@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
The Times I Should Have Quit Comedy
THE FIRST TIME I TRIED IT
Ah, yes, that first high. My first show went surprisingly great. I did a bringer show at Stand-Up NY, inviting limited friends (in case I bombed I didn’t want a lot of people knowing/witnessing). A born adrenaline junky, I was always seeking ways to feed the Id with pleasure. But stand-up didn’t just provide pleasure, it also presented a sense of purpose. I was 20, a comedy nerd (and just a nerd all around) and already had a bleak outlook on the meaninglessness of the cruel world, so I knew this was something I would keep doing because it provided a grand feeling I wanted to never let go of. Most people don’t just try heroin once. I was fucked ever since that night. And I was happy to be fucked. But I could have been one of those people who “tried stand-up once and killed.”
THE GUY IN THE PURPLE JUMPSUIT
For the record, when I was in my early 20’s I was the ballsiest mother fucker. I’m a pussy compared to my former self. I was doing a bar show when I was maybe a year into comedy. There were two audience members. An overweight, disgusting man, wearing a purple jumpsuit and a woman with too much make up and fake tits. I went up first. Now, when I first started comedy, I had only one-liners and stood in one place and recited jokes I wrote. I was heckled the entire time by Purple Jumpsuit, who was, you guessed it, a porn producer! He told me to quit comedy and work for him. I told my jokes like a real trooper but fantasized about breaking his beer bottle and stabbing him with it. I should have quit right then. It was like a foreshadowing of all the bad shit to come. By the way, there were a couple of guys on that show who refused to up.
WHEN JOHN TRUESON TOLD ME TO QUIT THE BUSINESS
Hahahahaha! I’m actually totally kidding here. While, yes, John Trueson (Governor’s Manager/Booker) DID tell me to quit the business (he tells anyone this who asks him for advice), he was (mostly, I think?) kidding. Actually, few people have been more supportive than JT in my career. Truth is, I probably would have quit many times if he didn’t talk me off a ledge numerous times. Which he might have to do again after this blog is published. But maybe I should have listened to his original advice of quitting the business.
LIVE AT GOTHAM
Oh yes, my TV stand-up debut, five years into comedy at the age of 25. Hosted by Sinbad! I was nervous as all hell, but had a really great set, and a great time. This was a point of my career I falsely thought I was on the up and up. But always in the back of my mind, you know, just how fickle and uncertain the business is. And my career was about to plateau and then dip. I thought to myself, “hey you should quit right now while you’re happy and on top!” But of course no one is ever going to do that. Not when you’ve felt the rapturous joy of accomplishing one of your dreams. I earned that spot with hundreds of open mics and shit bar shows, and staying up late writing jokes. What a great night it was.
This is another time that I felt so high, I wish someone would have just pulled a “Lenny” on me and shot me in the back of the head while I felt bliss. I wrote a whole blog about this already, but when I once opened for Louis CK, Steven Wright came with him. Wright watched my set, and then praised my jokes, reciting my punch lines. I couldn’t believe it! Steven Wright! Reciting and laughing at my punchlines! Steven Wright is to joke writing what Kelly Slater is to surfing, Wayne Gretzky to hockey, OJ Simpson to getting away with murder. I called my parents the next day, giddy with happiness (a rarity for me), to tell them that Steven Wright said I’m a great joke writer. I spend a lot of time beating myself up for things, and this was win I thoroughly enjoyed.
COCAINE OPEN MIC
Ugh. This was probably three years ago. I had just moved out of my parents house to Queens (to pursue my dream!), and I went to do an open mic somewhere in the city. There were only about six comics. The host found a little bag on stage that had a little bit of coke in it. The host and one of the comics finished it off doing a couple bumps each. Now, it would be mighty hypocritical for me to judge people doing drugs, but I wanted to burst into tears and slit my wrists in this moment. This was AFTER my TV debut, and I had been passed at the Comedy Cellar, and yet, I was still stuck doing these absolute shit scenarios to practice my art. I felt really hopeless and like a fucking loser. I built a ship only to hit a reef and sink. It felt (and still often does) like my whole life and career were nothing but a sinking ship, and I wanted to quit comedy, and maybe actually, work on an actual fishing ship.
WHEN YOUR HEROES ARE UNHAPPY TOO
I do not think you should kill your heroes. Actually, I’m happy to have opened for and become friends with comics I idolize the most. Comics are my favorite people. This is a shocker to no one (least of all me), but a lot of comics are very unhappy. You think, as a fledgling comic sometimes, that when you reach the next level, you’ll be happier, and that is almost never the case. If you’re not happy at your present level, you probably won’t be happy at the next. It sorely breaks my heart to see guys I consider comedic geniuses (and from my POV, successful) still very unhappy. It also scares the shit out of me. Because I’ve basically invested everything in comedy, and nothing else, and fear I may have doomed myself, but then again, it’s all together possible I was doomed long before comedy became my entire world.
THAT TIME I HAD A SUICIDE PLAN
Spoiler alert! This is sad. Really sad, actually. After I quit my nursing home job, I (briefly) worked in real estate. The nursing home job was a really good job that payed well, and was easy. My family, friends, and comics advised me not to quit that job. But I was depressed as hell, and there’s nothing easy about being unhappy. So I quit and had a short lived and sort of failed real estate career (before I moved into Queens). I was having an existential crisis. I was young (24) but so unsure and terrified about comedy and how meaningless life is in general. That “I don’t give a fuck I’ll do what it takes” ballsy chick I was had vanished. I was scared and uncertain. This probably had less to do with comedy and more to do with a chemical imbalance in my brain. This was not my first time being severely depressed (and not my last), but it was bad. I had showed a house in Bayshore, not far from my childhood house, and I knew I could get a key, and I thought I’d go in the garage and let my car run and die painlessly from the silent killer, listening to my favorite music. Yeah, I was FUCKED up. They say if you think about suicide that’s not so bad, but if you plan it, that’s when you’re in trouble and should seek help. I didn’t seek help (not that time, anyway), because I did have a good life and felt like I didn’t have a right to be depressed. I cried a lot around this time, and ultimately, did not go through with this plan because I couldn’t bear the thought of my parents at my funeral. You can’t save other people, only you can save yourself. A big part of the reason I pursued comedy was because I believed having a passion bigger than myself would save me from these “down phases.” But comedy is so tied to my identity, that when I feel down, my brain immediately starts attacking that too.
THIS SUMMER/THIS BLOG
I always chuckle a little at those articles that say something like, “if your relationship has these signs you may be in trouble” or something along those lines. I realize we’re all always looking for clarity, but if you trust something a column writer wrote over yourself, I think you’re fucked anyway. So maybe this blog is giant red flag in itself. This summer, like last summer (and the summer before that), is slow comedy wise. This is normal, actually. Summer time is notoriously slow for comedy. I have to treat myself like a child, telling myself not to panic when I look at how empty my August calendar is. It does always pick up in the Fall, but there is this impending feeling that you are failing and never going to make it, and talentless, and worthless, and a piece of shit. This summer, my judgment may be especially clouded by personal life turbulence and heartbreak. So I don’t know… I mean, I’m not really sure I am capable of quitting comedy to be honest. The reason it scares/hurts so much sometimes is because I love it so much.
ALCOHOLISM & THE ROAD
I would not say I’m an alcoholic, though I guess that is debatable depending on your definition of an alcoholic. However, I could see this being a problem for me. Especially on the road. I like doing the road now. I can see why comics get burnt out on the road, and I can see how they develop an alcohol problem. I drink A LOT on the road, because, why not? Usually it’s free, you have nothing to do anyway when you’re done. The road is lonely, and weird. It’s not glamorous. Like I said, I’m happy to do the road now because I love working, and I am a bit of a hermit, so I don’t have much of a problem reading/writing in my hotel room, but ultimately, I want that writing gig. There could very well be AA meetings in my future. Because I like to drink when I’m unhappy and when I’m happy! But where it becomes dangerous, is I like to drink when I’m bored.