I was a stand-up comic for years.
Until very recently -- like, days ago -- I still put it in the present tense. I'd say I _am_ a comedian. Unable to let go. Thinking -- knowing -- that one day I'd get the urge to hit the stage as a comic again.
Today, I'm finally doing what Chris Hardwick's dad was wise enough to do years ago.
Billy Hardwick was a professional bowler. One of the best in the world. When he retired -- that was it. He stopped bowling... period. Not just for money. He stopped... period.
He didn't want to taint the memory.
I haven't been so wise.
For years, I've had this on-again/off-again relationship with stand-up comedy.
It's time to let that go.
Or is it?
Do you SEE?
The problem with showbiz is that there's no time limit.
That's also a good thing, depending on how you look at it -- what mood you're in -- how old you are, etc.
On the one hand, I'm happy to know that at my ripe old(ish) age of 52, I could still pursue a career in stand-up if I wanted to.
But that's also a curse.
Because, come on. Is there really a place for a guy my age to re-start climbing the ladder in stand-up comedy?
And even if there were a "place", do I really have the energy it would take to "make it"?
Hell, I didn't have the energy and/or the talent to "make it" when I was in my mid-20's to early-30's. I quit my day job to pursue it, and eventually hit a dead end...
A dead-end of my own making, by the way.
I didn't realize it at the time, but Hollywood didn't "chew me up and spit me out" (as was often my explanation to people in the years following my return from Hollywood to "real life"). The fact is, I was unable to muster the energy to continue pursuing that proverbial "next level".
So, what makes me think I could do it now?
For one thing, it's not about "thinking".
There's no logic behind dreams.
One day, I might very well wake up with that unexplainable urge to start driving thousands of miles for a few minutes of stagetime here and there and everywhere/anywhere.
But I sure hope not.
It's not that I don't have _some_ urge to do comedy anymore.
It's just that I've come to grips with the fact (belief?) that there's really no reason for me to do _any_ stage time -- because it's not going to lead anywhere.
It's just not worth my time.
I've got other/better things to do.
And if I have an existential moment that says to me, "Who cares if it leads anywhere? Just do it for fun!"...
I have to slap that existential moment in the face, and remind it that stand-up comedy is very often not very fun -- both in the preparation and the performing.
Sure, there can be a few fun moments here and there. But those moments are hard to come by when you're only getting up on stage once in a while.
And when you don't care enough to prepare.
In the past couple of years, an old comedian friend of mine (Lamont Ferguson) tossed me a few bones -- and I gladly caught them -- and voraciously nibbled on the sparse pieces of meat (an amusing metaphor to me -- since the gigs where in a BBQ restaurant).
I couldn't wait for another bone to be tossed my way (since I'd already stopped pursuing any bones on my own).
But now I'm hoping that if/when a bone is tossed in my direction...
I'll run like hell in the other direction.
Or, at least, politely decline to catch it.
It's not that I'm not thankful for those bones. Those gigs had their moments. That's what kept me going back.
In the words of Lamont...
"I've lost the will to comede".
Actually, those aren't his words. He hasn't lost the will. It's just that I heard the words coming out of his mouth when he told me that some of our old comedy buddies have not caught the bones he's tossed.
And now, my name can (finally) be added to that list.
It's not that I'm giving up on the idea of having _any_ career in showbiz.
Thanks to the Internet, I can continue to do my own video projects whenever I feel like it (and sometimes even be watched by an audience into the double-digits!).
And thanks to the never-ending need for actors of all ages in other people's projects, I can continue to occasionally audition for (and occasionally get selected to do) those gigs.
I can also continue to sing and play my guitar. Somehow, it's not as pathetic to see an old dude jamming an old tune as it is to see an old dude jamming on an old joke.
In fact, old dudes jamming old tunes can be incredible.
I once went to a blues club in Chicago (not the House of Blues, by the way -- an actual, old, sweaty-walled blues club) -- and was blown away by the old guys on stage -- easily in their 80's. They were amazing. "Pathetic" is the last word that comes to mind. As I recall them in this present moment, the first word that comes to mind is "inspirational".
So, it's not totally a bad thing that there's no age limit in showbiz.
You might even say it's a blessing and a curse.
(Did you read the title of this post?)
It's just, well... it's about choice.
What things are okay to pursue in your golden years, and what things are best left in your scrapbook?
Speaking of my scrapbook...
I was once a football player. It's been a long time since the thought of pursuing football crossed my mind.
The cool thing about football is that it eventually leaves you no choice.
You _must_ stop.
That may seem like a bad thing to lovers of choice -- but sometimes, it nice to have your choices limited. It can help you focus on other things -- things you're more capable of actually accomplishing (and enjoying).
Things that don't make you look (and feel) pathetic.
It's not that athletes know exactly when to quit. Many hold on for "too long". But eventually, time runs out -- and they find something else to do with their lives.
You're not likely to see a 52-year-old playing in the NFL.
But you can still see a 52-year-old getting up on stage to do comedy in a BBQ restaurant now and then.
Hopefully, not _this_ 52-year-old.