This Christmas, as with all gift-giving holidays, I received a shitload of books. I’m in the wonderful situation of reading three books at a time. I don’t do this with novels, but everything else I read in pieces. In addition to the great Amy Sedaris book I mentioned yesterday, I’m also reading Lewis Black’s Nothing’s Sacred. I’ve enjoyed his stand up and appearances on my boyfriend’s show for years, but I had no idea he used to be a playwright. Here’s what he had to say about the performance of his first play.
It made me sick. I would tell you what it was about, but it would make you sick too. I stood at the back of the room, facing the wall. Each line of dialogue was like a knife in my back. I spent the whole play quivering as if I had malaria. It’s amazing that I ever wrote another. It was not fun.
Fabulous. In another segment, he talks about his first regular stand-up gig, at a bar in DC.
There was a place called the Brickskeller downtown, where folk singers would perform, playing guitar with little amplification. Sounds prehistoric, I know…I would tell the story of “The Ascent of the Left Breast to the Nipple” or “Sexual Education as Taught by My Gym Teacher Through Sex Ed Films” or “Trying to Lose My Virginity to the Girl Who Didn’t Know Where It Was Supposed to Go”… You shouldn’t wing it when you aren’t very good. The audience gets mad when you are neither comfortable onstage nor that funny…Learning to be a comic is like learning to be a boxer with your hands tied to your sides.
He talks about feeling ill and being shaky during his entire set. Since I have a slight desire to do stand-up (but am petrified by the thought of doing it in front of people a) because I’m not a performer and b) what if they don’t think I’m funny) and am currently a playwright, I can relate to his stories. Also, though his segments on Daily Show tend to be a bit gruff, you can tell from reading his book that he’s actually a kind and thoughtful person. The gruffness comes from a) performance and b) complete disbelief at how stupid some people are. Can you dig it?