Category Archives: Just me
Doing stand up comedy in the beginning is strangely terrifying. Nothing is going to hurt you up there, but when you’re doing poorly the crowd feels your fear and they seem to amplify it with their reaction. They get uncomfortable and that makes you more self conscious about bombing. It can take years for comic to reach that point where they stop caring about bombing. It’s like learning to ski or ice skate. You have to fall down in order to get over your fear of falling down.
On Sunday, July 10th, my improv troupe The Sandbox Association performed during half time for the NBA Summer League Game at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. There were at least 2000 rabid NBA fans there. Of the six people in our improv troupe, only three of us could be there. We did a game called “Sports Center.” This is how we described it on our website (seen in the screenshot above):
“The Sandbox asked for a simple everyday household activity and one basketball fan yelled ‘mopping’, and with the help of another audience volunteer the crowd witnessed the mock Olympic mopping competition narrated by none other than Sandbox newscasters.”
Many comedians I know remember the moment when they stopped being afraid to bomb. It’s usually a heckler they remember or some set when they did really well. For me it was this NBA halftime show. This was the single most brutal incident I’ve ever experienced performing in front of people going all the way back to doing stand up for the first time as a freshman in high school.
The fake “mopping” competition started and I went to TOWN, Jack! I was all over that floor like a spastic. The kid who volunteered to “compete” against me looked at me as if I was insane and quickly walked off. The crowd did not just boo us, they were ANGRY booing. They got up in droves and fled to the concession stands. “YOU SUCK!!!
In my mind I was glad they were upset. I wanted to perform harder to make them even more angry at me. It was a turning point in my life. That was the moment I stopped looking for validation from other people. Being on stage no longer frightened me. Speeches, presentation, comedy, acting, playing music, doing anything before an audience does not phase me anymore. I don’t care how large the crowd or how unprepared I am. That event made me fearless.
The organizer of the event apologized and paid us. We left a bit shaken and glad it was over. My two troupe mates said to me, “Wow you really committed to that.” And I said, “Yeah, the harder they booed me the more I gave.” They asked why. Why perform harder for people being that rude?
“Because, “ I said.
“Fuck ‘em! I hope I ruined their whole goddamn week.”
In recent months, potential good fortune presented itself to Misty and me. Shortly after I left my job I immediately had interviews with Kronos, an HR systems company, for a fantastic pre-sales solutions consultant position. It had great pay, it was work from home, great place to work, and exactly the kind of job I want. I aced my interviews. They flew me to Indianapolis for the final test: an in-person presentation to the pre-sales team, which I nailed.
After eight years of seeing a neurologist for chronic daily headaches, Misty’s doc wanted her to have a lumbar puncture, a spinal tap. She was in a car wreck decades ago. Whiplash can wreak havoc on the skeleton. A previous MRI showed that Misty has bone spurs, disc problems, and a small syringomyelia in her spine. All of these things can cause problems with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). If low pressure was measured during a lumbar puncture it would be a clear sign of a CSF leak. She has all the symptoms of spinal fluid hypotension. We were very excited because if confirmed, a CSF leak is curable. She’d finally have an end to her headaches.
On March 28 I arrived home from Indianapolis fully confident I would get that job. I’ve never had a job interview go better. The hiring manager seemed proud of me. She gave me advice after the virtual presentation I gave her the week prior. My improved presentation impressed her. The people in my final interview gave me nothing but overwhelmingly positive feedback and they acted as if we’d all see each other again. I left Indianapolis feeling on top of the world, convinced I was about to get a fabulous new job with a large jump in pay. I was so confident that I stopped at Total Wine and Spirits on the way home, hours before Misty got off work, and dropped over $200 for a vintage bottle of 2002 Pol Roger Winston Churchill champagne.
I tasted the non vintage Pol Roger at a Vino Volo shop at the Portland airport and was completely blown away by how gorgeous it tasted as the waitress informed me that it was Churchill’s favorite champagne. To be honest, the bottle was $240 but I had a 20% off coupon for Easter. It would have been crazy NOT to buy it with that kind of savings!!! I am not one to be overly optimistic as I usually prepare for the worst. Standing in that wine shop with that expensive champagne, I heard that little voice in my head tell me not to count my chickens until they are hatched. I told that voice to piss off. I got home before Misty got off work and I hid the bottle with the plan to surprise her once I had the job offer in hand.
Today I drove Misty to get her lumbar puncture. She had been worried about how much it would hurt and thankfully she said it wasn’t bad. After her procedure she came out into the waiting room with her eyes floating and shaking her head. “Nope. Normal pressure.”
She cried off and on for a few hours feeling that this was the last chance to fix her headaches. I did research and found that normal CSF pressure does not rule out a CSF leak. They drew CS fluid and will test it for further signs of a leak like white blood cells, proteins, and some other things. This is not over, but today Misty felt defeated, hopeless.
This is common knowledge by now but I did not get that job at Kronos. I felt like a schmuck for spending $200 on a bottle of champagne before I got the news. I kept it hidden, figuring I would hold it for when I do finally get a job. Last night, on the eve of Misty’s lumbar puncture, I decided to surprise Misty and pop that bottle of Pol Roger in the event that she came back positive for a CSF leak. We got back from her test with the reality of normal CSF pressure. I already mentioned that her results so far do not rule out a CSF leak, but it’s discouraging. Low pressure would have been conclusive today and a great reason to celebrate, knowing her headaches will be cured soon.
I try to stay in the moment in life and I try to remain in a good mood but I anticipate the worst so I am not disappointed. Optimism can really set you up for horrible disappointment. It’s hard to remain positive, yet practical, and be persistent in spite of many let downs. This is especially the case with Misty who has endured more than eight years of constant daily headaches with no end in sight. That is why I am generally pessimistic about things. Yet, for some reason I went in the opposite direction with my Kronos interview and with Misty’s lumbar puncture. I threw caution to the wind and splurged on an expensive indulgence. After so many disappointments , that champagne remained in my house having outlived its original objective.
After we got home today, Misty asked me to please stop talking about CSF leaks and just let her watch TV while she recovers from the back pain caused by this procedure. She will push forward and keep seeking answers on her head pain, but today she earned the right to be in a bad mood. Meanwhile, I’ve been looking for work in the best job market in 18 years and nobody is calling me. I’m frustrated and time is running out for me, financially.
A few hours ago I went into our wine fridge and pulled out the bottle of Pol Roger that Misty didn’t know was there.
“I bought this right after my final Kronos interview. When I didn’t get that, I figured we would have it when I got some other job. Last night I decided I would surprise you today once you tested positive for low CSF pressure. This bottle was supposed to be for a celebration, but I think we should drink it tonight.”
“Because. Fuck ‘em!”
“No, we should save a champagne like this for a special occasion, like your birthday! Or when you get a job.”
“No. Let’s have it tonight. Carpe diem, rock out with your cock out, YOLO, and all that other bullshit. Good champagne doesn’t need a special occasion. It just needs to be chilled. If you need a reason to celebrate then we’ll toast to each other and then toast to the puppyheads.”
“I love you.”
(Solo: A Star Wars Story. In theaters May 25!)
Four days earlier I exited the New Jersey Turnpike, on my way to New York City from Delaware, to return a call to my director. She wanted to swap trips with me and the trade was most welcome. We don’t travel as much as most of the people in my department but we do travel and I tend to enjoy seeing new places.
“Chris, I need to go to British Columbia in your place. The [new system] module is a disaster and since I have been working with the development team, I feel I should be the one going to Canada for damage control. I was scheduled to attend the Thunderbird Casino kickoff meeting in Oklahoma next week. I need you to go there instead.”
This was good news for me. Several top brass from my company were scheduled to attend the Oklahoma meeting and I have been scoring some points with our project managers recently, doing more business assessments and presentations. I’ve been doing this stuff forever but my current employer has no idea that it is one of my strongest skills. I was happy to go to Oklahoma in my director’s place and I have seen enough of Kamloops, British Columbia.
“Sure, I’ll go to Oklahoma! Brittany requested me originally. In Monday and out Wednesday. Easy peasy. Have fun in Canada.”
I booked a last minute flight on American Airlines and since I have status I was assigned premium seats in the front of coach (my company will not pay for anything higher). My flights between Dallas and Oklahoma were automatically added to the first class upgrade list for free. Not a bad way to travel, if I may say. I was looking forward to lunch at Pappadeaux’s in DFW airport and dinner at Chuy’s Tex Mex, which I noticed was next door to our hotel in Norman, OK.
Sunday night, the evening before my flight, I got a notice that a package delivery had been attempted at my house on Saturday. They were trying to deliver a Suzuki Melodica that I ordered from Japan. These harmonica-sounding keyboard/wind instruments cost about $80 on Amazon and ship directly from Japan at no extra shipping costs. They don’t really sell these in the states and I have wanted one since watching Stephen Colbert’s band leader, John Batiste, play one each night on the new Late Show. This model melodica is rated very high and $80 seemed like a steal. The delivery estimate was not for another two weeks. They tried to deliver it Saturday and I was not expecting it this early. Sure enough, there was a slip on my door from the US Postal Service. It’s not the kind of parcel I wanted to leave at the post office for three more days.
My scheduled flight through Dallas to Oklahoma City left Vegas at 11:10 AM. I got up decently early and decided to drive to the post office to pick up my Melodica with a quick detour to the gas station, because I’m too stupid to fill my tank on my day off. In my silly brain, I imagined a five minute line to get my parcel and then going my merry way. I got to the post office and stood there for 45 minutes watching the miraculous efficiency of the USPS. I calculated, based on previous experience being late to the airport, the exact cut off point when I would have to abandon my quest for the melodica and catch my flight. 10am was my final cutoff. I got the parcel and was out the door by 9:50. I really had to pee, but the USPS doesn’t have a restroom. I decided to hold it until the airport.
I parked my car at the long term parking, as usual, which gets me into the terminal quickly. There is one men’s room near my security gate and I power walked to it trying not to let the tinkle leak down my leg. RESTROOM CLOSED! Somumabitches!! Crap. I’ll have to hold it until the terminal. I marched up the TSA-Pre security with my carry on luggage in tow, my ID out, and my digital boarding pass ready. There was a slight line at expedited security but not bad. I had 25 minutes before my flight left. No problemo. When it was my turn, Capt. Dunsky Q. Dipshit of the TSA made one attempt to scan my phone and then said, “You need to go down to ticketing and get a paper ticket. This isn’t scanning.”
“Can you try it one more time?”
“Sir. Please step out of line and go to ticketing for a paper ticket.”
“Just try again.”
“Sir! You WILL step out of the line!!”
“Goddamn! Sonofabitch! Peckerhead! Shitnose! Assface! Scumbag! Nickledick! Pissbrain!”
I muttered every compound profanity my father ever taught me as I marched to the men’s room, trying not to piss my pants. As frustrated as I was, a good pee is still a good pee. I placed my hand on the urinal wall and savored a long leaning piss, momentarily disconnecting myself from time and space.
The ticketing/check in line looked like a scene from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. I am able to use the Priority/First Class check-in line but it was still incredibly long and being serviced by one person. The gate agent could not find single thing wrong with my digital boarding pass nor could she find any reason why I could not be let through security at the time. Naturally, I missed the flight. The best thing she could do was connect me through Phoenix to Dallas to Oklahoma City, but I was placed on stand by the entire way.
I am a fairly easy going guy and I try never to get pissy with people in the service industry, especially airline folks, since they put up with so much bullshit from people. I mentioned to the gate agent that I was looking forward to sitting at Sammy’s Wood-fired Pizza and having a nice chicken caesar. My original flight did not give me enough time to eat. She appreciated that I found the bright side and wished me luck on all my connections.
Past security, I had a lovely lunch and got to my gate just as my name was cleared for the flight. Whew! One down. I was placed in the back of the plane but in an exit row with a ton of leg room. Nice! The doors closed, we push back from the gate, and that is when I heard the retching.
“Huey! Huuuueeeey! Hyooooo….BLAALAALARG!!”
A woman screamed. I looked behind me to see a tall man had just target vomited on the woman’s head in front of him. He started heaving again.
“Huey! Huey! Huey! ROBOCOPBUGSBUNNYTACOBELLBUYMYBUICK!”
This time he managed to open a puke bag at the last second. A caustic bouquet of putrid Cinnabon and Starbucks began to waft through the cabin. I started to fear a regurgithon-style domino effect once people reacted to the smell. The plane lurched forward and stopped at the gate. Linda Blair’s twin brother was let off the plane as well as his victim with her glistening barf hat. That may have been the first time that the smell of burning jet fuel entering the cabin was a welcome event. The scent of vomit was effectively buried by fumes. The puke incident held us up for only 15 minutes and we were on our way. But my fun had just begun.
I had very little time in Phoenix and I went directly to my new gate. I was given a decent seat and was on my way to Dallas. Two down! That flight was uneventful. I read and relaxed. At the Dallas airport I went to Pappadeaux’s, a Cajun food chain, ate shrimp, and drank large fru-fru frozen cocktail. I texted the project manager at the client site so she could arrange for someone to pick me up when I landed three hours later than planned. It is a 30 minute flight to Oklahoma City from Dallas and the end of my long travel day felt within my reach. Boarding was delayed and then delayed again. I was looking forward to getting into my hotel bed and sleeping. More delays. I kept texting my new arrival time to my co-workers and they gave up and told me to take a cab.
I was the last person to get on the flight. I got a middle seat, last row, and I was very happy to have made all three stand by lists. When I got to my seat, the college-aged girl next to me on the aisle seemed a bit out of it. I incorrectly assumed that she was just nervous to fly. I noticed she had been given three airplane blankets. Another young lady two seats up handed her sunglasses and said, “I’ll get them back from you when we get to Oklahoma. They should help.” The girl put on the glasses and then turned to me.
“I am sorry for being such a pain.”
“A pain? Did I miss something? I just arrived. Is there something the matter?”
“I am epileptic. My medication is checked in my bag and I can’t get to it. I’m having a few tremors and they are making me nervous. That woman is a nursing student and she was kind enough to lend me her sunglasses. Darkness helps. Thankfully, the flight is just thirty minutes.”
The plane started to push back from the gate. I wanted her to feel comfortable so tried to put her at ease. “Well, you’re no trouble at all. Let me know if there is anything I should know or if there is anything I can do to help.”
We were making eye contact while we spoke and as I finished my sentence her eyes rattled and her face contorted. She let out a guttural scream from the bottom of her lungs and she fell, face first into my chest and neck. Her whole body writhed. Thinking fast, I used several of the blankets to make pillows so she didn’t bash her head into mine. I wrapped another blanket around her arms to softly restrain her flailing. The nursing student got up and turned around in her seat and made eye contact with me. “Make sure your arm rest is up so she doesn’t crack a rib.”
I had left the arm rest up already. I nodded and gave her a very attentive look as if to welcome more instructions. “Let her ride it out and just keep her from harming herself.” Way ahead of you! A river of drool poured from her mouth and down the blanket I had used to cradle her against my shoulder and chest. I experienced a very random and vain appreciation for those extra blankets. The passengers, now aware an event was occuring in the back, turned around to see me cradling a violently seizing woman. I had a strong urge to yell, “Hey! What’s shakin’ motherfuckers??” Thankfully, good taste prevailed.
The nursing student was let out of her seat and most of the crew approached us. I let everybody know that I would keep a hold of her until she stopped if needed and the nursing student said that would be best. When she finally stopped seizing and opened her eyes the nursing student wrote down the duration and said,”Three minutes and twenty-seven seconds.” Holy crap! It seemed like an hour to me.
The girl was totally disoriented. She had no idea where she was but she had no problem burying her face back into me like a frightened child. I kept her eyes covered with the third blanket and had let go of the blanket I used to restrain her arms. For the next several minutes she was like a three year old child who had been woken from a deep sleep. The nursing student grabbed her wallet and found her emergency medical info to give the paramedics who were on their way as the plane went back to the gate. The flight crew picked up the iPhone that she dropped and had been asking her for the passcode so they could call a family member. She didn’t understand their request. I noticed that her phone was an iPhone 6 Plus like mine. I asked them to hand it to me and I carefully placed her index finger on the fingerprint censor, unlocking the phone. The flight attendant quickly found the word “Mom” in her recently called list and hit dial.
The paramedics came and took her off. The girl became very upset once she was aware of what happened. She was embarrassed and crying and clung to me. The paramedics coaxed her onto their chair and wheeled her off the plane. I felt a sense of relief that she was in good hands and I selfishly realized I could take her aisle seat. That is when everyone started thanking me for everything I did. I’m sitting here coveting this girls empty seat and these people think I am a hero. I was flattered but, honestly, what else was I supposed to do? Douse her with holy water and shout, “The power of Christ compels you!”
The ground crew sorted through all the luggage and found her bag with her medication. The captain informed us that she got her meds and was being taken to the hospital. When our flight took off we were two and a half hours behind schedule. But finally… I was on my way to Oklahoma City.
We landed close to midnight and the little airport was a ghost town. I got my bag and went to the transportation area. Nothing. The rental car companies had closed. I walked outside to where the taxi stand and shuttles pick people up. Nothing. There was one man sitting on a bench in the distance and I saw a cab pull up. I started running towards him.
“Sir! Where did you get that cab?”
“Oh, I called ahead from Chicago and booked this hours ago.”
“You’re not going to Norman are you?”
“No sorry. I’m going downtown.”
“Are you paying cash?”
“If you will let me share your cab, you can pay me the exact fare to your hotel. Then I will take the cab to Norman, pay the cab with my corporate credit card, and I’ll cover both tips.”
An hour later I was checked into my hotel. I showered and was in bed by 1am. Whew.
Two days later on my return home, I found a suitcase that had been abandoned at one of the convenience stores at the Dallas airport. I told the store manager and watched as security showed up with a beagle to sniff out the bag. I don’t frighten easy and I don’t get worked up over terrorism or active shooters. I tend to be carefree and live in the moment. But for just a second, after all the ordeal I experienced two days earlier, I imagined that suitcase exploding. I walked five gates away and sat behind a concrete wall for the next hour. Couldn’t hurt, right?
I have made emergency landings on commercial flights, including landing in Curaçao because the entire island of Aruba lost electricity. I have nearly crashed in a private twin engine plane when the door blew open and the engines suddenly failed. I was almost run over by the old man who killed 70+ people with his car in the Santa Monica farmers market disaster in 2003. On work trips I have been stuck in blizzards, been in earthquakes, I had a rental car slide off the road and get stuck in an embankment, and I have been evacuated from casinos due to flash flooding. I was given an incorrect work visa in The Bahamas and had the casino GM threaten to hold me hostage until my company fixed their tech issues. I fled the country that night in secret. I had police in Durban, South Africa point 9mm sub-machine guns in my face and order me to return to my hotel because I had unknowingly wandered into an urban war zone. I was assigned a bodyguard when my company sent me to the casino in Monterrey, Mexico that had been fire-bombed by drug lords.
And as I am typing this on the plane, coming back from this very exciting trip to Oklahoma, the man next to me has Tourette’s.
I have fun.
[Caution. Another Robin Williams post. Well, more like a self-indulgent, self-reflection. I needed to vent some emotions. If anyone finds this post interesting, that is a bonus.]
I have an old video from 1995 the week of my 21st birthday hanging out with high school friends at the Denny’s near my high school. It was a year after I moved to Texas. The video makes me cringe because I remember sitting there desperate to make those people laugh. Deep down I knew that chapter was over and that I had to move on.
Back in Texas that summer, my step father (at the time) was planning to kill himself. We later found out that he took the gun out of his mouth because our dog, Muffy, could sense he was not OK and would not leave him alone. He waited a few more months until my mother was away on a trip, packed up his belongings, and left. I came home from work and found his note. My mother eventually tracked him down and he sorta got his life in order after that. But he drastically altered the direction of my life and helped set the stage for my own depression.
I had to quit school and go to work full time. My step-father was gone long enough for his business and his finances to collapse. My parents sold their home and left Texas after declaring bankruptcy. Soon I would be living alone in a roach infested cinder-block efficiency apartment, two blocks from a school I could not afford to attend. 1996 was the first year I really experienced depression. The only girl I had ever loved (up until then) lived in another state and got a new boyfriend. My job paid $6.50 an hour, barely keeping me afloat. I could not afford to repair my decrepit car. I had no new friends and my high school friends did not live near enough to see regularly. I turned 22 that June and had lost my path forward. I was miserable. On top of this I had major brain oxygen deprivation as I slept thanks to a deviated septum that would not be diagnosed or repaired for another 14 years. Did I mention I had no medical insurance at the time either?
I remember driving home after work one day and all the cars on I-35 were pulled over. People were taking shelter from a massive shelf cloud and responding to the sirens warning of the tornado. I drove right into it. I wanted to get home and sleep, which thankfully was my drug of choice back then. I never considered suicide as a serious option ever in my life, but that night I kinda wanted the tornado to take me out. I just didn’t care. It wasn’t until visiting Denton, TX after Misty and I got engaged in 2006 that I realized I lived with a constant pit in my stomach the entire time I lived there from 1996-1999. It isn’t until that dread was gone that I could see I had been in a state of constant, daily fear. At the time it was just my normal. The first ten months of 1996 was just abnormally bad.
I owe much thanks to Troy, a high school friend, who moved to Denton in the fall of 1996. But there was a bright moment that summer. I ran into my future wife at the grocery store. She was shopping with her fiance and she said hello, remembering me from fall marching band, 1994. Being a shy person, I didn’t know how to make friends easily. I spent decades working at being social. Once I do become friends with you, I will be a great friend (as long as you are willing to put up with my dark side). I had a tight group of great friends in high school, but that was after being stuck in the same school together for four years. Which brings me back to Denny’s 1995.
I have video of myself sitting around a table at the Roseville Denny’s, desperately trying to be funny for my old high school friends. I was clinging to a time when I was voted class clown; when I was the only guy ever to do stand-up comedy in my high school; when I had a group of close friends. The video makes me cringe because there is so much desperation in what I am trying to do at that table in Denny’s. That video was shot before I knew my step-father was suicidal, but I look back to that trip and realize I was already a little lost.
I think my sadness started when all my high school friends went off to college and I stayed behind not knowing what the hell I was going to do. Two years later I got into college only to quit after my step-dad went tits up. I got back in again for a year and a half only to quit again for financial reasons. Got a better job, got back into school, and quit school again when the job ended. Eventually I landed an amazing job in San Francisco. Laid off. Another amazing job in Sacramento. Laid off. Which brings me to 2003. Once again I was alone, financially compromised, and very depressed having no clue what to do next. This constant negative state of mind starts to alter your brain chemistry. And I am one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to deal with serious manic depression. I just had a shitty decade. I know what depression feels like but I have NO CLUE what it feels like for someone with lifelong clinical depression. I am so disgusted with the Twitter psychologists who say, “Well why didn’t Robin Williams just do such and such?” Or that scumbag Rush Limbaugh who said liberalism killed Robin Williams. Fuck you, Rush.
Depression isn’t about being sad. It is a chemical state of the mind. My depression peaked in 1996. I experienced it again in 2003 after two layoffs derailed the beginnings of a great career that, at the time, let me briefly experience a good life. My depression, as bad as it might have been for me, was never close to what my step-father experienced, or Robin Williams, or other family members of mine who have been diagnosed with clinical depression. But I understand it more than most. I am really sick of reading these scumbags on the internet say, “Well why didn’t Robin get help?” He did, Asshole! For decades.
Imagine you are in a car accident, you are unharmed, but the person next to you says, “Hey, you’re not hurt! The accident is over. Snap out of it, Stupid!” You would punch that idiot in the mouth because your brain is saturated with chemicals that override all logic. Imagine being pumped full of adrenaline 24 hours a day for years. Now imagine instead of agitating you, making your mind alert, and your body ready for action… imagine if it did the exact opposite.
You can no more shake off “the sad” than you can shake off the adrenaline after you’ve been in a nasty car accident. It feels like you are falling into a bottomless pit. I was so disconnected at times when I was depressed that I found myself standing in a random aisle at the supermarket staring off into nowhere. Suddenly I would look around and think, “How long have I been standing here?” Even in the case of treatable, mild depression, a person may take a year to fully snap out of it. Robin Williams was bipolar for his whole life.
There is another connection I feel to Robin Williams. I have always been the clown and others have often said I reminded them of him. It is a huge compliment and I have always taken it to mean people find me funny. But the comparison runs deeper. We both have a dark side. Granted, I am a very light, mild, less intense, non-famous, mediocre version of him who is likely to never accomplish 1% of what he did in his life. That is probably why I’m stable. As a “funnyman”, when I am feeling down my instinct is to run away and hide so that I don’t depress others who are used to being entertained by me. I tend to only REALLY share innermost feelings with friends I really trust. I am not alone. Most stand up comics I have known, and I’ve known a ton, are just as twisted an messed up in the brain as me. We tend to be bipolar by nature. It’s both a gift and a curse sometimes. It can drive us to create and inspire us to feel and express. At an early age, most comics turned to comedy for help. Laughter is both our superpower and our kryptonite.
There are times when I have felt that not getting a laugh was akin to rejection. It is no surprise I did the most stage time at comedy clubs during the years 1996 and 2003 when I was the most depressed. Laughter is approval to us clowns. That is especially powerful when you are young and very insecure. I escaped constant belittling and ridicule from my brother by going to school and making my friends laugh. At home I was mocked and marginalized, seeking solitude to escape into my own world. Around my friends I was validated. Laughter is how I overcame shyness and got others to notice me. I once made my friend Greg laugh so hard in the first grade that he fell off the jungle gym and knocked the wind out of himself and kept laughing. That power is intoxicating. Especially for someone who felt insecure and repressed.
The problem with being the clown is that you can uplift the world but they don’t always reciprocate. In my case, I was there to uplift those at school, work, or home. But what about when I needed uplifting? I remember in the peak of my 2003 misery, my corporate Kinko’s job ended and I had to work the remaining several months at a Kinko’s branch. The manager thanked me for always making our assistant manager laugh. She had a rough life and I would come into work singing “Hold Me Closer Tony Danza” along with the radio. In the middle of of my own depression I took small hits of joy by making others laugh.
There are many other examples in my life when I have been really down, had no energy whatsoever to be funny, and others got mad at me for not making THEM feel better. Some would say that they relied on my silliness to get them through the day. Well pardon the hell out of me if I have a bad day, let alone bad year. That is when you see who your real friends are. The ones who stick with you when you are so miserable that you lash out at the world. Your real friends see you act like an arrogant jackoff and can tell that it’s all an act. They can tell when you are just ranting, knowing that the bitterness in your humor is mostly a defense mechanism. They put up with your bile for a few minutes and then disarm you completely with a few compassionate words. I guarantee you that if you are a good friend of mine and I have ever been hurtful to you, I was wounded at the time.
I have never been this happy and content in my life, partly thanks to my situation. I married my best friend, life is great, my dogs are wonderful, career is moving forward, etc. But I also know what misery feels like. The contrast between misery and joy helps you fully appreciate the two states. My happiness today made me realize how miserable I was in the past. It might be no surprise that the last time I did stand-up comedy was the few months before Misty moved in with me. People say it all the time and don’t mean it, but Misty honestly is the best thing to ever happen to me. There is one happy ending to my step-father and all his misery. His mental instability, and desire to flee when things get tough, is why my parents moved to Texas in the first place. If they had not moved there I would never have applied to the University of North Texas. Who was the very first student I met in college? Misty.
To quote Tom Hanks in that film where he was marooned on an island full of FedEx product placements: “You never know what the tide will bring you.”
What is the point of this post? I don’t know. Introspection? Self indulgence? Therapy? All of the above, I suppose. At the end of the day we are each the captain of of our own ships and it is a good idea to dock often and check our hull for holes. My ship is in great shape right now. But you never know what the tide will bring you.
My friend Clark killed himself several years ago the day after we all went and saw Doug Stanhope. He suffered from chronic pain and decided to check out. Clark waited a few extra days so he could see his favorite comic one last time. I am glad I was one of few who got to be with him at that comedy show the night before. I was fairly stoic about his death and I empathized with his choice, especially in the context of his chronic pain. Other than my former step father, a few other family members made suicide attempts. For the sake of privacy I won’t mention them directly.
The suicide of Robin Williams reminded me of so many of my own experiences in dealing with my own depression, being a comedian, and people I love trying to kill themselves. I generally don’t react when a celebrity dies. Losing George Carlin was hard for me, but he had a long history of heart disease and his fifth heart attack was inevitable. I was very stoic about Robin Williams at first. I didn’t start to be reflective about his death until I saw this online. The quote is from The Watchmen, but in the context of the Robin Williams suicide, plus this image of him…
It just wrecked me.
Two years ago a Realtor in Seattle named Chris Robertson put up a website that incorrectly listed his email domain as ChrisRobinson.com. I started getting dozens of his emails daily and contacted him every week to politely remind him to change it. At first he thanked me and apologized for the inconvenience. A few weeks, later he stopped taking my phone calls but never fixed the issue, which seriously pissed me off.
I decided to have some fun at his expense:
NICE TO MEET YOU
From: melissa c*****
Sent: Sun, June 27, 2010 9:05:33 PM
Subject: Hi Chris!
Hope you are doing well. We met when I was with my kids in the ferry line heading over to Seattle from Vashon. I am the one that had the emergency aortic dissection / emergency open heart surgery that moved here with my husband (the chiropractor) from Sonoma about 8 months ago :). We spoke a bit on the ferry & I had also mentioned the documentary I am working on: Project Censored…we’re starting back up again with the editing in about a week or so.
Just wanted to say hello. Mike will finally be up here on Vashon full-time after his last week working down in the Bay Area next week. I came across your card and wanted to send along our contact info.
P.S. We never did get a chance to visit the baby goats. If you hear of any more let us know. Logan & Meriel would love to visit some local farm animals. Also looking forward to meeting your wife.
From: Chris R. Robinson
From: melissa c*****
Sent: Mon, 28 Jun 2010 07:16:13 -0000 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Hi Chris!
It was great meeting you. I am very happy you replied.
Let me be frank. My wife and I are swingers. Would you and your husband be interested in a four way? I know it is upfront, but I thought I should just be honest with you.
Seriously. Think about it.
From: melissa c*****
To: Chris R. Robinson <chris@ch..
Sent: Mon, June 28, 2010 9:55:19 AM
Subject: Re: Hi Chris!
Thanks for your reply. Hope you both are enjoying the summer…it took awhile to arrive.
My husband and I are not swingers & are not interested – the only swinging we do is pushing the kids on the swings at Ober Park :). Thanks for being upfront. I’m from NY & appreciate your honesty.
Enjoy the sun,
From: Chris R. Robinson
From: melissa c*****
Sent: Monday, June 28, 2010 10:17 AM
Subject: Re: Hi Chris!
Do me one last favor. Check the card that was given to you, the one where you got this email address. Make sure next time that you type in the correct email.
My guess is that you intended to type chrisrobinson.net or chrisroberTson.
You and I did not meet. I am a comedian living in Las Vegas.
Enjoy your summer and good luck finding the Chris you met in Seattle.
THE BOOK STORE
From: Felicia H—–
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 10:38 AM
Subject: Agent Assistant Book Info
I have ordered the assitant book you requested. It is called The Proffesional Assistant By Monica Reynolds. I will give you call when it comes in. In the mean time you can research it online and see if it is something you would be interested in.
Have a good day
From: Chris Robinson
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 12:48 PM
To: Felicia H—–
Subject: RE: Agent Assistant Book Info
Its about fucking time!
From: Felicia H—–
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 1:31 PM
Subject: RE: Agent Assistant Book Info
Wow…. I apologize if there was any inconvenience in my getting back to you, as you know I am in an office by myself and yesterday after you left, I had a hard time getting a hold of the lady who places my orders, as she was out of the office sick. I had to email her and was waiting on a response.
From: Chris R. Robinson
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 1:22 PM
To: Felicia H——
Subject: Re: Agent Assistant Book Info
Can you locate this book for me next?
From: Tyanna F—-
To: Felicia H—-
Sent: Tue, June 29, 2010 1:50:48 PM
Subject: FW: Agent Assistant Book Info
Please order The Professional Assistant book for agent Chris Robinson Lag #14465 and give him a call once it comes in. He will come into your office to take a look at the book to make sure it is the one he is looking for. Please disregard the request for the midget book; I am sure the agent knows we do not carry such books in our Member Service Store.
If you have any questions or concerns please contact me.
Thank you for all of your help in locating this book, I truly appreciate it!
From: Chris R. Robinson
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 2:02 PM
To: Tyanna F—–; Felicia H—–
Cc: Tyanna F—–
Subject: Re: Agent Assistant Book Info
No midget books? Are you shittin’ me? What am I supposed to masturbate to, fucking Cat Fancy? You carry any “Chicks with Dicks” books?
From: Tyanna F—–
To: Chris R. Robinson
Cc: Felicia H—–; Monica B—–
Sent: Tue, June 29, 2010 3:29:36 PM
Subject: RE: Agent Assistant Book Info
Mr. Robinson –
I am copying your broker, David —- and -*****’s legal counsel, Chris O—–, on this e-mail. ***** considers your below e-mail harassment. When your book arrives, we will mail it to you and charge your ***** account.
Please do not contact anyone at our ***** Office again.
From: Chris R. Robinson
Sent: Tuesday, June 29, 2010 8:08 PM
Subject: Re: Agent Assistant Book Info
I have no idea who you are, what you do or where you are located. I have never met you or any of your associates. In fact, I looked you up and I don’t even live in your state.
I am certain you have the wrong email address.
Thanks for playin’!
After these, I stopped getting emails from Seattle.
I unsubscribed from my high school reunion page weeks ago. I still read over it once a week for the same reason people rubber-neck on the highway after a Barnum and Bailey clown car collides with a truck carrying live chickens. It’s a disaster, yet so fun to watch.
I removed myself from the group because I could feel that old adolescent desire to be accepted and admired creeping back up from the bowels of my psyche and I didn’t like it. I checked my urge to tell everyone how “well” I am doing and instead just read over what others posted about themselves. I’m glad I did. It’s a big ME ME ME Festival among my classmates. It reminds me of when someone is talking and the other people are so obsessed with thinking up a good response that they never listen to what the person speaking says.
Here are the broken record posts:
-I have an amazing job
-I have seen the entire world
-I have the most amazing children. 3-4 on average.
-I am into hobbies or activities that all of you should envy.
I see very little about people’s spouses or if they are happy, in love, or if they have found joy in simple things. So much talk about what their children are doing rather than HOW their children are doing. I would be much more interested to read about the adversity experienced in the last 20 years. What have you overcome? What challenges did you face? Those are the things that make you interesting and human. I only see how “picture perfect” you all are and its a lie. I don’t care about your house, car, boat, vacations, retirement funds, investments, or how accomplished your children are at sports or school. Who cares? Tell me how you got through the divorce or how difficult it was when your parent died. Those stories will tap instantly into my heart and fill me with empathy.
Whatever. I guess it’s my turn to brag about my life.
-My job pays the bills.
-My car starts and gets me where I need to go.
-I have adequate shelter.
-I’m in good health.
-I have lots of hobbies and interests.
Those are all distractions from my real joy. The quickest way for me to summarize how my life is right now is to show you this video. This video contains a snapshot of everything that is perfect and wonderful about my life today.
If you engage in a conversation with Chris Russell Robinson for a long enough duration, eventually he will invoke “midgets” or “chickens”.
Today we have been legally married for three years. Yay! But that day was for our friends and family. In reality it was January 14th, 2006 when I woke up knowing that I was totally in love with you. It was Jan. 15th, 2006 when we spoke on the phone and spoke as if marriage was inevitable. Neither of us had to propose. It was just so obvious to the both of us. That was the day we married in my mind and heart. 5 years, 2 months ago. But we legally married on this date. Great excuse for some champagne tonight!