Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Can We Talk?


I've been reading a book by Richard Zoglin, Comedy at the Edge: How Stand-Up in the 1970s Changed America. Each chapter either profiles a specific comedian (e.g., Lenny Bruce or George Carlin) or subject (e.g., New York comedy clubs or improv).

In the chapter about female comics (and how few of them there were in the 70s), there's a nugget of truth hiding in a paragraph about Joan Rivers.




Rivers struggled for years, driving in from the suburbs in her broken-down Ford, lugging a Wollensack tape machine to record her act. She watched contemporaries like Bill Cosby and George Carlin, whom she worked alongside and got to know in the Village, break through on television, while she continued to plod along, undiscovered. She was past thirty, and agents and managers were giving up on her. "You're too old," said Irvin Arthur, the agent for whom she had once worked as a secretary. "Everybody's seen you. If you were going to make it, you would have done it by now." Some of the few words of encouragement came from Lenny Bruce himself, who saw her act at Upstairs at the Downstairs and left her a note: "You're right and they're wrong." Says Rivers: "That kept me going for a year and a half."

Truth is...You never know whether what seems to you like a small word or act of encouragement might feel like the weight of the world being taken off someone else's shoulders. So pass out those encouraging words with abandon. You have the power to keep someone going for a year and a half.

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