From time to time, I perform stand-up comedy. And I have met a number of other comedians. So I think I have enough experience to say this: It's high time that we started giving more respect and admiration to a vastly underappreciated group of people who have one of the hardest jobs in the world:
People who live with stand-up comedians.
Seriously, for those of you who have never dated or lived with a comedian, you have no idea what grueling work it can be. "Grueling work?" you ask, "What the Dickens is he talking about?" Well, here's the Twist: Maybe you've been to a comedy show and enjoyed the jokes so much, you think that living with the comedians would be constant hilarious brilliance. But these jokes are usually carefully crafted. In the pre-joke state, they're a lot less fun.
Or worse yet, maybe you've been to a comedy show where you didn't like some of the jokes. Those jokes were also carefully crafted, which means they started out much worse than the joke you didn't like to begin with. And who probably got to hear some of the planning process and raw proto-joke slurry? That's right: People who live with stand-up comedians.
"Traveling on Yom Kippur you run into a lot of bad traffic," I tell my girlfriend, "Because everyone is in the fast lane."
"Do you think I can use that?"
"Will the audience know that people fast on Yom Kippur?"
"If not, they won't laugh."
"Well, as long as you're okay with that."
I'm trying to bring humor to everyone else, but she has to humor me. Especially when it comes to bad jokes with unnecessarily long setups.
"Music today is so boastful," I say to her, "all the rappers talking about how great they are. I grew up listening to Pictures at an Exhibition. I like Mussorgsky, he's much more... Modest."
"Nobody is going to know the first name of the composer of Pictures at an Exhibition. Why do you always come up with such obscure jokes?"
"Maybe I'm trying to cement my reputation as a comedian who makes jokes that aren't funny but contain intellectual references, because I want to be the next Dennis Miller. I'm starting to feel like the Melians fighting against the Athenians over here."
Still, at least those are jokes. The worst part about living with a comedian is the vaguely formed ideas that haven't yet had the funny added to them. A few months ago I had the beginnings of an idea:
"Okay, so the economy has been really bad, so I was thinking it might be funny if I had to make cutbacks in the kitchen, but like a boss."
"So I'd be like, ‘Hey salad spinner, the budget has gotten really tight, so I'm afraid we're going to have to let you go. We're going to ask refrigerator to take some of your duties.'"
"Is that it?"
"That's not funny."
"Well yeah, not yet. But I still think it's sort of a funny idea, and I could make it funny."
"Let me know if you do."
And she knows she'll have to hear it again. But that's just part of her job. So don't believe anyone who says performing comedy is the hardest job in the world.
Unless they're trying to make a living at it.
Seth Brown is a humor writer, the author of "From God To Verse," and did he mention Mussorgsky's first name was Modest? His work (Seth's, not Mussorgsky's) appears weekly in the Bennington Banner, and weakly on RisingPun.com.