year 10 in comedy*

I debated about writing this because saying 2020 is a great comedy year sounds like an outlier. It failed upward seeing everything we thought we need in life; sports, shows, birthdays… get cancelled. We all wanted 2020 to be our year. Even the number sound cool. People got to wear glasses and had both eyes inserted through the zeroes on New Year’s eve. It mirrored my previous years but this time, I practiced writing Late Night monologue jokes (again) and submitted to festivals.

Then Covid arrived. #Cancelculture 2.0. I didn’t understand it. Why is there a 6pm curfew? Does it come out at night? Everything changed. When the two week shelter-in-place became indefinite, this sense of must keep up with other comics was gone. I have anxiety on if I would punch out at work early enough to make the show. I have anxiety if my dates were light. So I worried about the show I was on and the shows I’m not on. I compromised quality for quantity recording two podcasts a week. Most episodes start at 2 a.m. and I would slur for the half hour. When work gave me the day off, my first thought is where can I get a set tonight? When I was there, I agonize on waiting, are the audience being walked, or am I being tolerable?

I started enjoying this break. It’s an introvert’s paradise. Played through three full seasons of The Road to the Show. If I quit, fade into the sunset. Nobody would notice. Maybe appreciate I’m gone. When Uriah Jacquez and Ivy Vazquez honored both bookings and asked if I would do it on Zoom, I opened an account to start an open mic. Socially distant shows with minimal effort. No driving, waiting, or feeling insecure. The green room is your actual room. More self serving, less grief. My fun almost ended before it began. It was just me and another comic, twice. Then this night, 33 comics logged on! I was overwhelmed. Messenges, requests, and people talking over each other, I didn’t control the room. Comics log in late, so I’d give up their spot, they’d PM me you’re a horrible host. I didn’t mute thinking it’s the price for Zoom laughs. A comic got so offended when a dickhead said she looked like Rosie O’Donnell had her period on her hair, she blocked me then posted “avoid this show! It promotes and degrades women! That night, I failed at making everyone feel safe, comfortable and valued.

Like the pandemic, 2020 wiped out all comics. It’s a clean slate. Credits didn’t have value. Zoom is like moving to a new state. You get to show off your tricks, new suckers gets to hear your old jokes, and develop credit. Since the platform isn’t for everyone, the ones that stay idled, real comics, purist, needers of a stage, let us catch up. Any stage time is only going to help you develop. We just adapt to other settings. I can workshop jokes, do multiple sets without leaving my seat, then jump into bed right after.

These are the things I’ve learned this year, my 10th, in comedy;

Don’t ever stop. Even if it doesn’t love you. It’s like a cat. It’s cute, mysterious, and I want to own it. You may love it all you want, but at times, it’s unrequited. Sometimes it feels like it loves you, then you know it only using you for food and attention. Those moments, when you’re ready to share and when it needs you are special and the times it’s bitten you, are forgiven. And you hope to it’s recorded.

Comedy is California. It’ll mold you into who it wants you to be. Nobody wants to drive for Uber or live with roommates but it will cover you into the next month. It’s a sacrifice when you have this dream. Every success story should be different. Most of us want to hear Jerry Seinfeld, Kanye, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez story, then replicate the steps. My inspiration is Joe Biden. He ran for president in 30 years ago. Then again 12 years ago. Now, it’s down to two candidates.

You won’t be free until you’re ready to share.

This year has given me what I’ve always said I needed. Time. Something I didn’t give enough, because I didn’t have, or was willing to spend became too accessible. Start living again. Stop the one day, I wills. Mine was build my car. Or if you’re Asian, modifying. I wrenched as much as I could. The process let me learn to share and be honest with my fears and issues. Not the best problem solver but on my own time, I’ve learned to ask for help. We all have given tools; way we were raised, decisions we made, and what was influenced. It doesn’t become a tool until we chose to use it. You get to chose your car, given a story, then you get to chose how to build (or modify) it. And if it’s hack, the enthusiast will call you out on it.

There are no rules.

People need to see you stand up for something. It’s even in the word stand-up. We’re conditioned to feel or think a certain way. I remember hearing jokes and thinking this guy has a great point. Jim Breuer touched what I was feeling. Then convincing friends with that joke. Every comic should have a different take on the same subject, told by their gift. Some jokes may take 20 years to tell it just right. But if this is your outlet, don’t stop. In August, I got to feature at a show. My whole 15 minute set were jokes I worked on Zoom.

I don’t know where I’m going. Only know where I’ve been. I’m a devil on the run. If anyone tells you this year is horrible for comedy, they’re just not looking at the right places. Roof tops. Parking lots. Parks. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s very alive. It’s not locked up, replaced, or cancelled. It took a pandemic for me to relearn patience, my gift, assess the irony of spending money on a depreciating investment. Because I identify and love this so much.

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Thoughts released here.

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Kevin Wong

Kevin Wong

Thoughts released here.

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