As it's April Fools' Day today, I thought it appropriate to tell you a true story about comedians and their jokes. This tale will take us from coast to coast and from 2009 to the present day. Make a cup of tea and settle in...
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was summer 2009. Rich and I had just gotten married (where did 5 years go?), and he had been cast in his first major NYC show. It was mega-hit comedy that had toured the world, had a years-long run in the city, been on late night talk shows, the works. (I'm not saying the name here because I think YOU can't handle it...I just don't think your spam filter can.) It was obviously very exciting and we were so pumped. One of the most fun things about the show was that, for various reasons, a female comedian always opened for them, and we got to make tons of hilarious new friends. Getting to watch these amazing women was a major lesson in comedy and standup and writing and storytelling- every single night. After several weeks, we had really gotten to know the comedians, and we loved sitting in the (dingy and gross) dressing room saying their punch lines with them as we told each other "shut up shut UP wait wait this is my favorite joke." We knew their sets backwards and forwards.
EXCEPT for one comedian. We literally never knew what to expect with her because her set was constantly changing to incorporate new jokes, new stories, new setups. When I say "constantly," I really mean it: I'm talking at least one new joke every night. That is insane. Her sets were so fresh and new that even after WEEKS of her opening for us, we still stood in the back of the house to hear her. (If you're wondering why I keep saying "we," it's because I also worked on the show.) I honestly can't stress to you how impressive it is to write that quickly, that easily, thatfearlessly. If the joke killed, it stayed. If it bombed, she wrote a new one. That was it.
The show ran for months in the city, and then embarked on a huge North American tour. When she opened, her sets were never the same.
The show ran for months in Los Angeles. She opened for us all the time, and again, new day, new set. We toured the country again. Same thing.
The show toured internationally for a long time, and our openers were suddenly a Danish dude with puppets and ukuleles (everyone was dying laughing so I can only assume he was funny) or some vaguely misogynistic Welshman (crickets). We missed her.
The show re-opened in NYC and hallelujah, she was back! All together now: different day, different jokes.
We eventually moved to Europe for six months with the show, and she stayed in the states. Thanks to a new lineup of amazingly talented women, we weren't lacking for great openers. However, Rich and I did always talk about how her habit of adding even ONE new joke every night was even more impressive now that we had literally spent years touring with a comedy and seen dozens of comedians throughout the US, Canada and Europe, many of whom repeated the same (hilarious and skillful) set every single night. No one could match her lack of drama and self-doubt, or fearlessness.
Why did I call this email "A Tale of Two Comedians?" Because when I think about her and then every other (mega-talented) woman who opened for us, it's like there were two comedians who opened: her and everyone else. I watched other women do the same set, word for word, for months. It wasn't that they weren't brilliantly funny or couldn't write new jokes, it's just that they didn't. No one else was was like her. She never got stuck, she never spiralled into self-doubt. She did something new, assessed the reaction, and moved on.
Her name is Amy Schumer.
She's literally a household name now. Her face is all over every single subway platform. She has roasted celebrities, been on Girls, Judd Apatow is producing her movie, and, oh yeah, she has her own TV show whose second season premiere is TONIGHT.
DO WE NEED ANY MORE PROOF OF THE VALUE OF FEARLESSLY TRYING NEW THINGS?!
The key is that she didn't get stuck if she tried something and it didn't work. Actually, I can't honestly say that because we never talked much about her process and maybe she did get weighed down with doubting and over-analyzing. If so, the even bigger lesson is that she showed up and did it anyway. Look where that hard work and courage led.
This month, Shrink Session will be all about trying something new, taking a risk and daring bigger and braver than ever before. It's gonna be about the battle between the head, who just wants to protect us, and the heart, who says "I am ready for more, even if it kinda hurts." You're strong enough.Let's go for it, together.