I always admire comedians who subvert the system. There is a way to have a comedy career in the comedy business that is not the usual route. The usual route means perform in comedy clubs, get a mgr/ agent early, do some festivals, do the road, become a road headliner, and eventually maybe even get a TV show. That is the usual route.
Then there are the unusual routes. There are the people who only do comedy in their respective cities of New York or LA. They are very known in those cities and eventually they land a writing job or a good manager / agent who takes them the “alternative comedy” route – performing in theaters, making short films, or whatever will get them some “notice.”
I respect all forms of comedians regardless of how they “make it.” If they are funny and good people, I’m going to like them. However, my heart warms just a touch more for the guy or girl who subverts the system.
My old friend, Joe, is a good example of this. Back in the day, when Sirius satellite radio was a thing that no one really knew much about…back before Stern was their flagship program and long before Oprah signed on, I did a bunch of odd little radio shows with Joe at the station. Usually Joe and I were on a panel with a few other acts. There shows consisted of discussing topics of the day and just ribbing on one another, the way comics often do. None of us were ever paid for this, but like comics everywhere we cared more about getting laughs.
There was one difference between all of us and Joe though. Joe started to care about the money. In the most hilarious way Joe started to get paid.
We all cared about what we were doing, how we were perceived, the quantity and quality of laughs we delivered, but Joe became the “baby guy.” I’ll explain.
Joe was about to have his first baby and from what Joe said about it, it didn’t totally seem like the baby was really well thought out. The kid-to-be was wanted, but maybe ill timed. It happens with the breeders, you may have one night with too much tequila and the result is another human being that you are now responsible for.
Joe, whether conscious or unconscious used the “baby sitch” to his advantage. Maybe it was just his anxiety over becoming a father, maybe it was outright panic, regardless Joe told everyone about the baby. He also made it his mission to feed that baby and clothe that baby and “omg, do you know how much a baby costs?!!” and somehow he made this all funny.
I often remember Joe saying things like, “I need that gig, I gotta feed that baby.” “I need more money, I’m about to have a baby.”
“I don’t know, will that pay me? Because I’ve got to feed a baby.”
“You’re giving me soda and chips as payment for this gig? I can’t feed a baby on my regurgitated soda and chips!”
“Sure, I’ll do your free gig, but do you know anyone with paying gigs because I’ve got to clothe this baby.”
“Yes, I would love to do your benefit for cancer, but let’s all remember that my baby will need to go to college one day.”
I’m paraphrasing and I’d say Joe made it way funnier than what I’m saying above. Forget his exact words though, what Joe was was persistent and consistent. Not a moment went by that Joe didn’t say he needed money for the baby. And he did it in a way that wasn’t annoying. By the end of it, you wanted to help him. You wanted to give him money or at least a job for his feckin’ baby. Hell, I found myself giving him my gigs for the good of his baby.
This was so natural and so funny that it worked, in my humble opinion.
Sure, Joe was funny before the baby, but something happened once Joe started pushing the “baby = needs money” angle, he started getting paid. Big time. Now, he even has his own show.
I’ve thought about his “I’m the baby man” stint a lot since. I’ve thought that EVERYONE should push their family to the forefront in a way that says, “we’re all family people and I’ve got to take care of mine.” I think it works. I think people can relate.
On the converse end, I know people who have a baby and it’s like their world stops. Now, I get it – everybody’s world stops, to a degree, when they have a kid – BUT, the difference is that some people act as if they are the only people who have EVER had a baby. I know a couple and, honestly, they can’t form a thought that does not revolve around the kid. The kid has usurped both of their identities and I get that sometimes this happens, maybe even all of the time because babies are all consuming. However, there are some parents who are exhausting about it and others who are like, “The baby man.”
There’s a collective joy in the way “baby man” talked about his terror of having a child combined with his terror of providing for it. There was a whole, “How does one person do this or two people do this?” – provide for one person? “Baby man” had a hilarious, inclusive, panic that everyone could understand.
The exhausting, new, parent couple that I know have a “you don’t get it and never will” about them. That doesn’t garner anyone’s sympathy or empathy, but “baby man” did.
Now, if I only I could figure out a way to convey that panic about a Wifesy and a dog.
“I need that paying gig because I have to take care of a Wifesy and a frenchie.”
“A Wifesy can not live in an apartment complex her whole life. She needs a home.”
“A Wifesy can not live off my applause and back slaps. A Wifesy needs a copper tub with jacuzzi jets.”
“A frenchie can not thrive off my blog comments. A frenchie needs a meat diet and flea treatments. Those things cost.”
I don’t have the pitch tweaked just right as of yet, but I’m working on it. Once I hit the right note, the Benjamins are gonna start rolling in. I just know it. Maybe I’ll become, “The Wifesy Girl.”
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