By Gloria Rose, Contributor
I imagine every field in the capitalist machine has some level of competition, but there is something carcinogenic about the competition you find in “entertainment,” more specifically in comedy. It pervades every level, from local open mics to late-night TV spots. I watch comedians book shows I want to be on and generally succeed and I can feel this horrible little monster being fed inside of me. In some cases, it fuels my ambitions and inspires me to work harder. Other times, I decide to “make” cookies so I have a hoard of fresh homemade cookie dough at my disposal.
I really hate when I start feeling envious. I am not a jealous person, or at least I thought I wasn’t before comedy. Sometimes when I see other people succeed my chest feels like a black hole, like their success must mean I’m failing. And then I feel guilty, because most of the time I know this person and they’re cool and good at what they do. It hits worst when this person is someone I consider my equal, because suddenly I feel inferior and have to reassess everything I’ve been doing.
Then I feel guilty. I should be happy for this person, but I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve felt myself rooting against someone. Because if they fail, then maybe there’s still an opportunity for me to succeed. I’m not proud of these impulsive thoughts. I don’t think I’ll ever be what professionals call “cut throat,” but I will hope for a paper cut. And then offer you a Band-Aid, because oh my God I am so sorry.
I think these feelings stem from the fact that upward mobility in comedy is so gradual it often seems like you are not getting anywhere. You’ve been working hard. Your hand is cramped from writing in notebooks, your wallet is crammed with unused drink tickets, and you’ve found yourself on an almost daily basis staying up late to get on stage for 3 minutes. I often resign myself to these circumstances. Comedy takes time. Lots and lots of time, especially if you want to be good at it. And that means putting in the work. It is not a fun field and if I ever wanted to do something else I would. Improvement does not lead to instant success. Success takes a whole lot of time, hard work, random circumstances, and luck (depending on your exact definition of “success”).
It boils down to one question: “Why them and not me?” That could be for a variety of reasons—they’re better at “hustling,” they know someone, they hang out at that show a lot, they have one specific skill you don’t have, they are a white male, they got lucky, and sometimes they are better than you and they work harder than you. That’s a simple truth. It does not mean you are bad at what you do. There are always going to be people who are better than you and they are going to get things you will never be good enough to get. That’s it. That does not mean you will not find your own success, but that person will forever be better. It is better to accept this fact than to harm yourself by harboring jealousy towards them.
There are several ways of dealing with these knee-jerk reactions. Getting off Facebook helps a lot; I have deleted the phone app a few times and currently have it set so that I don’t get notifications. Just go on Instagram for your social media fix. You can set it up so you follow exclusively dogs and people don’t post as much to Instagram. Ignorance really can be the best kind of bliss; just look at Brendan Fraser. It also usually gets me to sit down at my desk and really write. A lot of the time I write crap, but I think I have to write 1-2 pages of crap before I hit a good joke. I get organized, I keep a white board above my desk with a to-do list and a list of the times I got on stage that week (I aim for at least 4, but 5 or 6 is better).
I take some time off. It might be one night or a weekend but I take myself out of the comedy scene for a bit. This happens naturally, or for other reasons, but I regularly like to give myself a date night. “Date night” to me is ordering food and watching television alone in my bed. It is truly glorious, and if you are stressed or overwhelmed it can do wonders. I also take advice from someone who knows better, Chelsea Handler. If jealousy creeps in, I tell one person. I acknowledge it and let the bitter sentiments breathe. Now that I’ve told one person and freed the trolls, it’s time to let them go. The best thing you can do is reach out to the person you are jealous of. I’ll book them on a show I produce or ask them to collaborate on a project. The friendlier I am with them the better. Because once we’ve developed a positive relationship, I’ll start rooting for them more and feeding my little green monster less.
I’ll probably never completely snuff out the jealousy inside me. I’ll just acknowledge it and then ignore it, like a moderate Republican dealing with climate change. I try to keep blinders on and focus on the projects I care about. Making the things I do the best they can be is far more important than scrolling through Facebook. But occasionally I still need to break out the cookie dough.
Gloria Rose possesses the charming, dry wit of the person you hope to find drinking alone in the corner of the party so you have someone to talk bullshit with. She’ll have you laughing like the best friend you’ll never see again. She is a comedian and writer who has performed stand up, improv, and sketch comedy all over New England.