It started during my divorce. I was lonely and bored and needed a cheap pick-me-up before I could go home after work. At first it was just once a week, the purest, cleanest stuff. But it quickly grew to twice, then three or four times, and eventually I was doing it almost every day and accepting it from questionable sources and in varying levels of quality just to get my fix.
After about two months, I’d left behind all my old friends and was running exclusively with other people who were chasing the same high. It was all we ever talked about, all we did for fun, and all we’d spend our limited funds on.
We have a killer comedy club in town with an open mic that acts as a gateway to full-blown addiction for high-risk fans like me. Week after week, I would scrape together my change, borrowing quarters from co-workers while I waited for payday, to come up with the measly two-dollar cover charge to watch local hopefuls test their best three minutes in front of two hundred of us.
Spending weeknights in dark basements listening to 30-year-old men stammer through dick jokes and dirty puns was not the finest chapter of my life. But it got me through a rough patch, and it gave me a lot of great memories. I think everyone should try it—at least a little.
My problem was just not knowing when to stop.
It was meeting the comics that pushed me over the edge.
Before I knew them, I could pop in for the show, laugh out my demons, and head home at a reasonable hour. Once I started to get to know the minds behind the mic, the nights grew longer and longer, the dose I needed to feel “normal” growing with each trip. Soon, my “normal” transformed completely, and I couldn’t live without it at all. I needed comedy just to get through the day.
Once I experienced my first weekend headliner, it took over my life. I fell in love with a comic, and, as they’ll warn you, we perpetuated each other’s addiction. It wasn’t just social anymore; it was survival. I started watching specials at home alone, even after a full night of live stand-up and hours of conversation with comedians. I lived in comedy houses around the country. I slept in my car, on friends’ couches, and in my mom’s basement when the lifestyle of a road comic made it impossible to keep a single apartment.
I spent a year writing about stand-up, which is a trap a lot of us fall into to support the habit. I wrote articles about shows, blogged about comics, penned bios, and edited books. When you don’t have the money to buy it, you’ll do what you need to for a free supply.
I’ll bask in the haze of it as long as I can — taking in the show, sitting at the comics’ table, having one more drink, following a crew to the diner, heading back to their apartment, making breakfast for a houseful of comedians in the morning.
It’s been over four years since my first time, and the addiction continues to grow stronger. I now keep podcasts and albums on hand in iTunes, shooting directly into my ears—when I’m working, when in public, when I’m walking or riding the bus. I need it so badly that I’ll shut myself off from the real people around me just to hear the next joke. I use it to fall asleep at night and to wake up in the morning. I’ll even read Twitter from the toilet on busy days when I have no other chance to sneak away.
Some people might call me a “comedy groupie” or “chucklefucker”, but it’s not like that. Some girls who get into this stuff can’t help themselves; they’ll go after any comic they can get. But I’m not one of them. I’ve only had a sexual relationship with three comedians (and one wasn’t even a comic when we started, so I’d say I’m more inspiration than groupie, wouldn’t you?) I acknowledge that temptation surrounds me every day, but I’ve totally got it under control.
I’m not chasing celebrities or trying to feel special in a circle of lonely men. I’m not trying to get a free show or a free ride or a seedy story to share on Monday. I’m a fan and a friend, and I just want to see a good act. I love comedy, I love traveling, and I’m in love with comedians.
Still, I wake up most days and have to face myself: Why comedy?
Is this high really worth it? In a world filled with musicians, businessmen, and politicians—people with sex appeal, money, and power—why am I attracted to the misfits losing money and being ignored? Why can’t I leave this life of driving, flying, hotel hopping, couchsurfing, late nights, greasy food, lackluster weekends, and narcissistic friends—all for a little bit of laughter?
Because this is my drug.
Nothing else offers quite the cocktail of confidence, awkwardness, beauty, blasphemy, tension, relief, pain, and joy that you get in a comedy buzz. There’s an allure to humor, an unpretentiousness to their creativity, a romance in the vulnerability.
It’s about catching the first glimpse of a joke idea and watching it develop into a masterpiece from crowd to crowd, night to night, city to city. It’s desperate shoptalk behind the scenes, absorbing the words that are stifled on stage. It’s pillow talk that explodes into fits of laughter, conversations worth transcribing for the inspiration, text messages you’ll return to just for entertainment.
Sure, it has its price. Late nights and long trips exclude you from the regular things in life. There’s too much drinking, drugs, and drama. You become invisible in the shadow of the spotlight. It’s lonely to love people who live inside their own heads.
But sometimes it hits you just right, and you feel in place in the world for a little while; and, yes, it’s all absolutely worth it.
For those of us who have given in to it, it’s more than a show, and it’s more than a backstage pass. It’s more than two fancy drinks and a laugh every thirty seconds. It’s more than shaking a hand, taking a picture, and forgetting the name before Sunday. It’s more than supporting the arts, buying local, or finding an affordable night out. It’s more than an occasional thrill and an exciting buzz.
It’s more than being a fan, far beyond being a fanatic or a nerd or even simply obsessed. It’s become part of who we are, and it’s so fucking hard to walk away. For those of us who have given in to it, it’s just “normal”—and nothing else can make us feel this good again.