But I know I speak for legions of stand-up comedians pounding the pavement in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York — only to return to sleep in their cars — who would look at this cover and ask, “You slept in your car. So what?”
I know more comics, ones who have repeatedly been on television and in motion pictures, driving from road gig to road gig, who are somewhere on Interstate 15 and thinking “The producer stiffed me. Do I have the money? Oh, screw it” and pull over.
Many comics, including me, consider sleeping in the car an ugly but necessary sacrifice on the path to becoming a success.
And you know this.
Because comedy is expensive, even when you are famous. To those who never took the mic at The Comedy Store, know that the guy who’s name is on the marquee might be netting less than you. Oh, he makes more than you if he’s lucky … But …
Only he pays for his lodging and travel. The comedy fan goes home to a wife.
Only the guy who booked the comic might short him or not pay at all.
Then you notice the expenditures close in on what non-comics make. Only the person who doesn’t tell jokes for money doesn’t have to pay for rent and hotels. And the guy who attends the show instead of being the name on the marquee? He probably has a spouse, which reduces expenses further.
And then, somewhere in North Texas, trying to make it from Albuquerque to Oklahoma City, you’re rolling through Amarillo, Texas and you have a question to ask yourself while your eyelids flutter.
Or maybe you don’t do road gigs. Yeah, stay in LA. I’ll get paid in LA.
I wrote that last line so that all the comics who read this post can burst out laughing.
Take a great guy who performs every single night at The Comedy Store. He’s been on “The Tonight Show” more than anyone else in history. Love the guy. Still funny. Always nice to everybody. He got up, does his spot and collects … $25.
And then you’re sleeping in your car anyway. Only it’s not in Amarillo, it’s somewhere safe in LA.
I typed that last line for the comics to laugh again.
Maybe I shouldn’t be as miffed at this as I am. I guess my problem is that particular pulled quote makes it sound as if you were the only comic out there who knew struggle. “The struggle is real,” is a popular catch phrase these days regarding the economy. In comedy, it is a fact of life.
And I admit, looking back on it, it’s more than a little foolhardy. If you asked people, “How much do you believe in yourself?” Not many would say, “I would give it all up and sleep in a car if I had to.” I didn’t always catch sleep in parts unknown. But yes, Mr. Harvey, I did believe in myself that much.
I don’t begrudge you your success.
I don’t begrudge any comic success, so long as they weren’t joke thieves.
But there was a reason that I shook every comic’s hand every night that I could. I won’t name names, but I know their sacrifice. I know their struggle. It was once mine. I called them my brothers. I meant it. Another comic had an even better name. He would call us “family.”
All I ask of you is you don’t disrespect your family by suggesting your struggle was unique.