Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fear is not to be avoided. It is to be followed. Fear is like the light on the end of Rudolph’s nose - it’s the beacon we follow into a foggy and uncertain place, where we can’t see more than three feet around us, where we know we might spiral out of control and crash at any second, but where we are armed  with the knowledge that if we can somehow navigate those storm clouds successfully when we are piloting blind into such a situation, we might just get the job done and we might just do something legendary. The kids will get their Christmas gifts because of you following your fear. And you will get the laughs, you will lock into the character, you will utilize that fear to push all the buttons inside yourself that made you send me this question.
The point is never to figure out how to NOT LOSE. The point is to figure out how to LOSE WELL. Be good at losing. Be graceful at losing. Learn how to lose with class. Learn how to lose often enough and severely enough that you want to quit, and know that your only job at that point is to not quit. You have failed enough that you have achieved the goal of wanting to give up. And know that if you do quit, that’s ok - it’s ok to admit this is not for you.
But know even moreso that if you don’t quit, you will run into the same situation where you want to quit, over and over again -endlessly - for as long as you do this.
But don’t avoid it. If you avoid failing and fear, you will at best become someone who plays it safe.
But please, trust me. I can speak from experience, if you embrace failure and know that success and failure are not going to give us what we assume they will anyway, then failure can become your greatest weapon. Failing equals growing. Almost failing on stage and not quite failing equals your greatest moments as a performer. Letting an audience see you on the brink of complete failure and allowing them to watch you pull the plane up at the last second on stage makes you feel invincible (at least until the next show starts.) Fail many times. Practice failing like a baseball player practices his swing. Make failing part of your muscle memory. Make processing failure something you know how to do without even thinking about it. You need to know failure like a musician know his scales, like a Marine knows how to disassemble and reassemble his rifle. It needs to be second nature. Fail until failure is your expected starting point, and you will be at a place where you are ready to start.
And know that the fear you’re feeling right now is what will get you to that failure. So when you ask me how to get the courage to perform - how to get to a place where you’re not terrified - you are asking me to do you a disservice. Any time I get to a point where I’m not terrified, I do something like write a book and send it out into the world with my ugly fucking face on the front, or sign up to do my show on an outdated, dying, and generally mocked broadcast medium. Those things are shit your pants level scary actions when you were supposed to be the next big TV star, when you were supposed to be the next proud representative of a legendary comedic institution. They don’t even feel like risks, they feel like suicide.
So pardon my rejection of your question, but I refuse to tell you how to find courage that overcomes being terrified. It will give you a false impression of the difficulties of this profession and lifestyle. Furthermore, it will be advice that guides you to - at best - a stale, boring place as an artist and creative mind.
....Sorry if this reads as discouraging. I guess it kind of is, but I hope under the surface it reads as I hope it does - as the most optimistic thing in the world. I am rooting for you.