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Dec 5 2013

“But I’m a Mom” is No Excuse

By at 10:19 am

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It was a Wednesday afternoon when I received an email from a fellow comedian friend asking me if I wanted to do a seven-minute guest spot at The Comedy Store on Sunset the next night.

I was reading the email moments after my daughter threw most of her lunch onto the floor, and as I went under her highchair to clean it, tossed the rest onto my back… so my first reaction was laughter followed by an instinct to hit “delete.” The show was at 10:30 p.m., my bedtime. I read and reread the email. Did I really want to stay up that late? Could I? It’s been so long since I’ve had a show, do I remember how to tell a joke? Would I be comfortable? What jokes would I even tell?

It would have been very easy to have just said no and continue through my typical evening routine of putting my daughter to bed, cleaning a wide variety of baby-related items, getting her food ready for the next day, looking at the fridge and figuring out how to create a dinner for my husband and myself from yogurt, eggs, and pickled ginger, and doing our best to clear some shows from the DVR. And while I do truly enjoy our time binge watching “Mad Men” on Netflix or catching the latest episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” I’m sure you can surmise that I didn’t decide to write an article about how I kept to my routine, but instead, decided (with the appreciated encouragement from my husband) that it was time for me to have a little madness. My routine could use a big bang of its own.

I knew that if I said no this time, then there’d be no reason to say yes the next time or the time after that and before I’d know it I’d be a “comedian” in quotation marks only.

So, I drove up Sunset (normally a nightmare on a Thursday night) and miraculously found a FREE parking spot–UNHEARD OF! I arrived at the club at my call time and the guy running the show was awesome. He asked me when I wanted to go up (hardly ever happens).

OK, let me stop here for a moment and give a little background on comedy shows from a performer’s perspective. When you have a show where comedians are performing less than 20-minute sets, most comics do not want to go up first (right after the MC). It’s so undesirable they even call it “taking the bullet.” If you have a 20-minute or longer set, you have time for the audience to get to know you. But, when you only have a few short minutes to get a group of strangers to fall in love with you, you want them to be nice and warmed up by the comedians who took the stage prior to you, before you launch into your therapy session… err… comedy act.

But there I was, knowing if I went up too late, I very likely could fall asleep right there on the stage. And while that might get an awkward laugh or two at first, I don’t want that to be how I earn my 15 minutes of fame.

So, I smiled and said, “I’ll take the bullet.” The host smiled back and asked if I was sure. I was.

Now, normally, if I am invited to do a show I stay from the very beginning to the bitter, bitter there-are-way-too many-comedians-on-this-show end. I want to support my fellow comics. But knowing that I wouldn’t be very supportive snoring from the audience, I apologized and asked the host if he was cool with me heading out after my set. He was. Many comics don’t stay anyway.

He went up and did his 10 minutes and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

OK, sorry, I have to interrupt myself again. When I have a great show I always give credit to the audience, saying, “The crowd was awesome.” However, when I bomb (and bomb I do… we all do), I never blame the audience. (Even though, the truth is, there just ARE crowds who are more “into” the show, me, laughing, or having a sense of humor, than others.)

So, with that said, the crowd was awesome.

I took the stage and, after my first joke got a laugh, I felt a calmness and confidence wash over me. I was back. I was home. It was laugh after laugh after laugh. A little playing with the audience, talking about mommy-hood, more laughs, and before I knew it, I was saying, “Thank you very much, I’m Jessica Glassberg.”

I shook the host’s hand with a smile across my face. A smile that didn’t leave when a few audience members saw me exit the club and followed me out to tell me, “You’re very funny.” (Let me tell you, 100 times out of 100, that is the way to my heart. Sure, hearing I’m pretty is nice, but tell me I’m funny and I’m yours.) A smile that didn’t leave as I walked back to my car, again pretty stoked that I scored that free spot. A smile that didn’t leave as I turned on the radio to hear (you can’t make this stuff up) the Styx song, “You’re Fooling Yourself.”

If you’re not familiar with the song… just read these lyrics.

Get up, get back on your feet
You’re the one they can’t beat and you know it
Come on, let’s see what you’ve got
Just take your best shot and don’t blow it

It was my Jerry Maguire “Free Fallin’” moment. And while the song would have had great meaning before the show, I think hearing it afterwards was just that additional confirmation that I was meant to be on this show, meant to perform for that audience.

My smile still didn’t leave my face as I arrived home and relayed the course of events to my husband, realizing that for the first time in a long time I was proud of myself. Proud of myself for staying up late. Proud of myself for getting up on stage at all. Proud of myself for saying, “Yes,” when I so easily could have said, “No.” Proud of myself for not using my daughter as an excuse.

I never want to use “but I’m a mom” as any kind of excuse for not following a passion. I moved out to Los Angeles to pursue a life in comedy and I don’t plan on stopping that with the thoughts, “but I’m a mom.”

The next day, I was so happy to read fellow Kveller contributor, Rivki Silver’s piece, “I Can’t Give Up My Music Just Because I’m a Mom.” We all need to remember that if we want our children to follow their dreams, we can’t give up on our own! Sometimes, when we do things that make us nervous and take us out of our routine, the sense of accomplishment is all the sweeter.

Sure, my mommy wake up call still came at 5:30 a.m. and I was totally exhausted the next day. But being able to tell my 1-year-old all about the show as she threw more food on my head was totally WORTH IT!

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