What is the impulse that stand-up comedians have to lay themselves bare on stage, to berate themselves, to draw attention to the parts of themselves that are shameful to them—their weight, their height, they can’t get enough sex (the men), they get too much sex (the women), they’re older than everyone else, their brother is in jail, their girlfriend cheated on them and subsequently divorced them, they work at a call center, they are broke, etc? Is it the same impulse memoir writers have? It is strange to me that I am such a private person (as many writers are), and yet in my writing, I lay it all out. I tell stories I would never tell in real life. I wonder if comedians are the same way, or are they always performing, always trying out their material?
There was this one comic at The Ice House who was young, overweight, very funny. Even though the audience was paltry that night, he commanded the stage. After the show, he stood outside smoking a cigarette. “Good show,” I said. “Thanks,” he replied, with a dejected wave. He looked and acted like a different person.
I think it’s easier to write (and probably easier to do comedy) once you separate yourself from it, once you realize that you are not really the narrator, but rather the narrator is some exaggerated aspect of yourself. In Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform, Christina Katz recommends that aspiring authors imagine themselves as action figures. What does your action figure look like, carry, say, do? In other words, as a writer (or performer), what is your basic “shtick”? What do you want to be known for?
I see some value in creating a kind of alter ego. Perhaps this is true for any profession.