It has been two weeks today, since I got the text that Robin Williams died. I stared in disbelief at my phone, thinking certainly it was a hoax, the same kind that promises me I will make a dollar from Bill Gates every time I share a message on Facebook. The reality finally seeped into all my conscious crevices, like a cold rain. The year I started comedy, I watched Robin Williams dazzle a sold out house at the Metropolitan Opera House, and I wept. I thought “what would it feel like to have that many people love you like that?” I do so hope he really knew the answer to that.
The marriage between despair and humor seems inseparable. Laughter and tears have the same cord that connects them on opposite ends. The funniest person in the room, might also just be the loneliest? After the lights go off, and the audience and help goes home, there you are, all alone. I have stood on stages with thousands of people in front of me, and then gone back out in the dark, to feel what that felt like too. It is like like looking at the Thanksgiving dishes when everyone has gone home. One minute there is all this energy and admiration for you, then poof, the lights go out and that moment of deep connection with the audience is broken. It is gone as fast as the neon lights fade. Then you are eating a to go meal on a white towel on your hotel room bed.
I have been a comic for 27 years and in the last few years of I have heard another voice inside my head, or maybe it is in my heart? The need to touch and inspire people has become as great as wanting to hear the laughter. When you are a stand up comic you are a professional people pleaser. If comics tell you they don’t care if the audience liked them, they are lying. We are in the business of getting you to love us. Is there ever enough of that love? Is there enough to erase away whatever pain makes us stand up in front of strangers and work for approval and a paycheck? We are as good as our last set, and until we can rectify a bad one, we carry that memory with with us until we have erased it with laughter, then we are redeemed once again. I have lots more to share than jokes, and really at my core, and perhaps why I told the jokes, is my story. A story of feeling different and out of place, but in the laughter I felt at home. The more I know and accept myself the less I need that approval.
Three years ago I made a conscious decision to start acting on my deepest dream, which was to not just do comedy, but also be an inspirational speaker. The first few times I spoke from my heart without punchlines, I had to really stay centered and know that just because they were not laughing did not mean they were not listening and FEELING. Jokes are immediate gratification, while touching people at their core is usually done in complete silence. I panicked the first few times, because I was so accustomed to the laughter and applause. I had to trade what I could not hear, for what I could FEEL. I could sense souls being moved, I could see the tears in their eyes, I could see the nods of acknowledgement and I knew in those moments of complete silence that I was making a difference. I knew my story, my challenges, my authenticity was moving people. I knew that my honesty was allowing them to speak their truth too. This new connection was deep and gratifying. I will always make people laugh, and comedy will always be a part of who I am, however, the sacred silence will now mean as much to me as the laughter.