“How do you separate the hyperbole from reality when you are with other comics?”
It depends entirely on the location and the relationship. If we’re friends we’re real. But we’re not always really friends, sometimes we’re just peers.
I can’t believe you know so-and-so! That is so cool!
No, I don’t know them.
But they are on your Facebook and you have pictures with them!
Being peers with someone, running into each other once or twice a year and photo ops, does not equal “Knowing” them. I get to meet a lot of cool people as a writer and as a comic, but that doesn’t mean we are friends. I am at best an acquaintance with some of them and just a fan for most others. A good example of that is somewhere in this vast world are photos of me with Johnny Cole and Huey Lewis, but it doesn’t mean we are friends or even know each other. The back story to those photos is the questionably legal introduction and being sent home by Mr. Lewis because he rightly assessed that while I might be of legal age, I really wasn’t that bright (defined as I was too naive for my own good) and my cute self and barely there black dress definitely did not belong in front of their hotel in downtown Detroit back in 1987. My enthusiasm for meeting Mr. Cole surpassed all common sense, not to mention several city ordinances. Mr Lewis was a much-needed voice of reason and protected me from knowing more than I had bargained for. So, I have photos that prove we met, but that doesn’t mean we know each other. Thank God.
The false belief of knowing someone happens a lot today. We read news stories, books, Tweets, Facebook statuses, blogs and we gain this false sense of personal intimacy. We come to believe that we really know said person, when in actuality we don’t. Not really anyway. I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of that myself. True intimacy requires more than just internet snippets. True intimacy requires face time, honesty, humility, and mutual transparency. True intimacy is a commitment.
The word intimacy can really be broken down into three words: Into Me See.
Even though I’ve lived in 12 step rooms since I was 12 and been telling my story from a podium since I was 14, it’s my inner most circle that knows the really real me. They know the whiny sometimes feeling put upon raised an only child who says yes as quickly as she says no for all of the wrong reasons. The sometimes kind to a fault, wishes she had more of a spine when it counted me. They are the committed, tried, true, trusted, and wholly loved individuals that trudge this road of happy destiny. True to life for all of us, other people just get glimpses behind the curtain from time to time.
A behind the curtain glimpse for you guys – I don’t use comedy to cope, I don’t tell jokes about actual people I know (unless I have their permission), and it’s my faith (messy and crayola scribbled that it is) that gets me through life.
While I have been guilty of perhaps “over sharing” some of my recent health issues on my private Facebook page at the request of several long distance friends who are going through the same thing, I do tend to keep the private out of the personal. Most of my stories and jokes are actually a conglomerate of events and people. The theme and overall message are the same, I’ve just changed it up enough that the guilty are protected.
I’m the same way with my comedy, I never tell jokes about individual people per se’, I do however write and tell jokes about circumstances and events that crack me up. Unless I have someone’s permission up front to include them in my jokes, I don’t. Even my doctor jokes are a conglomerate of several people and focus on the awkwardness of the situations caused by aging, than the physician himself. For those of us old enough to remember Phyllis Diller, her husband “fang” wasn’t real either. She made up a persona that skyrocketed her to stardom.
There are a few things that have been said to me recently that I would really like to speak to today if you don’t mind.
1. If I lived your life, I’d smoke too. — Said by my cardiologist last year based on a 5 minute conversation. No, you wouldn’t. I smoke today (on and off) because I’ve been smoking since I was 17. I’m addicted. Smoking because of life circumstances is a cop out, call it what it is. I’m an addict prone to selfishness on occasion and tend to self destruct when feeling overwhelmed, it really is that simple.
2. I suppose being a stand up comic is a great coping mechanism — Not really. I don’t use comedy to cope. I use it to entertain, to show people the underbelly of life sometimes thereby making people think and to help bring levity to life circumstances. I find that when I use comedy as a coping mechanism or even a shield (as I’m sometimes prone to do) my humor becomes barbed and has a toxic bite. I don’t want that. I want people to feel good when leaving my show instead of feeling dirty. You know?
3. It’s my faith in something bigger than me, that helps me cope — While it was my mother who taught me how to say bedtime prayers, I really learned how to pray reading Judith Blume’s “Are You There God, it’s Me Margaret?” For those of you who are unfamiliar with that book, let me just say it’s a book about a young girl who wasn’t changing quickly enough to suit herself and she talked to God about it, daily, as if he were her friend. If that isn’t the story of my life.
The older I get the less willing I am to put God in some kind of black and white box. The more research I do on religion and spirituality, the more I realize that the debates out there aren’t about proving God is real or the facts surrounding history, so much as they are proving who is the smartest. I used to listen in on the modern debates between pastors and I get frustrated at the direction things go. There are too many egos out there for me today. If even the greatest scholars of today (and yesterday) can’t nail down the facts, I’m not about to try.
I just know today when it comes to knowing me — the really real me, I have this power greater than myself that I choose to call God. It’s that relationship that trumps all others. The one that sees through all my stuff and meets me exactly where I am no matter how messy, how confused, scared, sometimes lost, angry or happy I really am. Sometimes I lose faith and hope and ask to borrow a friend’s for a few days. That’s okay as well. It doesn’t matter to me if this relationship doesn’t make sense to others. It’s wholly mine. And I like it. It’s a relationship that is as real to me as the end of my nose, covered in Grace and Love, and Peace. It’s a relationship where instead of my pulling back the curtain for a glimpse, he tore it for a full view.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am wholly loved and fully known by the God of the universe – that’s all I need to know. That is how I cope.
Wishing all of my American readers a very happy Thanksgiving.