A Thought About Why Writers Are So Odd

Writers are weird.

However, a bit like bad whiskey or good arsenic, we’re tolerable in very small doses.

Not just because, by nature, we're often socially awkward folks to begin with. I suppose, in some cases, it's exactly that awkwardness that leads some to do a job which is basically a public persona crafted in solitary confinement.

We're a little like a cross between stand-up comedians and sociopaths.

Not that we're all funny or all axe-wielding serial killers (That said, those two traits are not necessarily mutually exclusive).

Early in my career-- in an effort to avoid actual work-- I was a professional stand-up comedian. I played around the American Midwest but mainly around Minneapolis-St. Paul.

I MC'd, opened, middled, guested, filled-in, and featured in clubs with names like the "Comedy Gallery", "Bonkers", and "The Comedy Caboose". So, I hung out with a lot of comics. Men, women, black, brown, white, hacks, pros and people whose hearts broke in the span of seven minutes as they realized just because your friends at the office laugh at your jokes that doesn’t mean you’re actually funny.

Your work day is measured in minutes not hours. It’s a pretty fucking intense workday, nonetheless. And you’re always looking for the next gag, trying out stuff on anyone who’ll listen, except that Ben dude because he steals people’s shit all the time so not him.

Anyway.

You’ve got hours and hours of downtime, preptime, anxiety-time, drinking-time, cryin'-time before you get back up on stage again, so you talk a lot to other comedians doing exactly the same.

So, you learn one thing very quickly: comics are dark, fucked-up people.

Okay, maybe not all of them. I'm sure there's one totally normal guy or girl out there. However, in years of being in the business-- and then another dozen years as a radio personality with comedians on my show weekly-- I never met 'em.

I'd argue most comedy comes from fear, pain, tragedy, loss or being a fat, ten-year-old under threat of someone stealing your precious snack-pack pudding (ahem).

After that tragedy is magically spun into comedy, sure there are laughs, but the pain of that impetus remains. In some ways, for many of the most successful "creatives", it has to.

There's a reason why Dave Chapelle recorded a six-hour stint on stage and before him Richard Pryor nearly three. Or how a 45-minute Carlos Mencia set routinely tops two hours. 

THAT'S WHERE THE LOVE IS.

The validation.

The acceptance.

On stage, the love flows toward them, over and into them, wrapping a comedian in a warm sea of laughter and approval. But, once off stage, pow, comics get back into their heads again

Many writers have those same early triggers-- some pain or insecurity that manifests in taking a pen to paper, or hammering away on the keyboard.

But unlike actors, singers, or stand-up comedians there isn't the assurance we'll have that real-time, face-to-face approval to assuage the pain that got us there.

We're a little like the stand-up comedian, but forever in the greenroom, never on stage.

That'd make anyone a little bit weird.