rodney dangerfield, no respect

Best in Show? (Post #332)

What I’m going to talk about happened a while ago.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday.  My mother came down to stay with us for a day or so after being flown in by my brother and his boyfriend to stay for a big turkey gathering.  I also visited my brother and my mom at the Palm Springs house they had rented for Thanksgiving.  I mention that because it’s pertinent to the story later.


You see, I noticed something interesting about my mom during the holiday.  She’s a performer.  I always knew she was funny, but a performer?  I’m not sure I would’ve said it before.  Often, my mother is the loudest person in the room.  Louder than me…with a heart of gold, mind you, but loud, nonetheless.  It can be hard for me -sometimes- because my mother is the light in the room.  And in a group setting, she likes that light shining on her.  I realized she’s a performer when she did one particular thing.  Mom was about to launch into a story for a group of invited guests, but before doing so, she literally pushed away from the table and stood up to “perform” it.  It was so interesting to me.  My brother and I (and I think I can speak for him on this point alone) have always experienced my mother as a storyteller, a ham, and the center of attention in a lot of ways.  My mother, however, likes to tell us that she grew up depressed and pretty much battled depression for most of her life.  That’s hard to reconcile with the person we see today, but I don’t doubt that it’s true.



The Stage…a family affair?


Another important thing to note – before I launch into the heart of the matter.  My mother (and father) have been ‘banned’ from seeing me perform stand up for many years now.  I think I banned them about ten years ago on the advice of my therapist.  The ban came about because I would do well at a show and I would get this critique from my parents…


“I don’t know…,” said Mom.


“What do you mean you don’t know?” I asked.  “The audience really seemed to like it.”


“Well, I don’t know if you should be saying those things about Jesus…,” she replied.


“Oh, Christ,” I said.


Way back when I had a joke that went something like this…


“I’m on the subway train and this Jesus freak gets on.  He’s waving a sign around and screaming, REPENT, JESUS IS COMING.  REPENT, JESUS IS COMING.  To which I respond…Well, if he’s coming tell him to stand clear of the closing doors.  I’d like to get to work in a reasonable amount of time.”


Not a groundbreaking joke by any stretch, but not really soooo offensive either.


Ten years after the ban my stand up is very changed.  Quite frankly it’s much better.  I mean, She-sus Christ, I would hope it would be better after doing it for so many years.


The story begins thus.  Mom’s in town and there’s this show I want to do, but I can’t leave her at home.  I decide to bring her, but with a warning that she can’t critique what I do or get crazy.  Literally, I said this to her.  I said, “The ban is lifted, but don’t make me regret lifting it.”


Wifesy, mom, and I have a nice dinner and head out to the show.  The show begins and I’m the second person up on the bill.  Now, let me be clear on this…I am NOT always the best person on the show.  Truly.  There are a lot of comics I would consider way better than me.  However, on this particular night, I was the best.  It was clear.  There was only one other guy who was even close to the level I was performing at.  The guy who did as close to well as I did is an old friend of mine from the early days back in New York.


Here’s where the story gets interesting.  The show wraps up and we’re all heading out.  Wifesy is talking to another audience member about two feet away from me and mom.  Mind you, mom has said NOTHING to me at this point about my set.  Not, “good job.”  Not, “funny stuff.”  NOTHING.  Perhaps it’s because of the “ban” I’m thinking.  My male friend who also did well on the show is standing next to me.  Mom walks up to him and says, “You were the best.”


My friend says, “No, actually SHE was the best,” and points at me.


I say, “SHE never thinks I’m the best.  That’s why I do stand up,” and we both laugh.


best in show

Meh, the other guy was better…


Ugh.  I mean are you feckin’ kidding me??!!  Not even one kind word??  In the car all mom says to me is that “I talk too fast.”  Wifesy hears her say that and says, “No, actually, she doesn’t.”  And I -as emotionally exhausted as can be- say, “Mom, you and dad always say that.  I’ve been doing comedy for 16 years now.  I’ve been critiqued millions of times and the ONLY people who have ever said I talk too fast are you and dad.”


Good god.


The next day I mention to Wifesy what my mom said about the other comic being the best on the show and Wifesy just about loses her mind.


“Are you feckin’ kidding me????” she screeches.


And, thank god, in a millisecond, I feel justified.


You SHOULD be able to see the GOOD that your kid does whether they are 4 or 40.  You SHOULD be able to get past your own nonsense to see it.  That is your job as a parent.


My job as an adult is to separate from mom’s opinion of me.  Not easy, but a struggle worth engaging in.


What about you?  Who is your supportive rock in your life and who is your biggest detractor?  Hopefully they’re not one and the same…



Sweet Mother is updated daily-ish on the home stretch towards 365 consecutive posts.  Click the “follow” button above to join us.



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Photo creds:

bestinshow, stage, rodney-feature


37 thoughts on “Best in Show? (Post #332)

  1. Isn’t it funny that a parent’s critique even though you know it’s not deserved or accurate can be so cutting?! No matter how old you get, it still hurts to hear the slightest of disapprovals or disappointments.

  2. I’ve only seen three of your performances, and I think you killed. You don’t talk to fast at *all*.

    My rocks are my best friends Jen & Fab. My biggest detractor is myself. The ladies tell me my writing is amaze-balls. I say it’s barely an, “Eh.” 😀

    I wouldn’t give them up for anything though. They are the best friends you could have. Even if they *are* biased. 😉

    1. it’s amazing how many people said, ‘me’ for their biggest detractor in the comments. totally interesting. i enjoy your writing, big r. okay, i’ll stop calling you that. 😉 yeah, mom is weird about the stand up. always has been. prob always will be. *shrug* xoxo, sm

  3. the most supportive person in my life has four legs and a cold nose, but after him, I would have to say that my older sister has become that person for me (and I’m still getting used to knowing how to believe in her sincerity) … that’s because, once upon a time, in a previous chapter in our relationship, she was also my biggest detractor … guess I finally wore her down … or maybe she finally began believing in me … or maybe she just grew up a little bit … whatever the case, it’s nice to have someone in your corner …

    and sad for you, that in your case, you have to make the adjustment and accept that your mom is shaking her pom-poms in your face to call attention to what she perceives as your deficiencies, rather than to cheer you on. Thankfully, it sounds like you are working on identifying what is truth, and what is false, and you’re growing past her same old shtick. Good for you.

    *pom-poms shaking in the wind*

    1. it’s so interesting that she went from your worst to your best support. probably she grew up. i was a sh*t to my younger brother when we were kids and now i adore the guy. and i call my french bulldog my ‘writer’s assistant.’ seriously. yeah, my mom is wonderful in some ways and then there’s this. but, i do know it’s my job to move past it, so i shall. great commentary, nt. thank you for stopping by here. xoxo, sm

  4. Oh, parents.
    Part of their raising method is completely mind-fuck you, then deny deny deny when called out. Why, SweetMoms? Why?
    Just as wifesy is probably yours, my lady is my biggest supporter. She helped me reach the ‘so what?’ phase/boost I needed to write.
    Now my parents are onboard, and everyone’s happy-pants.

    1. yep, wifesy is my biggest supporter and your lady sounds amaze-balls. and that is my highest form of phrase. you said so many good things here, mike. like she helped me reach the ‘so what?’ isn’t that the huge epiphany of any artistic pursuit… and such a necessary one. and if my mother read any of this, she’d have no idea what i was talkin’ about. sigh. xoxo, sm

  5. Parents are the worst supporters of artistic pursuits. My mom’s first question when something is published is how much I got paid for it. This is followed by an, “Is that all?”

    1. oh my god, my mother so does that too. she says things like, ‘i don’t know why you’re not getting paid…everyone else manages to get paid.’ i mean, what in the feck. and nope, most people DON’T manage to get paid at their art and i get paid more than most, less then some, but christ – i’m so happy i’m in the ‘often paid’ section of my life. but, moms, she will never see that. in other words, i feel your paid, dear friend, i feel your pain. sm

  6. Your mom sounds a lot like my mom, SM. It took me a very long time to release myself from craving my mom’s acceptance. Never going to happen, and I’m okay with that. I also know she loves me and is proud of me even though she’ll never say it in so many words. I’ve stopped making that my problem, love my mom, and tell my daughter I love her and I’m proud of her every single day. xoxoM

    1. why is it that it is somehow built into our dna to crave their acceptance because it is. but, right YOU are. one must release themselves from that to become fully their own being. i’m workin’ on it – day by day. you, on the other hand, are giving that daughter of yours such an incredible gift. that i KNOW. xoxo, sm

  7. Mama, my mother is also the bane of my existence. I cannot stand her on every single level of mother-daughter interaction. I would wax on about this, but I am not going to hijack your post. Suffice it to say, I think you and I are kindred.

    1. kindred, indeed. my mother is difficult in that she is truly the life of the party. so everyone always thinks, ‘ohhhhh, she must be so great to have as a mom.’ but, there’s a dark side to that upness. for ex, the above. lol. but, truck on, we must, undercover. and that sux about your mom. in my mind, you do NOT deserve that. XOXO, SM

  8. You wrote about your mom today, and I wrote about being a mom. I hope my kids will see me clearly, but I think it’s hard to see our parents without our child filters. My mom made it really hard, very critical, but I also see her differently as the years go on. My friends are my support system and I am my own worst enemy/detractor. Come by and say hi Mom. It’s been ages!

    1. i’m so busy looking for a ‘real’ job, second mom. as you can see from my own blog, i’m having a hard time keeping up with my own comments. but, i promise i’ll stop in and i promise it will be soon. as for moms, you are a good one. that’s easy to see. mine is too, but she has a VERY hard time seeing her own faults. in her mind, i’m ‘making things up.’ sigh. but, an adult’s job is to move past it. so, that’s what i do. xoxo, sm

  9. Wow; it’s a bummer eh… As far as giving me words of appreciation, my parents are very supportive. The only people giving me more praise are my in-laws but they are just insanely nice. Yet my parents also have very high standards of ‘success’ and I’ve noticed I’ve grown so needy of their praise that when I don’t get it, or when they openly criticise something, it feels like the end of the world for a while. Trying to address that recently…

  10. I take it she doesn’t read your blog. I can totally relate from a writing perspective. I receive glowing compliments about my writing from total strangers on a regular basis, but neither my mother or father follow my blog. Mom says that “it’s just not her thing.” Dad still chastises me when I drop an F-bomb, B-bomb, S-bomb…any bomb at all. I fear that if he ever actually read my blog, he’d have an aneurysm.

    No matter what your mom says, I bet you were the best!

    I could add so much more here, but it’s your blog, not mine. One day, we should chat about this topic. Really.

    1. ohhhhhh, why do mothers do that, why??!! as for the blog, i’ve banned my mother from my facebook TWICE. literally unfriended her and blocked her. my own mother. but, i don’t want her judging and my social media stuff has really become an outlet for my creativity. so, it’s mine. plain and simple. and that sucks about your parents. your blog is fantastic. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE??!! xoxo, sm

  11. I think one of the hardest lessons to learn in life is not to let other people define who we are, and also who we allow to have power over us, that includes parents.

  12. I have had three mothers in my life:
    First mother, gave birth to me and gave me up for adoption. I met her when I was 25, struggled with a relationship with her for years gave up. Now many years later we have re-connected peacefully. She is crazy but kinder.

    Second mother, she adopted me and beat the hell out of me for 30 years. Physically and emotionally. She was toxic as anyone in my life. At 35 I cut her out of my life. For the sake of my baby brother I now assist with her care both financially and emotionally. I can do this because she has dementia and doesn’t remember a thing, including who I am most of the time.

    Third mother, step-mother and heart mother. She married my dad twenty years after his divorce from second mother. She was also my aunt (widow of his brother). I had known her all my life. She was my rock for a great number of years, even before she married my dad. I miss her even today.

    I have a few supporters, friends who I have known for years. But honestly? I am pretty isolated (self-imposed). I am my biggest detractor.

    Funny what our parents do to us, sometimes out of fear; sometimes out of self-denial. Sometimes out of plain old ignorance their words cut like knifes.

    1. thank god for your step-mom. seriously. you are such a dear person, sweet val. you didn’t deserve any of that. and i’m so glad on the third try it was done right. and i can not believe how many people said they were their OWN detractors in this forum. such a popular answer and such an interesting thing. if we could only love ourselves a bit more, i suppose. xoxo, sm

  13. You’re right, of course – they should be supportive. I’m sorry. Nothing totally takes away the sting of that sort of stuff, but how great that you have people around you to not only recognize your skill, but speak up about it.

    It’s funny, because I can’t even say who my biggest supporter/detractor is. This will sound weird – and probably boastful – but when I was a youngun’ a lot of people (teachers, family friends, etc.) thought I was destined for very big things. For some reason, this meant that no one ever gave me advice or encouragement of what to do; how to proceed. Mostly I just got warnings about how bad it is to stand out too much. So my detractors have been subtle but dedicated. You know the scene in Gone W/ The Wind with the endless field of wounded soldiers? That’s basically a metaphor for my career decisions, when left to my own devices. So that would make my biggest detractor… me?… I’m not sure.

    Ah, never mind. I got very little sleep last night. My comment appears to be incoherent griping, doesn’t it…

    1. that is so interesting, byronic. and i do think the ‘direction’ thing is HUGE. praise without direction is nothing, but hot air. i loved your comment. didn’t feel like griping at all. in fact, it was a totally unique perspective. so, thank you for leaving it here. xo, sm

  14. I’m in your boat: my husband is my biggest supporter, and my mom is my biggest detractor. She never has anything positive or supportive to say. I don’t think she does it on purpose, but it still drives me up a wall.

    1. ‘i don’t think she does it on purpose…’ that’s the funny thing, i don’t think my mom does either. and if you tried to tell her about it, she wouldn’t see it at all. she’d just feel defensive/ attacked. don’t know why people behave like this with the ppl they love the most. i know my mom love me, i’m sure your mom loves you — SO WHAT IN THE FECK ARE THEY DOING??!! thank god for our partners. seriously. xoxo, sm

  15. It’s odd how we always, no matter how old we are, want our parent’s approval. I think it is a mistake.

    Surprisingly, for me, I found when I needed it the most the people I thought would be the most supportive weren’t. Not at all. The people I would have expected wouldn’t care either way were right there for me propping me up.

    You just never know.

  16. -sigh- Do I ever know how you feel. Many years ago I invited my parents over for lunch. It was a bit of a celebration, for me at least, because I had just received a slim little book that contained my first ever published user manual [I was doing tech writing back then].

    I brought this beautiful little book out with coffee and handed it to my parents. I knew they wouldn’t have a clue about the contents, but my NAME was right there, on the front.

    The reaction from both parents was the Hungarian equivalent of ‘That’s nice dear, can I have another coffee?’ I gave up after that. Apparently nothing could compensate for not having what they termed a ‘proper’ job.

    Stand tall and hang tough Mum. It’s the only way.

  17. First of all, I’ve seen your standup and you rock. It’s your delivery. You are one of those people who can harness what makes you unique to make whatever you’re saying funny. Chris Rock does it. He’s the only example I can think of off the top of my head but really, he’s Chris Rock, a funny motherfecker–do we really need another example?
    Second, I’m dumb-founded that your mom did that. Maybe she feels that she is keeping you grounded. I haven’t even met her so I can’t really do anything but speak out my @ss on the subject. However, if I were to venture a guess (because I’m prone to speaking out my @ss), given what you said about her natural inclination to perform, I would say that there is a bit of envy there. You are doing the thing that she might not even admit to herself that she really wants to do and it bothers her. That would be my guess. Now I will tell my @ss to shut up.

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