This has a real potential of coming across vain, but I won’t be bothered. Many people have suggested I write a book about my life. I’ve considered it, more recently, and created this blog as a channel in which my creative juices can flow.
I love memoirs, but only ones written by comedians. The first book I ever bought with my “own money” (aka allowance), was Mark Lowry’s “Out of Control“. For those who don’t know him, He’s a Conservative Baptist comedian, singer-songwriter, most known for writing “Mary, Did You Know?” Since I also grew up Conservative Baptist, he was an early role model (along with one Kimberly Shivers).
Being “a comedian” is weird, because it starts innocently enough: a bunch of people calling you funny, followed by a personal decision to take that somewhere. You could say I “got my start” doing mission trip reports at church. I found myself on stage, microphone in hand, hundreds of people watching and subsequently laughing harder than you’re supposed to laugh in church. I was alive.
I only ever experienced mild stage freight, as a kid performing piano recitals. That was nerve-wrecking, because I have not-a-lot of control over my hands. The day I added singing to recitals, I discovered all nervousness left once my hand was preoccupied with a microphone.
So let’s say my future memoir is decidedly funny. Life is a mixed-up thing, and writing about it can present a lot of angles to choose from: Do I write about my numerous near-death experiences? Do I write about theology? Do I write about vagrancy and the many cities, states and countries I’ve lived in? This all sounds serious. I am serious, thoughtful, observant and funny. Can it be all those things too? Why not, if I’m all those things? How can I do it? How can I write the true me? Probably start by not overthinking it.
Ah, overthinking. My nemesis. Overthinking makes me anxious and certainly less funny.
During, what could be referred to as, a “peak” in my comedic life, I was emceeing a summer camp. Specifically, Camp Tadmor, summer of 2007. That was the year Andy O’Hara was my co-Emcee. We could read each other’s minds, on stage, and improvised everything. Our only prep was scrounging through costumes, backstage, saying, “I’ll wear this, you wear that, we will do this, and GO.” The only times we didn’t have people doubled over in laughter was when we over-planned.
I’ve read both of Mindy Kaling’s books: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns) and Why Not Me?, Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please!, Ellen’s Seriously…I’m kidding, and Tiffany Haddish’s The Last Black Unicorn. (I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, Bethany, call the Oprah book club! You read 6 books!” To which I’ll say, “Yeah yeah, and I didn’t finish 3 of them, I’m too social to read, okay?!”) What I found, is a surprising sadness in each of their stories (Especially Tiffany Haddish, oh my gosh, that woman’s life is heinous). Life is sad, and comedians want to talk about it, but their first defense and processing filter is comedy. Life is only tragic if we can’t find these silver linings of laughter by the grace of God.
So I’v laid a few ground rules:
- Don’t take yourself seriously
- Don’t get preachy
- Ascribe worth and honor to people
We shall see where this goes. In the meantime, tell me about your favorite comedians and what you connect with them about. Let me know if there’s a certain story you feel I need to tell. And, if you’re having a rough day, decide it’s funny.