I’ve been trying to put into words…
what exactly it is I’ve been struggling with for the past year. WARNING: This might get long-winded. So take a seat, pull out a root beer and join me for the ride. I’m trying to figure this out and if I fail miserably (which is very likely the case) then you might know a thing or two about a thing or two.
When I was a kid, I was concerned about being a good kid. When I became involved in the church—I was concerned about being a good Christian. Through the different phases of my life, one thing lead into another, where I questioned my role in life and whether or not I was doing right by that role.
Was I a good student? A good boyfriend? A good husband? A good comedian?
A good father?
Life becomes this complex juggling act. What started off as two or three bowling pins has now turned into a torch, a sword, a chainsaw and a baby. On a daily basis I’m concerned about being good at all those things at the same time. I want to be a good husband and a good father while being a good comedian and a good example.
But I don’t know if it’s possible. I’m concerned, if I exceed my limitations, that the inevitable compromises I would make down-the-line could be permanently damaging to my son. Especially nowadays where there’s so much disinformation and outside influence; being an attentive, involved parent is more important now than ever.
It all started the day Trump won the election
I was sleeping on the outside edge of our bed when my 7 o’clock alarm buzzed right beside my ear. I went to sleep early the night before because the 2016 American election was one of the most stressful world events I have ever lived through.
I like the way South Park put it.
The American people were either voting to elect a Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich. Both results came with consequences and the entire election revealed a more divisive society going forward. My son wasn’t born yet and I was already scared for his future without even knowing who won.
And then I checked my phone…
The reality star won the show. What in the world? Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life by bringing a child into the darkest timeline? I turned to my wife and felt instant conviction.
“I need to quit my job.”
This was a shocker—to both of us. I have been faithfully working in a group home organization for the past five years. It paid well, we had benefits, and as much as I didn’t enjoy the job anymore, I was still very good at it.
Maybe my convictions were a little flowery, a little romanticized, but the gist was that I was going to be fathering a son in difficult times and I was concerned about “living according to my values”. One day my son was going to look up at me and say, “You told me to follow my dreams but you gave up on yours!” I didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I was aware that we were now living in Trump’s world and my son would never know any different. It was also the first time that it really dawned on me that my family and myself may not experience a natural death. We could very well be wiped out by a hydrogen bomb because a loud-mouth wouldn’t shut up on Twitter.
I was feeling the full weight of YOLO in that very moment and said to myself (and eventually to my wife), “You know what? Screw it. We only got one life. Lets take some risks. I don’t want to look back and regret everything.”
And so that’s what I did.
The rest was very surprising…
So I quit my job. I started working full time as a stand-up comedian. I made a comedy recording I wasn’t particularly proud of but it served its purpose and marked a very specific milestone at a pivotal time in my life where one day I’ll look back upon that time and reminisce over the stepping stones that laid down my way. You don’t need to be proud of the moments that changed you but you can be proud of the change. I did some travelling. Didn’t like that either. Really didn’t enjoy seeing my kid grow through a computer screen.
This comedy dream wasn’t what I expected.
I love making people laugh from stage. It’s honestly one of my favourite things to do. Which made the revelations to come very disheartening.
- A very small percentage of Canadian comedians make their careers in Canada, it’s a low ceiling, there are more opportunities in places like America or the UK
- To be remotely successful as a standup comedian in Canada, you need to tour nonstop, sell merch like crazy, and hope for a few lucky breaks
- Producers and bookers are focusing more on women, people of colour and LGBTQ representation right now and I don’t fit into those boxes so I will naturally have to wait my turn (btw: I ain’t mad about this, it’s been a long time coming—finally!)
- The political landscape has invaded almost all industries making every job that much harder—the role of the comedian being no exception. Comics are adjusting to the changing times and so are audiences. We all need a little time to figure this out
- There’s not a clear balance between providing for my family and becoming the good comedian that I long to be
There’s gotta be some give somewhere
Once again, I realized this was a conversation about values. My values as a comedian and my values as a father were coming to blows and I would have to value one over the other. You would think this has a sad ending. The dreamer kisses his kid hello as he kisses his dreams goodbye but that’s not how this one ends. This one ends with dreamer realizing he can have his dreams by defining them properly.
Do I like being a comedian and making people laugh? Yes!
Do I want to be a famous celebrity and make tons of money? No!
Do I want to create intimate experiences that people can walk away with? Yes!
Do I need the attention? No!
So it’s settled. I can perform standup comedy in small, intimate comedy spaces, being selective about the shows I do to fit in with what I love about comedy and afford myself the time to be there for my son. I can venture out and make money a million different ways. I have faith, one way or another, that life figures itself out. I can zero in on why I make people laugh and how I’m going to go about doing it. I can raise my son properly and pass down wisdom as he navigates a life in Trump’s world.
Being a good father is more important than being a good comedian. But choosing to be a good father is what will make me a great comedian.
Imagine that. An entire life of learning from my mistakes, owning my choices and walking towards my values.
It’s what I want.
It’s all I want.