Personal Essay

Balancing Act

The author performs in Jamaica Plain, Mass. with her one-eyed dachshund Pepper.

By Kathleen DeMarle, Contributor

Standing in a crowded bar clutching a cheap beer and watching a Steven Tyler lookalike belt 80s songs was not how I planned to spend my Thursday evening. The plan was simple: hit an open mic and then a comedy show. That way I could work on new material and network with a few other comics.

Yet there I was, repeating “You’re wasting your time” and “Why are you even here?” in my head over and over again. That’s when it hit me, the ultimate comedy question: what is the appropriate balance between comedy and your personal life?

When I first started doing comedy, I never thought I would get booked on shows or accepted into comedy festivals. I was honestly just trying to find some normalcy in my life. I had recently moved back to Boston after being away for about 6 years and was not looking forward to any social interaction with my old group of friends.

For a few months I spent 95% of my time going to work and then going directly home. That was all I did. Nothing else. That’s when I realized I needed to do something. I couldn’t just sit around and watch the year go by. So I signed up for a stand up comedy class. I had always wanted to do stand up comedy but didn’t think anything would come of it, other than getting myself out of the house once a week. Within three months of that first class I was hitting open mics, meeting new people and finding inspiration for jokes.

Now about a year and a half in, I am doing comedy more than anything else in my life. When I get home from work, I eat dinner and immediately head to a show or open mic. If I don’t have the energy to go out, I sit on my computer writing new material or watching YouTube videos of comedians.

But somewhere along the way, in the past year this thing that I enjoy doing so much became an obsession. An obsession that convinced me to give up other aspects of my life so I could pursue comedy more fully. In my mind, every show or open mic that I missed was holding me back from any progress. I know for a fact that isn’t true, but it’s hard to tell your inner critic to shut up sometimes.

I realize now it’s all about figuring out what balance works for you. If you’re only going to an open mic to go, is it really worth it? You don’t necessarily have to bring new material. Maybe you want to work on a punch line or tag or just practice holding the mic in a new way. But if you’re just going to go, consider hanging out with your non-comedy friends instead. Besides, if you don’t have a life outside of comedy, how are you supposed to find all that relatable material?

Kathleen DeMarle is a Boston-based stand up comic and writer. Kathleen has contributed to The Higgs Weldon, WICF Daily and Unscene Comedy.  She was selected to perform at the 2017 Charm City Comedy Festival and the 2017 Boston Comedy Arts Festival. She gets inspiration for her comedy from her wacky family, those awkward moments we all have and life in the big city with a one-eyed dog.