I’ve long been fascinated by stand-up comedians. When I was a young kid, I loved to catch Bob Hope and Steve Martin on TV. Hope would make fun of his golf game or the intelligence of some hulking college All-American, Martin would riff on being a “wild and crazy guy.”
When I got a few years older and my tastes became more refined, I couldn’t get enough of Robin Williams’ crazy look at everyday life; George Carlin’s seven dirty words; and Eddie Murphy’s raunchy Delirious and Raw concerts.
A great comedian has a way of bringing a little bit of sunshine into our lives. They make us forget life’s little annoyances and help us feel good about ourselves.
A craft unlike any other
American stand-up comedian Gary Gulman has been posting tips and tricks of the trade on his twitter account on the challenge of being a comedian. It’s a fascinating daily look at the craft and focuses heavily on the challenge of writing.
I could never get up in front of a crowd and tell a joke. I have a tough enough time giving a work presentation to a group of coworkers, many of whom I know, forget about trying to make a group of skeptical strangers to laugh. I’ve never been much of humor writer either — my wit, my banter, comes more naturally, it’s a biting, sarcastic comment that gets maybe a chuckle or a raised eyebrow, rarely, if ever, a loud guffaw — but Gulman’s tweets have spurred my creative bug. They’ve challenged me to see if I can tackle a bit of humor, maybe even a minute or two of stand-up.
Take a look at what I’ve come up with; I think the segment needs a lot of work, but then so does every great comedian. Stephen Wright described it like this: “Doing stand-up is like running across a frozen pond with the ice breaking behind you.”
With that image in mind, here you go:
I’ve started back up running to lose a few pounds. You know how it is, you indulge on a snack or two after dinner and five or ten or three hundred potato chips later, you find yourself featured on the reality tv show, My 600-lb Life. I could return to watching what I eat, making sure to eat a balanced diet, maybe even going out for a walk over lunch. Nah, what do I do? I put on my running shoes . . . .and overnight, yes literally overnight, try to turn myself into a marathon runner.
Yes, it’s been a big challenge. I’ve been trying to run without a lot of walk breaks, but I had to walk it in the other day. My legs were fine . . . sort of. My form was okay . . . sort of. No, I had to walk, because I was attracting too much attention. Passing drivers took one look out the window at me and thought I was going into heart failure. They saw this crazy guy huffing and puffing along the side of the road and immediately called 911 to report a heart attack . . . or a mad killer on the loose. Why would an overweight, pale looking middle aged man be out running in the middle of the day? There has to be a better excuse and it can’t be good. Flesh-eating zombies. At least that’s what several of the callers told the police. Yea, that will stop you every time.
No, the sport has really changed. You used to be able to buy pair of running shoes, running shorts, maybe an old shirt, for under a $100. Now, you go to buy a pair of shoes and they ask for your right arm . . . your left leg . . . and a few other body parts too. If they take any more body parts, I won’t need the sneakers. A wheel chair, maybe, but not the shoes.
But there’s nothing like being out on a run and letting your mind wander. Time seems to standstill and the miles just pass by. Peace and calm take over your entire body. There’s no other feeling like it. Happened to me just the other day, I was running through my little neighborhood . . . envisioning every driver, every pet owner, one after another and zapping each and every one with my imaginary taser stun gun. Get too close to me with your car, bzzt. Let your dog run without a leash and take a bite out of my leg, bzzt to you buddy . . . Ah, peace and tranquility!
When I first started to run as a kid in high school, we didn’t run to music. We didn’t have fancy iPhones like we have today. Heck, we ran with nothing but our thoughts to keep us company. How amazing is that, our thoughts? Can you believe that? No Spotify or Apple Music or even podcasts to listen to while you run. No Youtube videos? No Clash of the Clans or Candy Crush to pass the time. Just us. Of course, we were real athletes, we ran up hill both ways, but that’s a story for another time. Oh, we tried to run with music. We’d run ten yards with our boom boxes on our backs and collapse in a puddle of sweat on the ground.
Back in the day, our cross country coach would tell us to get in the bed of his pick-up truck. Yea that was safe, the back of his pick-up. Can you imagine anyone doing that today? But guess what . . . goes to show the Einsteins he was dealing with, we jumped-in, no questions asked. Sure, let’s get in the back of a rusted pick-up and travel 60 miles per hour down a speeding highway. Yes, we were our school’s best and brightest!
Anyway, he’d tell us to get in and take us up some mountain, around some curve in the middle of the woods, and tell us to run back . . . think Deliverance mixed with a pinch of Chariots of Fire. Can’t you hear the Chariots of Fire theme music playing in the background? You may have been on your last leg. You may have been tired beyond belief from a week of long runs, but the stillness of the woods would play tricks on you. You’d kick up a rock or twig and you’d think you were hearing the twang of dueling banjos in the distance . . . If I need to explain, watch the movie Deliverance and you’ll understand. Nothing like fear to push you to run faster. I think had some of my best PRs on those mountain runs. “Run, Brian, run” and don’t look back, just keep running.
Yes, sir, I’m glad to be back into running. Now if my body would just recuperate. I feel like I’ve been doing the work of ten men. My back aches. My legs feel like jelly. My feet have blisters. And that’s all due to getting into those tight running shorts again.
No, it’s been good to stress my body in new ways and break out into a sweat. I just wish I wouldn’t smell so awful. When I finish up a run, I smell like a cross between a water treatment facility, a pulp mill, and a 12-year-old middle schooler who’s covered himself in Axe body wash. God help middle school teachers, but again that’s a story for another day. In any event, I look like a soggy piece of pulp too, but I’m feeling better than I have in a long while . . . now if I can just take these little runs to the refrigerator and back to the comfort of my sofa and get out onto the actual road or track, then I might be onto something.
You’ve been a great audience! Thank you.
I’m not expecting an invite to perform anytime soon at The Comedy Store or The Improv in Los Angelas or Second City in Chicago, but maybe in another ten years and with a lot of work and a few breaks here or there, I might just make it to the big time. You never know. You might want to warn Jerry Seinfeld, I’m coming for him. (Now there’s my best joke of the day.)