was not committed to the craft. In order to be considered a “real comedian,” you had to be performing full time. Your main source of income had to come from comedy. You did not punch a clock or answer to anyone about when you came and went, you just did what you wanted to do and if you did anything different, then you were just a weekend comic.
Well, that was my thinking five years ago when I jumped ship and quit my full-time career (I was a professional insurance agent with an office with a view and everything). Five years ago, I really believed that in order to be a great comic you had to break all ties to “The Man;” you had to go out here and live like a Nomad in your car, barely making it from city to city to perform and get better as a performing comedian, you had to become a road comic. There are a lot of great comics that have done just that and look at them now, they are standing on top of their star. I respect them for their achievements, I respect their hustle. It says a lot about them and the road they took to get to where they are in the comedy business. It took guts to do what they did, it took courage and faith to believe in themselves and their craft in order to achieve what they have and I knock no one for doing that. Actually, I applaud their efforts and marvel at their achievements.
Often, I have dreamed of doing that myself and actually tried it. I quit my job, took the money I had and set sail with a few jokes, a Cadillac and big dreams of becoming an overnight comedy sensation. I was gonna do it the way so many comedians before me had did it. I was determined not to be just a comic that told jokes on the weekend. It was gonna be my full-time gig.
After months of traveling and planting seeds of my comedy, my schedule grew as well as my popularity. No, I am not an overnight sensation, but I was (and still) getting booked regularly. I made some great contacts and some not so great contacts. My show changed and rearranged as I continued to explore new venues and audiences. I met some great people that saw something in me, and helped me. They provided dates, contacts, information and the most valuable thing, their life stories as comics and some shared stories of comics that have come and gone from this business.
I have been blessed to work with some great comics along the way and I learned something that has stuck with me to this day. Most comedians you meet have a regular job. Really?! Most comedians have something that they do that that is either in line with their comedy or allows them to do comedy and support them and their families. Say it ain’t so. Nope, it’s so. One of my favorite comics was a full-time New York City police officer who was getting close to retirement. I met him while featuring for him at a comedy club. He had television credits and everything. He told me that he uses his vacation time, holidays and sick days to book shows and has done it for over 10 years. He went on to say that he performs 30 weeks out of the year. I have met barbers, beauticians, corporate executives, lawyers, nurses, doctors, insurance agents the list goes on and on, and all of them are full-time comics, not just weekend comics.
I read a book about Dick Gregory and in the book he said “Keep your day job, there is nothing worse than a hungry comedian.” Redd Foxx said something similar. Rodney Dangerfield was a siding salesman when he got his big break. There are many great comics out there pulling a 9 to 5 in order to support their dreams of comedy greatness.
[colored_box color=”blue”]Being known as a weekend comic is a tag someone puts on themselves.[/colored_box]
Yes, I have met many comics that have slept on other comics couches and snuck into motels to take showers because they were living in their car. Yes, I do know comics that have given up everything in order to travel this road, I am one of them. I gave it all up. Yet, I was able to learn that anything is possible when you believe in your dream. You can have a regular job, family, life and comedy all at the same time.
You can have money in your pocket to get you from place to place, and not just an emergency telephone number in case you get somewhere and the club owner doesn’t wanna pay you because no one showed up for the show. Just because you have a day job does not make you less of a comic. If success in comedy is your destiny, it will find you when the time is right.
I was working in Wichita, KS and the club manager told me that a late night TV host was in his room the week before for the late show and saw the feature act and loved him, the feature act’s comedy path changed overnight. Yep, he is now traveling and opening for the late night TV host.
So, yes, I have a day job. I have a family, a nice car, a home, health insurance, a regular paycheck, a life and my comedy. I travel on a regular to destinations that are farther then the next state. I am living my dream and making money doing it. Yes, I wanna make my standup, things related to stand up and my special interest projects my full time, all the time gigs. Yet, until then, I punch a clock. I will continue punch that clock until my comedy supports me and my lifestyle. Why? Because, I am doing what I gotta do, so that I can do what I wanna do. Comedy.
Being known as a weekend comic is a tag someone puts on themselves. I used to criticize comics that I knew had television credits and great talent. I used to say stuff like, “Man, if I had them credits and their talent, I would be everywhere and not working a job and waiting on the telephone to ring.” Personally, I am not waiting on the phone to ring; I am doing things to make the phone ring while making money.
It is amazing what time will show you when you are paying attention. The roads that we travel in pursuit of our dreams are varied and many, but if it is your destiny, you will arrive and when you do; you will know that your journey may have been similar to the next comic, but not the same.
So, if working a job makes me a weekend comic, you can call me what you want to. Just make sure my name is right on the check when I get through performing like a full-time comic. No one can put that tag on you, but you. Being a weekend comic is not a bad thing. It actually puts you in with many greats that have gone on before you to obtain great success in comedy. In the meantime, I pray that you have a long cord on your mic, a hot crowd and every joke works like you want it too. I look forward to sharing a stage with you down the road and may God bless your journey.