Those of you who have read me for a while may have noticed a surprising
number of posts are oriented toward stand-up comics. Just one glance at my
category cloud confirms this – – the “Humor” section is much larger than
many of the others, even though this is ostensibly a blog about charting
the financial markets, which is about as far away from comedy as can be
I’ve been thinking about this myself: what is this fascination I’ve got
with comedians? After all, I don’t even like the vast majority of them. I
do, however, fixate on the greats like George Carlin, Greg Giraldo, Emo
Phillips, Richard Pryor, Patton Oswalt, Norm MacDonald, and others.
Having thought it over, here’s what I think is the appeal:
ONE MAN BAND – stand-up comedy is a one-man deal. You’re on your own. You
start on your own. You succeed or fail on your own. It’s really up to your
own drive, grit, luck, self-discipline, and creativity. That appeals to
me, and it lines up, piece by piece, with what it’s like to do what I do
(notwithstanding the fact that I’m not on stage).
CROWD CONTROL – by definition, a stand-up is going to have a relationship
with his audience. Some audiences are good. Some not so good. And, from
time to time, there’s going to be some jerk-off or drunk who just wants to
give you a hard time. Again, this is precisely what I’ve lived with during
my nearly thirteen years as a blogger and web broadcaster.
THE LONG TAIL – there are thousands of people who stand in front of a
microphone and try to tell jokes around the country. A couple hundred are
able to scrape together a living with it. A few dozen are very successful
with it. And a tiny handful get stinking rich at the profession (think
Jerry Seinfeld or Larry the cable guy). It’s just the same in the
wonderful world of blogging (I’m somewhere between the “scraping by” and
“successful” categories myself).
So, yes, I feel a certain kinship with these folks, and there’s one final
element I’d like to suggest, based largely on our patron saint George
Carlin, and that is INTEGRITY. Early in his career, George dressed in a
nice suit, had a clean haircut, and did jokes that night club crowds would
enjoy. He knew deep down he wasn’t being true to himself, and he just
about torpedoed his career by deciding to adhere to what he really felt
and saying what he really wanted to say.
The same goes for Greg, who ditched a Harvard law degree and role as
an attorney to do what he loved (R.I.P.).
Luckily for all of us, what George had to say resonated with a certain portion
of the population, and as the years went on, he aligned closer and closer
to his heart. He took a big chance, and it worked. That isn’t always for
I try to do the same here. I write what’s on my mind. The public mood and
public markets don’t necessarily support what’s in my mind and my heart,
but I need to stay true to them both. I don’t think I could ever be a
stand-up, but I’m glad life has given me at least one decent way to
express myself that has some important traits in common with the
profession. And for that, I thank you.