I’m terrified of failure. My nightmare is someone knocking on my apartment door to have this conversation:
Me: Who’s there?
Them: It’s the failure police.
Me: The failure police who?
Them: This is a perfect example of why you’ve failed at comedy. You’re coming with us!
Chilling, I know.
Everyone has something that motivates them. There has to be something that keeps you moving through life. The reason you get out of bed every day. Otherwise you just…wouldn’t. That sounds pretty appealing to most people, but I need some sense of accomplishment in my life. I could never be a trust fund kid. Sure, life would be easier. Too easy really…
People do things for love. There isn’t much love in the comedy world. Occasionally I’ll hear stories of people who met through an improv class or team and I’ll think to myself:
“Aww, how sweet. Look at you. Defying all logic and meeting someone in what’s essentially a group therapy session”
But a lot of the best comedians draw their material from loneliness and self-loathing. Not exactly ideal traits one would look for in a romantic partner.
People do things for money. There isn’t much money in the comedy world either. Excluding the “comedy 1%.” The Adam Sandlers of the world who now use movies as private vacations for them and their friends. Although I’d probably categorize Sandler’s recent endeavors as more tragedy than comedy.
People do things for fame. Now that’s closer to what one could get in this business. Maybe not fame, but at least recognition. To me that’s empty. Yeah, it’s cool when people recognize my accomplishments and compliment me. Yet that’s not the core of who I am and what I’m about. It actually makes me a little uncomfortable.
“Do I just say thank you? Does that make me ungrateful?
Should I compliment them back? Is that what they’re looking for?
Do I make light of my own accomplishments in an effort to seem more humble?
How does this work?”
These synapses are all firing off in my brain at the same time, generally causing me to say thank you, then compliment back 30 seconds too late in an effort to repair the damage I think I’ve caused. Life is hard. (But by all means, please keep telling me I’m funny)
To be honest, it’s not just fame that’s empty. All of these are empty. Except maybe love. That just depends on what day you ask me about it. Today I just watched episode 3 of Master of None, so that glass isn’t half-full. It just spilled all over my new shirt.
What’s my motivation? I do things to keep from failing at them. You know in those really inspiring movies when they zoom in on the guy giving the big speech and he says something like “failure is NOT an option” and then they go and save the world and stuff? That’s how I feel every time I perform. I’m just like “Alright me, don’t be a pile of garbage out there.” It generally works. So far I don’t think I’ve saved the world doing improv, but I did pantomime putting a shovel in some guy’s butt once.
I look for growth in each scene. A new lesson in each class. A nugget of info to take from the countless shows I go see. How can I get better? I need to further myself so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something with all the time and effort I’ve spent studying this. I’m not happy with where I am in life. At least not where I am now. I’m much happier with where I know I’m going to be.
I know I have the potential to be good at this because I’ve been good at other things. My logic is sound here. Was good. Can be good. I was great in math at school.
“But Ryan, why didn’t you just go on to study math since you were already good at it?”
“Because math is boring so GET OFF MY CASE MRS. KNICK, JEEZ.”
I’m generally pretty good at video games. But that’s too self-serving for me. With comedy, it’s about the audience. It’s about the people who had a long day at work/school/war and came to see some people make up stupid stuff to take them away from their problems. So I have to make sure I succeed. To give those people the best experience they could possibly have.
Here’s to what motivates you. Be it love, money, fame, or fear of failure. Let it drive you forward in life to reach your destination. Just make sure it has a license, registration, and proper hands-on training first.